“Ok, now do it one more time,” is the most common lie you will ever hear in Dance College. It is never, and I mean never, just one more time. If dance teachers actually spoke the truth all the time, instead they’d probably say:
“Ok, I’m going to tell you to do it one more time, but then I’ll actually make you do it TEN more times, until your feet start to bleed, you begin to sweat more than a NatSci undergrad on a Tinder date, and you feel utterly and completely defeated. Ok? Good! And, five, six, seven, eight…”
Sound fun? I can assure you, it’s not. Or at least, it wasn’t for me anyway.
After 18 years of watching Strictly Come Dancing and religiously attending dance classes three days a week after school, I had convinced myself that I had what it took to shimmy and salsa along with the professionals. So, I did what anyone else would do… I enrolled in Dance College to fulfil my lifelong dreams.
I was way out of my depth.
Halfway through my first term at university, I can confidently say, with my hand on my heart, that the process of applying to and attending a competitive Dance College makes an English Literature degree at Cambridge look like a walk in the park.
“I hope that in sharing the skills I learnt in Dance College, they can help you too, to fare slightly better in this second lockdown.”
Needless to say, I dropped out of Dance College. But in the last few days, as I’ve found the long shadow of Lockdown 2.0 increasingly weighing on my mind, old lessons learnt at college have become my lifeline. Dance college may not teach you much about Geoffrey Chaucer, but it teaches you a hell of a lot about resilience. I hope that in sharing the skills I learnt in Dance College, they can help you too, to fare slightly better in this second lockdown.
Lessons learnt from a failed dance career
Lesson 1: Be precise
The reason dancers spend so long in the studio is not because they don’t know the routine. No, it’s all about perfection. I spent many hours in the studio with my teacher focussing, sometimes on even the most minute details, and I’m trying to apply this level of precision to my life in lockdown. Whether it’s getting that extra ingredient for a recipe I’d usually skip, or doing the optional reading for a supervision that I’d usually disregard without a thought. I have the spare time now, so why not use the extra time to my advantage?
Lesson 2: Be persistent
I couldn’t hack life at Dance College, primarily because I wasn’t persistent enough. Dancers don’t let themselves become defeated. To re-hash the old aphorism, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.’ I’m trying to redeem my Dance college dropout disaster by mustering some of the resilience I always admired in the other girls at college and by incorporating it into my everyday lockdown life.
Lesson 3: Be true to your plans
Dancers are exceptionally good at making lists and setting up plans of action. It’s how they manage such a busy work-life balance so effectively, and I’ve found that making a to-do list every morning while I’m having my breakfast adds some well needed purpose back into my day.
Lesson 4: Be punctual
Just because it’s only a Zoom meeting, doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be tardy! Make like a professional dancer and be punctual, in their world being late or being on time is the difference between booking a job or struggling for rent for the next month.
Lesson 5: Be Presentable
It’s a universal truth that feeling like you look better, makes you feel better. Dance is all about the look. You’re expected to be well presented always at College in preparation for the constant cycle of competitions, auditions and shows – all arenas where how you look really matters. I’ve found in lockdown even the ritual of getting changed into ‘normal’ clothes each morning makes me feel far more productive than slopping around in my Hello Kitty pjs all week.
“Practicing your passions in lockdown, be they dancing, baking or candlestick making, will buoy your spirits!”
Lesson 6: Be passionate
Why, you may ask, do dancers put themselves through it all? The late nights, the early mornings and the sheer physical strain dancing takes on the body. It’s because they love to dance. Practicing your passions in lockdown, be they dancing, baking or candlestick making, will buoy your spirits!
Lesson 7: Be polite
This is a difficult time for everyone and being polite, especially to those working through the lockdown: supermarket workers, delivery drivers, your college porters etc… can make such a difference to people’s days. Again, just because most of life is online now, there is no excuse to leave manners at the door!
Lesson 8: Be proactive
Dancers have an amazing sense of ‘get up and go,’ something that’s vital if you want to beat the lockdown blues.
Lesson 9: Be patient
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Mo Farah, so getting your nap-loving body off the sofa and into your running shoes may not be easy at first! Remember that it is important to push yourself to keep motivated this time around, but also remember to be patient. Life is more limited now and lots of things are going to be a slow process. So, make like Take That’s 2006’s pop hit and ‘just have a little patience.’
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