Welcome to the NEW YAGP Blog! As part of our ongoing mission to ensure the future of dance by educating the next generation of dance artists and audiences, we are thrilled to offer this blog as another resource for you to utilize in your dance education. In addition, we hope that this blog will encourage an open dialogue and provide a space for you – the students, teachers, and parents – to interact with one another and share your own experiences.
Throughout the season, we’ll be bringing together the tips, tools, and topics you care about most to help support and inspire you along your journey, including:
|Training & Career Guidance||Advice for Students, Teachers, & Parents|
|Health & Wellness||Preparing for Your First Competition|
|Profiles of YAGP jury members, partner schools, & alumni||Tips on Costumes, Auditions, & more!|
Because this blog is made for you, we want to hear from you!
We encourage you to comment below with the specific questions or topics you would like to hear about in this space and in our Ask the Expert series. We’ll be reading them all to help us better serve readers like you.
- Do you have any questions for YAGP Founder and Artistic Director, Larissa Saveliev, or for our jury?
- Which school, alumni, or teacher profiles would you like to see featured?
- Teachers, which topics would you find most helpful for you, your school, and your students to have a productive and rewarding year?
- Parents, are there any particular areas of advice you are looking for in helping your child navigate their training and a potential career in dance?
Any other requests? Please feel free to let us know below, or via email, and be sure to share this post with others! We can’t wait to hear from you.
As we gather your responses and plan for future blog posts, we offer below a few tips for students to help make this your best year yet. Whatever your circumstances may be, planning ahead and maintaining perspective can be the key in managing your time, training, and well-being as you head into the business of the fall season. Read on!
#1 – Inspiration, not comparison.
We’ve all heard that comparison is the thief of joy, yet in dance this might be especially true. While comparing yourself to the dancer next to you at barre is only natural, and the very process of dance training can mean constantly evaluating yourself against the progress of your peers for years on end, try channeling your energy into motivation rather than comparison. After all, our perspective can often be skewed based on what each of us views as desirable in another dancer. The friend with the gorgeous feet? She might actually be struggling with injuries and has to work extra hard to build more strength and stability. Or the one with the brilliant jumps? He may wish he were more flexible and better at adagio.
The point is, all of us fall prey to the comparison game from time to time, but it is important to keep in mind the unique attributes that make you, you. The beauty of dance is that it is a subjective artform: one size need not fit all. Healthy competition can be a good thing in doses, and we can learn from one another in so many different ways through observation alone. At the same time, just be sure to keep any overly-negative inner critics at bay. Use class as an opportunity to soak in as much inspiration as possible from those around you, and remember that you might very well be providing that same motivation for someone else.
#2 – Remember, your journey is unique to you.
Just as there are no two dancers completely alike, no two training journeys are the same—and there is no single path to success as a dancer. Perhaps you are feeling a bit left behind after a close friend was promoted to the next level or offered a year-round place at his or her dream school, or you are unsure whether it is time to attend a pre-professional program away from home. Maybe you are a late starter and are worried about having to audition for companies in only a few short years. Or what if you are hearing conflicting advice – stay local to improve your foundation, join a company school as soon as possible, attend multiple competitions for exposure, focus only on your training this year – and aren’t sure what applies to your specific case?
A trusted teacher can, and should, help guide you through these decisions throughout your training. Annual parent-teacher conferences are a wonderful option for this very purpose, to determine what questions the student or family has for the year, help set appropriate goals, and ensure that student + parents + teacher/school are all on the same page. YAGP has helped guide hundreds of talented dancers in their career decisions over the past 20 years in a very individualized process to help aspiring artists find their ideal match in a school or company. (In fact, you can read more about this “matchmaking” process in this New York Times article here.)
Above all, remember that your career path may look very different from someone else’s based on countless factors that are not always apparent to the outside world. Focus on your own progress, ask for guidance when you need it, and try not to get caught up in the noise of what others are doing. Trust the process, remain patient while working intelligently, and the rest will come as it should.
#3 – When you can, plan, plan, plan.
Time management takes on an entirely different meaning for dancers who must juggle classes and rehearsals, academic schooling, family life, and yes, friends and other personal commitments too. While some thrive on the challenge as naturally ambitious, detail-oriented people (those who might categorize themselves as having a “Type A” personality), others may find the balancing act of it all too stressful to face head on. The key in either scenario? Preparation. Whether or not you consider yourself an organized person by nature, much of the day-to-day hassle and stress can be minimized with a few simple changes to your daily routine. Compounded over months or even years, these small habits can contribute to more positive, effective uses of time, allowing you to better tackle the challenges that come your way, both in life and in dance.
- Pack your dance bag the night before. In the morning, this means no time is wasted hunting for that favorite leo or figuring out what shoes you need that day.
- Prepare a variety of your favorite healthy snacks to have on hand throughout the day, should hunger strike when you’re at school or on the way to dance. This also helps to avoid the chances of grabbing unsatisfying vending machine snacks or junk food in a pinch.
- If you are someone who likes to journal or write things down in a planner, consider jotting down your schedule for the day – or week – the night before. Allow yourself 10-15 minutes to write down any important reminders, to-do notes, or agenda items you want to have handy, but don’t get too caught up in the details. Even shorthand abbreviations or visual cues such as doodles can help jog your memory of an important item later on.
- Sometimes the key to getting it all done is simply finding those small moments wherever you can to check off an item on your list. For instance, if you struggle with completing your homework after a long evening of classes, working on it in smaller chunks (15-30 min before class, on breaks, etc.) can help you finish tasks more efficiently than trying to do it all late at night when your body is demanding sleep.
- Finally, remember that what works for someone else may not work as well for you, and that is okay. Keep making little tweaks here and there, and eventually a natural routine will develop that leaves you feeling confident and ready to take on the day.
While it may take some time and effort to establish workable routines in the beginning, the initial effort will pay off tremendously. The art of time management is an ever-changing challenge for most people, regardless of age or experience, but the peace of mind that comes from having cultivated habits to set yourself up for success is truly priceless.
#4 – Make time for yourself.
It seems that everyone is talking about self-care these days, from celebrities to public figures and professionals in every field. As dancers and teachers, we already have an acute awareness of the demands placed on us every day physically, mentally, emotionally, even psychologically. And the dance world itself is becoming so much more attuned to the need to address mental health and wellness in all areas of our community. This is one of the reasons we were thrilled to speak with Elizabeth Sullivan, Success Coach & Wellness Mentor for Pre-Professional Dancers, in our ongoing Ask the Expert series. Watch Elizabeth’s enlightening conversation here:
However, for most of us, finding time to fit in yet another thing in our busy schedule – even something as important as self-care – can sometimes feel anxiety-inducing and produce its own level of stress when we then worry about not doing enough to take care of ourselves. It is important to remember that self-care looks very different for every single person.
- For some, this means unwinding with a nourishing meal at the end of the day, surrounded by friends or family.
- For others, self-care can look like cross-training, yoga, swimming, or anything that makes you feel stronger and more confident.
- Maybe it is spending time with your pets, being in nature, or seeing a film or live concert.
- Or perhaps it’s even more basic: some Netflix, a relaxing bubble bath, or a cozying up with a hot cup of tea and a good book, all of which can do wonders for our mental state after a hectic day.
Self-care is not only the seemingly small (and, we should add, perfectly normal and healthy) indulgences – though it certainly can be these things. Instead, think of it as an ongoing practice of ensuring a more balanced life and state of well-being to help us become better, more well-rounded, happier people. In other words, the practice of self-care helps us become our best selves. It’s that simple. And the busier we are, the more important it becomes to take time, even just a few minutes each day, to unwind and fuel our body, mind, and spirit in whichever way serves us best. Chances are, you already have an inkling of the practices that help you survive the chaos of Nutcracker season, so why not incorporate them into your routine year-round?
You alone know what works for you. Developing these habits – and making time for yourself – will not only enhance your personal well-being, but your dancing as well. The most successful artists all agree: living a full life outside of dance only enhances their dancing for the better. Rewiring our brains to recognize that self-care and slowing down isn’t detrimental to our training or career (but in fact the exact opposite) isn’t something that happens overnight. But your future self will thank you for having done the challenging, never-ending, vital work of caring for yourself.
Cheers to your best year yet!