This art form offers so much more than "a fun way to exercise". Despite being such a physically taxing activity, dance can be equally emotionally draining. Whether you are losing motivation or inspiration, or having a day where begin to doubt your abilities and you wonder why you even dance in the first place, dancing can take an emotional toll on you. Many dancers begin training at the age of two or three and as the dancer gets older and starts training seriously, the pressure of the sometimes harsh expectations set upon them can start to have a negative effect on them during a critical period of mental growth. No matter what style of dance you train in, in order to practice and learn the proper technique, the mirrors at the front of the room are your best friend. But as you can imagine, staring at yourself from all angles in the mirror every day can begin to have a negative effect on one's idea of "perfection", whether that is "perfect" technique or a "perfect" body. Unfortunately this is something even professional dancers can fail to outgrow. While dance can have its challenges and uphill battles, it is equally rewarding. I can confidently say that without dance I would not have discovered my strength and passion. Dance has taught me more about discipline, the benefits of a strong work ethic, and pushes me to be the best version of myself possible.
I stumbled upon dancing at the age of 12, which was a little later than most dancers. Although I was excited to take class and learn as much as I could as soon as I started, it took me about two to three years to realize just how much I loved it. There is such a freedom and comfort in feeling so passionate about something, which I lacked before. Sure, I had tried my hand at taekwondo and attempted to kick around a soccer ball, but the invaluable opportunity to express myself through movement and convey what I needed to without the use of words was what really helped me find my voice and grow into myself.
While I am faced with frustration of often comparing myself to others, I am also inspired by the talent that I am lucky enough to be surrounded by in the studio. It is important as dancers to remind yourself, while it may be hard, that everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. In a world where success is measured by just how much better you are than your peers, it is imperative that you learn the balance between taking inspiration from other's greatness, and not stunting your own growth by comparing your ability to someone else's. I don't think I know of one dancer who doesn't struggle with comparison, and with this obstacle comes a never-ending cycle of perseverance.
Dance has the ability to teach you versatile skills and lessons that can be valuable to you for the rest of your life. As a dancer you are taught discipline, perseverance, and proper etiquette at a very early age. Having these skills can make you more valuable in the work force and when pursuing higher education. Dancers learn the importance of knowing when to ask for corrections and criticism and how to take these constructive notes in a healthy and positive light. In fact most dancers I know (including me) struggle with NOT receiving feedback, as they often feel like they are missing out on an opportunity for growth. While it is important to receive feedback from your teachers and peers, it is imperative that you also learn how to "self-correct". Being able to reflect upon yourself and identify your weaknesses is another example of a valuable capability dance equips you with. Dancers also develop an eye for detail, after hours of practicing synchronicity, we begin to identify even the tiniest differences between shapes or movement. This skill can be carried with you for the rest of your life, helping you keep an attentive eye out in the world around you. Dance has given me the gift of mental stamina, after hours of absorbing choreography, notes, and spacing you can begin to feel drained of all mental capacity. Over the years you begin to develop that mental stamina, which is undeniably beneficial in other endeavors you might pursue, whether that is studying for an exam at university or maintaining focus in your board meeting with executives.
Truthfully, I am writing this to remind myself why I love dance. Life and college have shifted to my main focus and sometimes I lose my "why". Dance has the power to inspire others and allow people to connect without speaking the same language. Like many art forms, dance brings together all kinds of people from different walks of life to harmonize with one common goal in mind- to tell a story. I dance because it has become who I am.