"Why Are Professional Dancers So.... ???"
What do the Paris Writers' Retreat, the National Speakers' Association, the American Marketing Association, the World Economic Forum, and the American Medical Association have in common? Okay, I won't make you sweat; I'll tell you. They all provide annual conferences, seminars, and/or workshops for some of the top writers, speakers, marketers, business and financial executives, and doctors in the world. Many of these persons are; at the tops of their games, making six-figures annually (not all starting with a 1), and, "living the good life". Yet, they still find it necessary, and even enjoyable, to attend events that will; make them better, teach them more, improve their businesses, and, enhance their lives.
Why is it not the same with dancers?
I have been a fairly successful dancer, dance coach, choreographer, and theatre director for many years. I have enjoyed being at the top of my game and often living the good life (even though I never came anywhere close to an annual six-figure income). Several years ago, I took a group of students to an Argentine Tango congress in Houston because I wanted them to experience learning from 3 of whom I considered to be among the top maestros in the dance. About a year later, I was honored to be the only non-Argentine instructor invited to teach at a tango dance camp. During one of the dinners, I overheard the organizer telling someone how good she thought I was, which, really, honestly did not swell my head. *pregnant pause; exasperated sigh* Yeah, well, maybe a wee, wee bit.
What followed, I was quite interested in, however. She went on to say that what had made such a grand impression on her was that, even though I was an already well known teacher of Argentine Tango, I was in a Beginners' class... just dancing right along-side my students. I hadn't thought anything of it. I had done it many times before.I have never been too proud or egotistical, arrogant or superior, to jump into another teacher's class when it was apropos to do so.
Why is this not the norm with dancers in general, and pros in particular?
Though a problem with dancers in general, this writing is about the professional. More often than not, teachers become very familiar with the concept of coachings, workshops, and competitions as means of bettering their crafts. Many travel across countries and continents to train. At points in their careers, some set out to become independent teachers, competition champions, and studio owners. It is at this point that a strange phenomenon occurs. Many are heard to say things like, "I already know what I need to know", "I don't want 'my' students taking from other teachers", "I can't let my students see me taking a class or workshop. It won't look good". "I don't need lessons any longer".
What is it that makes the dance pro so different from the writer, business exec, and surgeon?
What is it that makes these other highly successful people continue to seek out information and activities that will make them and their businesses better, and why do so many dance pros not have it?
What is that makes dancers feel that they are less if they seek to become more?
Why do so many pros feel awkward attending seminars and workshops that could potentially enhance them and their studios? Would a patient not more admire a doctor who sought a higher opinion? Would a student not more admire a pro who is consistently seeking to improve and/or provide a bigger, better, and updated service? All of the professionals in the aforementioned professions consistently strive to better themselves. They do not seem to have the same kinds of egos or complexes that dance professionals do.
My mother always taught that no matter how good I became, or how much I knew, that what I wouldn't know, "... would be enough to make a whole new world." I do know several pros who are not afraid, intimidated, or simply otherwise opposed to learning and/or experiencing new things. It has always appeared to me that, in the end, these were the most well-rounded, most successful, and most happy.
I guess it all comes down to why one becomes a dance pro. Is it for the dance (the art), the career, the business, ...the glamour? Perhaps, the answer is that, regardless, we dancers are artists, and artists tend to be more vigilant and protective of our arts because we cannot be separated from them. But then, that brings to mind two quotes by teachers of the arts.....
"The greatest difference between the amateur and the master is that the amateur cannot wait to become a master, but the master knows that he is forever an amateur" -
Percell St. Thomass, Creator / Director, DanceKinesis, and
"As an artist, if you ever stop learning, you will cease to be an artist". -
Walter Emerson, Founder of Fine Art Programs, SMU, Dallas.