This is probably the most FAQ for dance majors, and it is pretty F(requent).
I quite often cross through the border at Canada when I travel home to Michigan, and then back through when I return to New York. Interestingly enough, the Border-Patrol man always (without fail) questions my story; why would a young girl be traveling alone through Canada from Michigan to New York?
My trembling voice answers him (hoping and praying that they don’t stop me and confiscate the wine that I may have a habit of smuggling back from Traverse City):
Officer-Man: You’re going to school for dance, huh? What are you going to do with a degree in…dance? (grimacing flinch…)
My immediate and sassy thoughts: Wipe that look off of your face, sir—and give me back my passport before I drink my Michigan-wine, and Dyva-stomp all over your country!!!
(Wait…what am I going to do with this degree???)
My real, not-so-sassy response: …crickets….blank stares….”I want to teach and choreograph and perform” …more staring….more crickets…
Officer-Man: (still grimacing and now looking at me like I have some disease) …have a nice day, ma’am, I’ll look for you on Cirque du Soleil.
My sassy thoughts again: Get this man some jammy-jeans stat; he has CLEARLY never done an x-roll in his life, and could definitely benefit from an hour of somatics! Cirque du Soleil…puhhh!!!!…well actually, maybe?!?
(Wait…what am I going to do with this degree?!?)
It’s that moment of truth that you can never see coming, when reality, the biggest RAB of them all, slaps you across the face with a big dose of her poison. In no way, shape or form does this degree in dance guarantee you a spot in the playing field of lucrative success. While you’ll know the difference between the door, table and wheel planes, it’s on you to figure out what this knowledge can actually provide in the real world.
When I was in high school, my dance teacher described my choreographer-self as a creative genius; I won’t confirm either way, but my mother may have written Mia Michaels an email explaining that I was her prodigy and that she needed to meet me ASAP…(the meeting never did end up happening…did I just confirm that story??)
Ask me to choreograph an eight-count today, and I’ll cry in your face. I’ll do it eventually, but it’s just not my thing anymore.
Then I got to college, and realized that I wanted to perform. I was always told growing up that I didn’t have “the body” to be a professional dancer, and then I was introduced to concert dance where I was told that my body could do anything it wanted, including perform on stage for a career.
Ask me to attend your rehearsal today as a dancer, and I’ll cry in your face. I’ll do it, but it’s just not my thing anymore.
Recently I got to grad school and realized that I love to teach. Coming from a family of educators, I feel that sharing the gift of dance is one of the most exciting and gratifying experiences a dancer can have.
Ask me to sub for your class on Wednesday however, and I’ll probably cry in your face…
I bet you’re wondering all of this is going?? (and no…I don’t have A.D.D)
For med-school, law-school, and supply chain management, if you succeed in A, B and C, then here’s D for your taking, enjoy your career (and get pumped to start paying back your student loans with that fat-paycheck you’re about to get). Most degrees in higher education guide you down a nicely paved road that eventually leads you to a clear victory; this is not the case for dance-majors.
You have to more than love this field for any of your time here at the university to be justified. There are so many possibilities that this degree can offer, the hard part is deciding where to direct your attention and deciding what your overall goals in life are.
Where do you want to live?
NY: Here’s the Joyce.
LA: Here’s Lady Gaga.
Are you going to get married? Do you want to have children?
Yes: Are you sure you want to do that to your body in your prime years as a performer? …are you actually considering changing your last name?—Make him take yours.
No: Go Feminism!!!
Do you want to teach?
Yes: At a studio or university? Let me see your teaching philosophy…
No: So you’re going to choreograph and perform…
etc. etc. etc.
I’ve decided that I love to teach, I like to perform, and I enjoy choreographing when all is said in done. Above all, I love to connect with people, and all of these things allow me to do just that (and now add this blog to that list). While I may not have the clearest five-year plan set up and framed with a rhinestone border, I do know that I will end up successful because I work hard, and I make sure that everything I put my name on has my full attention and seal of approval.
Be a stickler about taking control of your journey, and don’t just let life happen to you. With so many options, be clear about why you’re a DYVA, why you’re a dance major, and why you’re going to be successful.
The next time this FAQ is put in your way,
“What are you going to be when you grow up?”
I challenge you to look that RAB in the face and respond: