When I was a freshman in college I had an English professor who told the class the key to becoming successful in your career is to find a mentor; someone who is successful at your chosen profession, someone who inspires you, who can help guide you and teach you. My professor knew nothing about dance but he knew about life. You can’t do it alone. You need someone to guide you, someone who has gone down the path you are about to take and can prepare you for the potholes in the road or cheer you as you reach one of your destinations.
You can have many mentors. In fact, you should. My first mentor was a senior dance major when I was a freshman. She inspired me not only with her dancing but with her outlook on life. She would answer my questions that I was too embarrassed to ask my professors. She helped me navigate all the newness around me. I learned how to be successful in the dance program because I picked someone to guide me that was extremely successful in the program. I was fortunate that she was also kind, gracious and giving.
I would recommend all incoming freshman dancers to shadow a dancer who has been in the program for a while. Ask her or him questions about classes, teachers, etiquette, etc. Gain as much information as you can. Learning is not reserved just for the classroom or studio.
Another mentor of mine was the director of the dance program. I watched her run dance rehearsals even though I was not in her dance piece. I would knock on her door every now and then to get feedback on how I was doing in my classes. I wanted to know how I could improve. Her guidance was priceless. She also learned something about me through these interactions. She knew I was a serious dance student who wanted to learn.
My last mentor in college was a visiting choreographer. I worked with her junior through senior year. I gained a lot of information about the dance world from her. She was able to give me information that my other mentors could not. She was working as a dancer in NYC. She was doing what I wanted to do. She told me I could earn free dance classes in NYC by getting into a work study program at a dance studio. I took her advice and got on a waiting list at a big NYC studio after I graduated. Soon I was cleaning mirrors, mopping floors, earning free classes and meeting the people who made the studio run. This was priceless.
Look for mentors who can help you in all aspects of your dance life. The information they can offer you is so valuable because it comes from their life experiences. Learn from their mistakes and their successes. Ask questions, observe them in action and see how you can help them as well.
Ask your mentor:
- How did they get to where they are today. What was there journey like?
- Ask if they need an apprentice or assistant.
- What do they wish they knew when they started their journey?
- Ask if you can watch their class/rehearsal/performance. Can you offer help in getting ready, cleaning up, etc?
- Ask if they can watch/ help you with choreography, technique, etc.
Lastly, find a mentor that can help you become successful in all aspects of your life. Finding balance in an arabesque is one thing. Sustaining that balance is something else entirely!
BIO: Stacey received her BFA in dance performance at Montclair State University and her MA in dance education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught as an artist in residency and guest artist in public and private schools for over twelve years.
Stacey is the Founder and Director of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs. The focus of Leaping Legs Creative Movement Programs is to help people regardless of age, experience or ability, become educated about their movement potential, develop kinesthetic awareness, and become more physically fit and healthy together as a family, and community.
Leaping Legs promotes its goal through the original Up Down & All Around DVD. The DVD received Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products Award and 10 Best Active Products Award. The DVD has also been featured in many magazines including Dance Retailer News, The National Dance Teachers Association dance journal dancematters, and Dance Teacher.
Before embarking on dance education, Stacey was a professional dancer and choreographer in New York City.