Perseverance in Dance
Chasing Your Dreams One Adversity at a Time
One Set Up, One Discouraged. The Two Types of Dancers.
Some dancers are set up to become successful, professional dancers; while others are set up for complete failure.
Everyone comes across some hardships during their life that they must persevere through. Some people have it easier than others. In dance, there are two kinds of people. The fortunate ones are daughters or sons of the studio owner and get set up for success. The others kind get ignored and have to persevere through discouragement. Perseverance is more essential for those who get ignored than it is for the dancers relying on their parents. Travis Walls and Nicole Shuman are perfect examples of the "set up" and "discouraged" dancers.
Travis Wall was born into the dance world. At age three he started dance at his mother's, Denise Wall, studio. His mother is widely known on Broadway, television, commercials, film, and in professional dance companies. Due to her success, she got Travis's name out in the dance world. By age nine Travis was dancing in commercials for Dr. Pepper and became known as the Dr. Pepper boy. After his career took off, Travis was on Broadway, won several national titles, was a runner up on SYTYCD, winner of many awards for choreography, and owned his own company named Shaping Sound. Travis had much success and never really knew what it was like to truly fight for something. Nicole Shuman, was on the other side of the situation.
Nicole Shuman was surrounded by negativity her entire childhood. She started dancing at age seven, being told she danced like she was in "rigor mortis" during lyrical class. Nicole didn't get parts she wanted in performances and competitions and always got placed in the back corner of the dances. Even her own mother said, "You know that other girl is better at that part than you are." Nicole realized if she wanted to be a professional dancer she needed to persevere through this hard time and get herself known. She then changed her mindset and realized her being in the back was a gift. She could learn from the best of the best. Nicole later became a Rockette, the best of the best, through all her hard work and determination.
Both Nicole and Travis have surely had hardships in their career of dance and share the same interest and passion for dance. However, Nicole faced many hardships and failures due to surroundings and experience. She was forced to persevere if she ever wanted a successful career and a name for herself. However, because of this, she became very deep and determined, while Travis grew self-centered and lazy.
In the end, perseverance is essential in dance. It gains you qualities in order to make you not only a good dancer but a good person. Maybe the situation Nicole was in wasn't so bad.
Road to Perseverance, Li Cunxin
A tragic life is what Li Cunxin would of had if he hadn't persevered.
When Li was born, he lived in utter poverty in Mao's communist China. His life was quite bad, however, he had the love of his family and relatives to ease the pain. He often starved most days and was crammed in a house with twenty relatives, not including his immediate family. He barely had enough money to live in a tent.
At age 11, Li was selected by madam Mao's Beijing Dance Academy to move and train in Beijing to become a dancer. At this time Li would spend seven years at the academy learning discipline, resilience, determination, and perseverance. Li trained sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, constantly being pounded by his teacher and being made fun of by the entire academy for being weak. This is when Li decided he needed a better life. He woke up at 5:30 every morning before the other students and walked up and down stairs with fifty pound weights on his ankles. At eleven every night, when all the students were asleep, Li practiced turning in candle light. By the end of Li's seven years at the academy and his ever growing hard work, Li became one of the best dancers ever produced in China and earned much admiration.
At age 18, Li was awarded one of the first cultural scholarships to go to America. When he arrived, he was granted the position of "soloist" at the Houston Ballet. Ben Stevenson, director of the Houston Ballet, took Li under his wing and taught him the American customs and lifestyle.
At age 20, Li struggled emotionally, debating on whether he should return back to China. Li felt he was losing his religion and cultural traditions. He chose to return to China. When Li wanted to return to his "better life" in America , the Chinese government refused to allow him to leave the country. Only after much persuasion and combativeness did Li return to America; however, he was not allowed to ever return.
During ages 25-35, Li became one of the best dancers in the world. He won two silver medals and one bronze medal at the World Championships. He also was quickly promoted to a principle dancer at the Houston Ballet. After marrying an Australian ballet dancer and having kids, Li and his family moved to Australia, where he became a principle dancer at the Australian Ballet.
Li's life started out very badly; however, he pushed through and never gave up. Just in the first half of Li's life, he encountered so many experiences that forced him to persevere; from being mistreated by a teacher to being rejected by the government. However, these experiences gained him knowledge that would impact his entire life.
Now when a teacher gives you a note on your writing piece, will it make you work harder?
Jackie's Torn Ligament
It was Jackie's first year at Nationals competing as a teen. During her very first competition number, she went to do a second leap and landed on the side of her foot. Unable to get back up, Jackie crawled off stage and quickly asked for help, not knowing what to do. A couple of weeks later, Jackie was back at home, being informed that she had an evulsion fracture in her foot.
The doctors suggested two options: get surgery and reattach the ligament to the bone or heal the foot through physical therapy. Surgery was the better option because there was a 99% chance of recovery. Physical therapy only offered a 50% chance of a full recovery. Anxious to get back to dance, Jackie chose the surgery, however, she knew there would be a long road to healthiness after the fact. That Wednesday, precisely six days after the diagnosis, Jackie had surgery to reattach the ligament; the first of many steps back to dance.
After the surgery, Jackie had to rest. This was quite hard for Jackie because she was used to moving 24 hours of the day. However, if she didn't rest, she could move the ligament and it could heal incorrectly. So for two weeks, Jackie sat in a chair at the dance studio and observed, her anxiety growing by the minute.
Finally after two weeks of rest, Jackie could start walking with her foot in a boot. During dance, Jackie walked in circles around the dancers; gaining the strength back in her foot. This process was hard because the pain was unbelievably overwhelming. Jackie's passion to recover conquered the pain and the boot was off in no time.
Physical therapy was next. Jackie went seven days a week for an hour and a half each day. She kept going until she gained the strength to dance once again. Jackie performed quite well, for she was in good shape, and was released to start dancing.
Although Jackie was physically ready to dance, mentally was a different story. She was terrified of getting hurt again. She refused to jump because she was scared she was going to land wrong and re-injure her foot. This was when Jackie had to take a mental check. She had to realize that dance was her dream and no injury was going to get in the way of that. Once she realized dance was her life, she was dancing better than ever in no time.
After surgery, rest, a boot, physical therapy, and a mental check, Jackie's once torn ligament was healed. Jackie's problem was solved through five steps; steps that in the end made her a better dancer and person in a number of ways.
But what would have happened if Jackie chose physical therapy instead of surgery?
Rejection Inspiring a New Path
Mia Michael's original dream was to become a professional dancer; however, certain events changed her mind.
Mia Michael's started dancing at a very young age. She studied jazz, tap, ballet, and contemporary dance. She dreamed of becoming a professional dancer in companies and dancing her whole life; however, she was too big and was greatly discouraged because of it.
Mia was not built to be dancer. Dancer's are expected to be short, light, and limber. Mia stood 5' 11" tall and was built strong. She never received the opportunity to audition for dance jobs because they all said she was "too big." She could never be lifted and could not be supported by other dancers, for they were all twigs and would snap under her weight. As a result, she never got any jobs and was forced out of a career that she wanted.
Mia was also widely discouraged by everyone around her. All company owners, producers, and choreographers refused he, claiming her talent couldn't make up for her body. Other dancers didn't want to work with her because she was big and clunky. Even her own parents encouraged her into different paths. After losing all self confidence in becoming a professional dancer, Mia suffered a mental breakdown.
This is when Mia Michaels persevered. Mia knew that she could not change her body type, even with weight loss. She understood that she wouldn't be able to realize her dream of becoming a dancer and as a result, Mia turned to choreography. She had always had a thing for choreography but was always so focused on her original dream of becoming a dancer. She also had a lot of personal experiences, such as break ups and family deaths, to draw from and interpret through dance.
Mia Michaels turning to choreography resulted in winning an Emmy and many additional nominations for her work on SYTYCD (So You Think You Can Dance.) She also got the opportunity to choreograph for Cirque du Soleil, Madonna, Prince, and many dance companies. Her choreography is known worldwide and has touched so many people.
Mia Michaels had her heart set on dancing, If she would have given up on her dream, she wouldn't have been able to touch so many people through her emotional choreography. Mia's image of being "too big" resulted in a successful career of choreography and worldwide recognition.
Misty Copeland: The First African American ABT Soloist
"Dear candidate, thank you for your application to our ballet academy. Unfortunately you have not been accepted." This is what Misty Copeland received after every ballet company audition...all except one.
Misty Copeland is the first African American soloist at ABT (American Ballet Theater.) Misty's early life consisted of instability and great poverty. At one point, Misty's family was forced to live in a motel which did not offer the stability Misty craved. Misty became the center of a custody battle between her dance teacher and her mom. Not only did Misty have family problems but she was racially segregated. Misty received rejection letters stating classical ballets can't have a "brown face" and she better lose weight because her body can't be seen on stage. Despite all the negativity, Misty's hard work and determination gained her the title she holds today.
Misty Copeland is truly a hard working person. In order to stay in shape, misty does hours of workouts each day. She's built herself so strong, her calf muscles bulge out of her legs and you can see every muscle definition possible. She also takes weekly Pilates and gyro-tonics classes, and runs on the elliptical every day. Being a hard worker gains Misty great benefits. She got herself into ABT and gave herself an image through hard work. One of the greatest things about Misty being a soloist is that she has a body type that is not close to a standard ballerina's. She keeps herself in such good shape and puts in 150% of effort, making her undeniably amazing.
Misty is also very determined. Misty started ballet at age 13 which in most cases is very late to begin dance training. All she wanted to do was become a professional dancer and be a part of something organized. As a result, Misty worked twice as hard as anyone else and built herself in the best shape she's ever been in. Even though she faced many rejections and racial comments, Misty put the insults to work and made herself amazing. This allowed Misty to show all those who doubted her that she would become the first principal dancer at ABT that is African American.
Determination and hard work got Misty Copeland where she is today. If she would have given up, she would have been in poverty the rest of her life and probably been a basketball player. Misty Copeland has inspired so many by persevering through racism and rejection. Her characteristics are truly aspiring.
"Success isn't handed to us, we earn it" -Misty Copeland