College, Lifestyle

What Dance Has Taught Me About Life

If you’re reading this and you’re a dancer, you probably understand this quite well & can relate to it in some way or another. If you’re not a dancer, you may be confused. You may not understand the power of dance, BUT you may have been involved with another sport that has affected you similarly and can, in that way, relate to my words. I’ve played a few sports, but dance is what stuck and what I fell in love with. Although I used to think it was just a fun activity that gave me something to do, I’ve come to realize that the art of dance has really shaped me as a person and taught me many life lessons.

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I will start by saying dance is definitely not for everyone- just like any sport. You get to a certain age or moment when you just know if it is something you’re passionate enough to invest time in. If you’re not all in for what it entails, you’d probably be miserable- I’ve seen many classmates disperse out of dance as they came to realize something they’re more passionate about, which is great because I’m a firm believer in doing what makes you happy. Now, after that little tangent, I’ll return my focus to the manners at hand. If you stayed in dance for a significant amount of time, I think you’ll relate to at least a few of these points.

Because of dance:

-I have learned discipline

Dance is definitely not easy, nor is it all fun and games. Discipline is learned in many ways through this sport. Firstly, you have to show up to class in a punctual manner, have proper practicewear (correct colored tights, leotards) and have your hair secured back uniformly. These are simple rules to follow, but they teach you discipline nonetheless because you may get disciplined if you look out of order. This also goes with classroom etiquette. Dancers must be disciplined enough to know when it is and isn’t appropriate to speak or slouch. Dancers must be disciplined to take the initiative to practice skills, techniques and choreography that they struggle with when their instructor gives them time to do so, instead of just standing around talking.  The discipline you learn while dancing can be carried into your academic and professional life- for example, I have learned to be consistent with checking syllabi & putting aside time outside of class to work on the subjects I struggle with.

– Perseverance.

Through dance, I’ve gone through various injuries, rough days and dealt with mean people. But what I’ve learned from my instructors and classmates, as well as personal experience is, if you want something, you won’t let anything stop you. When I struggled with an acrobatic skill, a turn combo or a difficult piece of choreography, I was faced with two choices: give up or persevere. When deciding on the latter, I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of doing. For those that don’t know, I started dance much later in life than most studio dancers, so I was quite behind the other girls my age when it came to technique- and I still am. My first year, I had such a rough time and felt so ridiculous doing the basics instead of the “cool stuff,” that I often wanted to quit dancing altogether. My mom & teachers encouraged me to just keep at it and push through, at least for the rest of the year. I did & actually developed quite a passion for dancing, which in turn motivated me to work harder. Within the next couple of years, I took private lessons and more advanced technique classes and slowly began to work my way up to a competition team & eventually the advanced class. As I got to do more intricate and expressive choreography, I really fell in love with the art of dance. Had I given up back in my first year, this would not be something I’d ever experienced. And yes, along the way there were mean girls who said and did some quite awful things to me to put me down, it only encouraged me to work harder and prove them wrong. I can apply this same motivation and perseverance I learned through dancing now that I’m in college as I fight through difficult classes despite what naysayers have to say about what I am capable of.

Passion.

When I discovered just how much I love dancing, dancing was all I wanted to do- it was my passion. I still love it and though I’m not pursuing it as a career, I am able to apply the way I loved and worked for it to my studies now. I learned how to be passionate about something and put my all into something. I truly believe God intended for me to dance & led me to that sport for a reason, as I had been dancing around and making up moved to music before I ever received formal training. In the same way, I’ve always had a nurturing, care-taking side that’s made me want to help when someone is hurt (I can’t tell you how many of my dad’s minor wounds I’ve patched up, or how many sandwiches I’ve made when he was resting after surgery) and through sending me to nursing camp at UMHB (a great once in a lifetime opportunity for me), I discovered that I was being called to nursing. I excitedly completed my CNA class with top marks and enrolled at UMHB because the program here is awesome- but science classes are very hard and I often feel discouraged & have people tell me I’m not smart enough. Things may be said, but they are just words and I’m motivated to prove them wrong because I’ve learned to fight for what I’m passionate about- and I want to be a nurse more than anything so I WILL make it happen!

Confidence.

All of the days spent rehearsing technique & showmanship, all of the days spent actually performing.. Those days have taught me a thing or two. Be it for a recital, competition, musical or audition, confidence is necessary for stage presence and a successful performance. This is also true in our day-to-day lives. Confidence in who we are and what we do is so beneficial to us in the world we live in. It can be difficult to be confident, but God helps us if we ask. For whatever reason, I’ve always been quite comfortable on stage- being with my theatre and dance background- but out in the real social climate, it has been especially difficult for me to put myself out there. I still struggle with this, but nowhere near as badly as I once did- thanks to dance. Because of dance, I had to learn how to communicate with choreographers & peers, sell myself at auditions, and venture out of my comfort zone with new styles. I grew much more comfortable with being out of my comfort zone, therefore learning how to hold myself as a much more confident individual, but I’m still working on it!

Taking Criticism.

Obviously dancing, as with any sport, comes with many criticisms. Most of the time it’s constructive- like from teachers and judges, but not always. Because of my experience with dance, I’ve developed much thicker skin & learned not to take everything to heart. This was acquired through many years and many years, not overnight. You may be familiar with the over dramatic television program “Dance Moms” and instructor Abby Lee Miller’s ever famous motto “save your tears for your pillow,” and that’s honestly what I had to learn how to do at first. If my feelings were hurt by a criticism, I did t want to let it show in public & would bundle them in until I got home- but eventually I could shake it off like it doesn’t bother me, because most of the time, it doesn’t! In fact, I learned that criticism (in the constructive sense of the word) is something I actually desire, as it is necessary for my growth and improvement. If a teacher is taking the time to yell at or critique you, that means they are watching you and want you to do better, mostly for the sake of the team, but also for your own dignity. They don’t want you to look stupid in front of an audience. From dancing, I became more hurt or upset when I would stop receiving critiques- especially if I was still struggling to nail a step- because that meant my teacher had tired out their criticisms as I wasn’t seeming to apply them, so it felt like they didn’t care if I messed up anymore, it was my problem. Once I learned this, I craved constructive comments. I desired to always keep improving. I even wrote a letter to my high school drill team director asking her to be hard in me when I was struggling with a skill, because I knew I could get it if I knew how to fix it & was faced with pressure. This experience helps in life when it comes to my difficult college classes, life decisions, etc. Some times criticism comes in the form of “tough love,” but it’s there to help you, not harm you. This is applicable especially in the sense of accountability partners. If you have someone holding you accountable for your actions and assisting you in your walk with Christ- you expect them to be truthful and honest, and not overlook your stumbles, right? Well, that reminds me personally of my experience with dance critiques! If they care, they will let you know what you’re doing wrong for the sake of bettering you. If they turn a blind eye or keep quiet, they don’t truly care.

Time Management Skills.

In my prime competitive dance days, I was spending between 12-20 hours doing something dance related a week- whether it be in technique classes, rehearsals, private lessons, acrobatic & tumbling lessons, demonstrating/assisting in classes & going through dances at home or any free space I had. Along with that, I was taking advanced academic courses, attending church regularly, participating in UIL Choir & Theatre, as well as portraying a lead in a school play. In high school, my competitive dancing continued along with “Chato Training” classes to prepare for drill team, then I made my drill mid-year as a freshman & participated in my school musical- juggling all of these things at once- and occasionally throwing in physical therapy appointments from my various injuries. This may or may not seem like a lot to you, depending on your activity level, but I LOVE being involved and got used to it. That being said, dancing was my number one hobby & I had to learn to find balance. I stopped competing after my freshman year of high school as I joined the drill team instead, but I still remained involved in Thespians, National Honor Society & the school musical all the while. Learning to balance these things amongst my AP & Dual Credit classes has helped prepare me so much for college as I participate in my college dance team, challenging classes, attend meetings and experience various extracurriculars. They always warn against getting TOO involved in college, and I know my limit, but I do believe all the hours spent in the dance studio that taught me how to work in time crunches and make time for other things has really helped me in my first year at a University.

Ability to work as a team player.

Dance isn’t about just you. You personally have to put in a ton of effort to improve and dance well, but dancing alone and dancing as a team are entirely different things. From my years on a studio competition team, I can tell you first hand that I dealt with drama and I kind words- we were all girls, that happens sometimes. But despite differences we may have had, we all loved each other and respected each other as teammates- and ultimately wanted to perform well as a team. I learned how to put personal differences or histories aside and trust the people on my team, and also to pull my own weight. There is truly no “I” in team, but there is an “am-” as in, I AM responsible for doing my best. All the hours we put in to bond, to look together, to pull off cool stunts have taught me how to work with a team. It’s honestly hard to explain or teach with words how to work as a member of a team, and to me, I think it’s something so valuable it needs to be experienced. Being thrown into that environment at a young age has helped me with group projects, living with a roommate and even just generally being civil with people. I’m sure I would have learned this stuff anyway, but I could’ve had a much crueler awakening as I enter adulthood had it not been for my experience on dance teams.

The Value of Hard Work.

As I said before, the start of my dance career was quite rocky- because I started so late and I was quite behind technically. By employing the discipline, perseverance and confidence skills I learned from dancing, I became more diligent in working hard to get to where I want to be. Im still not there but I’m always striving to get better! Seeing how fast I learned and improved, thanks to God, my wonderful teachers and my supportive family, I have come to understand how powerful and rewarding hard work is. When you start at nothing and have people constantly laughing at your inability to do a kick ball change gracefully, and gain the confidence to compete in title pageants you know you won’t win just for the experience and critiques you’ll receive, you realize how far you can come with effort. In my first year of dance, I sucked so bad that I was embarrassed to be seen even by my teachers. Now, I’m comfortable with my abilities & still have some insecurities about skills I struggle with, but I’m not afraid to admit that I struggle and am proud of how far I’ve come. I fought very hard in my first few years because I had a lot of catching up to do and wanted to compete SO badly. I had many falls and failures, but they taught me a lot. This subcategory kinda falls in the aforementioned discipline section, but I gave it it’s own part because it is that important. Through dance, I learned that if you really want something, you have to take the bull by the horns and go get it. You don’t just give up. If you fall, you get up and try again. This process taught me so much about myself and my ability to (also mentioned before, I know) persevere through whatever life throws at me- like my next adventure, applying to nursing school! Had I given up back in my first year of dance, as I had in other sports I wasn’t nearly as passionate about, I may have been stuck in a cycle of giving up when the waters are rough instead of resetting my sails and starting again. I learned that hard work isn’t just about the destination, but the journey.

There are many more life lessons I’ve learned from dancing, so many in fact that I could probably write a book, so I’ll stop here with the ones I thing were most valuable to me. With that, I’ll leave y’all with some possibly embarrassing photos from my years of dance as a reward for you reading this novel of a post..

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“Let them praise his name with dancing..” -Psalm 149:3

Thanks for reading!

Xoxo, Cassie

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