Is it too late for ME?
That’s the number one question I get here at Dance Advantage. I’ve even given an answer before.
Every person thinks their situation is completely unique. And it is! But that doesn’t necessarily change the answer.
Still, as teachers do, I’ll keep saying it in different ways because every individual processes differently.
My latest inquiry came from a 13-year-old. She said:
“I want to know if it’s too late to dance.”
That one has a really simple answer.
It is never too late to dance. You can do that at any time and at any age.
However, I suspect she’s asking if it is too late to perform professionally, or at least get good enough to consider it.
Surprisingly, it’s still a pretty simple answer:
It is absolutely not too late to begin at 13 and become a professional performer (i.e. dance as a primary occupation not a pastime). Many dancers have done this.
What about drastically later? Age 30? 40?? Well, that’s very improbable but I can’t say it’s absolutely impossible.
Even dancers who begin at 3 or 6 or 9, struggle to make a profession of dance. It has nothing to do with age.
Dance is a difficult lifestyle. Making dance your primary occupation requires more than a little versatility and inventiveness.
Working dancers do many different things to earn a living, and that includes a day job sometimes. The dancers I know, who are not contracted with a large-budget company (of which there are few, especially outside of ballet), make a living in the dance world by dancing for multiple companies, teaching or working other jobs. It’s not a secure lifestyle, and having other skills is often a requirement.
For the few who perform full-time as a profession, it is rewarding but difficult… glamorous at times but more frequently grueling and unglorified.
Here’s the real question:
Will you choose to keep going despite the general and personal obstacles?
Every dancer has personal obstacles. Most dancers have lots of them. They come in all sizes, shapes, and varieties, and they include the very individual ones you are thinking about right now. So, let’s get one thing straight…
Dancers don’t not become professionals or make dance their life and work because they are ‘too late’.
They don’t become professional dancers because, at some point or gradually over time, and for one reason or another, they choose something else.
Or maybe they just say ‘Yes, please’ when something else chooses them.
Here’s what you need to know about choices:
You have to be educated to make them. You must have an understanding about the level of commitment and training it takes to, for example, make a living as a professional dance performer. If you think that’s what you want to do, learn about your options and learn from the choices others have made to get there, even if you can never replicate them exactly.
“Wrong” choices aren’t always a mistake. We learn and grow when things don’t go as expected. The world won’t end if you make all the “right” choices and still never “make it” as a professional performer. You will choose to keep dance in the window after a slingshot around the moon, or you’ll set your sights on a new destination.
Only you can answer, ‘Will I choose to keep going?’
Today the answer may be YES! and tomorrow it may be UGH! and the next day may be NO.
But if you keep coming back to YES! – if you keep choosing dance, in whatever form it comes (because it’s not just about performing, or even about a career), you are a dancer for life.
That’s why so many refer to dance as a calling – something they are compelled to do no matter what.
Indeed, perhaps it is, but I believe all who are chosen must still decide to heed the calling.
Dance is a choice.
It’s really that simple.
Dancers, other than “Is it too late for me?,” what are your burning questions about a career in dance?
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.