January 2018 -- I had only been in the city for three weeks before I started my first class of Actor Therapy. In my first class I remember Ryan asking me if I was a dancer. I responded hesitantly that I was more of a mover; To which he responded, if you increased the amount of dance classes you took to four times a week, and focused less on taking voice lessons, you’d see your career trajectory drastically change. You need to be focusing on the areas that you’re weak in -- in order to grow.
Now, at this point in my life, I had just moved to NYC and my goal was just to figure out how to survive in this crazy city. The idea of trying to add on more classes was both mentally and financially overwhelming. Come to find out -- it’s really not as hard as you’d think!
Fast forward a year…
January 2019 -- It’s the start of a new year. I tend to ignore making New Year’s Resolutions because I can’t ever seem to follow them. I always make unrealistic goals and then get upset when I can’t stay on track. So... it’s the second week of 2019, I have no resolutions and I’m scrolling through my facebook feed when I happen to stumble upon a post by fellow AT student, Alden Gagnon. In the post she talked about how in 2018 she had made it a goal to do 100 dance classes, and had ended up taking more than 150 by the end of the year! For some reason right after reading it -- I knew that this had to be my New Year’s Resolution.
So I started my dance journey!
For those of you that want to take those first few steps into a dance studio, but may not know the best way to get started, here are 8 tips from someone who literally just took the leap:
1. Bully yourself into buying a class pack.
One of my good friends who’s a dancer told me that whenever he has the money he will force himself to buy a class pack. This way there isn’t any excuse as to why you can’t go to class. The money is already spent, and class packs expire with time; Which means you have to go to class, or you just wasted a bunch of money.
2. The scariest part is the front desk.
After taking a couple classes I realized that the hardest part of starting your dance journey is going into the unknown of the dance studio. “Who do I talk to? Where do I go? What if I make a fool of myself?” were all thoughts racing through my head the first time I stepped into the studio. What I came to realize was the thing that was holding me back from starting this journey was as easy as following a couple signs and having a five minute conversation with the person at the desk.
3. Find the right classes for you.
We’re in NYC which means there are a ton of different studio options, and literally hundreds of different level classes at your disposal. Try a few classes at each studio, ask your friends for class and/or teacher recommendations, and find the classes that connect with you. If it doesn’t feel right or is too difficult, find something else. I promise -- there IS a class out there!
4. Consistency is key.
Once you’ve found the classes that are right for you, make them a part of your weekly routine. Block out the time and think of it as if you’re going to a work shift. You wouldn’t make an excuse to not show up to work. Hold yourself to the same standard with these classes!
5. Find an accountability partner.
It’s way easier to stick to your goals and to feel motivated to go to something when you’re not doing it alone. Reach out to your friends and find a class that you can take together. It’ll make the class more fun and help add another level of accountability.
6. Set realistic expectations.
It may not be possible for you to fit four dance classes a week into your schedule, and that’s totally okay! Find the number that works for you, and that you know you can maintain. Along with that -- progress comes with time. So if you have to take a basic level course for a year -- that’s okay too! It’s part of your own journey, and you can travel it at your own pace.
7. Risk. Fail. Risk again.
When I studied at the National Musical Theatre Institute their motto was “Risk. Fail. Risk again.” and I take this into every dance class. I’m currently the worst person in my tap class. The first time the instructor asked us to do turns across the floor in groups of two, I knew I was going to be one of the the only people who couldn’t do it. Nonetheless, I tried my best and didn’t let the humiliation stop me from coming back each week.
8. Have fun!
It may be cliché to say, but have fun. I was terrified to start dance classes, and now they’re some of the highlights of my week! It’s SUPPOSED to be fun and relaxing. It shouldn’t be any source of dread. So when you start to get nervous, or negative feelings about going to dance or in the class itself; Smile and know that you’re there for YOU.
Nathan David Smith is a New York City based Theatre Artist. @AnotherDavidSmith NathanDavidSmith.com