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Advice for dancers.

RECENTLY, I AUDITIONED FOR A DANCE LAB, ALONG WITH MY CLASSMATES. THEY ALL GOT IN AND I DID NOT, DESPITE THE FACT THAT I HAVE BEEN STUDYING BALLET LONGER. NOW I AM FEELING PRETTY CRUMMY ABOUT MYSELF AS A DANCER. I'VE ALWAYS KNOWN THAT I'M NOT EXTRA TALENTED BUT NOW I FEEL LIKE I SHOULD GiVE UP MY DREAM OF BEING A PROFESSIONAL. IT DOESN'T HELP THAT I'M ALSO FEELING RATHER PLUMP. IS THIS NORMAL OR AM I ALONE?--SAD IN PORTLAND, OREGON You're definitely not alone! No one likes to be rejected in work, friendship, or romance, because it creates self-doubt. In a dance audition, rejection can be especially painful if your friends get accepted. What's the answer? First, give yourself credit for having the courage to audition. Most success stories ultimately depend on having the guts to risk failure. The trick is to take a moderate risk, aiming neither too high nor too low. Failure may also provide valuable information, if you can remain objective. For example, if you are truly less talented in dance than your peers, it might be more productive (and satisfying) to develop other talents that generate positive attention. It's also possible that certain current impediments, such as being "plump," may require patience. I know many young dancers who gained weight right before a growth spurt or puberty without experiencing long-term problems. Still, failure is a normal part of life. While there's no way to make it pain free, it is possible to bounce back from even the most heartbreaking experiences by being resilient--and letting yourself continue to dream.

I THINK YOUR LIFE AS A DANCER, LECTURER, AND PSYCHOLOGIST IS THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF PERSONAL SUCCESS. THAT'S WHY I'VE DECIDED TO SEEK YOUR HELP. IN LESS THAN A MONTH, I WILL BE TURNING 15. I'M EXTREMELY MOTIVATED TO BE A DANCER, BUT MY PARENTS WILL LET ME TAKE ONLY ONE DANCE CLASS A WEEK (AND WITH THEIR ATTITUDES, THAT'S EXTREMELY GENEROUS). CAN TURN MY DEAD-END SITUATION INTO SOMETHING GREAT OR IS IT TOO LATE TO HAVE A DANCE CAREER?--KRISTEN FROM ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA I'm always amazed at dancers' passion for their work, particularly during adolescence when many of their friends are happy hanging out at the mall. Part of this drive to excel stems from the ability to focus on one goal, while relinquishing other interests. A high level of kinesthetic intelligence may also compel you to become immersed in dance as a way to express yourself through movement. Still, the expense and time that it takes to become a dancer depends on parental support. Perhaps your parents would be less reticent about your dance training if they knew that the discipline, feedback, and work ethic involved in dance typically increases dancers' grade point averages in school. Few people work harder than dancers. Whether or not you become a professional dancer, your training will benefit you in other areas of life.

I AM THE TYPICAL SUBURBAN, MIDDLE-CLASS, WORKING MOTHER WITH A DAUGHTER WHO'S OBSESSED WITH DANCING. MY HUSBAND AND I HAVE BEEN VOLUNTEERING WITH HER DANCE STUDIO, HELPING OUT WITH RECITALS AND DOING THE SCENERY. WE'VE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THE DANCE BUSINESS AND ARE LOOKING TO OPEN A DANCE CLOTHING STORE OR SCENERY SHOP. BOTH OF US HAVE BACKGROUNDS IN BUSINESS BUT NOT IN DANCE. IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE Us?--MICHELE KNOWLES FROM KENNESAW, GEORGIA It's wonderful tn be an entrepreneur--as long as you do your homework! Success factors range from time management (unless you're willing to put in a twenty-hour workday) to having a smart business plan, since, according to a recent article in The New York Times, half of new firms go bust within four years. While your background in business gives you a competitive edge, the United States Small Business Association offers a free counseling service for entrepreneurs, called SCORE, where you can get personal advice from retired executives (

Obviously, it also helps to leave an intimate knowledge of dance, if this is your specialty. While most scenery shops work with a variety of productions, from rock concerts to opera, it's possible to open a clothing store that focuses exclusively on dancers. The key is to do a little market research in your area, according to Leslie Roy-Heck, a former soloist with the New York City Ballet. Leslie, with her husband, Michael Heck, has successfully run Saratoga Dance, a retail dancewear shop in Saratoga, New York, for thirteen years, as well as created the wholesale outlet Bunheads. Target areas for marketing include: dance schools' dress-code requirements, specific tastes and trends in dancewear within your region, and dancers' unmet needs, such as lack of access to a variety of pointe shoes. In the latter case, it would be wise to hire someone who has hands-on experience with all of the nuances of pointe shoes, including the construction, type of padding, and how they should feel and look on the foot. Contact Leslie for information about setting up a dancewear shop (518.584.8690) or to open a Bunheads account (800.311.6563).

Former New York City Ballet dancer Linda Hamilton, Ph.D., is a lecturer, a psychologist in private practice, and author of Advice for Dancers (Jossey-Bass). She has been offering advice to Dance Magazine readers since 1992.
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Author:Hamilton, Linda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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