PLEASE NOTE: You will see I used some naughty words in this post (the lesser of the naughty words, relax). I choose not to edit them because it keeps my original sentiment more “real”. Sorry if you don’t approve. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want :).
This is a message to the dance majors feeling unsure about their career path.
Or to the recent graduates, new bachelors of fine arts, serving in restaurants and feeling anxious about the future.
“What good is it”, you may ask, “to have a degree in dance if the chances are slim I won’t even have a career in dance when it’s all said and done?”.
Sure, we all joke about the pitiful worth of our degree, but this joking comes from a place of real fear: “Oh shit. My degree makes me highly unemployable in the real world”.
But does it really?
For what it’s worth, I think your BFA is worth a hell of a lot more than you think.
You shouldn’t even joke about it, “haha my degree is basically worthless haha”. Stop that shit. The language you use with yourself is super important. A degree in dance is, quite possibly, one of the most valuable, underrated degrees, and you don’t even know it.
I am a fine arts major. I have a BFA in dance performance and I didn’t become a brilliant professional dancer like I had hoped.
But what I’ve learned studying dance for four intense, challenging years comes in handy everyday. I just didn’t realize until now.
Fast forward to today, three years post graduation.
Somehow, I have been accepted into a wonderful network of clinicians, bodyworkers, and movement specialists who really get it. They seek the truth, are detectives of dysfunction, and are thousands of times more intelligent than I could ever aspire to be. And they get results.
I’m talking mostly about the community of people I met through NeuroKinetic Therapy, and other seminars.
Somehow they take me as I am, yet the BFA in me feels like a bit like of an imposter.
I get to hang out with this network of smart people and they speak to me like I’m one of them. They don’t dumb concepts down for me, but treat me like an equal despite the fact that my formal education pales in comparison.
Awesome as this is, there’s a part of me that worries what people in my new world will think of me when I tell them my education is in dance.
I had a meeting with the owner of a gym once and I was able to keep up with all the technical lingo he threw at me, but when he asked what my education was and I said, “dance”, his expression visibly changed.
“Oh,” he said, “I wasn’t expecting that”. And he didn’t sound super positive either.
Despite instances like this, I’ve somehow come to find myself getting referrals from my awesomely smart network. These people actually trust me. I can’ t believe it sometimes.
Imagine that. Me, the imposter, no formal education in my field and getting referrals from the RMTs, chiropractors and physiotherapists I look up to.
What the hell??
I still don’t think many of them know that all I have is a dance degree.
All I have? Hell, I shouldn’t be saying that.
See, until very recently, I didn’t believe that my education was enough. I was self-conscious of my abilities because I was letting my perception of my degree hold me back.
I thought my education was worth less than a physiotherapist, or a chiropractor, or a kinesiologist.
And while certainly the cost to become a physiotherapist is much higher than to get a dance degree, my dance degree isn’t worth less than any other degree, it’s just worth different.
Unlike other degrees, a BFA is so much more valuable than the money it can (or can’t) make you.
I know now not to be ashamed of my “inferior” education.
A few days ago, my truth came out to a clinician I regard very highly, as he was doing an acupuncture treatment with me.
We were talking, as he stuck needles in my adductor magnus (oh boy!) about education.
He was telling me, in retrospect, how little his training in chiropractic meant. How he was closed minded when he was in school, and how continuing education was everything. Telling me that the important things are what they don’t teach you in school, the things you don’t learn until you start practicing with the drive to be a better clinician. Then you begin to learn the things that really matter. Not just how to adjust spines, how to be a good detective.
To this I said, “Well, then I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t go to ‘real’ school…”.
And I don’t think he knew anything about my education. “What IS your background, anyway?” He asked.
“Dance”, I said, “I have a degree in dance”.
“So then how did you learn all the anatomy and stuff?” he asked.
“I took CEUS and read a lot,” was my response. “We had a dance anatomy course, and it was pretty good, but I did a lot of learning on my own after I graduated”.
Part of me, the doubtful side, was expecting him to think less of me for being self-taught (I know some people would see that as a reason NOT to hire someone). But he didn’t. And this gives me confidence. It should give you confidence, too.
It’s a good thing I had to teach myself. It’s a good thing that most of the time at continuing education seminars I feel like the stupidest person in the room.
Because what I eventually chose to learn on my own is the stuff that I am really interested in. The stuff I care about. And because I actually care, I have the drive to learn the truth about it, not just what they teach you in school.
Why am I glad to have a BFA in dance? Why does it help me everyday?
Because the four years I spent dancing in university was the experience of what it feels like to slowly break down a body. What better education could I want for learning how to rebuild one?
I learned, through my dance degree, what it means to build an identity around a way of moving, a no-pain-no-gain mindset, and how pride is deleterious to one’s longevity. This taught me the non-dual nature of mind and body- How rebuilding a body sometimes helps to rebuild a mind.
I learned where my interests truly lay. I had wonderful opportunities to study, unbeknownst at the time, my future clientele in action.
I learned hard work, discipline, respect, teamwork.
I learned through my dance degree that I was not going to be a professional dancer. This is most important perhaps. Learning what I was not going to do.
And so, when I graduated, unable to dance due to injury, I did what seemed to be the only natural thing: To try to help dancers like myself by showing them how to prevent my same struggle.
And I think I’m pretty ok at it.
So if you’re wondering what on earth your dance degree is going to get you, or you’re in doubt of the “real-life” worth of a BFA, or if your parents, friends, etc are telling you that you’ll never make a living on a fine arts degree, I am telling you otherwise.
You have a degree in the experience of being.
Whether you are aware of it now, or later, this is really what you get out of a dance degree- A four year education in self.
Maybe your BFA earns you a dance career, and that’s great. Or maybe you learn how to leverage your experience to find your true talents, and use those to help other people, and make the world a better place.
Either way, that’s pretty damn cool.
With an education in self, you can do anything you want. With your skills as a performer you can imposter your way into any group. Learn from them. Become one of them.
Ah the fine art of faking it until you become it. This is dance, is it not?