Advice to Graduating {Dance} Seniors

I recently sat in a room with soon-to-be graduating seniors. They are 22 years old, and completely overwhelmed. They all say the same thing: “I just cannot wait to graduate.” But if you listen closely, underneath of their excitement, you can hear a small twinge of fear.

What am I going to do? Where should I live? Should I audition? If so, for what companies? What is my special skill? What if it all falls apart? What if I’m… just not good enough?

I wanted to gently place my hand on theirs and say, “Be still. It will be OK.”

But that is hard to believe when you’re 22 and faced with a whole new world.


My {unsolicited} advice for graduating {dance} seniors:

1. Stop putting the weight of the world on your shoulders. Yes, you’re graduating. But that doesn’t mean you have to have everything figured out. No one expects you to have everything figured out. In fact, honestly, you’re just starting to really learn! Now begins your personal journey.

2. Be ready to work. This means be responsible for the energy you bring into the room. Arrive on time. Stay positive and motivated. Ask questions. Learn.

3. Say “yes” to opportunities. Even if you don’t consider the opportunity to be “all that great.” We tend to come out of college with a lot of ideas of how our life will look. Then, as time goes on, we realize our lives are shaped and molded into something very different than we expected. Say yes to job opportunities that are not in the dance field! It will help you step outside of what you know, and it will inform your dance work in a new way. Say yes to auditions, workshops, classes in areas you’ve never studied before.

4. No one comes directly out of college knowing their place in the world. This takes time to discover, and that takes experience and working with others. It takes being placed in difficult situations and figuring out how you are going to handle it. It takes being asked questions you’ve never been asked before, and walking into situations that are foreign to you. Little by little, a clearer image of who you are, what you’re capable of, and how to show the world these new-found strengths will fall into place.

5. Give life time to do its work. Your degree will only do so much out in the world. What matters now, is how you put that degree to work. Be a go-getter and don’t give up when things get tough, because – trust me – they will get tough. Practice patience (and not stress), and keep trying.

6. Create a flexible life. This means, if you must sign a lease, sign one where the room can be subletted. This way, should you need to up and leave when you get that audition for a job that is sending you to Europe, nothing is holding you back! Try not to put things into your life that will hold you down financially, physically, emotionally. Save money every time you get the chance.

7. Become very familiar with planning and scheduling. The dance life is multitasking to the extreme! Learn how to market yourself and your strengths, and then how to schedule them. In the dance world, we have to know where we will be and when and for how long and for how much. We have to know what paychecks will carry us through until the next job comes in, and so on. We are expert planners. Figure out a system that works for you!

8. Collect skills. Learn other important skills, like how to write a press release, or how to HTML code! Learn how to edit music or put together videos. These are important skills that dancers need in order to reach audiences about their works. Become a stronger dancer by adding to your skill set. This will make you more valuable to dance companies (where we have to play multiple roles other than “dancer.”)

9. Enjoy it. This is the life you’ve been studying for, rehearsing for, grand pliĆ©-ing for! Now is the time to go out there and make a difference. Build the life you’ve always wanted, but give it time to develop. And enjoy every single moment of it. The ups and downs. The times when life is full of people and greatness, and the times when you will feel very, very alone.


And most of all, happy dancing, happy living.

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