To the Dancer Who Thinks Their Time is Up… It Isn’t!
When is it time to quit?
When is it time to move on? I’ve spoken to many people who consider ‘fun’ sports to be something that only children take part in, something that is dropped when university work becomes intense or first part time jobs start to require our time.
Of course some of us sadly withdraw from dance/cheer or other sports due to injury or other reasons beyond their control, but what about all those athletes who quit because they believe they have to do so in order to grow up?
This post is for the athlete thinking of moving on. I have a few thoughts to put to you.
Recently I saw one of those motivational videos on facebook, designed to convince you to spend your time doing more of what makes you happy. (I will put the video link at the end if anyone is interested.)
In a nutshell, the guy draws a little timeline of the average life. He circles the part of the line that represents how many years of your life you spend working (spoiler: its most of them) bookended by two much smaller parts of the line. This gives a visual representation of how the 2 fun parts – childhood and retirement – are tiny lengths of time in comparison to ‘the working years’. The point was basically, get a job you love and stop waiting for retirement to enjoy your life. Makes a lot of sense. Great video.
SO as I do with pretty much everything, I couldn’t help but apply it to dance. And I don’t make videos, I write blogs. So here is my dance version of that video, in blog form:
Here is your life (Obviously we don’t all live to be exactly 90, give or take a little, who knows. Its just an example, people.)
If we’re lucky, the majority of us dancers start to learn dance during early childhood, usually before the age of 10. Many lucky dancers do start around 5 or 6 years of age, although if you didn’t start til late primary school or even early teens, this chart would look even worse for you! So for the sake of the exercise, let’s say we start at 5 years old.
We spend many years in the studio, making friends, developing skills such as strength, agility, flexibility, coordination. We develop artistry – learning to understand expression, musicalty and performance quality. We become a team player who is there for our team mates and who has a whole team supporting us. We create bonds with our teachers and with the other students who are there because of the same passion that we have. We overcome self doubt, push our limits, and celebrate our successes. We compete, perform, and enjoy that amazing feeling of having it all come together of stage. We make lifelong memories and have an absolute ball doing what we love.
During those years, dance is our world. It is of huge importance in our young lives.
For many of us, in our late teens when we take on jobs or university (or both) we begin to prioritise our education or careers and we stop dancing.
Here’s the interesting thing. All of that stuff I just spoke about? Yes it’s such a huge and important part of our life, but here it is circled on the chart.
Yep. Even if you hang in there til age 20, that red circle is you dancing.
Now as I said earlier, many high level dancers suffer injuries that make continuing on impossible, but so many of my ex students have spoken of “growing up” “moving on with their life” and “putting their heads down”. All valid reasons to step away from a time consuming passion, right? Someone studying to be a teacher or doctor has no reason to continue to dance. The stress of time management when it comes to juggling study and your part time job, plus family time and good old fashioned rest.
Well, a topic for another blog at another time (and there are already countless in exhistence on this topic) is the tried and true list of skills that make dance worth sticking with, such as time management, goal setting, confidence, teamwork, memory and focus. Its also the perfect way to give a stressed out, hard working brain much needed balance – time away from the desk and moving your body with your friends. The problem with dance is that we enjoy it. If something is ‘fun’ its not considered as important as study or work. It’s “just for fun”, so it can be sacrificed when our schedules start to fill up with grown-up stuff.
After looking at the chart, my advice is to really think about life without dance. Is cold turkey the way to go? There are alternatives, even for the ex-competition star who was in the studio every night training every discipline and is now too overcommitted with work to continue that training schedule. Maybe you don’t have to compete. Maybe you drop to a once-a-week recreational class. Maybe you pick your favourite class and only come on one night to contemporary or hip hop. If you can make it work, please do it. Keep your body and your brain working the way a dancer’s body and brain works (its a thing!). More importantly keep yourself in the community and part of the studio family you have grown up with and achieved so much with. The social aspect of dance is as important as any of the other parts. Because once you do decide your time is up and you hang up the dance shoes, these are the years you spend not dancing:
Hows that for perspective!?
I don’t know about you, but that chart is enough to keep my feet moving for a few more years!