Artists must be familiar with the mediums they use to do their work. Musicians playing wind instruments learn which keys to press to create a C and what they must do with their breath to produce variations in sounds. Painters usually work in many mediums and choose suitable ones for the piece, such as oil or acrylics or watercolors, pencil or charcoal, or use them in combinations. This is true for dancers as well. Dancers learn not only about anatomy, which is important if they are to understand proper alignment, but also about cause and effect. As they reach the age where they’re dancing en point or rehearsing choreography, dancers will quickly discover what will happen if they don’t take care of themselves.
- If I don’t build up calluses on my toes then they will rub raw and bleed.
- When I haven’t eaten all day I usually don’t have much strength or energy to jump in class.
- Forcing turnout weakens my knees and ankles.
- Rehearsing without properly warming up the muscles can lead to soreness and possible injury.
- I have a hard time remembering the steps when I stay up too late the night before.
The list goes on and on of course, but this cause and effect gives us greater awareness about our own bodies and minds. I believe that knowing our limits (and that we do have them), being sensible about warming up, and eating a healthy diet among other things teaches us that this one body—the only one we will ever have—must be cared for if we want it to last.
Another thing dance gave me that has been applicable in other parts of my life is poise. Poise, to me, is much more than carrying oneself with assurance and grace. For me, it’s what happens before that outward manifestation. It involves calming the mind, putting away the worries of what could go wrong and bringing forth the positive thoughts about how you want to appear onstage. Once you quiet the mind and trust your body to remember the choreography, you step onstage and put faith in yourself. And believe it or not, you maintain faith in yourself until you’ve completed what you went out there to do. If you make a mistake, you must learn to train the mind to immediately forgive and forget, so as not to make a complete mess of what follows. Completing the dance to the end and not giving up somewhere in the middle is a good metaphor for whatever we undertake in our lives.
Learning the power of the mind, trusting in yourself, caring for and nourishing your body, and understanding that as humans we have physical limits and aren’t invincible—all of these are essential elements on the path to success and happiness, no matter what career you ultimately choose or what direction life takes you. And when life takes you down a path you weren’t expecting, these attributes will prove invaluable in dealing with whatever comes your way.