Why you need a dance mentor (and how to find one)

Becoming a professional dancer is no easy career path.  It can be physically taxing, financially unstable, and sometimes emotionally overwhelming.  And if you don’t have a parent, sibling, or another family member in the arts, it can be difficult to know who to turn to when you’re having a hard time.  Cultivating a relationship with a dance mentor can provide the guidance, support, and inspiration you need to reach your goals.  Here are some steps you can take in finding a dance mentor of your own:

Tap into your goals:  Where do you see yourself in one, five, or ten years?  Maybe short-term you want to perfect your double pirouette, clean up your single wings on your left foot, or get accepted to the Rockette Summer Intensive. Long-term, perhaps you’re dreaming of joining a professional ballet company, performing on Broadway, or even dancing backup for your favorite recording artist.  Whatever your goals may be, it’s helpful to articulate them and even write them down on paper.  Understanding your specific goals will not only help you choose a mentor, but it will also help your mentor as they guide you along your journey.

Recognize who will help you grow:  A dance mentor can be anyone from an older dancer in your company or professional performer to a dance teacher or choreographer.  When you’re deciding on a mentor, it’s important to find someone who both challenges you and encourages you at the same time.  If you’re praised for every step you take, you might never grow and improve.  But at the same time, you don’t want to feel defeated with constant criticism.  A truly good mentor should provide a healthy balance of both.

And last (but most importantly) …ask!  Either after class or in a professional e-mail, ask your teacher if you can meet with them for just twenty minutes (most people can make time for twenty minutes, and it could easily turn into a longer conversation.  But you want to be respectful of their busy schedule). After you set up your meeting, make sure to come prepared with your goals and a list of specific questions for your mentor.  Don’t just ask, “How can I be better?”  Instead, ask your mentor about their journey as a professional dancer and what advice they might have.  Then you can start getting into the nitty-gritty stuff about your own technique, auditions, and performance.

Take your mentor’s advice and assistance to heart and keep working on your craft.  You certainly don’t have to follow in their exact footsteps but admiring and learning from an experienced older dancer can be incredibly helpful as you embark on your own journey.