Most skills in dance need to be earned; they do not come naturally. Therefore, the skills I have I have worked hard to obtain.
My strongest dance technique is ballet. At the beginning of my training, I trained exclusively in ballet, and didn’t begin learning other dance forms like modern, jazz, contemporary, and world dance until high school. I also dedicated the most amount of hours training in ballet. One thing I love about ballet is its ability to strengthen your technique in other styles of dance, and allow you to be a more versatile dancer by giving you a solid core, flexibility, and strength that can be translated in other movements.
Besides ballet, I think I’m also strong in modern dance technique, although I began that training at a much later age. Ballet definitely helped me grow as a modern and contemporary dancer, which is very important in the dance community today. Nowadays, most ballet companies perform an extremely wide range of repertoire, from Swan Lake to In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. Understanding modern dance is vital for a professional career.
I most need to improve upon my African and hip hop. This is somewhat rendered impossible because of my whiteness, but I’ll just keep persevering.
Hi! I’m Kat. Yes, like the animal, but with a K. Since I was three, I’ve dedicated countless hours to improving my artistic and technical abilities as a dancer. I’ve faced countless daunting stages and performed to my fullest every time. I trained primarily in ballet at Texas Ballet Theater School, and attended summer intensives with Ballet Austin, Boston Ballet School, and Houston Ballet. I’ve also trained in modern and contemporary dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. I’m currently at Southern Methodist University pursuing a B.F.A. in Dance with a double major, because I think its important for a dancer to not just be a robot, but a genuine person with life experiences to artistically relate onstage. I aspire to continue dance professionally upon graduation, and to never cease challenging myself.
Finding motivation comes naturally in subjects or tasks that I enjoy doing, like dance. Without a natural motivation to succeed in my art, there’s no way I’d be here today. Without exceptional amounts of determination, professional dance is unobtainable. One must put in so many hours and lifestyle commitments in order to succeed that constant motivation, especially in times of failure, must remain.
Finding motivation in subjects I dislike proves to be much more challenging. In my previous blog, I discussed my natural ability to procrastinate until the last moment to complete tasks, which heightens my stress during the task and lessens my success at the assignment. After watching the video and reading the Bain excerpt, I realized that when I procrastinate, this leads to surface learning, as opposed to deeper understanding and enlightenment.
However, after reading the excerpt from What the Best College Students Do published by Ken Bain, I cannot help but disagree with the three stereotypes Bain attempted to plaster every learner with. I disagree that someone is either a mindless memorizer of facts or an intellectual learning phenomenon. I disagree that you can be taught to think outside the box or think in a new way; I also disagree that some people can invent a new way of doing someone while others simply cannot. In many ways, I believe that for many, new ideas were a bit of serendipity, and that memorizing facts also leads to understanding of concepts. I think these two styles of learning can mesh together, which is often necessary when you’re tested over material; memorizing the facts is a must.
I also disliked the idea that external motivators won’t lead to success, or that all truly successful people were internally motivated. Competition has always motivated me to put in more effort, leading to a better product or more success. Motivation from grades isn’t necessarily a bad thing either; you can still be a deep learner and also care primarily about making the grade.
What guides me into the dance studio day in and day out? What leads me to push my body to soreness and pain, endure rejections and harsh judgements from auditions and teachers, and try to reach unobtainable perfect every day for countless hours?
I’m not sure.
There’s something about dance that has always called to me. Martha Graham, a famous American modern dancer, wrote an essay on this very topic. Titled, “I am a Dancer”, she describes dance and the practice of dance as a spiritual lifestyle- not merely a hobby. Being a dancer is like being a nun- you must commit most of your day to the development of your craft, and everything from what you eat to how much you sleep must be constantly monitored. After all, your body is your instrument. And like being a nun, I seemed to have received an almost divine calling to dance. I can’t seem to get through a day without getting the urge to move and practice.
Money is unimportant (dancers get paid nothing or minimum wage), and same with fame. Practically no professional dancers are famous in the same way that Brad Pitt or Beyonce are, and that’s fine with me. I will admit to being competitive at times, with others in my class. I disagree with the idea that you should only compete with yourself. When I’m the worst in a class, I push myself harder and improve more than if I’m the best. It serves as a good reminder that there are many dancers out there who are better. No, you shouldn’t be jealous of others or hateful, but you should strive to be the best.
Of course, morality is important; my dance career takes up a substantial portion of my life. The actions I take here shape my character, and I want to look back on my life thinking I was a good person. I would never compromise my moral compass to get ahead anywhere in life; ultimately you hurt yourself more.
I’m a procrastinator. I discovered early in life that I can really only give something my full attention when I’m under a serious, strenuous time crunch. This work ethic, while perfectly acceptable in some academic and creative circumstances, hinders me greatly when it comes to large projects that require thought, development, and commitment. The article’s suggestion of repetition and spacing the time between the repetition obviously resonates strongest with me, as I never do this!
Reading the article makes me want to improve and develop my work habits so I can succeed artistically and academically here at SMU. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”. By understanding and admitting that I have poor work habits, I can help myself mature and become open to different ways of approaching tasks.
Dance has always served as a safeguard. It’s an hour or more of a daily distraction, a brief respite from a frantic reality. When everything at school or home seems to be falling to pieces, I have a solid foundation, a rock to lean upon. Whether I’ve had a wonderful day in dance class or a terrible one, dance never fails to make me feel good about myself. Just getting the opportunity to move and forget about everything else has made me dedicate my life to pursuing this art.
Indeed, none of my other childhood activities rewarded me as much as dance. Ballet began at age three, just another of the many stereotypical preschool activities I was involved in. However, I quickly realized that dance was going to be more than just another activity. In kindergarten, I proclaimed to my class that I was going to be a professional dancer and get paid more than any of them. Unfortunately, I later realized that dancers are barely paid above minimum wage their entire careers. Luckily, this didn’t deter me, and I continued to commit more and more of my time in dance.
I went to an academically rigorous elementary school, and this limited the amount of time I could spend dancing. The route to professional dance requires around five hours or more of dedication per day to the craft, and so I decided to attend Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts when I was fourteen.
Attending this arts school was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It gave me so many more opportunities to dance, and learn different styles of dance besides just ballet. It also put me in connection with a more rigorous ballet program, Texas Ballet Theater School. Going to Booker T. gave me solid modern and contemporary training, as well as excellent classes in ballet. After school, I would attend Texas Ballet Theater School, aiding my ballet technique even more.
After the four years I spent in high school, I came out a completely different person and artist. Each year was filled with growth and discoveries, with new challenges for me to overcome. In those four years I refined my technique and found my choreographic voice, which is the biggest thing I hope to develop the next four years at Southern Methodist University. The meaning behind all this dance, I hope, is to ensure that I didn’t squander my life. I’m pursuing my dreams as an artist because life is fleeting and mortal. I hope my days are filled with excitement, adventure, challenge, and joy; dance provides me with this every time I step in a studio.