Jump to content

What does it mean to be successful in dance?


dancebrain
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello everyone,

I’m a researcher working at the Dance Lab at the university of Hertfordshire in collaboration with the charity Dance UK and Trinity Laban. Together, we’re looking to develop a resilience toolkit for dancers to help them become more resilient to the everyday challenges of professional training. In order to look at elements of performance we're asking what does it mean to be a successful dancer or successful within the domain of dance. What does being successful in dance mean to you?

 

Thanks so much in advance for your input!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me, being successful in dance means inspiring others. I first saw a ballet- Swan Lake- when I was 12, and i knew then that I had found my destiny in life; to dance, and pass on the gift of inspiration. If I'm ever lucky enough to get into a Company, even just being on the back row of the Corps would mean being successful to me- yes, in the past I have doubted that I would want to spend my life in the Corps, but recently I've learnt that as long as I am dancing, I am happy; I don't need Soloist roles to feel satisfied with my achievements.

 

Also, success to me simply means being better than I was yesterday. It doesn't matter if my friend in class is landing quadruple pirouettes, as long as my triples are improving. As Barishnikov (sorry if I've spelt that wrong!) said; "I do not try to dance better than other people, I only try to dance better than myself."

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that the answer to this question is not only different from dancer to dancer but would also change through the years for each dancer.

 

First - the mundane:

 

I never wanted to join a company.  I determined early on that there were certain boundaries that were important to me.  I didn't want to tour as my family home life was the center of my life - not peripheral..  I didn't want to sign any contract in which I would find myself dancing choreography or to music which didn't suit both my dance style or my taste.  In other words, I wanted control.  Fortunately, having a supportive husband meant that I did not have to financially support myself which gave me the freedom to be picky.  So, I only signed contracts for short term specific performances that appealed to me.

 

As you might imagine these stipulations at first restricted my opportunities - but only in the beginning.  As time went on and people became aware of me, the phone began to ring more and more frequently.  This was very rewarding.

 

Second - the inner aesthetic:   

 

To be one with the music - to be completely inside of it - to feel the air rushing by my face as I flew through the air - to be immersed in its expression - to feel the strictures of the ballet give me the strength to move as I willed - the moment when ballet's strict structure is not restrictive but the path to freedom - when the years of study and sweat in producing a grand jeté allowed me to rise, soar and hover in space - long enough to look around and say - 'ah.'

 

Third - The outer aesthetic:

 

When I've finished and the audience is silent - and then - the applause.  I know by that moment of silence that I've taken them with me - they have danced with me.  I've found nothing in life quite like that - except giving birth - that moment when a new voice joins the human chorus.

 

Fourth - Other aspects of the "dance domain":

 

When a little girl comes up to me afterwards with stars in her eyes - or I see children in the lobby spinning, jumping - dancing.

 

When the phone rings all these years later and a student calls me to share his/her life.  

 

When one of my youngest students said to a new child:  "We work hard, but we laugh a lot."

 

When someone who has read my reviews or feature articles responds.

 

And many times - at this board - when someone lets me know that in some way I've touched them - that I was able to  help in some way......

 

I think this can all be summed up by saying:  I consider success when dance has reached through me to touch someone else or when dance has reached through someone else to touch me.

  • Like 15
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with all of the above said so far.  I would also add that the ultimate of being successful in dance is being able to support oneself through dance.  There are many ways of doing that, and I think that young people investing their time and money at a university (regardless of the field) should be mindful of the realities of life after college.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for your replies so far! I think that success is such an interesting field in the arts and dance in particular as it seems to be quite subjective or indefinable. As in there are those who want to be a principal in a prestigious company and those whose goal is an expressive one with the aim of reaching others. Of course these goals can also combine!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A few areas you might want to consider in terms of developing resilience would also be managing the transition from vocational school to professional life, body image, injury, the competitive nature of a dance career, surviving in a world which at times can feel so controlled by what others think of you, having a life outside dance and coping with feedback which is not always given in a way which is beneficial for the dancer.

PM me if you would like and I can point you in the direction of some research which might add food for thought.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Dancebrain

 

I thought I'd replied, but my phone obviously didn't bother to send it!

 

My answer however, was much more mundane than Anjuli's - and from the perspective of a mother of a professional ballet dancer - I feel they're successful if they are earning a living as a dancer.  I will talk to my son about his perception of what would make him successful, but I think he'd agree, and add that his aim is to work in this country (the UK), so it's probably that the idea of success changes as your training/career develops. 

 

For my daughter who danced for "fun" her idea of being successful in dance would have been completely different  - her successes were measured in exam and festival results (she no longer dances and plays rugby at uni instead!)

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for your replies so far! I think that success is such an interesting field in the arts and dance in particular as it seems to be quite subjective or indefinable. As in there are those who want to be a principal in a prestigious company and those whose goal is an expressive one with the aim of reaching others. Of course these goals can also combine!

As far as I can tell, being the non-dancing parent of a teen dancer whose ambition is to become a professional, the world of dance seems to be entirely different to that of, say, singers/pop music.

 

Unlike many ambitious young singers you see on the X-Factor and other similar programmes, my dd and her dancing friends appear to have no desire at all to become 'rich and famous' in the way that aspiring pop stars do, they just seem to be totally dedicated and consumed with the desire to become the best dancer they can possibly be. Ultimately becoming a principal dancer might be a goal for many of them, but not it seems, for reasons of prestige or fame. They just have to dance!

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

I've been musing on this whilst doing the ironing today, and have come to the conclusion that whilst dance is highly competitive, it's not a competition. A competition, has a definite end point doesn't it....first to the tape, fastest time, most points and so on......but for our dancing children, success has many different forms, at different times in their lives. There are many ways to "win". Realistically, whilst they probably all dream of dancing principle roles with a major company, very few will achieve that, yet they will all have great successes along the way. And i don't just mean being selected at auditions, winning actual competitions, great exam results etc, but less "obvious" signs of success such as performances that really move people, overcoming an injury or set back of some kind, helping someone else master something they are struggling with. These I think are all things that make all the effort that they (and we!) put in.

Obviously lots of forum members are struggling with the stresses of auditions etc at the moment so I thought it might be nice to share some of those moments that have made us really proud of our children, that show how well they are all doing even if they don't get into their preferred school, or get that dream contract.

I'll start with 2 experiences that really meant a lot to me. The first was a couple of years ago when DD was dancing in a charity show. I wasn't going to go to watch but at the last minute I decided to, so got a single left over ticket in the middle of a row. I didn't know those around me from Adam, but their reactions when DD danced were wonderful - the 2 elderly ladies next to me were actually in tears. That made me very proud.

And the second one happened whilst DD and I were out shopping this Christmas. Across a crowded Debenhams we heard an excited screech "Look mum, it's Miss X!" Next thing, one of the little girls from the pre primary class that DD helps with literally hurled herself at DD and wrapped her arms round her legs saying "I love you Miss X and you are the bestest teacher ever!" That's success in my book. :wub:

  • Like 22
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's another thread along these lines here:

 

http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/8307-what-does-it-mean-to-be-successful-in-dance/?fromsearch=1

 

I'm going to close this thread and we can continue the discussion there. Please would one of the other moderators merge these comments in (my phone's not that clever). Thanks

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...