Friday, October 9, 2009

The Choices We Make In Life

It's funny how some of us find our way onto the path of teaching. Perhaps we began as a professional dancer and soon got tired of the life of a gypsy, going from show to show. There's no stability, it gets harder and more physically demanding as we get older… and then what? …or…perhaps we always knew from the start that all we wanted to do was teach, or we really didn't like the dancing itself as much as the creating of choreography and teaching gave us a way to do that. There are so many reasons we arrived at where we are now: Dance Teacher.

Most of the time we just do it. It's like automatic. We got here, we teach, we keep teaching, we teach some more, maybe we get better at it….then what?

I bring this up because I never thought about this path before. It was a natural progression of events for me. Student dancer. Professional dancer. Teacher. Choreographer….and one December several years ago I was faced with a very hard decision that I never in my wildest dreams could anticipate.

My company was in Singapore performing and a woman from a college there approached me about teaching for 3 months. I was touched that she liked my work. I was excited! Wow! Three months! All expenses paid. Really good pay. See the other side of the world! The credibility I'd gain on my resume alone was almost worth it. But then I began to think….three months away from my dancers? Many of their pieces for the season weren't even finished yet! Basically everything with my company would come to a screeching halt. I thought hard. I thought about what was best for my company and not what was best for me. I thought some more. My heart told me to decline. I listened to it. Then I declined.

I've always made decisions as they arose based on emotion, not practicality. Obviously this hasn't been a bad idea so far because the decisions I have made have taken the development of my company further than I ever thought possible. And, just as important as that, I've been able to live with those decisions.

Sometimes you do things in this business to get ahead and once you get there you really don't like the person you've become. I'm glad that this is not the case for me. Maybe it's age - being older - or maybe it's something deeper which I really can't explain, but now in my 40s I guess I was finally tested as to what I actually wanted and it wasn't the "BIG DREAM" of fame or money. It was what I have right now, my company, despite the ups and downs.

I thought about this in reference to young dancers on the brink of their careers and career choices. We dance because we were meant to. We're good at it and some of us get really good at it. With this comes opportunity. Making choices. Going for the BIG DREAM. Maybe Broadway. Maybe to be in a professional performance company. Maybe commercial.

These choices and opportunities will rise. For some of you this will happen sooner than you think. For some, like myself, much later than you think. Pay attention to what your heart says. It will show you the way. It is the only thing you can really trust because you are the only one who can live with your choices day after day. Not you parents, not your teachers, not your boyfriends, girlfriends or husbands.

Listen to your heart! Good luck!


Dale Lam - Artistic Director
Les Mizzell - Technical Director
The Columbia City Jazz Dance Company Website
Dale and Les on Twitter

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