Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Than A Dancer

A new generation of street dancers are coming up. Many are in their teens to early twenties. If they're in school, they're juggling classes, relationships, family responsibilities, and work schedules. How can they find time to dance? If there's only so much time in the day, then something's got to give. At times, it seems like we choose dance over everything else in our lives. If you ask yourself who you are as a person, and the answer is "dance...and only dance," is that a problem?

It's a hard question. We all love dancing. It gives us an outlet to creatively express ourselves. When we dance, we feel free. It's our number one passion. And we want to share it with others who are equally passionate. Our community becomes filled with other dancers. And soon, we live our dance as a lifestyle, not as a physical exercise or a hobby. Dance becomes part of our identity.

There's so much good that can come out of this especially for those of us who are talented enough and find the right circumstances to pursue it as a profession. And there are many of us who have a healthy balance of work and school and pursue dance non-professionally. But what about the rest of us who aren't doing it professionally but are convinced that we should? What about the younger members of our community who are still in school, figuring out who they are and what their lives are all about? Anyone who has gone through their college years can tell you that it's one of the most exciting and confusing times in life. For all the dancers in that demographic, this is for you.

Please don't give up school, work, and your responsibilities. There's so much in our daily lives that can help us to grow in our character, persistence, humility, professionalism, and dedication. As much as dance is part of your life, you are more than a dancer. Yes, it's your passion. But what about when you don't dance? Who are you at your core? How would a friend describe your character? When facing failure, what is it about you as a person that drives you to overcome your struggles?

We're walking a very subtle line here. Clearly, there are extremely talented and fortunate young dancers who should make the transition from being a student to pursuing dance as a career. And there are those who embrace dance as part of their lives. They're content to not pursue it professionally. But there are many others who aren't being honest with themselves. They're choosing dance as the definitive statement of their lives without thinking through what that entails or taking the rigorous steps to build a livelihood on it. For them, dance is an escape from their daily reality. It's easy to practice with friends, enter contests, and take dance classes when we're financially supported by our families. It's much harder when you move into financial independence. We can spend a lifetime trying to figure out who we are as a person and what is the meaning of our lives. So it's easy to say "I'm a bboy" or "I'm a locker" or "I'm a popper" when we're subconsciously looking to fulfill our identities. Is this you? Are you searching for who you are and only filling in the blanks with your passion for dance?

One of the healthiest things you can do is take a step of humility and ask the opinion of a mentor at an older life stage. Ask that seasoned veteran for his or her advice on where you are with your dance. Listen carefully and let it sink in. Know who you are and be willing to discover more of yourself, even if it seems really scary. This mentor can provide a reflection of yourself when you really need to hear it. Hopefully, he or she has the life experience to share and the ability to articulate appropriate advice.

Perhaps this will become one of the most meaningful relationships in your life. When we're honest with ourselves, we know that we all need guidance, a helping hand, and someone to show us the way. We stumble blindly when we're afraid or too proud to listen. But we're not meant to walk alone on this journey. There is a desire within humanity to be relational and to live in community. No one should be forced to do so, but a choice should always be presented. There's always a choice that can be made.

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