by Stacey Pepper Schwartz
Here are some essential tips and tools for college dancers looking for the best steps towards a dance future. These simple do’s will provide a solid foundation for the academic year as well as for many years ahead. (Since I write about college dance frequently, if I have repeated myself at all in this list know that I think it doubly important!)
- If you don’t know ask. One of the hardest things to do and most beneficial.
- Introduce yourself to the teacher/guest artist and thank them for the class. When a teacher knows your name that are more likely to pay attention to you.
- Find a mentor. This should be a person you can seek out for advice from what courses you should take to the best place to buy cheap leotards. Preferably a dance major a few years ahead of you so you can learn from his/her experiences.
- Have a dance journal. Write about what inspires you. Write about your dreams. Write about what you want to accomplish in the dance world as well as the world beyond.
- Don’t live, sleep and dream dance. Yep – take a break every now and then. Experience fun things outside the dance studio. This is necessary so you don’t burn out and because life is not just about one experience.
- Get sleep and eat well. Eat real food. Lack of energy results in poor concentration and poor performance.
- Ask your professors/dance teachers/guest artists for feedback. How are you doing? What can you work on? What do they see as your strengths?
- Be the first one at rehearsal and the last one to leave. (Translation: demonstrate your work ethic, enthusiasm and commitment by not running in the last minute and running out the first minute you can.)
- Ask to understudy. If you do not get cast in a dance piece you wanted to perform ask to understudy. It is a great way to work with a choreographer, gain experience and a possible performing opportunity. Asking to understudy shows commitment and determination.
- Think positively. Negative thoughts breed negative behavior, mood, and outlook. Choose a positive perspective. Learn from the disappointments. This doesn’t mean to pretend to be happy, but it does mean have a good attitude. Choreographers/teachers are drawn towards positive personalities.
- Read. It’s a great hobby and a portable one. Find enjoyable ways to pass the time when waiting for the bus, rehearsal, class, etc. I found that instead of dreading the bus in and out of the city I looked forward to reading my book. (It’s also a great way to relieve stress.)
- Research. Learn about the history of the dance/company/artist you are working with. This will make your experience richer and you will be a better dancer/choreographer/student for it.
- Know everybody’s names and say thank you. Show your appreciation to the costume/prop/backstage crew/etc. who help you along the way. A thank you can go far. When you need help with a last minute problem you will know who to ask for and they will know who they are helping.
- Enjoy the moment. You are fortunate to be following your dreams. Dream big and enjoy the journey.
Please share other must’s, do’s and don’ts that every college dancer should know. I would love to hear your feedback!
Contributor Stacey Pepper Schwartz 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.