Rome was not built in a day, and neither is a dancer.
#WednesdayWisdomSW Everyone knows the famous saying "Rome was not built in a day" and in many ways, as dance techniques have become more detailed and complex, you would think this phrase would ring truer in our industry than ever before. Interestingly though, what has happened is quite the opposite.
Instead of playing the long-game, many dancers and studios are trying to find the intricacies of the new movement expectations at a faster pace. As a director and teacher, there never ceases to be a parent or student who is wondering why they were not moved up to a higher level or how soon can they be in a new performing group.
I personally started seeing this pressure put upon dancers to learn and advance faster become more popularly accepted across the dance scene about 10-15 years ago in tangent with the booming business of dance competitions. The need for dancers to progress at a faster rate than the rest of their peers to win a division has highly increased the expectations across genres and age. While these new expectations has heightened dedication and interest of dancers, this constant need to be bigger and better is taking priority for many over technique and anatomical / emotional incremental learning based on age and development.
The truth is an 8 year old body is not meant to move like a 25 year old body, and this need for youth students to dance and pick up at the level of professional dancers is quite damaging. Anatomical structures change significantly throughout adolescence, and there becomes a point on every body that advancing to fast for the anatomical structure can cause lasting damage effecting one's professional career.
I always say to my students, "You want to become a professional dancer? You have to last. Last past high school, last past college and into your late twenties and through your thirties." That's a long time! It is important to note that it's not just pushing physicality to fast that is a problem; pushing the mentality of dancers before they are ready can be harmful too.
While I'm one that truly believes that a teacher should set high expectation for all dancers, it becomes imperative that you are considering their mental and emotional development stages when setting goals. If pushed hard enough, students can achieve almost any mental goal you set for them, but my question becomes, are you pushing them so hard that they will burn out? Remember as I mentioned earlier, if your student's goal is to become a professional dancer they have to last. Last past their competition days and so much longer. Is coaching them past their mental limits really helping them in their journey to become a professional dancer?
These are the questions that dancers, teachers and studio owners should constantly be asking themselves. There is not one right answer and the development both physically and mentally in each student is extraordinarily unique. It becomes important, especially if you lead or teach dancers, that you educate yourself with the physical and emotional needs of students at different ages, and to constantly update your approach based on the physical and verbal feedback of your students.
-Jana Bennett, Founder and Director of SkunkWorks Dance
What do you think? Do you think dancers are moving through their training too fast for their development? How can we support the level of training needed for a professional career, while supporting the dancer holistically? We want to hear from you!
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