As a dance student I have on a numerous occasions been asked 'what do you all do all day?' People find it hard to comprehend what we 'do' - the common misconception being that a dance degree is a pretty easy thing to do. That we spend all day 'dancing about' like big kids.
ha ha ha is what I have to say to that. Pretty easy, not really. Pretty intense? Erm, yes.
Last friday I left my house at eight am and returned at eight pm. I probably clocked more hours in one day that and average uni student does in a week. (ok, a bit unfair to uni students and I don't do that everyday, but you get the idea). And first year is the 'easy' year.
A dance degree can take a bit of getting used to. Often people have moved away from home for the first time, and perhaps have the idea that it will be a whale of a time with parties every night. Of course we have our parties, no have no fear about that one, but the volume of work takes a bit of getting used to.
Often, (I'm talking personally of course) it feels like there is a constant list of things to do and never enough time. This is due to a number of different things.
For one dance/choreography/movement is a time consuming process. Time to create movement. Time to develop it. To teach it to a group. To rehearse it. And when choreography assessments come around (ours are next week) you may be doing that process with up to three different groups. It takes a lot of organizing, and compromise.
Then there is the physical nature of dance. There is always. And I do actually mean always, something to practice, some strengthening exercises to do, some stretching exercises to do, some breathing exercises to do etc etc. It takes a long time to get movement into the bodies muscle memory, so you have to do it right a lot of times.
On top of this is the theoretical side, which is I personally feel is very important, and easy to over look. For example gaining knowledge of the body by reading about anatomy and muscles, learning about historical aspects of contemporary dance culture, finding books to help your problem areas such as book with breathing exercises or finishing an essay.
Not to mention the fact of developing yourself as an artist - (finding the time to) watch videos from different choreographers/companies, going to see live performances, visiting art galleries, events, being aware of whats going on creatively or just having time to be creative for yourself.
And of course, on top of the physical, theoretical and creative work from school there is that big one - life.
I recently got fired from my job as a waitress because i couldn't do enough hours - only friday and saturday nights (I try to keep the weekend days free because of rehearsals for assessments and such like). I don't particularly want to get another job, as the 'free' time has been enjoyable..but I need the money to buy tickets for those live performances I want to see, further my dance experience in the holidays or simply pay my gas bill. Its a constant juggling act for us all.
But of course I wouldn't change it in the slightest. And I actually think its quite important that dance schools work students like this, because when we leave its not going to get any easier. All of my friends who work as professional dancers, in NYC, Berlin or England, manage lots of projects, with little time and not much money. Its the nature of dance.
A dance degree isn't just a degree. Its a life style.