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Six Ways to Get Better at Getting Rejected
Allison Beler has auditioned for the Radio City Rockettes more than a dozen times. In 2014, she made it all the way through the final round. "I was waiting on a phone call for a job," she says. The call didn't come.
Rejection is inevitable in dance. But it still hurts. Beler, 31, says she's toughened as she's gotten older, but she still calls her mom and cries as soon as she steps onto the street after being cut.
Your ability to recover from rejection may strengthen with experience, but according to Joel Minden, a clinical psychologist and former ballroom dancer who works with dancers in Chico, California, it's also a skill that can be cultivated.
Avoid "The Three P's"
Pay attention to how you explain a rejection to yourself, Minden says. Watch out for what psychologists call "the three P's": Does it feel personal, permanent or pervasive? "Personal would be, 'I just don't have what it takes to dance at a high level,' " he says, "rather than externalizing the reason and saying, 'The people who rejected me are looking for something else.' " Thinking the situation is permanent means telling yourself you'll never be good enough. And pervasive means thinking it's not an isolated setback but an issue that extends to other areas of dance.
Pay attention to your reasoning, especially if after you land a role you're likely to say you got lucky, rather than acknowledging you're a good dancer who worked hard. The idea that every failure is personal and every success is thanks to external factors isn't just unproductive, it's highly unlikely to be true.
Look at the Evidence
An LA Dance Project audition. Photo by Kyle Froman
If you're telling yourself you didn't make the cut because you're a lousy dancer, look at the data, Minden suggests. What evidence is there that you're a bad dancer? What about evidence that you're a good dancer? Consider the feedback you get from teachers or directors, and whether you're working to constantly improve.
If you're devastated after being rejected—or if your fear of rejection threatens to derail an audition before it begins—remind yourself there's a world outside of this experience. Amanda Lenox, a counselor who works with dancers in New York, suggests asking yourself questions like: What's for dinner? What are you going to wear tomorrow? "Take your mind outside of what's happening in the present," Lenox says. The idea isn't to hide from your feelings—it's to get a little distance until you're ready to address them.
Find Positivity and Productivity
A cattle call for the national tour of A Chorus Line. Photo by Rachel Papo
After a tough audition, Beler sometimes takes herself out to lunch as a treat. Other times, she heads straight to class. "I want to remind myself I belong in this world," she says. "After a two-hour ballet class, I feel like a million bucks. I know I worked on my technique and bettering myself today."
Doing something to make you feel happy or accomplished—or both—can help shake off the funk of rejection. That could mean using your frustration to fuel your dancing, but if you're not ready to take class right away, don't force it. "If you beat yourself up, it's going to prolong the process of healing," Lenox says. "Choose an activity that will make you feel good."
Fake It Till You Feel it
Auditioning for Brian Brooks. Photo by Jim Lafferty
In dark moments, you may feel like you don't want to dance anymore. Even if that's true, you don't want to make a heat-of-the-moment decision. Remember that emotions are temporary, and that you don't have to let them dictate your behavior. Instead, think about your values, Minden says. If you still love dancing and you know that this latest rejection is just a setback along the way to something you want, you can choose to keep dancing, even if you are upset: "I don't feel like doing it right now, but I'm going to keep at it." Let your thoughts and emotions be authentic—if you're bummed out, let yourself feel bummed out. But you can behave however you want, and that may change how you feel.
Love the Process
The Rockettes. Photo by Rachel Papo
Remind yourself that dance is a journey. Work on a process-oriented outlook: "I'll just keep at it and try to make little improvements every day." Minden says, "Get feedback. Figure out what's going to help you take that next step."
Beler says she won't stop auditioning until she has to. "It's that fire within me that says I'm going to keep striving for this dream until it's physically impossible or until I get a piece of feedback that tells me, 'It's time. You need to be done with this,' " she says. "Dancing like a Rockette and seeing myself looking like a Rockette keep me going back."
Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.
An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.
"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."
The latest fitness fad has us literally buzzing. Vibrating tools—and exercise classes—promise added benefits to your typical workout and recovery routine, and they're only growing more popular.
Warning: These good vibrations don't come cheap.
Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:
If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.
The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.
Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:
I always knew my ballet career would eventually end. It was implied from the very start that at some point I would be too old and decrepit to take morning ballet class, followed by six hours of intense rehearsals.
What I never imagined was that I would experience a time when I couldn't walk at all.
In rehearsal for Nutcracker in 2013, I slipped while pushing off for a fouetté sauté, instantly rupturing the ACL in my right knee. In that moment my dance life flashed before my eyes.
My life is in complete chaos since my dance company disbanded. I have a day job, so money isn't the issue. It's the loss of my world that stings the most. What can I do?
—Lost Career, Washington, DC
Dance Theatre of Harlem is busy preparing for the company's Vision Gala on April 4. The works on the program, which takes place on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and his impact on company founder Arthur Mitchell. Among them is the much-anticipated revival of legendary choreographer Geoffrey Holder's Dougla, which will include live music and dancers from Collage Dance Collective.
We stepped into the studio with Holder's wife Carmen de Lavallade and son Leo Holder to hear what it feels like to keep Holder's legacy alive and what de Lavallade thinks of the recent rise in kids standing up against the government—as she did not too long ago.
The encounter with man-eating female creatures in Jerome Robbins' The Cage never fails to shock audiences. As this tribe of insects initiates the newly-born Novice into their community and prepares her for the attack of the male Intruders, the ballet draws us into a world of survival and instinct.
This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins' birth, and a number of Robbins programs are celebrating his timeless repertoire. But it especially feels like a prime moment to experience The Cage again. Several companies are performing it: San Francisco Ballet begins performances on March 20, followed by the English National Ballet in April and New York City Ballet in May.
Why it matters: In this time of female empowerment—as women are supporting one another in vocalizing injustices, demanding fair treatment and pay, and advocating for future generations—The Cage's nest of dominant women have new significance.
Stephen Petronio brings a bracing season to New York City's Joyce Theater, where he has performed almost every year for 24 years . His work is exciting to the subscription audience as well as to many dance artists. He delves into movement invention at the same time as creating complex postmodern forms. The new work, Hardness 10, is his third collaboration with composer Nico Muhly. The costumes are by Patricia Field ARTFASHION, hand-painted by Iris Bonner/These Pink Lips. Petronio's work still practically defines the word contemporary.
Stephen Petronio Company also continues with its Bloodlines series. That's where he pays homage to landmark works of the past that have influenced his own edgy aesthetics. This season he's chosen Merce Cunningham's playful trio Signals (1970), which will be performed with live music from Composers Inside Electronics.
Completing the program is an excerpt from Petronio's Underland (2003), with music by Nick Cave. Video footage courtesy of Stephen Petronio Company, filmed by Blake Martin.
Never did I think I'd see the day when I'd outgrow dance. Sure, I knew my life would have to evolve. In fact, my dance career had already taken me through seasons of being a performer, a choreographer, a business owner and even a dance professor. Evolution was a given. Evolving past dancing for a living, however, was not.
Transitioning from a dance career involved just as much of a process as building one did. But after I overcame the initial identity crisis, I realized that my dance career had helped me develop strengths that could be put to use in other careers. For instance, my work as a dance professor allowed me to discover my knack for connecting with students and helping them with their careers, skills that ultimately opened the door for a pivot into college career services.
Here's how five dance skills can land you a new job—and help you thrive in it:
When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.
"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."