Norwegian National Ballet Soloist Whitney Jensen Shares Why She Decided to Start Over
The first time I performed a solo, I was 6. It was at a competition, and after I danced, I remember hearing the judges and friends of mine say that I made them cry. Sidenote: I had been mouthing the lyrics from The Hunchback of Notre Dame's "God Help the Outcasts" while dancing, and those lyrics could make anyone cry. But I do think I touched those people because I sincerely felt what I was trying to express.
Jensen and Matthew Golding in "Swan Lake." Photo courtesy of Jensen.
I grew up with very supportive parents who would remind me and my sisters that dance is a tool that we could use to spread light to people, to make them feel something.
As you grow as a professional, ego, expectations and jealousy are bound to come into play. I began dancing to "prove" something—that I deserved the promotion or to be cast. This state of mind took away from being my best. I danced with more aggression than confidence, and I noticed that I didn't enjoy it at all. It became work, and the pure joy of movement that I once had was gone.
After almost two years of feeling this way, I knew I needed to make a change. I made an active decision to start over and revisit the approach I took when I first started dancing. I began to allow myself to be inspired by other talent around me and found that I no longer was dancing to prove anything.
Jensen and Garrett Smith in Jirí Kylián's "Tiger Lily." Photo courtesy of Jensen.
Today, when I am performing, I feel the most incredible sense of peace and I crave the ability it gives me to just be present. But the most rewarding thing to hear after a performance is that I made someone feel something. That for them, it was a memorable experience. The audience may not always remember or even care how many turns you did or how high you jumped or how flexible you were, but I do know they will remember if you moved them.
Social media has made the dance world a lot smaller, giving users instant access to artists and companies around the world. For aspiring pros, platforms like Instagram can offer a tantalizing glimpse into the life of a working performer. But there's a fine line between taking advantage of what social media can offer and relying too heavily on it.
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
On August 19, 1929, shockwaves were felt throughout the dance world as news spread that impresario Sergei Diaghilev had died. The founder of the Ballets Russes rewrote the course of ballet history as the company toured Europe and the U.S., championing collaborations with modernist composers, artists and designers such as Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel. The company launched the careers of its five principal choreographers: Michel Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine.