Focus on Freelance: The Best Advice I Ever Received
The most valuable kind of advice will help to guide you through life’s challenging moments. As a freelance dancer, hurdles loom around many corners, but in the course of my career, I’ve collected a few words of wisdom that I turn to whenever I get overwhelmed. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of advice:
Focus on one correction at a time When I first moved to NYC to study at Joffrey Ballet School, I had a hard time adjusting to the technique after spending years studying the Vaganova method. I felt overwhelmed by all the adjustments I had to make until one of my teachers, Eleanor D'Antuono, told us that while it is important to listen to corrections, we should "pick one thing each class to focus on." Her advice was liberating because I no longer felt like I was spreading myself too thin by trying to perfect everything at once. Today, I still use this method in class. Whether I’m challenging my mind to pick up choreography faster, stretching my extensions, or perfecting my port de bras, recalling Ms. D'Antuono’s tip has made it possible for me to hone in on one crucial detail at a time until it becomes part of my muscle memory and my brain is free to give its full attention to the next thing.
Put your goals in writing Years ago, when I started an internship at Broadway Dance Center, the school’s then-owner, Allison Ellner, asked each intern to write letters to ourselves about our career goals and what we hoped to learn over the course of the internship. At the end of the six-month program, she returned our letters. As soon as I read mine, I could see how much I’d grown. Many of my goals had changed completely as a result of all I’d learned about the commercial dance world since I started my internship. I’d accomplished some of my goals, like learning new genres of dance and landing an agent, but other goals had changed completely. When I wrote my letter, I was anxious to see the world but I thought that the only way to do so, outside of joining a ballet company, would be to tour with a cruise ship. However, by the time I got through the program, I’d learned that there was a wide variety of jobs for dancers that require travel and I concluded that going on tour with a musical artist would better suit my personal style, so that became my new ambition. Reflecting on my original goals helped me to refocus and create a new set of goals that more accurately reflected what I hoped to get out of my career going forward. I still use this technique periodically to make sure that my career is always moving in the direction that I desire.
Remember that you’re an athlete and treat your body accordingly For most of my career, I’ve avoided any major injuries and I didn’t think I had to work very hard to keep it that way. I’d always thought of physical therapy and massages as frivolous luxuries and preferred to spend my money on training. However, two years ago, I injured my neck in a show and the pain kept creeping back just when I thought it had passed. I attempted to treat the injury with extra stretching and hot showers, but my efforts didn’t help much. The pain continued on and off for more than a year until my friend Kiva convinced me to try physical therapy. The lessons I’ve learned in the sessions with my physical therapist have helped me to heal and perform in ways that I never would have been able to on my own.
So, now that you’ve heard some of my advice, I want to hear yours. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Share your words of wisdom on Dance Spirit’s Twitter and Facebook pages!
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?