The Fine Art of Balancing Dance and Academics

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by Johanna Handyside

As a college graduate, I can appreciate the fine art of time management. However, while my English major afforded me portable practice in the form of text books and The Canterbury Tales shoved into the deepest regions of my backpack, collegiate dancers cannot hone their skills in such tight spaces.

So how can a college dancer keep her head on straight in class and during a pirouette? Lauren Baker, president of the University of Minnesota’ s Student Dance Coalition, shares some tips on how to stay at the head of the class and ahead of the chorus.

Planning Makes Perfect

For those freshmen who think that life just isn’ t busy enough to call for a day planner, wait a year.

Baker, a Bachelor of Fine Arts Dance major with a minor in Journalism and Mass Communications, acknowledges that “since my second year [of college] and the years then after my brain can’t keep track of all of the things I need to do. If I physically see what my schedule looks like for the day, week, etc. I can plan when I can sit down and veg.”

As you progress through college your courses, course loads and an increasing list of extracurriculars will require more and more of your time.

However, having the ability to visualize your day cannot only help you plan time for homework, practice, and social life, but it can even help you be better prepared for the unexpected.

Baker brings up another important point: the importance of making time for you. “A day planner isn’ t just for assignments; it can also help you find time for yourself away from the demands of dance and school. College is a time to push yourself academically and physically, but your body and mind also need time to rest and heal,” she said.

Knowing how to manage your time effectively is a skill that will serve you well both in college and in life and can lead to a happier, healthier you.

Say “Yes” to “No”

College is an opportunity to test new waters and immerse yourself in things that you are passionate about. But while diving right in may be an effective method of experimentation for some, don’ t be afraid to gently test the waters first.

While Baker encourages students to “take any professional opportunity” because “you never know when those opportunities will come around again,” she is also realistic about the feasibility of this feat.

“It’s very important to say ‘ no’ to some things,” she states. “It’s my opinion that younger dancers who are enthusiastic about being involved (I include myself in this category) want to do as much as possible. This however, is impossible.”

Ambition is a necessary trait for collegiate dancers, but you also have to know and respect your personal boundaries. A day planner may let you know whether you have enough time to add another activity to your schedule, but only you and your body can tell whether you can physically and mentally handle one.

Have a Support Group

The continued existence of cheerleaders and pep rallies illustrate the importance of having an enthusiastic support system. Not just for athletes and big games, having strong support can make the difference between having the world on a string and feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. Although your grades and assignments are ultimately under your control, don’ t forget that there are many other students out there with similar feelings who can easily understand where you are coming from.

“My friends are my support,” said Baker. “Most of them are fellow dance majors so they know exactly what I am going through because they are dealing with the same things.”

Friends are there for the good times and to “knock [sic] some sense into your head after a break down.”

The Fresh Prince bemoaned the fact that “Parents just don’ t understand,” but friends are friends because they can sympathize, empathize, and just as easily slap some much needed sense into you when things get tough.

So before the semester starts get your day planner, grab a towel, and call your friends because with these tips you’ re heading for the top of the class, the front of the stage, and the top of the phone list.

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