Every day at college, we have advice handed to us:

‘You have to love dance to stick at it’, ‘You don’t have to love dancing every day of the week, it’s just a job, people have this ‘passion complex’ as dancers, that I don’t invest in’, ‘Show me your passion, that’s what people look for’, ‘You know what you should be doing to improve and be successful, why don’t you do it?’, ‘Being a dancer isn’t about pushing and pushing yourself until you break, it’s about doing what’s healthy for your body and your mind’…

Recently I’ve found myself receiving more advice than usual, and it can all get very confusing, who is more worthy of listening to? Who is ‘right’? What should I be doing? Every time I have a free period at school, I question myself: should I be going to the gym? Aerobics? Weights? Pilates? Stretching? Improvising? In the library? Eating? Resting at home? As I move deeper and deeper into my training, I’m now almost half way through my three years at Northern, things seem to be becoming more important in all directions.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re drowning in deadlines and assessments and feedback, particularly feedback for me this term. I’ve never been a particularly confident swimmer, but when I can keep my head above the water and breathe, it’s possible to float above it all and enjoy the ride. When recently asked why I love improvisation so much, I answered that I feel free, connected and alive all at once- and that’s the feeling that I dance for in general. Finding these moments in a technique class where you have 101 things in your brain- about where your head should be, if your knees should be straight, if your abs are engaged, if you’re facing the right way- can be difficult, but when I remember to keep swimming it can feel incredible.

Once you’re past the honeymoon period, the intensity of training can become a challenge, it ebbs and flows and the water is never smooth for long. But I can always find space to find moments when it’s possible to float and let the river carry me. With assessment never seeming to cease this year, I’m taking the opportunity to remind myself that this journey is as much about creativity and development as attainment, more in fact. The fact that I can see how much I and my friends and my year have grown week by week as people as well as dancers makes me feel like I can swim forever.

Going forward, this is my quote for the year, and I’m hoping it’s going to see me down the river, so that come summer, I can float in the sea:

‘And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling. “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important”‘- Iain Thomas.


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