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What To Do If You Start Second-Guessing Your Dance Degree

The start of a college dance program can be filled with excitement. But when the novelty wears off and the workload grows, doubts can begin to creep in. Am I good enough to make it as a dance major? Is a dance degree worth it? Is this really what I want to do with my life?

Know that questioning your career path is a totally normal part of college life, says Merry Lynn Morris, assistant director of the dance program at the University of South Florida. "It actually can be very beneficial," she says. Instead of panicking, put your second guessing to use.


What to Do

If your thoughts are racing, calm them by developing an action plan.

Figure out the root of your doubts. Are you questioning your decision because you're worried about being financially stable or is it because you're afraid you don't have what it takes to succeed? Drilling down to the source of your second guessing can help you tackle it head-on, and figure out whether or not your major is really at the root of the problem.

Make a list of reasons you dance. Morris recommends this exercise to all of her students. Put down in writing what draws you to dance and what fulfillment or value you get out of it. Once your list is complete, reflect on how important each of these things is to you and how you would feel without it.

Ask for a faculty member's opinion. If you're unsure whether you have what it takes to get hired professionally, have an honest conversation with a trusted professor, suggests Sarah Wroth, co-chair of the department of ballet at Indiana University. Although it can be intimidating, faculty can point out your strengths and help you set realistic career goals.

Make time for what you love. It can be easy to get bogged down in your routine: class, rehearsal, studying, exams. Sometimes, second guessing arises when you forget what you love about dance in the first place. For Toni Blockburger, a senior studying dance education at Montclair State University, this meant carving out alone time in the studio to get lost in improv. "Once you get into the studio by yourself, you don't really worry about anyone else," she says.

Take it day by day. While it's good to think ahead, trying to carefully plan out your life four years from now can fuel stress. Blockburger found that taking college life one day at a time not only reduced her doubt, but it also helped her find more joy in her regular routine.

Toni Blockburger presses a hand against her thigh as her leg rises in a high battement side on relev\u00e9, the opposite arm flying over head as she looks past her extended foot.

Toni Blockburger

Robert Cooper, Courtesy Blockburger

Don't Give Up Too Soon

Many dancers find themselves doubting their degree during freshman year in particular, says Sarah Wroth, co-chair of the department of ballet at Indiana University. Be patient: Don't give up before you've given yourself a change to adjust—and grow.

When to Reconsider

Part of this questioning process is being honest when things aren't right. Wroth recommends asking yourself these questions:

1. Is dance making me unhappy or unhealthy?

2. Do I dread going to dance class every day?

3. Am I uninterested in receiving corrections and growing from them?

4. Has dance stopped making me a better person?

If the answer to any or all of these is "yes," it might be time to talk to an advisor about switching majors. Remember, even if you choose not to major in dance, you can still find ways to make it a part of your life, whether as a minor or a hobby.

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This concept is the throughline of the curriculum at American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where dance students spend all four years honing their audition skills.

"You're always auditioning," says Santana Trujillo, AMDA's dance outreach manager and a graduate of its BFA program. On campus in Los Angeles and New York City, students have access to dozens of audition opportunities every semester.

For advice on how dancers can put their best foot forward at professional auditions, Dance Magazine recently spoke with Trujillo, as well as AMDA faculty members Michelle Elkin and Genevieve Carson. Catch the whole conversation below, and read on for highlights.

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July 2021