Thursday, May 23, 2013

Don't Lose Hope

I guess I'm writing this more as therapy for me (I'll dance out the rest of my frustrations tonight). But hopefully, my thoughts will help you too.

What started as an offhanded comment to my mom about how under-accomplished I feel compared to some of my college dance classmates (saw one in an ad in Dance Magazine, saw a few more on TV) ended in crying over my (lack of) future prospects in the dance field.

  1. No, I'm not the best dancer in my program.
  2. No, I do not go to the best dance program ever.
  3. No, I do not have that much training compared to most dancers.
  4. No, I do not have an agent and have never danced professionally. 
  5. No, I do not have any "real world" experience.
Since I decided to go into dance, I wanted to go to New York. First, for college, but when that didn't happen, I wanted to move to NYC after college to dance. It's so cosmopolitan and eclectic for all forms of art, and is definitely a dance mecca. Lots of dancers move to the city to give it a go. Not many of them "make it."

It's scary. I still have time left in college (thank goodness), but I'm already daunted by the idea of moving so far away from home into one of the most expensive cities in the world with one of the least lucrative job aspirations. I don't come from a family that can support me no matter how much money I'm losing on rent or how many injuries I sustain - I'm pretty much on my own. Supporting myself with dance seems unlikely, and even less likely given the fact that I'm not even the most noticeable dancer in my own college program.

There are so many times I have wished that I loved something else (like theoretical physics). But I don't, I have to accept the fact that I'm meant to dance. I have been incredibly lucky thus far with my timing and the opportunities given to me, and I am thankful for each one. Even though it's hard sometimes, I have faith that I'm a dancer and that that's okay. I may not be the best, but I'm good. Every company, choreographer, group, etc is looking for something different, and I believe that I have something that somebody will see and say 'I want to hire that.' I don't expect anything, but I also believe in my accumulated skills on and off the dance floor. And when you get scared, you should too. Just have faith, and don't lose hope. It's all part of the dance life.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


I literally had one of the biggest epiphanies of my entire dancing life (okay, entire life, period) in my modern class on Wednesday. The idea had started in my Pilates class on Tuesday, where my teacher used me as a model for the class. Every dancer's dream is to be used as a demonstrator for the class, right? Unfortunately, I was demonstrating for my inability, not my ability. I laid on my back on the floor, completely relaxing, while my Pilates teacher attempted to flatten my shoulder blades against my ribs. When she finished, I felt like I couldn't move: I have some pretty impressive winging shoulder blades:
My shoulders are like this, just worse. Angel wings? Photo Credit
Winging scapulae are not a freakish, crazy ability to be proud of and show off when your friends are doing crazy things with their tongues or thumbs (yeah, I did that). The wing is a sign that the muscles on your back aren't strong enough to hold your scapula down against your ribcage. If the subscapularis, serratus anterior, and rhomboids were strong enough, your scapula should glide along your ribcage, not pop off of it. All my life I've been trying to correct for this problem by pinching my shoulder blades together, which gets tiring after a while, so I stop. Problem still unsolved.

My epiphany? If I pull down on your lats (latissimus dorsi), it will automatically pull my scapulae down into place, my shoulders will float back, my core will activate, and my ribs will drop down. Aka, your back is connected to your core. Best posture of my freaking life.

For a while now, people have been trying to tell me my core is too weak. I've been doing exercises to strengthen my core and back while mobilizing my ribs and stretching the muscles that have been tightening (I've got terrible rib/back pain on the left side. Hurts to breathe). What I realized is that I'm not too weak (although the problem started because I was), the problem is that I'm not activating the right muscles. I'm not too weak, or moving too much or too little, I'm not moving right. I realized that my back doesn't hurt when I activate these muscles the right way.

Now, obviously things don't change overnight. You can't change the habits of a lifetime in half a week, so I've still got back pain. But as I near the end of this year of college, it's comforting to know that college has taught me something that no doubt will carry me through the rest of my career. I may have to spend this entire summer repatterning the way I dance, but it will increase my longevity in the industry and decrease my injuries.

Parents, studio owners, teachers, young dancers, dancers of all ages: catch it early. Don't let your student/child/friends/self get away with inefficient movement. College has been a process of unlearning everything my studio failed to teach me or hammered into me and reshaping my dancing into something malleable and efficient. Do it now!

PS: I'm at 30,000+ views! SO EXCITED.