If I’d grown a pair when I was 13, I may have avoided some serious set-backs in my dance career. Fortunately, I’ve grown up, and learned some things, and consider myself an expert in dance career mistakes.
Some lessons, I suppose, are best learned the hard way, and I hope that you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes.
The biggest mistake? Not knowing my rights as a dancer.
Knowing my rights, that I had the power to make my own decisions and stand up for them, could have kept me dancing for longer.
Some of these ideas may ruffle some dance-parent and dance teacher feathers, but I think it’s important for dancers to be empowered and know that every part of their career is a choice, and THEY need to make those choices.
10 things you are entitled to choose as a dancer:
1. You have the right to choose your dance studio/teacher. If you have a teacher that makes you feel bad about your body or your abilities, you should voice your concerns and find a new teacher.
2. You have the right to rest when you’re in pain, and not to feel guilty about it. No teacher should allow you to feel bad about sitting out because of an injury.
3. You have the right to do what you want with your summer and off-seasons. Dance teachers and parents may push summer intensives onto you, but if you know you need rest, or have something else in mind that you feel to be more productive and enjoyable, do that thing!
4. You have the right to ignore negative body talk. If teachers, peers, or parents suggest that you don’t have the “right body” for dance, give yourself permission to disregard it.
5. You have the right to a good performance therapist or rehabilitation specialist. One who understands dancers- Their bodies, their needs, and their mindset. Find someone who knows that dance is not the problem, but that a lack of education is. Allow that practitioner educate you on how to keep your body performing pain-free. You have the right to more than just a passive therapy, adjustment, or massage, but to be taught how to integrate this correction into your movement.
6. You have the right to filter the nay-sayers who tell you that dance isn’t a viable career choice, or that a dance degree won’t get you anywhere in life. Whether you get a career in dance or not, dance is a wonderful holistic form of education.
7. You have the right to tell a dance teacher when to not touch you. Dance teachers mean well, and most of the time it is totally OK when they use touch to correct you, but some teachers take it over the top- Forcing you into stretches that are beyond your limit can sometimes harm you, and you must learn to tell them politely to please not do that because it hurts.
8. You have the right to choose how much and how seriously you dance. This may sound silly, but I know there are some dancers out there who are pressured by their parents or teachers to dance more or compete more, when they might only want to pursue dance for fun. Speak up!
9. You have the right not to let the fears of others affect your decisions. You don’t have to let anyone-teachers, parents, peers- make choices for you. Accept advice and constructive criticism, but if you are making choices to please someone else, it isn’t going to help you.
10. You have the right to drop out of a dance program, change careers, or take 17 years off from dance and not feel bad. Life is crazy and unpredictable- You don’t know where it’s going to take you. Your best dancing days might be in your 40s. If taking a break from dance now means you’ll be able to enjoy dance as an adult, that’s an acceptable choice to make.
Did I miss anything? What other rights do we dancers need to stand up for?