Monday, June 4, 2012

Pet Peeve: the Dancer Stereotype

Misconceptions about dancers make me angry. Stupid. Arrogant. B*tches mean girls (excuse the language). Sl*t promiscuous (again, language). Dramatic. Good for nothing. No life.

I'll be honest though: some of them are true. Sometimes. But that happens in any profession, right? Engineers are all thought of as geeks, but there are tons of really cool people who are sociable and friendly who also happen to be extraordinarily smart. In the same way, dancers are extraordinarily gifted with their bodies, but it takes just as much of a mind and soul to dance as it does to do anything else. Sometimes more.

Dance is a commitment. I hate to admit it, but if I did not absolutely have to dance, I'm not sure I would choose to. Dance is a hard profession to be in. No matter how many people "make it," there are ten (or a couple hundred...) others that don't. It's constant rejection, physical demand, artistic demand, emotionally taxing, and on top of all that, it doesn't pay. Choosing to dance was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but if I really think about it, it wasn't a decision. I knew I had to dance, I just had to come to terms with it and justify it to myself. In the end, I'm proud I listened to my instincts and am actually excited to live this life of performing and expression. But I'm getting off topic.

In order to dance, you have to be smart. You have to be in tune with your own body, with other people (whether that be a partner or people you're on stage with), with your environment. You have to be able to learn choreography and adapt it extremely quickly. You have to learn to manage your time and balance your life between dance, academics, socializing, and other activities and commitments. Beyond that, dancers have to be survivers. You have to stick it out through long, intense rehearsals and classes with relatively low pay (if you're being paid). I don't have to tell you all of this, as you probably know it.

I originally got the idea for this post when I saw this picture on Facebook, and I've gotta admit that it's pretty true, stereotypically speaking:

Photo Credit

Kind of sad, right? Although, Revelations is definitely under the list of "what I think I do." It's sad that society sees us this way, and it's because dancers some of the only performers that rarely are in the spotlight. Think about it: actors, singers, musicians (less so musicians maybe) are all celebrities, glorified and worshiped by the media. Even other athletes and sports are popular. Dancers rarely are. So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars (kind of), the LXD (kind of...), and possibly some music videos these days are the only exposure to dance that the public has. Shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms are fiercely reinforcing the "those girls are crazy and shallow" stereotype.

How do we change the stereotype that society has of dancers? So You Think You Can Dance has already started, a little, by introducing the idea that dancers are world-class athletes as well as true artists. The struggles and successes of dancers' lives are just now coming to light in the US. All we can do individually is show people that dancers are human and have multifaceted personalities.


  1. DANCE IS MY LIFEJune 5, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    I have friends at school that think that all there is to dance is tutus, pointe shoes, and classical music. People who mock dancers by putting their arms up and twirling is SSSOOOO the wrong idea. That kind of thing annoys me so much because it IS so stereotypical. I have been dancing since I was three, and am turning fourteen in a little under two weeks. From experience, dance is more of a committing life style than something that of an occasional dance recital. For me, dance is my outlet to express myself. I can walk into my studio, and let all my feelings from the day out, by dancing full out. I feel like I can fly after a hard day at school, but then finally getting a move I had been struggling with. I think people who think dance is not a sport (which I would totally consider it is because of the year round commitment and hard work) or think dance is all tutus and pink, should find someone who lives dance and ask them about it. People don't realize what dance truly is. The world needs to know what we really do and work for, not what they see on the outside.

    1. I definitely agree with everything you just said. It's great that you've found your passion so early! Keep dancing, and happy early birthday!

    2. DANCE IS MY LIFEJune 5, 2012 at 8:59 PM

      Thanks! :)

  2. Honestly ive never been steryotyped as a dancer because my friend have seen what I do and they know I work hard and they understand why I cant go or do certain things with them.
    but people think what we do is easy, ITS NOT. They wont get the picture until they find out for themselves.

    1. People tend to think that dance is a brainless profession. I definitely can testify to the opposite (my modern and improvisation classes this semester were some of the most heavy-thinking classes I've ever taken), and I wish I had some way of showing people!