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15 Truths About Being a Professional Dancer

written by Melanie Doskocil, original post found at her blog, Ballet Pages

1. Dance is hard. – No dancer ever became successful riding on their natural born talents only. Dancers are artists and athletes. The world of dance today is akin to an extreme sport. Natural ability and talent will only get us so far. Dancers must work hard and persevere. Dancers give years of their lives plus their sweat, tears and sometimes blood to have the honor and pleasure of performing on stage.

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2. You won’t always get what you want. – We don’t always get the role we wanted, go on pointe when we want, get the job we want, hear the compliments we want, make the money we want, see companies run the way we want, etc, etc.  This teaches us humility and respect for the process, the art form and the masters we have chosen to teach us. The faster we accept this, the faster we can get on with being brilliant.  We’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but we can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.

3. There’s a lot you don’t know. – There is always more a dancer can learn. Even our least favorite teachers, choreographers and directors can teach us something. The minute we think we know it all, we stop being a valuable asset.

4. There may not be a tomorrow. – A dancer never knows when their dance career will suddenly vanish: a company folds, career ending injury, car accident, death…Dance every day as if it is the final performance. Don’t save the joy of dance for the stage. Infuse even your routine classroom exercises with passion!

5. There’s a lot you can’t control. – You can’t control who hires you, who fires you, who likes your work, who doesn’t, the politics of being in a company. Don’t waste your talent and energy worrying about things you can’t control. Focus on honing your craft, being the best dancer you can be. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude.

6. Information is not true knowledge. – Knowledge comes from experience.  You can discuss a task a hundred times, go to 1000 classes, but unless we get out there and perform we will only have a philosophical understanding of dance. Find opportunities to get on stage.  You must experience performance firsthand to call yourself a professional dancer.

Svetlana_Zakharova1

 

7. If you want to be successful, prove you are valuable. – The fastest way out of a job is to prove to your employer they don’t need you. Instead, be indispensable. Show up early, know your material, be prepared, keep your opinions to yourself unless they are solicited and above all be willing to work hard.

8. Someone else will always have more than you/be better than you.  – Whether it’s jobs or money or roles or trophies, it does not matter. Rather than get caught up in the drama about what others are doing around you, focus on the things you are good at, the things you need to work on and the things that make you happiest as a dancer.

9. You can’t change the past. – Everyone has a past. Everyone has made mistakes, and everyone has glorious moments they want to savor. “Would you keep a chive in your tooth just because you enjoyed last night’s potato?” Boston Common TV Series. Dance is an art form that forces us to concentrate on the present. To be a master at dance we have be in the moment; the minute the mind wanders, injuries happen. If they do, see #12.

10. The only person who can make you happy is you. – Dancing in and of itself cannot make us happy.  The root of our happiness comes from our relationship with ourselves, not from how much money we make, what part we were given, what company we dance for, or  how many competitions we won.  Sure these things can have effects on our mood, but in the long run it’s who we are on the inside that makes us happy.

11. There will always be people who don’t like you. – Dancers are on public display when they perform and especially in this internet world, critics abound. You can’t be everything to everyone.  No matter what you do, there will always be someone who thinks differently.  So concentrate on doing what you know in your heart is right.  What others think and say about you isn’t all that important.  What is important is how you feel about yourself.

12.Sometimes you will fail. – Sometimes, despite our best efforts, following the best advice, being in the right place at the right time, we still fail. Failure is a part of life. Failure can be the catalyst to some of our greatest growth and learning experiences. If we never failed, we would never value our successes. Be willing to fail. When it happens to you (because it will happen to you), embrace the lesson that comes with the failure.

13. Sometimes you will have to work for free. – Every professional dancer has at one time or another had to work without pay. If you are asked to work for free, be sure that you are really ok with it. There are many good reasons to work for free, and there are just as many reasons not to work for free. Ask yourself if the cause is worthy, if the experience is worth it, if it will bring you joy. Go into the situation fully aware of the financial agreement and don’t expect a hand out later.

14. Repetition is good. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is insane. – If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  If you keep doing the bare minimum of required classes, don’t complain to your teacher when you don’t move up to the next level. If you only give the bare minimum in your company, be happy staying in the corps. If you want to grow beyond your comfort zone, you must push yourself beyond your self-imposed limitations.

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Photo by Peter Perazio. Taken when Sylvie Guillem was promoted to Paris Opera Ballet étoile status and is inspired by Béjart’s choréography “la Luna”. It has appeared in a cut version on the cover of the popular general audience French magazine, ‘Le Nouvel Observateur.’

15. You will never feel 100% ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Dancers have to be willing to take risks. From letting go of the ballet barre to balance, to moving around the world to dance with a new company, from trusting a new partner to trying a new form of dance, dancers must have a flexible mind and attitude as well as body. The greatest opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means you won’t feel totally comfortable or ready for it.

Found via Credit towards Melanie Doskocil on her blog, Ballet Pages. Thanks Michelle for bringing it to our attention! Dancers, any thoughts? Teachers, any other points you would add?

 

116 Responses to “15 Truths About Being a Professional Dancer”

  1. Linda Birtles Pullen Says:

    As a parent of a former ballerina, I can relate to this. Well written, insightful, & an elightening commentary to anyone who have littl or no idea as to what drives a dancer.

  2. Chandara Gamal Says:

    Thank you for this! I teach Bellydance in Columbus, Ohio and this applies just as much in the bellydance world as it does in the ballet world! Thank you for stating it so beautifully!

  3. Shari Says:

    I’d love permission to reprint this in our local Women’s Journal

  4. Jennifer Shaw Says:

    This is great advice. All dancers can learn from this piece. There are also lessons for life, as well. Thank you for this.

  5. jeanell willis Says:

    I am so glad that you posted this, this has a lot to do with dance, bur a lot to do with life in general! No one owes you a living. The reward that you derive from your education, is directly proportional to the time and effort that you put into it. College is not a chance to get away from Mom and Dad to see how many of their rules that you can break, it is an opportunity to learn how to police yourself, before it’s actually required. You will have teachers that you don’t like, this is to teach you that there will be many people in your professional life that you won’t get along with. Also a part of life! You may complain and deal, or you may walk away. Careful of your decision, complain outside of the company, or walk away and figure out where your next meal is coming from. More importantly from me, please enjoy what you’re doing. If you’re not loving it, no one will love you while you’re doing it! God bless!

  6. Kerri Says:

    Thank you for the wonderful insight into the dance realm of be professional in dance! :)

  7. Toronto, Dance! Says:

    Great article! And applies to many forms of dance, not just ballet.

  8. Judy Riley-McMurtry Says:

    Follow your dancing dreams while you’re young and without other obligations. Even with disapointments and pain along the way, your heart and soul will be forever fulfilled for your lifetime. Never stop moving, always reach for the stars.

  9. Ryan Says:

    Hi Shari,
    We found this article via Melanie Doskocil on her blog, Ballet Pages (http://balletpages.blogspot.com/2011/10/15-truths-about-being-professional.html). I would suggest contacting Melanie and asking her if it is okay to reprint.
    Thanks!

  10. Janis Says:

    Full disclosure: I’m not a dancer. I consider my body to be a necessary piece of equipment to cart my brain and hands around.

    I am however, a musician. I live through my hands. And one thing that always mystified me about dance is the way it’s so fleeting. As a musician, barring major injury or simply doing it wrong, I can be better at 70 than I am now at 46. It’s possible.

    For dancers, though? You guys put everything you have into something that’s so fragile. Even a dancer who does everything right, never gets hurt, and has perfect genes will not be doing at 70 what they did at 30. It’s the tragedy of dance (sports, too).

    But it means that you guys have got to be so dedicated, and love it so much. You have to dance because you simply can’t not move. To put everything you have into something that you know is so temporary is such an incredible sign of how deeply you love and need it. It makes me shake my head, but it also puts me in awe.

  11. Ryan Says:

    Janis,
    You are so right. Dancers dance because we HAVE to. But I will say that although a dancer’s time on stage has a very strong reputation for being fleeting, there are many venues for a long-lasting career. Many dancers at Bodyvox, for example, are over 30 (40…) as contemporary dance seems to allow for a longer tenure than ballet. And the infrastructure needed to support a dance company- Artistic Director, Company Manager, Ballet Mistresses- are all positions that require an ex-professional to fill. Most university dance departments require significant professional experience in addition to (or sometimes in place of) advanced degrees for their professors.
    And, of course, there is teaching. All our staff consists of professional or ex-professional dancers. It allows for the highest quality of training. Think of it as a cellist: your son or daughter could be taught by someone who played the cello in high school *or* Yo-Yo Ma. There is no question as to who would provide the superior training.
    So, although you are right- 70 is not 30 when it comes to dancing, there are so many ways in which a dancer can continue to work in their field with fulfillment and job satisfaction.

  12. Bellydance by Jennifer inc. Says:

    Great article! I read it and could feel so many emotions. So very true and well written. Thank you for sharing this. This truly are the lessons we learn.

  13. Raksanna Says:

    Bravo! Fantastic article for both dance and live, as well. I am forwarding it onto my professional belly dance ensemble for required reading. Thank you!

  14. Laura Says:

    As a dance educator, I think this is a wonderful article to share with my students, both for those who love dance and those who merely tolerate it. This article says a lot about dance lessons and life lessons that are important for all.

  15. Abigail Says:

    Pointes? Lol

  16. Perla Elias Nemer Says:

    1000 thanks to Portland Ballet for this treasure to hold in mind and to share with people can understand this.

  17. ZADIEL SASMAZ Says:

    Great Article! Dance is my one thing. I have tried everything else and I failed, but when I tried dance I was a different person. I don’t have to worry about anything I just float in to my own little world. Without dance i’m nothing. I hope when people try dance they realize that. It’s a stress reliever, a new way to move. You can be someone your not. That’s pretty darn good to me. I hope people find that one thing like dance. ~To dance is to live.

    I’m a professional male Bellydancer and Jazz Dancer from Germany.

  18. olya Says:

    that is a fantastic article and 100% true! as a professional dancer with children, #7 is particularly true as i was sure my career would end with the first pregnancy and put every effort i possibly could into what i thought were my last few weeks. but THAT particular attitude and love for dance has kept with with the company for much longer then i ever anticipated, until it was my choice to leave :) thank you again!

    http://www.livingnotesfromnyc.com

  19. Josh Wilson Says:

    Well thought-out, and beautifully written. I’m an adult pianist who finds beauty in surrounding himself with dance… And this is truly inspiring. =)

  20. Ray Says:

    Truths for the Professional Dancer. These are truths for life as well. Welldone, well done.

  21. Kilroy Escalante Says:

    Well appreciated by me.

  22. Kilroy Escalante Says:

    Learned a lot from this.

  23. Christa Turnell Says:

    What a wonderful gift to dancers, and others both present and yet to come. Thank you so much for such a well timed, and well written and illustrated piece. May it be on dance lockers everywhere.

  24. Laura Klinglesmith Says:

    As some one who danced most of my childhood, but who didn’t continue past that, these are still some of the best advice you can get for the workplace and life in general. Thank you for putting it so eloquently!!

  25. LC Says:

    This applies to all of life and all careers, really. Great advice all around.

  26. Andrea Says:

    Thank-you for this….as a former dancer and now teacher it was such a worthy read….aslo so good for my students who will not be choosing a career in dance…this is life!!!!

  27. Jessica Cambio Says:

    The word ‘dancer’ could also very easily be replaced with ‘opera singer’!! This is so true for so many artists. Well done! :)

  28. Peg in Kensington, California Says:

    I am a rower – started at age 57. So much of the above applies to rowing. Thanks.

  29. Sarah Zielinski Says:

    As an aspiring opera singer, I can related to every line. Basically replace the “dancing” with “singing” and it would be a perfect list for opera singers.

  30. TRACY Says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I will be sharing it with my students & parents a spoonful at a time! :-)

  31. Craig Hedrick Says:

    As the father of a dancer, and dance teacher, I can testify to the truth in this article. But I would point out that this could be titled 15 Truths About Being a Professional….almost anything, except maybe for the physical part.

  32. Cynthia Says:

    Thanks for posting this terrific article. I salute its matter of fact approach and no nonsense voice. Many of the points relate to any sphere of activity. I’m not a dancer but found myself nodding in agreement as I read through all 15 points.

  33. Steven Barbier Says:

    I Love this article for too long Ive worried about everybody else bieng better and finally this year I started to focus on what im good at and work harder on the things im not so good at :)

    I’m a Contemporary Dancer and A Choreographer from WI
    And just because im from Wisconsin doesnt mean I suck at dance

  34. Julio Lucena Says:

    Seem like 15 Truths about that other dance called Life…

  35. K Yamada Says:

    Love this. Dance is a harsh reality but so worth it :)

  36. Melanie Doskocil Says:

    Could you please give credit to the author, Melanie Doskocil in the post instead of the vague “found by…” notation at the end of the post. I wrote this and It would be nice to get credit instead of just having it plagerized. Thanks.

  37. Carrie Webb Says:

    I read this to my junior company tonight. They left with smiles. Thank You!

  38. Ryan Says:

    Hi Melanie,
    Absolutely! It was in no way our intention to plagiarize or take credit from you in any way! The internet is so tricky with its semantics and how to exactly define who should receive all due recognition. Our apologizes for not getting our wording right and we’ll change it to ‘credit towards’ as opposed to ‘found by’ right away! Thanks again for all your inspiration.

  39. Julia Ballard Says:

    Wonderful ..very insightful and truthful. it’s everything we need to hear to stay encouraged.
    I’ve danced professionally in ballet companies in South Carolina, Alabama and Atlanta for 4 years. I have taught ballet for 9 years now. Another great point is that if a ballet company does not appreciate your work.. Find one who does :-)

  40. Barbra Getz Says:

    Great article. Thank you so much. I will be sure to share it with my daughter who loves dance and is a beautiful and gifted dancer.

  41. kevin Says:

    Even though I retired from dance back in ’98, this list couldn’t be more true of everything I ever learned from my years as a dancer. And as many have noted in the comments, these lessons are life lessons. Dance is hard… Life is hard. But what are you going to do about it? Complain or jump in and see how much greater you can make it for yourself? Most dancers I knew chose the latter, and it has helped us all in immeasurable ways after our careers were over.

    Thank you for this wonderful list!

  42. Inge de Bruine Says:

    Personally, I think there is a victimasition (is that a word) at hand here. There’s a truth in some lines but also a helplessness and almost enjoyment of pain. Is it true? Do all dancers hurt? Aren’t there some fabulous (modern) dancers and teachers who appreciate, take care and healthily work with of the bodies they’ve been given?
    “There may be no tomorrow”….. Come on people, if you can’t dance as a dancer anymore, become a teacher, designer, maker, creator’ – you’re an artist, right? That’s life.

    I think it’s wonderful that dancers, for whom dance is there life’s joy and purpose, get to dance. But let’s stop pretending it’s necessary to suffer – of course, to percevere is functioneel. But to ache? You are not an ‘asset’, you are a person. You don’t have to make yourself valuable, you ARE valuable. And YOU have to find that value in order to find work. Maybe that value don’t lie in suffering but working intelligently with the qualities you’ve been given. I like that phrase about retention and working smart :).

  43. Inge de Bruine Says:

    (It’s “their” joy) excuse my English!
    Functioneel = functional…… autocorrect.
    Don’t lie = doesn’t lie
    Retention = repetition.

  44. YuFo Trickster Says:

    Hey Melanie,

    I totally agree of what you said, its well written.
    Hopefully everyone will be aware of responsibility of being an Artist, professional, and athlete.

    Regards,
    (www.yufotrickster.com)
    YT

  45. Hallah Moustafa Says:

    I insist that all “bellydancers” read this!!! I’m sick of hearing how they dont need to study because this dance is’intuitive’.One of my customers said”I dont want to use too much technique, it INTERFERES with the “feeling”…the biggest problem we face in Oriental dance is this unprofessional attitude…get a grip guys!!!!

  46. Robert Says:

    Trust who you are and be yourself. You cant make your audience laugh, weep, or cry without first knowing who you are and being OK with it. People won’t like you as much if you try to be someone else. Why waste the energy when you could spend it focusing on learning to be a better dancer instead of focusing on the perception other people have of you.

  47. Tanya Says:

    I’m not a dancer but I am a musical theatre performer and this rings just as true for all theatrical professions. A wonderful summary of the ethos of a dedicated, and hopefully successful, performer. I wish this could be drilled into all performance students on their first day of training!

  48. ROBERTO BENEJAN Says:

    MUCHISIMAS GRACIAS ,EXCELENTE REPORTAJE.

  49. Dancer: The Portrait Says:

    [...] written before with some insight, hopefully, of what it is like to be a dancer. Actually, this post explains a lot (although truth be told it applies to photographers, engineers, just about anyone). [...]

  50. 15 truths | Tutus & Stilettos Says:

    [...] came across this article last night and found it to be an extremely insightful and honest description of the life of [...]

  51. Katie Potter Says:

    Great article. I’m a retired ballet/modern dancer (#4 man – it’s a doozy) and now I am a photographer working mostly with dancers or models with a dance background, and this was such a great thing to be able to show to these young, enthusiastic and super talented people I’m working with. I feel like 9/10 models and 7/10 dancers have completely and totally unrealistic views of any high-volume performance industry and some of them are CONVINCED that a) they are invincible, b) for some special reason they’re the exception to these rules and c) I couldn’t possibly know what I’m talking about because I’m not currently a professional dancer. This really opened a lot of eyes – maybe broke a few hearts, but better to learn what may or may not be ahead of you EARLY rather than learn it the hard way, too late… like I did.

  52. Melanie Doskocil Says:

    Thanks Ryan, it would also be great if you would have a link back to the original. That’s what most do who want to be sure to give credit. Thanks.

  53. Ryan Says:

    Hi Melanie- there is one! If you click on your blog’s name, Ballet Pages, it takes you straight back to your original post. We made sure to have that there from the beginning!

  54. Katherine Bolger Hyde Says:

    I’m a writer, and 99% of this is true for me as well. Thank you.

  55. missy Says:

    Thank you! I’m giving this article to my 11 yr old daughter who wants to be a professional ballerina.

  56. Shelby Says:

    wonderful to read, as a mother of a dancer knows all the work & disappointment you go thru. but you ARE doing what you love soooo you keep going. And it IS great to have those that do apprediate you. & love you which helps you do what you LOVE!!!!!!!

  57. Ingeborg Zackariassen Says:

    I am sorry to break the wave of praise here, but I feel that it´s important to bring in a different angle… I must admit to reading this and getting a too familiar aftertaste. Frankly some of the points made me feel that I was reading a 1950´s house wife magazine article on how to behave to keep your man happy.
    I have 13 years behind me as a professional dancer, both in classical and modern companies. I am “lucky” enough to work in a country where dancers actually have rights, but have experienced enough myself and heard enough stories from colleagues around the world to shut up in this context.
    Quote: “DANCERS ARE ARTISTS AND ATHLETES”
    - Yes, dancing is really hard work, and comparable to sports in many ways, but while most people would agree that an athlete should be 100 % physically and mentally strong and healthy to perform their best, sadly that is not the case in too many ballet schools and in the dance world in general (let´s say classical companies are worse than modern ones in this regard)…
    Confidence and self respect are not pushed very much either, be it from dance teachers, directors or choreographers in general. If dancers are to genuinely be seen as artists (oh, and maybe even as human beings by the way) they should be treated with respect. It´s time to stop seeing dancers as mere replaceable tools or “assets”. I truly believe that more interesting stage art will come out of a less oppressed environment, freeing the artists/human beings from harassment and letting them truly focus on their art.
    Quote: “KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF UNLESS THEY ARE SOLICITED”
    -This quote makes me angry and sad. Where does this need to shut dancers up come from? What if they actually have something important to say? Some of the most humble, hard working, passionate and dedicated people I have met in my life are dancers. Why are they the ones that are being pushed down and put in their place again and again? As if high competition, high injury risk, low pay, hard work, blood, sweat and tears are not enough?
    As Inge de Bruine mentioned in her comment, there is definitely a victimisation here, and it´s seriously about time to change that!
    COME ON, TEACHERS, just because your teacher beat you with a stick (metaphorically or physically), and you liked it or thought it made you a better dancer, doesn´t make that kind of behavior valid to pass on…
    COME ON, PARENTS, don´t you want to encourage your child to respect him/herself and speak up if something is wrong, even if the dance world keeps punishing those who do?
    COME ON, DIRECTORS, you should be happy to have intelligent people in your companies, who reflect on decisions and ask questions, as well as standing up for their rights. When is the last time in history when something evolved out of fear?
    And finally COME ON DANCERS, it´s not too late, there is nothing to gain from shutting up, we can change the bad traditions, raise your voice, starting today! And by the way, you DO NOT have to work for free.

    Please feel free to respond to my letter.

  58. Amy Says:

    I love this! I was a dance major, and suffered at stroke at 24 before I had the chance to really let my heart fly or even give professional dancing a shot. You really never know when your chance at dancing at a highly skilled level will end. I have been back to dance but not anywhere close to where I was. We created http://www.nopw.org to raise awereness of stroke in young people. Check it out.

  59. Ingeborg Zackariassen Says:

    Correction-it should have said:
    “I am “lucky” enough to work in a country where dancers actually have rights, but have experienced enough myself and heard enough stories from colleagues around the world NOT to shut up in this context.” as I am sure you all realized ;)

  60. ATS Says:

    With ballet (especially small non union companies) I have never seen a profession where employees are treated so poorly. Dancers are unappreciated, underpaid, exploited and overworked. It is an unhealthy environment that breeds jealousy, anerexia, bitterness and disdain. It is run by artistic directors mostly retired egotistical dancers who covet their prey and treat them like puppets, rarely soliciting their artistic contribution to the art form. It is managed by wealthy benefactors who care very little for the welfare (and pay) of dancers and only wish to rub elbows with them and have their name associated with an art form they could never achieve. As beautiful as they are on stage I feel pity when I see how they are treated in reality.

  61. dancer123 Says:

    I have my first competition on Saturday. I am really scared but this was a lot of help;)

  62. maya mouis Says:

    I am not dancer I am photographer and model but I like your advice.Thank you for sharing.Maya Mouis

  63. Ryan Says:

    Hi Ingeborg,
    Please don’t be sorry to be the lone voice of dissension! That’s what makes these posts so interesting and engaging. And I like many of the points you made. Having a voice and being heard is powerful and as dancers, teachers, directors, no one wants to discourage or disenfranchise populations. I think it is fair that dance has been, is, and probably will continue to be a highly disciplined career where you are trained early on to silently learn and imitate…with not much room for your own direction. It is only later after you have ‘mastered’ the art & obtained a specific position in a company where you then begin to exert your thoughts and opinions. I can use the documentary ‘Ballerina’ as an example: Alina Somova, a young fresh principal is heavily directed and (dare I say) manipulated by the directors of the Kirov. Svetlana Zakharova, on the other hand, a seasoned professional who has proven her worth again and again, is the one controlling her rehearsals- not the director.

    Like many professions, there is a game to be played in the dance world. And I’m sure as a professional, you know as I well as I do, dancers who have decided to not participate and have lost positions because of it. I admire any one who stands up for their principles in such a manner; usually whatever they might have lost is less significant compared to their personal happiness.

    With all of this said, Melanie did an excellent job laying out the rules of the game. Dancers do face the option of working sometimes for free or not dancing at all (and I don’t think anyone is advocating for this- just that it is a reality that one might face), you do have a better chance advancing in a company if you are humble, take correction well, and keep your unsolicited opinions to yourself. The real question each dancer must ask themselves is: do I want to participate or not? It is a personal choice.

    Thanks so much for all your thoughts!

  64. Suzanne Saltmarsh Says:

    Thank you for writing this. You add validity to so many teachers by saying what you have here. The truth is not always what we want to hear, but it allows us options. Dancers live by different rules often and this can be difficult to accept. But with knowledge that certain unstated rules apply is useful, to truly understanding the dance world and the realities of working in it. The rules that you state are what I stress so hard to my students daily. Work with integrity whether anyone is watching or not, have an opinion, ask questions when ever you can… but know there are times when it’s not appropriate. Make choices that are in keeping with your own beliefs, for an unhappy dancer has a difficult time sharing on stage or off,… and the climb up the ladder may be more difficult if your fighting your own nature.
    Again thank you for your wise, and thoughtful words of advice!
    Suzanne Saltmarsh
    http://www.saltmarshdance.com

  65. Ingeborg Zackariassen Says:

    Hi Ryan!
    Thank you for your response. First of all, I am not really sorry, that is merely a matter of speech (or writing in this case). And even if I really was “the lone voice”, I would stand for it even if no one else agreed (knowing that thousands of anonymous and untrained dancers´voices are screaming mutedly in the background), although I am very happy to see some new and very different sounding voices added to the comment field after I wrote my letter…

    Sadly I think that many powerful people in the dance world DO want to “disenfranchise the population” of dancers. That proves itself when dancers who don´t “play the game” get fired or mobbed out.

    I haven´t seen the documentary “Ballerina”, but I hope that the directors of Kirov can sleep well at night and rest assured that their manipulation of Alina Somova was absolutely necessary for the success of her performance. Anything else would truly be a disgrace, wouldn´t it? Even if they think what they do is right, or necessary even, this is what I believe is fundamentally wrong, and HAS to change. Anyone is welcome to give me scientific proof that human beings excel when they are being pushed down… Without self discipline and self motivation no one ever makes it as a dancer anyway, so why take advantage of those who are already so passionate and dedicated?

    Of course I am aware of this “game to be played”. That game is what I find unnecessary and counterproductive. I don´t really understand who is pulling the strings, who keeps this game going, but I am pretty sure it has to do with power structures and ignorance. I am sure that dancers don´t WANT to have a destructive working environment, but they are taught “that just how it is, so take it or leave it”.
    I would go as far as saying that participating in playing that game not only destroys lives, it also prevents the dance world from moving forward.
    Then we might as well go back to the 50´s, right?

  66. Kyra Shinigami Says:

    I agree with what you wrote except for one point.

    6. Information is not true knowledge. – Knowledge comes from experience. You can discuss a task a hundred times, go to 1000 classes, but unless we get out there and perform we will only have a philosophical understanding of dance. Find opportunities to get on stage. You must experience performance firsthand to call yourself a professional dancer.

    Information is knowledge but it finds its peak in application. So yes if you only go for class and never perform you may never understand the true importance of class…yet as an undergraduate student of dance studies I believe that a class can also be a performance and that information/knowledge is not just found through performance (on stage) but also through understanding academics and applying them.
    And lastly, just because you perform on stage does not necessarily make you a professional dancer/performer.

    This is what I think and of course it is highly debatable. So you might not agree with my opinion anyway.

  67. Dudy Lattouf Says:

    ADOREI!!!!!!!!!!! MINHA FILHA É BAILARINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  68. Olivka Says:

    The proposal number 1 is wrong ! I knew personnally a principal dancer in a great national ballet company in western Europe who became famous almost never taking the class… But now… What a decay ?

  69. Career in Dance-What it Takes to Make it! | Great Dance Career Says:

    [...] watched “Dancing with the Stars” you know just what I mean!  If you wish to have a career in dance, you can, but it will take work and [...]

  70. deepali Says:

    true said in everywork you do passionately !same experience here being an wellness and yoga expert.

  71. Jessica Says:

    Not only are these truths for professional dancers, but also for any dance student wishing to achieve more…for teachers, for assistants – for all of us!

  72. Lebritia Says:

    Absolutely love this! Dance has taught me about life. It has so little to do with the steps. They just move us along the path we choose to travel.

  73. Noy Bieber Barnea Says:

    Great insights, well written, very inspiring!
    As a dancer, dance instructor, choreographer and performer, that has been through many changes and different paths, I can identify many of the “Truths” that Melanie points out.
    I also believe it relates to other forms of art and the way we choose to give a mining to our lives.

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  77. Anna Says:

    One essential truth is missing.

    16) Turn out is not a verb.

    If you aren’t gifted with “natural” turn out, everyone “behind the the curtain” knows that a professional ballet career is highly unlikely. This is pictorially evidenced by the image of Guillem (above) and the millions of spectacular “turned out” photos and videos of all the “professional” dancers in the world.

    Just an observation, that’s all.

  78. Grier Cooper Says:

    A very honest and insightful article, thanks so much for sharing. I was a dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Miami City Ballet and have realized with hindsight that ballet continues to benefit me years after I ended my career: http://www.griercooper.com/2013/02/12/10-reasons-to-…let-at-any-age/

  79. Grier Cooper Says:

    Sorry, the correct link is: http://www.griercooper.com/2013/02/12/10-reasons-to-study-ballet-at-any-age/

  80. Kathalene White Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this, a great insight for our young dancers who are thinking of a professional dance career. Food for Thought for sure.

  81. Emily Says:

    Well, it’s amazing, now I realise that i have to work very hard and i shouldn’t worry about critism but i should have fun and be proud of my work :)) thanks a lot!

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  83. Ryan Says:

    Thanks so much!

  84. kenrick cheeks Says:

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  86. Ronnie Says:

    Very beautiful! After reading this post, I’m sure that my dreams are closer to be come true :D

  87. Socorro Jones Says:

    This is an amazing expression of the majority of Artists emotions and growth patterns! How exciting to be able to come across this. I would like to first thank you for everything written here, I really sincerely appreciate it. I am a Professional Dancer and it pains me at times to teach and talk with dancers who carry blind entitlement and feel so comfortable in the false bliss of their own fabulousness. They don’t realize how much of a disadvantage this gives them, one because I am a Choreographer/Performer who, if I have to tell you these things, have no interest in working with you leaving more jobs out of their reach (Artists talk), and two, because I also teach the other spectrum of dancers who are willing to dance through blood and the competition is astounding and getting younger & younger! I know from my own experiences that if your going to work and stay employed, you better be willing to do what you are called to do, no excuses, no back-talk, no unwarranted fluff. They get you fined, fired, and or not hired and black-listed because professionals talk and no one wants a thorn in their side. A professional learns to show up, warm up, deliver & rejoice! But the character of all these requirements starts within. I’m kind of hoping it’s just a maturity thing. I try not to be too hard because none of us are perfect, but dancers don’t have the same amount of time to get it together as Norms do, so I try to help whomever aspiring Artists I come across, and I will absolutely share and am truly grateful. This is a real thought process of Professionals that needs to be spread like wildfire! So again, I say Thank You! Thank U! Thx 2 U! Cheers! & Good Show!

  88. Christopher Says:

    Thanks for such a detailed article!

  89. Zasha Says:

    I am having a hard time actually. The problem is that I decided to put off dancing and went to college. I started taking dance at a local studio and loved it. But, because of my age I am not taken seriously and they put me in a class with retired ladies. I am not allowed to take tap, modern, or anything fun. Its only for the kids, might I,add some of which are not technically good and but their parents pay big bucks. I am never allowed to perform. Heres the thing: I am incredibly flexible, strong and dont have injuries. I work harder and feel like im being limited. I tried changing studios but the technique wasnt good. So I went back, because my teacher is excellent but she cant place me in a class of teens. my other teacher flat out told me I was too old to consider a career in dance, using not so nice words. He may be right, but I couldnt stand facing a career in academics. I am also pressured to go to fundraisers, pay for more classes, and the retired women tend to be rather mean. they gossip and complain about their achy bones. Help!

  90. Z Says:

    Another thing that I notice is that when dancers are put through rigorous training at a young age, they tend to get hyperextended knees, and other problems. Growth spurts during teen years makes them more prone to injury. With girls feet are damaged with bunions before they are twenty. These types of problems can make dancing more difficult. I beluve there shouldnt be a set age group,rather physical condition and ability. If someone says yes you are too old without evaluting you first,then it is merely bloody minded prejudice.

  91. Ryan Says:

    Hi Zasha,

    Our hearts go out to you- it is hard as an adult to get good, quality training with the hopes of performing later. Don’t give up and don’t despair! There are lots of options for finding training.

    First, don’t limit yourself to just one studio. Take as many classes as you can all around your community. Here in Portland, we have a large group of adult dancers who take class not only with our studio but at many others as well. These people are working professionals who dance as a (serious) hobby, some are retired, some are professional dancers, some are students who are supplementing their technique classes with open adult classes… point being that there are many different types of populations in adult classes, not always the type you mentioned above. And as for the gossip and complaining, let it wash over you, stay silent and listen to the instructor. Class is a time for dedication and focus.

    The other option for finding good technique classes as an adult is your local community college or university. There you will be in class with other adults, albeit some may be very new, very fresh adults! However, you will find a wide variety of classes available to you and often with performance opportunities. The other positive aspect of university or community college technique classes is the faculty. You’ll have a wide range of technique classes (jazz, modern, ballet) all being taught by seasoned retired or current dance professionals.

    Our last piece of advice is that if you are having difficulty finding quality dance classes in your community, have a serious talk with yourself about how far you are willing to commute each day. TPB has had dancers from Eugene, Vancouver, parts of Washington, east Oregon who travel up to 3+ hours a day to attend our classes. Multiple times a week! It’s an amazing commitment but not one that many of us at TPB would undertake lightly. (And some of us definitely would not!) So look a little outside your community, see what’s there, & see what your schedule and budget will allow.

    Good luck! We wish you the best!

  92. Olgarina Says:

    I am 30 years old and I have been taking ballet class for two years. I am very serious about it andalways receive a verbal praise from my instructor. Is there any future for in danceworld?

  93. Lee Says:

    Im pretty sure this list goes with anything that is art/entertainment related. Whether youre working hard to become a musician, singer, producer, scriptwriter, actor, you name it. Im an illustrator/designer and this list applies to me as well. I stumbled upon this site as I enjoy dancing as a hobby. Whatever you work hard at, it is highly possible that we will be faced with all of these points. This list serves a reminder for any of us working hard at what we do. Thanks for the read!

  94. Angela Says:

    Sounds about right to me! Dance is ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever-working! You are always ‘on a journey’ . . . enjoy every dance along the way!

  95. Ryan Says:

    There are always options to dance, regardless of your age. I would look in your own community- are their local troupes or companies that are looking for dancers? Auditioning is its own beast but a great way to get out there and get yourself seen. Secondly, talk to your instructor. They are your best resource in terms of training, performing, networking, etc. Good luck!

  96. Sophia Says:

    I think that this was very helpful
    Thank u!
    P.S. To all, of the dancer never give up and try your best!

  97. Cami Says:

    This is awesome! It is so true! I’ve had to work so hard at ballet and I know that I won’t ace every audition. But I LOVE dance and that’s what makes it the best!

  98. Joanne Says:

    As a former dancer, I say Amen to all 15 points. But as a dancer who’s gone out into the coporate world, it’s a double Amen from me!

  99. Windy Says:

    A very fruitful article. Worth to read, no matter for being a dancer or a people.

  100. choreographerscarnival Says:

    Awsome truth. this applies to ALL forms of dance and is a great guide line to live as a pro dancer. Thmx.

  101. Steve Soroka Says:

    I’d like to comment on item 15 (basically “pushing the envelope”). I started classical ballet at age 60. i have fought constant ridicule from friends and relatives for doing this. I am now 66. The lady I first started with was a graduate from Juliard Conservatory and has a curricula vitae a mile long dancing with the Ballet Russe. She was one of Gene Kelly’s dance partners and has some lead roles on Broadway. I still dance with her. Many sessions we work on partnering. After doing a lift I put her down and she looked me square in the eye and said “Steve, you are weak!!!!!”. That goes back to item 1. Criticism in dance should always be taken as a compliment in as we strive for perfection in the art. A knowledgeable teacher who is willing to take the time to come over and physically reposition you or correct a movement realizes your potential. If I don’t get that kind of attention in a class I feel that they don’t think I am worth it. After a year or so with my first teacher in an over 50′s class I wanted to see how well I was really doing, so I signed up for a college ballet course. I took it for credit (not audit) so I would get an honest appraisal of my abilities. We had a public performance in front of a relatively large audience as a final exam (I am third on the left):https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3752750981838&set=a.3742835373954.2171379.1368311910&type=1&theater

  102. Le'Von Campbell Says:

    What a treat..Being in dance all of my life and to have had a wonderful career,,, “The Wiz”. “Raisin”, “Timbuktu”, “Evolution of the Blues”, “Pal Joey 78″, “”, “Porgy and Bess” , “Disney on Parade”, “Sesame Street Live”, “Dallas Black Dance Theatre”, “Atlanta Dance Connection”. This is what dance has done for me.. At 62 soon to be 63, I still maintain the same attitude and do my best to pass this information on to my students.

  103. Ryan Says:

    We LOVE stories like this! You are never to old to dance!

  104. Anglik9272 Says:

    I love dance and it is my life completely

  105. m. Joanne Telasco Says:

    Everything written in this article is absolutely true. Ballet isn’t easy, but it is self-gratifying and rewarding. Its from where my soul flies.

  106. Craig Says:

    I’m more into breakdancing than ballet. Other than battles, my crew hardly got paid for our shows, we just did it for fun but I find this list can apply perfectly to anything in life. Thank you for sharing.

  107. Nick Lawrence Says:

    Totally agree with the comment someone earlier made highlighting the similarity between dancers and musicians.

    There are many things we just expect our bodies to do and forget they need time and patience to achieve things.

  108. JaAnna Mccormick Says:

    I felt that most people think that dancing is easy. I must admit that it is VERY FUN!!! When dancers perform they try to make it seem very easy. Most people don’t know what dancers “go through.” This article was very inspiring beacause i have thought in the past that dance was easy but now i realize that it is not as easy as i thought!

  109. JR Johns Says:

    I found these 15 commandments so spot on regardless of being a dancer or not. I am a professional Producer/performer/dog trainer (I know that sounds odd)and have been doing so successfully for nearly 35 years in Reno and Las Vegas with my show Dog Gone Silly. There is not one principle here I have not applied or am still applying everyday earning a living in the performing arts. As a matter of fact anyone trying to achieve anything could use these guide lines and feel confident they will see major accomplishments in their life goals. Thanks for this post it’s brilliant and if a teen or 20 something wanted to get a tattoo… these would be the only ones I’d approve of on his or her forearm to be reviewed every day… LOL!

  110. Martin Forman, MD Says:

    As a pediatrician and teacher to medical students I would apply each and every one to the art of medicine
    Most thanks to the author

  111. Nada El Masriya Says:

    What amzing writing, very inspiring and absolutely true is every way!!
    Thank you so much, Nada

  112. jean sakr , lebanon Says:

    i love this article , its very honest , sincere and straight forward .
    i believe in every message in it .
    i would love to add one little detail and hope it will be taken as an advice , for all the persons who are born with disability or something happens to them and they can’t dance anymore , they can always be a great choreographers or great teachers if they really believe in themselves .god bless.

  113. Randy Ascher Says:

    Lessons for life in general as well.

  114. Glasgow Lucoita Says:

    Great article, Dancers should consider these 15 truths as if it were to be their 15 commandments to succeed in the professional dance world!

  115. delton frank Says:

    as a professional dancer for the past 15 years i can strongly relate to this, thank you for sharing this..

  116. Someone Says:

    I’m not a dancer and I can relate to about 10 out of the 15 things on that list. Many of those are true for nearly everyone in the working world.

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