Thursday, July 23, 2009

No future in dance?

Have you ever had someone tell you that something you wanted to do, something you were passionate about, was a waste of time? And not had anyone to tell you different? Not had a single soul to tell you that nothing is a waste of time if your heart is in it? So that you were left with no real choice but to believe the line of crap being fed to you? No? Well, I have. And let me tell you...that shit sticks with you. It's not something you're likely to forget. Ever. Even if at the time you brush it off; even if you think you've managed to let it go, forget it, get over it, get past it. You can bury that shit far in the recesses of your mind but someday it will come back to you. I guarantee it.

You see, in what feels like an eon ago, when I was but a wee little thing in 11th grade, I had this "guidance counselor." I don't remember her name but I do know that her job was to help me find my way in the world. And I don't know what she had to do to get her job, but whatever it was, it wasn't nearly enough. Because this woman, this supposed authority on what's good for young people, this alleged guide for a great number of very impressionable young people, had the audacity to intentionally distract me from something I was actually quite good at. Something I wasn't just good at but something that I loved. Something that gave me joy. And was a bright light in what was otherwise a sometimes very difficult adolescence. Something that was as much a part of me as my big ass mouth and my blond, never-dyed hair.

I distinctly remember when I had my big official meeting with her -- that meeting in the beginning of 11th grade where you go see your guidance counselor and discuss your future. I showed up at her office at the allotted time. We reviewed my grades. My extracurriculars. She asked me what my parents did for a living (I still don't know why the fuck that should matter) and what my plans were for the future.

I was 16 so of course to me the future didn't extend much farther than the next couple of weekends. But realizing I wasn't there to talk about which party I would be attending the following weekend or who I was hoping to hook up with at that party, but also not realizing that she wasn't really all that interested in my future and was just looking for me to say "I want to go to an Ivy League school" so she could check me off her little list (because if she really cared I can't imagine why she would have said what she did), I was honest. I told her the truth -- I wanted to be a dancer. Or do something involving dance. Sure I wasn't clear, but so what? I had a general idea right?

And do you know what that fucking bitch said in response? Well, she didn't say, "hey, good for you, you're only 16 and you know what you want"; she didn't say, "congratulations, you've managed to find something you love." NO. What she said was:


No future in dance? Really? None?

Not "wow, really? that's a going to be a tough road, it's really competitive, it won't be easy, have you really thought about that?" No.

Not, "dancing, huh? why dancing? what kind of dancing? are you going to go to college for it? Or just move to NY and start auditioning?" No.

Not even "Hmmm, that's interesting. What else?" No.


All she said was, THERE IS NO FUTURE IN DANCE.

And the really fucked up part is....I believed her. I didn't even question her opinion. And all these years later I want to kick myself for that even more than I want beat the shit out of her.

Sure, I could have ignored her, I could have told her she didn't know what the hell she was talking about. But I was only 16. What the fuck did I know? She was my fucking guidance counselor. for fuck's sake. All I knew was that I loved my dance classes. And there wasn't anyone else to tell me she was an idiot. So I listened. And while I kept dancing (and still do), the idea of dancing for a living slipped from my mind like one of those amazing dreams that you can't remember 5 minutes after waking up.

From that point forward I started wondering what I would do with my life. What it was that I could claim as my own. The problem was, that although I was really good at quite a number of subjects, really, whatever I set my mind to (what can I say, I'm a smart chick), nothing I did, no classes I took, moved me the way dance did. Nothing came even close. And so I floundered.

I eventually went to college -- changing both my major (once) and my actual college (twice). Hell, it took me 7 years to get a 4 year degree. In a subject that turned out to be even more useless than dance. Granted, I made some great friends at those schools (some of whom may even read this entry), friends I wouldn't have met if I hadn't been to those schools, but still. I never really felt like I'd found the right path. I even eventually went to law school, but even that was a fluke, not something I had actually chosen for myself.

And so here I am, 20-plus years later, finding myself in a career that I don't particularly enjoy and which recently is sucking the very life out of me. And all I can think is, what if?

What if I ignored that stupid bitch? What if there had been just one person to tell me that she didn't know what the hell she was talking about? I wonder what might have happened had I just went ahead and moved to New York and started auditioning. Or even, if I just lived at home and went into the city for auditions (I am only 12 miles away after all). Or even, what if I majored in dance instead of business (my first major) or anthropology (the second one)? Would I be as dissatisfied with my life as I am now?

I obviously can't answer those questions, but my guess is that maybe, just maybe, I might have found myself in a place that felt more "right." That felt more "me." So much so that I've started thinking about a mid-life career change. Started wondering what I could do with dance at this point in my life. It's probably a little too late to get into the whole audition scene, but there are tons of options. No future in dance? Bullshit. I've managed to come up with a few decent ideas just in the last couple of months.

And do you know what happened when I told some friends about these ideas? It's probably not what you think. Because friends are supposed to be supportive, right? Yeah, well, apparently not these particular friends.

It was like 11th grade all over again. When I told a couple friends about one idea (teaching dance in public schools -- no up front investment, summers off, and I get to dance for a living, hello)...can you guess what they said?

It wasn't "wow, what a great idea, I know you've been unhappy and it's so cool you've found something you're so interested in."

It wasn't "cool, a teacher, huh? Teachers rock!"

It wasn't even, "really, are you sure? there aren't that many dance teacher jobs out there."


What I got was "Dance is a hobby, not a job. If you're going to leave the law you need to get a real job."

A real job? WHAT. THE. FUCK?

Am I crazy? Am I missing something? Is it really that crazy to want to make a life from dancing? Really? Because it seems to me that there are more options for dancers today than there ever were (umm, hello, Katie fucking Holmes was singing on SYTYCD tonight...I bet no one ever told her the arts were a waste of time). And so the fuck what if it's hard, or competitive, or whatever? If it makes me happy, shouldn't that be enough?

Luckily, I'm not that impressionable young 16 year old anymore so I can ignore the bullshit. But I still wish I didn't have to. I still wish someone, anyone, would say, "dance, huh? that's awesome. good for you. don't forget to invite me to your first show." I really don't think that's too much to ask.

But hey, if people don't want to support me, fuck 'em. Because I know there is a future in dance. I just need to find MY future. And then rub it in all of their faces.


tree said...

I found a link to your blog on a friend's page and read it now and then. The subject of Dance drew me in. When I was a kid, my mom told me I could never be a dancer 'cause I'd be too tall. I think I was like 8, taking kiddie ballet. If she'd encouraged me, maybe I'd have stuck with it and could have been a contender. Instead I stopped taking lessons and didn't dance again until I was 15, and then only recreationally. I knew by 18 that my mom was wrong and there were lots of tall dancers, just not ballerinas. You do have to be small to be thrown around on stage - but not for lots of other kinds!
Sorry for the ramble. I know how you feel. I hope you GO FOR IT in your new desire to dance for a living. GOOD LUCK!!

~K said...

You dance Stina Dance like there is no tomorrow. You land a gig and I will find a way to fly out and cheer you on! On another note what that counselor did was a Capitol Crime. She should be held accountable for all the dreams she killed!

LSL said...

I love this entry. I know how much you love dancing and I don't even know you!

A couple of thoughts:

- I loved that you mentioned the part about it giving you joy. My surf lesson talk today was all about doing things that don't take the joy away.
- I loved how you said there was no one to tell you differently. It's so true, and I'm so glad that as adults we can be that person for ourselves. But the part about that shit sticking with you is also so true.
- That lady was a miserable bitch.
- I think it's awesome that you're asking the questions.
- I'm jealous you're a natural blonde.
- There are tons of opportunities out there for you. It's 100% not crazy to explore it. It's crazy not to.
- I'm getting a fair amount of bullshit from friends and family about the surfing thing. It's tough.
- Dance, huh? That's awesome. Good for you. Don't forget to invite me to your first show.

Edelweiss Cowgirl said...

I just discovered your blog in a roundabout way and had to tell you after reading this post that no one should EVER be talked out of their dreams. I've been there too, though not as a dancer, and think it's one of the worst things you can go through. As the country singer Lee Ann Womack put it in her song "I Hope You Dance" (I'm from the south so forgive the country western reference it you're not a fan; the lyrics are still good): "Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens. Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance, and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance...I hope you dance."