In the dance world exposure is everything; what teachers you take from, styles you train in, opportunities you choose, venues you perform at; all of this molds you into the mover you are right now. But what if these experiences were only based in one area? What if all you knew only came from one system of learning? Does that devalue the education and training you receive? Does that truly make you a versatile performer?
That is what we are here to discuss… traveling in the arts. While it is accessible and widely considered by dancers, it is many of times overlooked and underprioritized. So many artists stay in one area their entire career, and while that may be sufficient to them I always think to myself, There has to be more. And fact of the matter is, THERE IS MORE! So much more! When you start dancing at a young age and remain training in that location till your late teen years, you are trained to think that what you have learned is the same in every city in the Western world. Truth is… its not. While western culture dance is predominantly ballet- and modern-based, the way of teaching dance, how dance is presented, and the way the community accepts dance varies greatly.
For example, I am from northeast Ohio, born and raised. I began studying dance at a young age in Ohio, furthered my dance education in Ohio, and performed predominantly in Ohio. Two years ago, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and study abroad in Thailand. Go big or go home, am I right?! Myself and 7 other dancers were fortunate enough to take class, explore the culture, and even have our performance televised. The entire experience was eye opening, to say the least. To see a culture value dance and accept it with open arms was heart-warming. Each movement of Thai classical dance is symbolic and essential in the art form, something I had never really thought about for dance in the western world. After this experience, I wanted to see more, but more of how dance was different in the United States. I began taking classes in Chicago, New York City, Portland, Seattle; branching out to areas where I had never expected dance to be widely accessible.
Experiencing different ideologies of dance, methods of teaching, and quality of movement is what helps a dancer become an artist. These understandings provoke thought behind movement and make the dancer ask the questions of what if and how? Without these questions the art form becomes complacent and monotonous, and eventually strays away from the definition of what art truly is… expression. My advice to the next generation of movers is GET OUT! See the world and how dance impacts various cultures. Whether that be beyond state lines or sailing over the Pacific, see what dance means to others outside your normal cohort. Believe me when I say, it will not only open your eyes to the world of dance, but influence your growth as an individual.