How Dance Teaches You More Than Moves
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How Dance Teaches You More Than Moves

We leave the studio with techniques, choreography, and life lessons.

How Dance Teaches You More Than Moves
Samantha Frost

After spending thousands of hours in a dance studio, you walk away with hundreds of different turns, leaps, moves and eight counts swirling in your head. Whenever a song comes on with a hard-hitting back beat, you can't help but show off your hip-hop moves. Or if a sultry song comes on, you imagine a jazz dance that embraces your sassiness and absurd flexibility. Or if any fun song plays in the background, you catch yourself with happy feet and wish you could wear your tap shoes casually without judgement. However, when you step out of the studio or wherever you learned to dance, you take away more than just how to perfect a pirouette. Dance teaches you some of the hardest life lessons with the greatest and most useful payoff that you will use for the rest of your life.

There were so many times I was invited to hang out with friends or go to an after school activity and responded with, "Sorry. I have dance." This quote is probably the most common sentence to come out of a dancer's mouth. The proof is in the t-shirts, bumper stickers and key chains with that slogan on it that are sold at almost all dance competitions and dance websites. As dancers, we have to commit to our art. There is no skipping class for a good time at the bowling alley because the next time you come to class, you will have missed a life-changing lesson on fouettes and choreography that you will probably feel rocky on for at least a week. Dance teaches you that when you commit to something, you show up and you dedicate yourself. Whenever my friends in high school talked about skipping track practice, I couldn’t fathom how they did it with ease and no regard for their team.

Dance teaches you to look out for your team. Sure, in basketball you have to pass the ball, and in football, you block your opponents so your quarterback doesn’t get sacked, but can you preform a perfect leg extension in exact unison with 20 other people with your hair in such a tight bun you have a headache and tights that are riding up your butt? That, my friends, is called teamwork. In dance, there is no hiding in the back corner. You are a team who cannot rely on just one person to distract the judges with leaps and turns while everyone else stands in the back snapping to the beat. It is vital that you encourage one another and work together to improve and live up to your potential.

Being part of such a tight-knit group can get hectic. In high school, we had practice at 5 a.m. before school for varsity dance team and then after school would head to dance studios for those classes and routines. Many of us grew up dancing together, which made us have amazing chemistry; we knew each other's strengths and were able to use those to strengthen the team as a whole. But when you know people for years and spend the majority of your free time together, it is easy for drama to occur. Nothing will destroy a team's ability to work together than not getting along.

As dancers, we learn (through trial and error) that respect is the key to healthy relationships inside and outside of the dance world. We had to learn that no matter how much someone is irritating you, you have to be respectful and continue to work toward the common goal of mastering your craft. This also applies to your dance teachers and instructors. I remember several seven-hour long practices on the weekends leading up to nationals. After each one, we would leave with at least a dozen more bruises on our legs and backs to add to our ever-growing collection, a few more floor burns on our knees, feet and ankles, and a couple more weird cuts that we had no idea how we got but weren't surprised about. After a particularly rough practice of just not being able to nail certain aspects of the routine and getting wildly frustrated, I wanted to sob, vomit and shower. In moments like this, it is easy to want to lash out at someone, particularly the person who scheduled the practice. However, dance teachers deserve the highest form of respect because in my completely unbiased opinion, they wear a million hats. Just to name a few: Dance teacher, mentor, inspirer, and parental figure.

Of course, we learn a lot more lessons that aren't so obvious and we normally do not even realize we learned until extensive reflection on our time as a dancer. One thing that I have noticed in my dance career is one day you can nail a routine and it can be near flawless, and the next, we aren't in unison, formations aren't perfect, and toes aren't being pointed.

(Sorry, but I had to throw in the most relevant meme ever created in here.) Anyways, dance teaches you how to deal with those days and continue to strive for greatness. We learn that one bad practice doesn't mean you just give up and never try again. We gain a drive that motivates us to keep trying, which spills into all aspects of our lives. I learned dedication and commitment that taught me to keep pushing and trying to better myself. I realized this a few weeks ago when I wanted to stop studying because I just was not getting it and this instinctive drive to keep struggling and keep fighting until I mastered cellular respiration bubbled up in me. I later realized that I learned to keep pushing from my time as a dancer.

Another huge impact that dance made on my everyday life was confidence. I am not sure if it comes from the vulnerability of showing your art to massive audiences and being open to their critiques, or if it comes from some of the embarrassing costumes that we had to wear. After you have shaken your bum in front of hundreds of people while rocking pink cheetah pants with a feather boa around your neck, I don't think you will ever question if the outfit you want to wear to school is "too much."

Maybe the confidence comes from memories like you falling during a performance and being really embarrassed until one day you realize, "Hey, I lived and that was actually super funny now."

*Record scratch* *Freeze frame* Yep. That's me, and you're probably wondering how I ended up on my butt in the middle of a stage.

All jokes aside, dance taught me how to strut my stuff in front of audiences, and although that was always nerve-racking, you have to develop a confidence in your art and your abilities. This eventually turns into a confidence in yourself and belief that you can succeed.

The biggest lesson I learned from dance, however, is how passion can influence your life. When you love something as much as dancers love their art, it is easy to let it become the center of your life. Dance taught me how to balance my time between my passion and the rest of my life. I learned that it is OK to pursue what makes you happy and to follow your dreams.

Overall, dance was the center of my childhood and I am so grateful my mom signed me up for ballet when I was a tot. Dance went from a way to keep me occupied for an hour a week to a way of life that shaped me into who I am today. I am also so grateful for my coaches and fellow dancers. You are all monumental people in my story and I cannot believe I was lucky enough to study our beautiful art with you.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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