The holiday season might look a little different for dancers everywhere: some are dancing through Christmas in big, holiday celebration shows like The Radio City Spectacular, others are traveling on national tours of The Nutcracker, and some may finally be home for the holidays. If we step back to see the bigger picture, the holiday season is a perfect time to examine why dancers consider the dance community their “home” away from home. As dancers, we spend countless hours rehearsing, weeks traveling for nationals, and years leaping and turning across stages. Through thick and thin, our dance community quickly becomes our chosen dance family through the lifelong lessons we learn and take with us in our dance careers and onward. Whether we're actively performing or settled at home for the holidays, the dance community emphasizes the feeling of “home” by honing these six qualities:
From competition teams to ensemble dances, dancers are trained in a team setting and understand the importance of working together. In other words, the group is only successful with every individual dancer pulling their own weight. In holiday-themed recitals and countless variations of The Nutcracker, dancers collaborate with the choreographer in rehearsals to create, manipulate, and embody the artistic vision. In performance mode, dancers work together to create a sense of unity onstage. Working together toward a common goal teaches young dancers to support each other, and lift up those who need help. Togetherness in dance blurs the perception of self, as dancers execute the same movement as a whole. If one person is off timing-wise during a turning section, then the entire group is off. For competition teams, the entire basis of competitive dance is to share artistry and creativity through building relationships and connection as a team and telling a story together. Cooperating as a group and listening to each other’s needs amplifies togetherness, and in turn, allows for group cohesion.
Dancers aid in creating magical moments and memories for other families attending shows, holiday celebrations, and more.
The foundation of dance stems from the idea of "showing up". Being present and attentive, working hard in and out of the studio, and working together are all notions that dancers work toward; encompassed in one word: accountability. Learning discipline in order to support others requires dancers to leave their personal biases at the studio door, and work as one unit through mutual respect of peers and love for the art form of dance. From understudies and dance swings, to the Sugar Plum Fairy or each individual party guest, every single dancer plays an integral part in the success of a production. If one person is sick or doesn’t show up to rehearsal/performance, the entire dance family suffers. Dancers learn that everyone relies on each other to be accountable to fulfill their duties on and offstage through hard work and dedication.
Dance is one of the only occupations that requires people to tackle highly emotional and heightened topics with complete strangers – which can bond a group of people very quickly. The act of performing is vulnerable enough already with being onstage and telling stories. However, the act of dance takes vulnerability to a whole new level. By physically telling stories with their bodies, dancers convey stories through stylized movement, sometimes doing so by executing lifts and intimate partnering with others. On top of this, dancers often perform in revealing costumes to accentuate body lines and convey different themes/feelings. As if tackling storytelling in dance wasn’t enough, dancers learn and practice vulnerability in a myriad of ways offstage as well: expressing their emotions in a concise manner with others, having the ability to relate to others by sharing emotional struggles, and expressing appreciation and gratitude toward the human condition.
As tiny dancers in ensembles – party guests in The Nutcracker or little tap dancing sunflowers – we idolize the older dancers in roles like Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy, or the senior doing a solo. We dream of being in these roles, dancing through Christmas or solo leaping across the stage. The spark in a young dancer’s eye with a lens of creativity and artistry is fuel for the fire of imagination. As artists, we exist in an innately creative economy. Through innovation, thinking outside the box, and approaching problems in creative ways, dancers find that creativity thrives in restriction. Our imaginations are limitless places, and the ability to express this through movement is incredibly special.
Dancers are physical storytellers, honing creativity by looking at the world from a different point of view. Dance is the act of telling stories through movement, gesture, and heightened emotion, so naturally most dancers are rather empathetic humans. Being in tune emotionally on and off stage allows for active listening and creating supportive, tight knit friendship circles.
After all, have you ever seen a friend group of dancers?
More often than not, dance performance pieces are based on stories with strong emotion like love, grief, death, war, family, etc. The success of telling a story through dance lies just as much in their expressions, their presentation of the movement, and how they relate with the other dancers in the piece as it does in the movement itself. Conveying these emotions through movement calls for dancers to hone their creativity with their own personal feelings, combining the need for empathy and vulnerability, as well as trusting their dance family to respect their emotions. This structure requires dancers to collaborate with minds that may think differently, but work towards a common goal. After all, developing empathy for others allows for dancers to create the gateway for imagination to happen, and in turn, for dance to mean something.
Cooperating as a group and listening to each other’s needs amplifies togetherness, and in turn, allows for group cohesion.
When we start out in the dance world, we are actively choosing to be present: taking classes, performing in recitals, traveling with competition teams, etc. We miss important life events like school, birthday parties, weddings, homecomings, proms, etc. Professionally dancing follows suit – we miss many life experiences to further our careers. Why? We care deeply and passionately about dance. We are committed to dance. We sacrifice for it, devoting time, energy, resources, – everything we’ve got. Dance inspires us, and we strive to inspire others. Learning persistence and determination as a dance unit ties us together in commitment and support. It is also important to note that during the holiday season, dancers make sacrifices by dancing through Christmas. By committing to performing, dancers aid in creating magical moments and memories for other families attending shows, holiday celebrations, and more.
Now more than ever, in the holiday cheer and warm feelings of the season, the dance community unites dancers as a chosen family, teaching many valuable skills that are essential on and off the stage in our busy lives. In the hubbub of the holiday season, it is easy to lose sight of why we do what we do. Our dance families teach us many qualities that extend far beyond dance studios and stages, like togetherness, accountability, vulnerability, imagination, empathy, and commitment. These qualities mentioned are only the beginning of what the art form provides. After all, when home for the holidays, what better way to spend it than dancing through Christmas?