• Professional Tips
  • 10 May 2018
What It Takes To Become A Professional Dancer Before The Big Break

When I was younger I made a choice between swimming and dance. I know, they seem nothing alike (unless you’re thinking synchronized swimming in which case I’ve got to be real about it – I was NEVER that graceful in the water). The thing is, my swimming coach told my parents that I could be a strong sprint swimmer IF I was willing to commit to the training. Let’s be honest, I quite liked the idea of winning more, getting to that next level and hopefully becoming part of a representative team. That training would look like every morning (at the crack of dawn I might add) and at other times that would mean essentially letting go of other things. Like dance. I had a choice to make. And I just loved pursuing dance too much to let that go.

... often we don’t see the difference between what we want to do versus what it takes.

Now – I could have kept swimming but I decided not to. I could have kept enjoying the more casual swim sessions, there was no reason for me to stop swimming altogether except that it felt right to me.

My point isn’t about quitting one thing to be good at another…

My point is two things:

  1. To achieve a level of strength in ANYTHING, to advance to the next level - it means saying YES to what it takes.
  2. Often overcoming obstacles where you are now and where you want to be is made up of WHAT IT TAKES rather than just WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.

This is where I see a common mistake when it comes to pursuing dance – often we don’t see the difference between WHAT WE WANT TO DO versus WHAT IT TAKES.

What we want to do

What we want to do often involves the following:

  • the styles we feel best at
  • the dance classes that we feel good in (and often come easily to us)
  • the dance rehearsals that don’t ask too much of us (and aren’t too repetitive)
  • the exciting opportunities
  • the fun bits, the good stuff, the golden moments

What it takes

What it takes often looks more like this:

  • discipline
  • hard work on the areas that need our attention
  • taking feedback or constructive criticism
  • stepping out of our comfort zone
  • persistence
  • resilience
  • accountability
  • technical foundation
  • getting & growing your dance experience before the big break
  • BALLET(!!)

There will always be an essential part of the equation that isn’t your favorite.

There will always be a time for going back to the basics or foundational technique when you’d rather keep working on the more fancy-looking things. There will always be the ‘vegetables on the plate’ that you would prefer to push to the side but that build your bones and fuel your body ;)

THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES. THIS IS THE PART THAT CALLS FOR MORE OF YOU. THIS IS WHERE YOUR DETERMINATION KICKS IN, YOUR STAMINA GROWS AND PROFESSIONALISM IS BORN.

On any path towards something that you really want it’s going to take commitment and dedication – and not just when you feel like it. A successful Olympic athlete still trains the basics; an award-winning pianist still runs scales and our idols have ‘To Do’ Lists with items they might prefer to avoid. It’s a package deal – the passion PLUS the action and the dream PLUS the determination. This is where we hone our skills; refine them, put them ‘through the fire’ so to speak.

Do the research, ask the questions and show up for the work

IF YOU WANT IT, IT’S GOING TO TAKE HARD WORK. I don’t mean that it’s meant to feel awful, just that it is going to call on you to dig in. You do the hard work AS WELL AS the work you want to do because you see that a successful big picture is made up of BOTH.  Do the research, ask the questions and show up for the work - get clear about what it will take for you to realistically move towards that dream, with the BEST of you (and the REST of you too). If you want to move your dreams into your reality, HOW you participate matters.

You have to ask yourself what you want and where you want to go. Am I willing to do what it takes to become a professional dancer? Or do I just wish to only do the dance stuff that I want to do? Either one is ok – but they take you to two very different places.  Being honest with yourself helps you to sort the things-you-like from the things-you-want-with-your-whole-heart-and-have-big-dreams-for.  The ones you’re willing to sweat for.