This one goes out to all the skeptics of successful artists. We are not myths. We are not lesser than. We are just as professional as you. We are just as career-oriented as you.
Uncomfortable and unacceptable interactions surrounding the topic of ‘dance as a major’ mostly come up when I introduce myself.
Dismissively, “do you have classes for that?”
With glassed over eyes and a pitiful attempt to look interested, “thats so great that you’re pursuing your passion.”
Most large men go straight to, “you must be really flexible.”
What’s even more interesting is that I can feel the attitude visibly shift when I decide to integrate my dual-degree status and STEM pursuits. These reactions are indicative of a gross misunderstanding of the arts and what it means to be successful. By insulting those attaining a higher education in the arts, you are only confirming your own ignorance to the matter. Careers aren’t limited to doctors and lawyers, just like college education isn’t limited to lecture halls and lab sections.
Despite popular belief, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance has requirements. We have to fulfill a large distribution of technique credits, complete a composition class series geared towards choreographic development, and participate in large scale productions for repertory credit. We have anatomy, kinesiology, and body somatic courses to supplement our working knowledge of our own bodies’ mechanics. We learn how to produce and present artistic work, alongside figuring out how to propagate that knowledge through pedagogical training. We take regular classes in English, music, theater, art history, and dance history to understand the robustness the world of art has to offer. We are constantly in late night rehearsals that lie outside of the enforced degree requirements because we are taught to always be making and finding and performing. If that already wasn’t enough, most every student in the Department of Dance is interdisciplinary who actively seeks out all the resources that the University of Michigan has to offer—whether that be another minor, major, or degree altogether.
We turn in papers and take exams just like the conventional college student. But unlike the accepted norm, we are asked to reveal the deepest parts of ourselves and not only put them on display, but make them available for criticism. It’s all a part of the job: to embody human experience and be a vessel for communication through a kinesthetic medium.
I implore whoever reads this to spread the word. This is not a slap on the wrist, this is a call to action. Reshaping what it means to have an education in the arts is going to require change from the ground up. Respect your peers and never underestimate the power of art.
Sometimes I question how people would look at me if I weren’t getting a dual-degree. Its almost as if microbiology coursework legitimizes my place here as a serious Michigan student, and dance stands in as an outstanding extracurricular.
(Image credit: Derek Crandall)