In college, your major is one of the first things people want to know about you. Are you a math whiz or a biology brainiac? A future lawyer or doctor? But for dancers, sharing your area of study can come with a demeaning smirk, or frustrating comments like, "That must be so easy."
This dismissive reaction usually comes from a place of ignorance. The person likely doesn't understand all of the physical and mental demands of being a dance major; they're only judging based off of their assumptions. Don't let their comments get to you—instead, use them as a teaching opportunity.
How to Respond
When someone belittles your major, you've got a few options:
Educate them. Alexa Fahs, a junior at DeSales University, responds by informing people about the realities of studying dance. "It's just an issue of being misinformed," she says. Take the time to share how dance is both an intellectual and a physical pursuit.
Invite them to take a class. Encouraging someone to enroll in a dance appreciation course or experience a ballet class firsthand can help them better understand the grueling nature of being a dancer.
Laugh it off. Sometimes brushing it off with a chuckle is the easiest thing to do, says Alexandra "Ola" Tarnowski, a Butler University alumna who now dances with Ballet Theatre of Indiana. As long as you're confident in your decision to pursue a dance degree, it shouldn't matter what other people think.
Dealing With Doubt
It's natural to question your major when people criticize it. Mikayla Batts, a senior studying dance at Montclair State University, knew the stigma surrounding dance majors even before she got to college. But during her freshman year, fielding comments about the worthiness and practicality of a dance degree sometimes made her wonder if she chose the right path. "I had to really think back to what I love and what I do, which is what I want to do for the rest of my life," she says. Batts used the opportunity to remind herself why she fell in love with dance in the first place. "There are going to be people who doubt you, who think you can't do it, who have this stigma toward dance. You just have to push through that."
If It's Getting to You…
1. Remember your "why." Reflect on the reason you originally became a dance major. Take time to think about your aspirations and how a dance degree can help you accomplish them.
2. Surround yourself with positivity. Spend time with people who support your dreams. Fellow dancers can sympathize and offer helpful advice. If you find that the negativity is consistently coming from the same person, it may be time to distance yourself.
3. Look at reality. Pursuing a dance degree is not an easy A. You have hours of rehearsals and performances on top of your regular academic classes. Give yourself some kudos for all the demands you juggle.
4. Share your struggles. Verbalizing your doubts with peers or professors can help you work through your feelings. Your instructors can offer practical advice and you might find that some of your friends are experiencing the same challenges.