I spent my entire weekend at a dance competition/convention with my students. It’s always really draining because SO. MANY. CHILDREN. Hormonal teenagers, too. The things they have in common: All are sweaty and tired/wired. All claim that they love to dance. And whenever I observe one of these events I’m always interested to see how different kids react to the events of this incredibly LONG weekend. It’s hard on the body–a LOT of dancing on carpet and/or concrete floors. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions–so many ups and downs. From a heartfelt pep talk to a teary-eyed teenager, to the joy of a 9 year old who got surprised with a scholarship for the first time.
It was also an interesting weekend because I spent a lot of time talking with other dance teachers. I had some really juicy conversations the other directors from our studio. I ran into someone who I’d met at another event a few summers ago, a guest choreographer who worked with my students last year, and chatted with one of the convention teachers who is currently working with my friend in L.A. My boss was hilariously reunited with people she competed against as a teenager (I guess they were all “2 legit 2 quit”! ;), and I even ran into one of MY childhood dance teachers.
But whether you grow up to be a professional dancer or a lawyer, the lessons you learn through dance are lessons you’ll use for the rest of your life. Some kids naturally get it, and as I watched them in classes this weekend, I found myself saying over and over “THIS is why she is going to grow up and win at life“. Here are some of the big ones:
8 Important Life Lessons You Learn From Dance
1. It’s a Small World
The dance world is small, and so is the non-dance world. Don’t be an A-hole. Wish others well. “Good job”, and “good luck” go a long way. Share your (proverbial?) bobby pins and safety pins with anyone who needs them, even if they aren’t on your “team” right now. Talk to people and make some personal connections. You never know who is going to remember you 15 years later–they might even wind up offering you a job.
2. NOTHING IS A GIVEN
You won’t get everything you wish for, but if you work hard, sooner or later you’ll get at least something that you wanted. In life, you don’t automatically get handed a diploma unless you go to class and study and write papers. You aren’t guaranteed to get a promotion just because you’ve been working somewhere for a long time. If you want to move up in dance and in life, you have to put in the work, and often that takes years and years. Sure, talent can give you an advantage, but I never met a successful person in dance, or otherwise, who didn’t have a strong work ethic.
3. SHOW UP
This is the most important thing you can do. Show up to class. For your family and friends and teammates. Show up fully present for anything and anyone that really matters to you and eventually you will get ahead. Sometimes you’ll have to do it when you are sick, or tired, or don’t feel like it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. You’ll never get the part that you didn’t audition for, or the job you didn’t apply for. By simply showing up, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else who decided to make an excuse and stay home. Bonus points if you can show up on time. (I’m still working on this one!)
4. Talent is not a zero-sum game
There are lots of talented dancers in the world. And beautiful people. And smart people. The fact that they are amazing does not mean that you are not also. Let go of comparison. If you compare yourself to others, you will always find yourself lacking in one way or another. There is enough awesome to go around. You won’t get to enjoy your share if you are pouting on the sidelines.
5.”HAVING IT ALL” IS A MYTH
Every time you say “no” to one thing, you make room to say “yes” to something else, and vice versa. Everything is a choice. If you want to be the type of person who wins scholarships and awards in dance, or any given area, you have to be dedicated to it. As a young dancer, you can’t get a solo, win every award, get moved up a level every year, AND also play a sport, do the musical, and make it to everyone’s birthday party. As an adult, you can’t be a CEO, president of the PTA, do an Iron Man, AND sleep. Something’s gotta give and it’s up to you to decide what it is. Then OWN that choice and everything that comes with it.
6. The Only Way to Grow is to get out of your comfort zone
You can only start where you are. Everyone is a novice when they first begin. If you are trying something new and out of your comfort zone, you will probably suck at it for awhile. Keep trying and soon you will start sucking less. Pretty soon you might actually be good. And that is the exact moment when it’s time to start getting uncomfortable again.
7. If YOU THINK SOMEONE IS GOOD, Tell them so. Then Steal it.
What?! Here’s what I mean: It feels good to give compliments. The world is not a very kind place right now. The most wonderful dancers (and people) always seem to think the worst of themselves. If you think someone is great, and you look up to them, tell them so. Then take note of what it is that makes them special, and find your own way to emulate that quality for yourself.
8. YOU’ve Gotta HAVE GRIT
What exactly is grit? It’s the personality trait that allows you to persevere even when life knocks you down. As a dancer, you will get told “no” in auditions more often than you are told “yes”. You will likely get more corrections than compliments from your teachers. Don’t get mad when you don’t like the feedback you got–someone cares enough to help you grow. Take the compliments AND the criticisms. In life, you will undoubtedly face adversity. There will be setbacks to overcome. You will fail, and cry, and maybe even hit rock bottom. Grit is the magical ingredient that allows you to keep bouncing back until you get to the place where you want to be. Dig down deep and find it.
All of these lessons are things that I’ve learned along my journey as a dancer. They are the important things that allow me to do what I love and have a “fun job”. They are the fundamental reasons (besides my yoga practice) that I’m still dancing into my 30’s, and will probably continue to do so until I’m at least 111. But even if your passion is something completely different, all of this still applies. Take it, live it, and if you have a dancer in your life, please SHARE IT with them too. 🙂