From Full Time Dancer to College Student
If you asked me four years ago, I would have given you a firm answer that I wasn't going to go to college until the final years of my performing career. I was a strong believer that if my dance career were interupted with college, that I would be seen as a quitter, a let down, or a failure of some sort to the dance world. This mentality came from the training I had grown up with. Especially during the training years, a certain stigma floats in the ballet world about college that needs to change. I remember precisely when I was about 15 years old hearing a couple older girls gossiping about other dancers who had left or quit the pre-professional dance school to instead attain a college degree. Their negativity about it stuck with me for many years which is why I believe it led me to think of college with this outlook. In this conversation, they discussed how college was seen as a fall out plan. Even crazier... I remember them discussing how even Juilliard wasn't up to scale either. How silly is that? I'm not sure if it's because I was with total bunheads (one who is ballet obsessed and only ballet obsessed) and that they weren't fond of a different style of dance or they were just totally against the program! As someone who isn't a dancer, you are probably thinking how college is one AMAZING backup plan!!!!! Today, I can totally agree with you on how college is such a beneficial plan B, but I do understand how my teenage self could have thought otherwise. When you spend all your time and dedication to get the best training possible, you feel as though you can't just throw it all to waste. You will also always think about how your parents have spent a whole lot of their time, money, and energy to support your phenomenal dream. There is already so much pressure as a dancer, so adding these factors is much more taxing than you think.
Generally, it is most common for a dancer to get a contract with a company right after high school. As those girls above put it, if you don't have a contract by the end of your training year, you are seen as one of those who "didn't make it." I happened to be one of those girls (I guess). During my time in London (2013-14), I did every audition possible in Europe, Asia, and in the US. By the end of my year I had a couple offers but unfortunately due to an injury I had lost the one I wanted. I had to result to plan B which was college or I guess... my parent's plan B. I was absolutely devastated and so narrow-minded to the idea of even attending. I was so against it that I had thought about quitting dance completely. I wasn't mentally prepared to enter a "normal" life. Even thinking about college was a total whirlwind of anger, frustration, and total denial. I was scared that my dance peers would judge me for stepping foot onto a campus that wasn't a dance company or even a professional dance school. I was caught up on something that shouldn't be so frowned upon. I had already deferred a year from my University when I was in London, so knowing that I would be entering college a year later when most of my friends would be sophomores was not making it any easier. It honestly took a very, very, verrrrrryyyy long time for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I would be going back to school and an even longer time for me to accept the fact that I was there.
I'll be very honest with you all... transitioning from a full time dancer to a college student was rough on me. It wasn't the academics that I was worried about, it was my dancing I was worried for. The reason behind that is because I knew I wouldn't be getting the nit-picky training I needed for me to continue to excel in my career. The first few months, I was in total denial and kept thinking to myself, "why am I here?" I would consistently check dance magazines and websites for upcoming auditions every WAKING minute. I purposely chose to not get too close to people in case I decided to leave college and go back to the dance world. College is such a building block and a huge learning experience in your life. I personally grew the most in those short 2 1/2 years as a person and especially as a dancer.
As a dance major, my time had to be dedicated to not just dance, but also school and possibly other curricular activities. I had to switch my mentality completely to create how I truly wanted to live these college years. One thing I promised myself when I finally accepted the fact that I wasn't in a company/dance school, was that I was going to give my 100% self to this University and that I was going to take full advantage of everything thrown at me. After I realized that this thought process is what should have been on my mind, I slowly but surely started to become more satisfied with my current life situation. I started to excel significantly in my academics, my dancing started to improve again, and I was even more clear with how I wanted my future to lay out. College is most certainly a place for growth. For 90% of the student body, college is the first time students move away from home and their first time with absolute FREEDOM. I myself already experienced it since I was 15, but college was a total 180 for me. I had to decide what aspect in college was more important to me. Did I want to have a social life or a strict dance life? Obviously, from reading my blog posts so far you know which one has a greater value to me. Although (again), as a girl who likes to prove people wrong I was lucky enough to have both a social and dance life. To keep in tip top shape, I took dance classes outside of my University and even had privates on the side at local dance studios around the area. I was very fortunate to have met friends who supported my passion. Without them, I honestly wouldn't have made it through college! I am genuinely so thankful that life brought me a long this path. Today, I can say that I am one of those dancers who is still successful to this day with a COLLEGE DEGREE. I have matured so much as an artist and as a person because of it. I am all for this path, whether it's right after high school, in the middle of your dance career, or after a dance retirement. I think everyone should experience it sometime in your life. After all, our dance career is so short! You always need a plan B...and this for sure is a 100% solid plan B!!!