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Student Reporter Project 2015/16

The Hidden Value of a Dance Education

Transferrable Skills By Elizabeth Graves
  • Madison Smart / Photo by Derek Liu
  • Sabine Raskin / Photo by Michael Slobodian
  • Maya Tenzer / Photo by Michael Slobodian

Your dance training vanishes after your last performance; it is a means to a finite product. However, the challenge of creating great dance teaches invaluable skills that can support any endeavour. If you take in the hidden value of your dance education, the lessons you learn will transfer to the rest of your life.

In the pursuit of a dance education, you must listen carefully to the teacher and apply their guidance to your work. Sabine Raskin, currently in the Arts Umbrella Graduate Program, shares that “one of the most valuable skills in a process is the ability to see and hear the information, intellectually understand it, process it in your body and be able to articulate what someone is asking.” Masterful dance is so precise; if a dancer doesn’t cultivate her sense of listening then she will miss information that could be critical to the quality of her work. Caroline Fitzpatrick graduated from Arts Umbrella, danced professionally and currently works at Arts Umbrella as an administrator: “Showing that you are hearing someone and staying present in what they are telling you is probably the best piece of advice I have taken away from my dance training,” she says. Even more important is being able to show through your actions and your presence that you care what other people say.

An integral part of studying dance is learning how to approach challenges and solve problems. The construction of dance is all about the hours spent in rehearsal investigating ideas in order to create impressionable artwork. Livona Ellis graduated from Arts Umbrella and currently dances with Ballet BC. She says, “There’s something about being constantly overwhelmed, in a good way, that increases your threshold for what you think is possible.” She learned from her dance education how to positively approach challenges and not let the demand of hard work hinder her from the end goal.

Madison Smart graduated from Arts Umbrella and then attended McGill University, majoring in art history and cultural studies. She explains that in dance “you need to start at the base, work your way up, experience, fail, and be in the moment.” Within rehearsal you find an empowering mental approach that helps you to overcome obstacles and adapt to new situations. A dance education pushes you to face challenges and let those challenges develop your work ethic and shape your character.

Relationships are an undeniable part of living in contemporary society. An important aspect of dance involves collaborating with your colleagues, choreographers and mentors. Ellis mentions that “the opportunities that arose from my dance training are nothing compared to the relationships I have built and the lessons I have learned from the incredible people who did, and continue to, support me.” Smart says she gained “the skills of network building within an artistic community,” and learned that in order to make connections with people you need to become “inherently curious”. You need a synergistic relationship to dance a pas de deux and, as a dancer, you experience the power of people working together. Through dance you learn to make the effort to dig into relationships in your life and benefit from them as a source of support.

A dance education refines how you present yourself. Dance goes beyond athleticism to the expression of ideas that are important to the dance artist. Dance students learn that you “have a responsibility to say something meaningful, to bring things up that go unsaid or give voice to things that people don’t usually give voice to,” says Maya Tenzer, a graduate from Arts Umbrella who apprenticed with Ballet BC. She emphasizes how dance requires us to have the courage to say what we really think and to be vulnerable enough to really affect the audience: “you need to take a lot of risks in order to create something valuable.” This courage is an important skill to carry throughout life and will help you address issues or promote what you find interesting in this world.

The creation of honest and moving art requires dance students to find confidence to trust themselves. Tenzer describes her dance education as a “process that has brought me to a place of understanding myself and my confident ambition,” which, she says, enables you to “give more to the people you work with and the friendships you make.” Pursuing a dance education encourages you to follow a dream and commit yourself to the passion of life. Smart says: “It is wonderful to dream and to try everything and to open your heart.” The commitment to a dance education allows the pursuit of a goal to strengthen your sense of identity.

A dance education teaches you how to listen, overcome a challenge, work with people, become an artist and believe in yourself. These are skills that will help you happily succeed in whatever journey you take in life. Through a dance education you learn to invest in yourself so you can give to others. If you aren’t aware and present, you miss the lessons that go beyond a finite product. The glory of dance is that it must be enjoyed in the moment and the echo of exquisite dance lives on in your actions and identity through the rest of your life.

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