In the season of love and ramping up to Valentine’s Day, people are preparing for the date of February 14 by exchanging cards, gifting candy and flowers to their “valentine,” and expressing gratitude for the small things in life. After all, that’s what the holiday of love is all about…right?
Well, in a world full of muscle strain and sweat, professional dancers know that without an appreciation and passion for dancing plus a deep love for it as an art form, this career isn’t always easy, and even then, it is definitely not for the faint of heart.
In contrast to the key aspects of Valentine's Day as a holiday, being a professional in the dance world may pose a challenge for maintaining relationships with life partners, as the career calls for a “Go! Go! Go!” type of mentality and lifestyle. Thankfully, despite the hardships of the industry, your dance knowledge can help you fix some of the most common relationship problems. While some may benefit from that advice, others may be gearing up for the holiday of love by watching feel-good films filled with incredible dancing and appreciating time well spent surrounded by loved ones.
"Dance is the easiest way to truly express myself." - Brandi Chun
A love for dance goes beyond just being skilled at a series of pirouettes and leaps, and rather stems from the valuable life lessons gained through the profession. The dance world teaches us qualities to maintain and uphold both on and off the stage, like togetherness, accountability, vulnerability, imagination, empathy, and commitment.
Further, the dance industry grind calls for many early morning auditions, extensive physical strain on the body, and emotional exhaustion from rehearsals and performances.
But still, we dance.
We show up. We warm up our bodies. We deliver heartfelt and passion-filled performances.
There isn’t one clear, concrete answer for all dancers. Some have never known any other way of life, twirling onstage from a young age. On the other hand, some dancers may have acquired dreams of making it big on the Broadway stage after witnessing and being inspired by other professionals’ love for dance.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I asked a number of professional dancers and choreographers a simple question:
“What made you fall in love with dance?”
Brandi Chun: Dance is the easiest way to truly express myself. To create something and completely pour your heart and soul into it is extremely intimate and I'm so grateful that dance has always been there as an outlet throughout each chapter of my life.
Kavita Rao: There was no single moment that I fell in love. Like anything that is real and lasting it is something that grew over years and years. From watching my mom on TV performing Indian classical dance to attending The Nutcracker every year, my childhood self knew dance was going to be a constant love. It wasn't just the flowers and praise after a performance that I loved, but it was also the training, constant class-taking, steaming up the glass in the studio in an Andre Fuentes class, sore muscles, long auditions, and the everyday hustle of life as a dancer that I loved. I spent my post-college years convincing myself I had to give it up to start my "real life" and get a "real job," but as hard as I tried, dance kept finding a way to come back. When people ask how I make it work as a mom, business owner, choreographer, and full-time educator, the answer is, and has always been, I love what I do.
Racquel Soledad: Dance was my first true love before making music. From watching my older sisters in awe at recitals, to stepping foot in my first pair of ballet shoes, to becoming assistant choreographer in my high school plays, to beginning to teach classes alongside my sister, to now having a team of 10 backup dancers beside me at every show I do… none of this would’ve been possible without the pure love of it. I have become infatuated with the release of emotion through movement, the storytelling without speaking a word, the connection it brings to those around you-regardless of if they dance or not. Dance is one of the greatest things I have come by in this life.
JJ Rabone: I thought I fell in love with dance when I started dancing 20 years ago but now I realize that I’m falling in love with dance more and more when I can move my body and mind freely. Not when I book a job, not when I’m competing with someone, not when I dance behind a famous artist, but when I want to and when I feel like it, that’s when I fall in love with dance more and more.
Whether it be falling in love with ballet at a young age or developing a passion for dancing after building a professional career from it, being a dancer requires the perfect combination of both artistic and virtuosic skills. After all, a great, seasoned dancer knows that sacrificing one for the sake of another is to risk degrading dance as an art form. Love for dance comes from the passion and commitment to not only be a better dancer, but a better overall human being out in the world.
So, in the hustle and bustle of Valentine’s Day chocolates, roses, greeting cards and cheesy Hallmark love films, don’t forget to ask yourself:
Why do you dance?