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How to Find Your Unique Contribution

How to find your unique contribution.

For the latest in my series of How to.... I introduce a book I recently discovered that was written by one of my former ballet students - The Artist’s Compass: The complete guide to building a life and a living in the performing arts, by Rachel S. Moore. Rachel was only very young when I taught her, nevertheless I feel proud of her many grand and varied accomplishments. Just as an example, she was a dancer with ABT as well as their former CEO and Executive Director, she currently is the CEO of the prestigious Music Center in Los Angeles, and she is a member of the honor society for distinguished leaders, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).

In her book, Moore offers advice on achieving financial security in the performing arts. Moore explores the need for students in the performing arts to be able to accurately assess their abilities. She asserts that “if we are truly aware, we can market ourselves to the right people at the right time”. Moore emphasizes the importance of being able to sustain yourself throughout training, and performing, as well as thinking about after a performing arts career. She highlights the need to be able to market yourself, and asserts that knowing yourself, and knowing what is unique about you and your work is necessary for success. Moore encourages young dancers to develop a sense of who they are and what they bring to their art.

The importance of setting goals with understanding of the mechanisms of this skill is also mentioned. To ensure that goals are SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Goal setting is one of the psychological skills that the PROPS method of training highlights so students can improve motivation when things are getting tough or in the face of disappointment (which is sooner or later inevitable in the competitive ballet profession). Setting goals in ballet usually needs guidance from teachers, however once a sound approach to goals is established, they are the path to resilience in the face of setbacks and hardships.

While this book was written before CoVid, the need for self knowledge and developing your individual contribution by being self aware are still key pieces of the puzzle that will take you towards a career in dance. This is reachable through the use of psychological skills. Ballet teachers who engage students in discussion and create opportunities for peer learning provide the conditions for self awareness and self knowledge. These are the first steps towards realising your individual contribution to your art. From here, teachers can facilitate the use of a Journal in class - a medium for recording Thoughts and Feelings (physical and emotional) that are experienced by students while dancing a step or movements. If they are written down or otherwise recorded, they can be reflected upon at a later date, when they can be examined calmly. This record of thoughts and feelings leads dancers to examine their reactions to their dance experiences and facilitates experimentation with these and other possible approaches. Teachers allow this to promote the finding of an unique approach or response to dancing. Students can uncover their physical and emotional responses, reflect, and revise their preferences, refine the results, and ultimately develop their individuality.

The next time these students audition for a ballet opportunity, they KNOW who they are and what they have to offer. They have a strong presence as individuals and can express this knowledge for others to see, hear, and feel. They are able to market themselves as contributors and as an asset to a ballet company - and later, as worthy of promotion when advancement opportunities arise.

This knowledge assists young dancers to recognise the company that is the best fit for their current goals, personality, talent, and abilities - knowledge that increases the likelihood for success.

With practice, these psychological skills allow you to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. See for the PROPS method of professional ballet training with psychological skills.


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