Many people assume those dance majors, and performing art majors in general, have it easy and we go through college having absolutely no worries because what we do on a daily basis isn't challenging or academically demanding. Little do people know that we are doing just as much, if not more work than the other majors around. We are constantly are pushing ourselves to be better than we already are mentally and physically and the demand our majors put on us is sometimes the most overwhelming thing. We also have to deal with drama because, surprise, we are a part of the dramatic arts.
I am currently in my sophomore year as a dance performance major. Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, you'd be right about it being cool but I have also received a lot of negative feedback for my decision to be a dance major. *Full disclosure that I am a double major in the Political Science field as well* However, during my freshman year of meeting people, when I would tell them that I was a dance major, they would just step back and laugh. They would say that it wasn't a real major and that I can't get a degree for skipping and rolling around a room all day long. I feel this need to constantly reaffirm that I have made the right decision being a dance major.
What most people do not know is that dance majors do not just dance around the whole time they are in class. We really are more academically based, even in the performance classes that we take. During the two years I have spent here, I have been in 6 performance-style classes, but I am required for those classes to constantly be reading and writing papers on the history and the formations of styles and other elements of dance that I need to know in order to have a full understanding of my art form and how it has developed.
We also have strict requirements for our academic-based classes. As dance majors, we must understand the entire history of dance and therefore, at Illinois State we are required to take two semesters of dance history classes, along with the supplemented history we learn in our technique classes. We also must understand how the body works and moves, so we take an anatomy course designed for dancers. Music theory and understanding music is another class that we have to take for us to be able to develop a mental understanding of the way music works with movement and the different theories along with it. Our composition classes are pushing us as dancers to be able to come up with organic movement from our own minds, usually having us create 5-12 minute pieces to show to our classes in the matter of the week, within our three required choreography classes. As dance majors, we are also in need of an acting class, costuming class, stage makeup class, lighting class and more to enhance our skill set and make us better understand these forms of art and how to incorporate those into the dance aspects we are learning.
People also don't realize that since it is such a small program, we have a lot of drama that goes on. This is really just due to the fact that we are with each other all day, every day and sometimes we butt heads on certain situations. We also just deal with people not meshing sometimes and that is usually okay in most other departments and majors, but as I had said, we are together all the time. In a lot of our classes or rehearsals, we are constantly working with everyone in the department, regardless of the way we feel about them. We are like a family full of brothers and sisters and just like families, we disagree sometimes but at the end of the day, I feel blessed to have this strong support system behind me. The products that we put out, whether it be our concerts, choreographic works, new partnering, job wise, or anything in between, are amazing because we work through the drama and it just makes us stronger.
Becoming a dance major puts a lot of strain on your body.
Constantly dancing most of the day for your classes and then at night for the rehearsals you have really put a large amount of pressure on your body. We must learn how to work our hardest to prevent injury and really take care of ourselves, however, sometimes it is inevitable and our bodies get pushed too far. Injury as a dance major is scary. We have to drop our movement classes most of the time if it is a long term injury which means we are below the credits we need and we are behind in the classes we need to graduate. Plus, financially we have already paid for the classes we are taking most of the time. So it is always in our mind that we must take care of ourselves and be the best that we can be in order to keep dancing and keep our dreams alive.
So, yes dance majors are extremely lucky that we get to spend every day doing the thing that we love the most but never forget that we go through so much in order to establish our place and work toward what we want. This is just a little taste of the life of a dance major because there is so much that goes into it but I hope this was enlightening for someone who previously was uneducated about what really goes on in the life of a person who picked the dance major.