Pictured are true friends in our natural habitat (nursing old injuries we previously failed to acknowledge)
In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d give a Hallmark worthy shout-out for some of the reasons I’m thankful to have dance in my life.
1. Artistic Amnesty Thank you dance for granting me creative license and never revoking it even when I took advantage of the system by claiming that my crappy work was misunderstood, subjective, or ahead of its time. I knew it sucked. Thank you for giving me a haven for what I consider “artistic amnesty” that I believe we as artists have rightfully earned in place of the paychecks we deserve.
2. Drive and Determination Thank you dance for giving me drive to push through each class, rehearsal, and show when all I wanted was to eat a Twinkie on the couch while watching other people workout in my VHS 90’s Tae Bo tape. It’s a lot like riding a bike. If you stop pedaling, you’re going to lose your balance and fall over or come to a screeching stop. Just keep pedaling and chances are you’ll cover some distance.
3. Communication Skills Thank you dance for teaching me how to communicate. Not only do I better understand what I think of as subconscious choreography, or body language but I’ve also become well-equipped to defend my craft. Now when relatives ask what I intend to do as a dance major I can either explain my field or throw a red herring at the argument with the adroit skill of a crooked politician. I’ve calculated my risks. Yes, I know that I’m bad at math, but I’m going to take a shot at it.
4. Wonderfully Bizarre Friends Thank you dance for the wonderful friends I have that don’t question me when I soak my feet in the recycling bin, sleep with a foam roller, or walk around with an icepack down my pants. Dance friends are the kind of friends worthy of a cheesy 90’s sitcom show that has theme music and laughter every time an entrance is made. They’re also the best party friends and are well-rehearsed to whip out the Single Ladies dance at a moment’s command.
5. Freedom from Caring About Appearances Thank you dance for making me oblivious to people around me who are dressed in real clothing while I’m in sweats. Meanwhile, I will eternally be fashioned in something that looks like Boo Radley was auditioning to be the latest Nike’s model. Don’t get me wrong…we could clean up if we wanted to. However, we’ve all gone onstage dressed in something worse than our “Cousin It” inspired look so embarrassment ceases to exist. I also am thankful for permission to be sweaty. I like to think that our wardrobe (and hygiene for that matter) is like limbo, “How low can you go?” The answer? VERY.
6. A Place to Fail Thank you dance for giving me a haven where I can fail…constantly. Whether I’m doing petit allegro resembling Bambi learning to walk, performing a combination in the back like Left Shark, or actually tumbling to the floor like a drunk person after a pirouette gone awry, I am always granted permission to fail. In fact, some teachers actually clap when I fall for “going for it.” The fact that I found a place where I can receive an applause for falling (that isn’t ironic) is pretty wonderful. Falling is a part of life…but I like to tell myself that one day everything will clumsily, haphazardly fall into place.
7. Dealing with Setbacks Thank you dance for teaching me injury prevention and recovery. Though I haven’t learned to totally accept you nor do I have the maturity to treat you properly, I know that you’ll act as an excellent teacher. You’re kind of like Phonics. I hate you right now but one day I may actually be grateful you’ve been such a pain…one day. Also thank you for all the joint cracks that accompany each injury. It’s like I have my own rendition of “Stomp” arthritic edition. Now whenever I want someone to leave me alone, I simply crack an obscure body part and watch as they walk away in utter disgust. It’s just like that broken wallet you still use. We deal with all these broken things in our life because we are too reluctant to admit that it doesn’t totally work. In the process, we learn our limitations on what is and is not worthy of working through in our lives.
8. Accepting Others Thank you dance for helping me accept everyone. Dance attracts some weirdos…hence how we all end up in the profession. Whether it’s learning about peoples weird quirks, understanding accents from teachers (I once had a teacher who yelled en dehor and I thought she was insulting me), or people who are difficult to work with. You learn that even though we have differences, we’re united by our low paychecks and hatred of unflattering leotards.
9. Don’t Take Life Too Seriously Thank you dance for teaching me life is funny. If you’ve ever been on stage in a clown outfit, hideous vest, or my favorite a sack over your head, then you’ll know that you can’t take life too seriously. Someone once told me, “don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.” It’s true. So thanks for teaching me that no matter how dumb I look, it can always get much worse and will make for a great story later. Life is a lot like fishing. Ya know there’s a fine line between fishing and standing in front of water looking like an idiot.
10. Putting Up with Stuff Thank you dance for forcing me to deal with all kinds of merde I would’ve rather avoided. We’ve all worked with teachers or situations that were a pain in the derriere. You vent to your mom and she reminds you to kill ’em with kindness and you just think to yourself, “I feel like cyanide would be better” but hey in the end you survived without battement-ing them in the face so that’s a feat in and of itself.
11. How to Brand Yourself Thank you dance for teaching me that I put the sex repeal in sex appeal, should avoid hip-hop, and look terrible in hats. Although it was a cruel lesson, I’m glad I learned it sooner rather than later.
12. Fake It Till You Make It Thank you dance for training me to show up for life even when I’m not right for the part. I’m totally equipped to be up for anything and my resume illuminates just how diverse my “experience” is. For instance, those 2 years of pointe were very worthwhile on my resume considering that I took 2, forty-five minute classes in December and January of two different years. Life is all about perception. What you look like versus what you think you look like may be very different. So just roll with the punches and see what happens. You are as qualified as you believe yourself to be.
13. Perseverance Thank you dance for teaching me to persevere as the kid on the sideline saying “put me in coach.”…Even though you consistently pass me up for people who didn’t even audition. You’ve made me so accustomed to being told I can’t that all I want to do is tell the haters “then watch me die trying” [drops mic, dramatically walks off, slips on a banana peel, and breaks a hip]
14. Humility Thank you dance for reminding me to stay humble. When I started dance I was at the bottom…and ya know what? I think I like it here. Started from the bottom now I’m here…again.
15. Teaching Resourcefulness Thank you dance for teaching me that bobby pins can serve as paper clips, play dough fixes crappy stages, and therabands can be used as makeshift belts. Dancers are totally the people you want to have on a deserted island. They can make do with anything.
16. Confidence…Sometimes Thank you dance for giving me confidence or granting me the skills to trust myself. Whether it’s false adrenaline or maybe a jazz piece that makes you feel like Lil’ Mama strutting the halls with lip gloss…sometimes dance just gives you the confidence to totally feel “poppin’.” Unprepared and overconfident is the lifestyle. My motto is, if it doesn’t fit try on a different size, and tell everyone it’s a size 2.
17. Connect with the Earth or Whatever Thank you dance for embracing the whole down to earth lifestyle people seem to rave about. I’m not going to lie…I struggle here. But dancers (excluding me) are terrific at that whole meditative, relaxed, human spirit crap. For me I still need a sedative or some kind of drug to get me in the earthy mindset but I’m thankful for the Zen dancers in my life that can get down with their earthy side.
18. The Ability to Network Thank you dance for teaching me how to network. Sure, the first few times were awkward when I revealed to well-known dancers that I knew their social security number, cat’s name, and recent medication list but since then I’ve learned to tone it down. There’s a fine line between researching and stalking…and that line involves a little love note better known as a restraining order.
19. Prioritizing Thank you dance for teaching me how to prioritize my life. We all need different things and pursue chaos in some sort of orderly albeit different fashion. I for instance don’t believe in taking down Christmas decorations. Failure to take them down in January just means I’m 11 months early. Other people call that lazy. I call those other people poor influences and people whose energy I don’t need in my life.
20. Great Stories And finally, thank you dance for giving me a helluva lot of stories that are never ending and will continue to increase as I partake in this crazy profession of dance.