Dancer: Maggie Carey
Photo by: Geek With a Lens

So I have seen this list going around the internet for the past few years and I thought how, with few tweaks, it would be perfect for dance, or life in general for that matter.   We have a saying in dance that goes, ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ Talent counts for a lot, but it’s not everything.

1. Being prompt and prepared. You should arrive at least 15 minutes early for class or rehearsal.  Being on time is essential and that’s not just what time you arrive at the studio.  That’s getting in the classroom before you’ve been called, getting out the barres, warming yourself up and calming your mind so it can focus on what it’s about to do.  It’s about making sure you have what you need in your dance bag including shoes, snacks, water, band aids, etc. It’s being in dress code and/or having all parts of your costume.  It’s looking neat and professional from head to foot.  It’s leaving the outside world at the door and bringing all of yourself into class, rehearsal and performance every day.

2. Work Ethic. Students need to put forth 100% effort into everything they do: retaining corrections, learning combinations and executing them full out. Be willing to push yourself beyond what is comfortable and strive for greatness.  A few years ago I had students tell me, ‘Well you know Meghan; she’s just good.’  I answered, ‘She’s not just good.  When I gave her a correction about her pirouette, she went to the back and did it over and over again.  It must have been about 50 times.  Can you remember the last time you did a correction 50 times?  Do you think maybe that’s why she’s good?’ You cannot expect results if you aren’t willing to put in the work it takes to achieve them.

3. Body Language. Dancers must be able to control their bodies at all times.  You must stand in a respectful way with good posture, never leaning on the barre or walls.  You should never put your hands on your hips or cross your arms.  You should never yawn in class.  You should stand straight and proud, nod your head to let the teacher know you understand or raise your hand and ask your questions respectfully if you don’t.  Also, watch your face.  Some people have a resting face that can be to their determent.  Make sure you always keep a pleasant look on your face.  Remember people only have a few minutes in an audition to decide if they’d like to work with you or not and their impression of you starts before you even perform the first combination.

4. Passion and drive. Every day you need to strive to be better than you were the day before, whatever that means to you.  It could mean balancing longer or trying for one more pirouette or getting your leg a millimeter higher than it was yesterday.  You have to love what you’re doing. Students need to go beyond just the steps given and consistently ‘dance’ the combinations and exercises given with passion, style, and versatility. There will be days when you’re sore and tired or not feeling well and those are the days when you need to remember what you’re striving towards.  How badly do you want it?  There’s this wonderful video that I came across that describes this perfectly and it can be found Here.

5. Doing the extras without being asked. Being helpful.  Being kind. Befriending the younger students. Asking to understudy a part you wanted and giving it your all.  Cross training to develop skills you lack such as taking yoga if flexibility is your struggle.  Fueling your body properly.  Going with both groups and across the floor more than once.  Dancing full out even when you’re told you can mark. Staying after class and working on your own.  Going over your choreography before your rehearsal.  Keeping a notebook and looking over your corrections from the last class or rehearsal before the next.

6. Being coachable. Give each teacher exactly what they ask for when they ask for it.  If you are introduced to a new way of doing things, try it and give it everything you’ve got.  Don’t give a bad attitude or cry when you get corrected.  Don’t complain in the dressing room of a teacher picking on you or not giving you your due.  Remember you’re not perfect and that your teacher’s goals are the same as yours, to make you into the best dancer you can be.

7. Having a good attitude.  Your state of mind is everything. It makes the environment you work in more productive and positive, not just for yourself, but for everyone around you too.  It can affect your outcomes in so many ways that science still can’t completely explain yet.  Mind over matter is a real thing. If you think you can’t do something, quite literally, you won’t.   If you believe in yourself and your art form and come in to work with positivity, the sky’s the limit.