After 15+ years in this industry, here is what I've learned and what I hope will continue to be taught.
1. Teaching is a privilege, not a right.
Who are we learning from? Who you we paying to learn from? Are they teaching for our benefit, or for theirs?
There is a lot of entitlement in this industry. Dancers can be scared, bitter, and then scared some more. If we’ve had a bumpy ride, we may get to a point where we feel like we are owed something; owed something for how much ‘work’ we’ve put into our careers. But unfortunately, we’re not. We aren’t owed a goddamn thing. Because it’s not about us (to be explained). Know who you’re taking class from. Know their intentions of why they teach, and if you don’t agree with their choices, move on.
Listen to what they’re teaching you. Is it for their benefit, or for yours? Are you there to learn, or are you an unpaid extra in their next choreography submission video?
Teaching is a privilege, not a right.
2. Class videos don’t matter.
Getting pulled out at the end of class isn’t important and shouldn't be reason why you went to class in the first place.
I understand that we live our lives on the internet. I understand that people can book a job after being seen online. If you post enough online you might get hired by Madonna. It could happen. It has happened.
But that’s not why you should go to class.
If your intention for going to class is anything other than to get better, rethink your choices. I know how this industry works. I’m not an idiot. You have to network. You have to make connections. You have to take classes with the ‘right’ people that can get you the ‘right’ work. But at the end of the day, it should be about your work; your artistry. By making it about anything other than the craft, about other people, even about yourself, you are ignoring what you are actually supposed to be contributing. We are all here, to create.
It should be about the work. The work you do in the studio; in your territory. I don’t care what’s on your CV. I don’t care where you’ve danced, or who you’ve danced with. What can you do? What can you do in the studio, on the stage, in your territory? What are you giving to your craft and what is it giving back to you?
When you go to class with the intention of being acknowledged, you’re ignoring the work. You’re making it about you, and ignoring the art. Train because you want to be better, and let your art speak for itself.
Class videos don’t matter.
3. Don’t try so hard, or try harder. Know what your resistance is, and fight against it.
Hands up if you’re the person that goes to class and doesn’t try their best. That way, if you don’t succeed, your pick up is shit, or your body ‘genuinely’ doesn’t move that fast, you won’t feel quite as bad. Because at the end of the day, you didn’t really try that hard.
Some of us don’t try. Others try too hard. When we walk in to the studio, we’re trying. When we choose what outfit to wear to class, we’re trying. When we selectively choose which class to take based on what combo we will probably look best doing, we’re trying.
Don’t try so hard that you get in your own way. You’re meant to have fun. Dancing is fun. Having fun is what makes it enjoyable for you, and what makes others want to watch you. It’s what really makes you the best artist you can be.
Don’t try so hard. Or try harder. Know what your resistance is, and fight against it.
4. Don’t believe everything you think.
Your brain is a very good liar. Listen to it carefully, and select the thoughts that empower you. This is hard for some people, and that’s ok. Try this: Walk down the street and tell yourself over and over again, ‘I approve of myself. I approve of myself.’ Then stop and listen to all the bullshit excuses that your brain (which is attached to your ego) comes up with as to why you shouldn’t believe in yourself. Think about where you learned those thoughts from. Who taught them to you? Where do they come from? Then work to unlearn them. They’re not serving you.
Don’t believe everything you think.
5. You can’t control who hires you. But you can control how good you are.
Train, and train hard. Take class from good teachers, with good intentions, and just get better. Get better, every, single day. Spend your journey owning your craft, not chasing praise.
You can’t control who hires you. But you can control how good you are.
6. Do the one thing you’re most afraid to do.
I believe fear is our biggest point of direction. Do what you’re afraid to do. Find your fear, and follow it. It’s your greatest map to finding what we call purpose.
A lot of times we will stay where we’re comfortable without even knowing it. And we will keep ourselves busy. So busy in fact, that we almost don’t notice how unhappy we are, not doing the one thing we’re supposed to be doing.
What excites you the most, but terrifies you to the point of everlasting procrastination? Do that. Do exactly that.
Do the one thing you’re most afraid to do.
7. Live by example.
The way I choose to live my life is not easy. But that’s what makes it work. That’s what gives me peace. That’s what moves me forward. And that, is what everyone wants. They want the reward of being a better, wiser, and stronger person, but they want it without doing the work.
Having a good, heart-felt conversation with someone that inspires you is like following ‘the good quote’ on instagram. We like the words we see. We like that someone is telling us for a brief moment to believe in ourselves, we’re not alone, and that it’s all going to be ok. It’s comforting, but it doesn’t fix the problem.
The only reason why reading inspirational quotes, or enjoying the energy of an inspiring individual is a good thing, is if it inspires action. You’ve learned a new tool that could help you heal a negative thought or habit. Now do something about it.
But that requires work. That requires facing some pretty heavy feelings. And that can be terrifying. So we return to liking the odd aspiring video, sharing it on Facebook if it really has an impact on us, and settling back in to our negative habits.
We can’t help everyone. We especially can’t help the people that won’t help themselves. That leaves us with one option, and the only thing an artist is ever supposed to do:
Live by example.
Share your thoughts with us on our online community at @houseofjazzcompany or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!