Dear Graduating Dance Students,

Watching dance helps me breathe. It’s akin to the breath of life, the blood that surges and courses through my veins.

So I get it.

I know why you want to study dance.

Your performance last night was fantastic, I really enjoyed it; it was creative and stimulating and you are to be congratulated. I thought, rather than critique it, I’d answer the thoughts that were streaming through my head as I was in a space that inspired so many memories. I was where you were, and I hope I can be a little useful while you’re forming your next steps.

My first piece of advice to you would be: see as many shows as you can. The perspective is invaluable. The confidence we develop to be performers can also be used against us. Instead of remaining humble in the space of experience we bolster ourselves so that we can carry on with confidence in a very uncertain profession. Still, we do not know it all, and until you see what’s out there in the greater dance world (nationally and internationally) you can create no real perspective on your own strengths and weaknesses, what it is yet you have to learn, or whom you can learn it from.

When you see these works (and don’t limit it to the big names – see the smaller, rougher works too!) form an opinion. I used to think that having an opinion closed me from certain opportunities. I imagined that my love of dancing would overrule any dissatisfaction I found with the repertoire. It’s not true. Unless you can move in a way you find joyous and stimulating, unless you feel like you are continually learning and experimenting, you will wish to move on. You’ll feel like you haven’t succeeded. Success is not in the name we make for ourselves, it’s in the satisfaction we feel in what we have done. So decide what you think about the works that you see. Did you like it? Did you not like it? Why? Be honest. Evaluate and think about it. Use this information to your advantage; it will forge where you can be of most creative use.

You may need to redefine your idea of success. Give yourself a break. You have not failed if you are not paid full time as a dancer. It doesn’t mean you aren’t one. You have the skills, the knowledge, and the knowhow to make your dance career what you will it as long as you put yourself in the driver’s seat. You must seize what you want, create opportunities when it seems like there aren’t any and it may take longer than what you ever expect. Success doesn’t happen over night, nor is it in one big thing that we do to create it. For most, it’s the determination and the persistence of the thousands of little decisions we make each day – the bravery to keep choosing this path because it’s truest to what we want as people.

It’s okay to take time. No doubt you’re exhausted. Full time dance will do that to you. Whether you still want to stay with it intensely, or whether you need a bit of time, it’s okay to step away from dancing for a little while. Trust it will come back to you if it’s really what you want to do. I thought if I stopped going to class full time I was “losing time”. What I didn’t see was that I was gaining resolve, which has much more of a shelf life than technical proficiency ever will.

Lastly, don’t believe everything you hear. My experience may not be your experience. Don’t believe you’re not good enough, that nobody will want your skills and your talent. Each dancer is shaped differently; it’s why we adopt “independent artist” as our title when we leave.

Good luck. You’re forging yourself a new pathway that’s yours. It’s different to what you’ve had these last three years or more, it’s closer to the rhythms of the way your life works, even though it may not look picture perfect.

Trust in yourself. Believe in yourself.

I wish you all the very best.

Yours dearly,

Rachel

Dance Alumni 2008

The VCA Dance Graduation season runs until the 21st of November at Space 28 (Performing Arts Building) 28 Dodds St, Southbank. Admission is $22/$16. For tickets, head to http://www.vca.unimelb.edu.au/events

4 Comments on Dear Graduating Dance Students,

  1. Lexi
    17 November, 2013 at 11:22 am (4 years ago)

    “Success is not in the name we make for ourselves, it’s in the satisfaction we feel in what we have done.” – bravo! Well said!

    Reply
    • crystaldance
      17 November, 2013 at 11:27 am (4 years ago)

      Thank you! It took me alarmingly long to realise that one. I knew deep down it was not something external yet continued to try and prove that truth wrong…

      Reply
  2. Alicia Johnston
    18 November, 2013 at 1:28 am (4 years ago)

    Rachel, what thoughtful advice. Though I’m about as far from a dance student as they come, as I read through your advice I could see it applying to almost any profession. Dive in and research as much as possible; form opinions and learn what you like; give yourself a break/be patient with yourself; care for yourself; make your own way. I’d even apply it to blogging or building a small business!

    Reply
    • rachelavogel
      18 November, 2013 at 10:21 am (4 years ago)

      Thank you for your lovely comment Alicia. I’m glad that my advice has a broader applicability and could be helpful! I guess as we get older what we learn serves us in life, and by learning in life we grow in our respective avenues, whatever they may be. Makes you feel a little closer to everyone else, doesn’t it?

      Reply

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