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19 Lessons I Learned from 19 Years of Dance

The end of my college career also means the end of my dance career. The University of Wisconsin-Stout has a sports club called Dance Ensemble. It a student-run club in which dancers of all skill levels have the chance to participate in dances, choreograph and perform in a recital each semester for classmates, faculty, family and friends. While Dance Ensemble gave me a chance to extend my love of dance for another four years, there were still tears shed at the final recital. Now that my career is over, I realized how much dance has shaped me. Here are 19 things that dance taught me:

Your joints will creak and pop forever

Everytime you sit pretzel-legged, your hips will crack so loud everyone asks if you’re ok. Every. Time.

Injuries happen, but you can always bounce back

Over the years, I’ve danced on a sprained ankle, two patella subluxations and done pointe on a broken toe. Not to mention the countless bruises, blisters and floor burns I’ve accumulated. You definitely need some downtime to let your injuries heal, but it allows you to take a break and you appreciate the sport you love when you get back on your feet.

Your feet will never be the same

Dance really takes a toll on your body, especially your feet. If you’ve done pointe, you know sandals can be an iffy shoe choice and you’re pretty sure that inward slant is permanent.

You’re competitive about everything

From turning competitions to seeing how far down you can do the splits to how quickly you can do adiagio, the competitive side follows you. You’ll notice it sneaks its way into every part of your life.

You take any choreography seriously

Whether you’re learning the newest dance craze, hitting the dancefloor on a night out or taking a Zumba class, you need to make sure you’re performing all the moves perfectly and always on beat.

Dance makeup will always be your favorite

You’ve all but gotten used to the strange looks people give you at a post-performance dinner. With the bright colors, crazy false lashes, dark lipstick, insanely deep contour and lots of glitter, stage makeup is just fun.

You’re used to matching your friends

“What are you wearing?” is a redundant phrase in your vocabulary. You’re so used to matching class attire and costumes that wearing the exact same thing as someone else is never taboo.

You’ve become a pro at doing hair (except messy buns)

After years of putting your hair in a bun each day, throwing your hair up in seconds takes almost no time. If you’ve been part of a show with quick costume and hair changes, you can change up your style in seconds. On the downside, you somehow can’t do a good messy bun. It always turns into a neat ballet bun.

You’re the first peson out of the dressing room

Ever had to wear a completely different costume underneath another one? Other than having the ability to dance with six layers on, you can also change outfits in a snap. You know how to change your shirt with one hand and put up your hair with the other. This comes in handy when you’re shopping in a hurry or wake up late for class.

You test every skirt or dress with a twirl becauses you need to see how it moves

Gotta try before you buy. You always make sure to do a quick spin in the dressing room before purchasing any skirt or dress and watch in the mirror to see how it looks. You know how to choose clothes that not just look right, but also move right with your body.

The friendships you’ve made through dance are unlike any other

You’ve cheered for each other after winning titles and championships and held each other after an injury. You’ve seen each other nail a quadruple piroutte for the first time, but then somehow fall over trying to tombé. During periods of crazy stress and laugh-so-hard-you-can’t-breathe inside jokes, you know the friends you’ve made through dance will last forever.

You have enough Halloween costumes to last a lifetime

You probably have dozens of old costumes stashed in your closet because they all have sentimental value and you refuse to get rid of any of them. On the plus side, you’re always prepared for an impromptu costume party.

Dance moves have just incorporated themselves into your day

Instead of bending down for something, you tombé to it. You also can’t outstretch your hand without doing a ballet arm.

You’re strict when it comes to dress codes

You’ve been told the exact color, sleeve length and material to wear to class and performances for years, and you know how strict these rules are. You need to know exactly what to wear to any event, all the way up to the type of earrings you have on.

“Hey! I did a dance to this song” will always be your favorite phrase

You’re obviously everyone’s favorite person to go to the supermarket with, especially when you recreate that turn combo from that jazz dance you did six years ago in the cereal aisle.

You know that no matter how rough things seem, it always comes together at the end

Three days before the show and you’re still learning choreography? We’ve all been there. No matter how bleak and hectic your life may seem at times, you know that it will somehow come together and look great at the end.

When you make a mistake, just keep going

As in dance, mistakes happen in life, but that doesn’t mean you should stop. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from dance is that when you mess up, just keep moving and keep smiling to the end.

Your dance teachers have been some of the most impactful people in your life

While most young girls looked up to celebrities, you looked up to your dance instructor. While they could be hard on you, you know that they were trying to help you be the best you could be. They also taught you hard work, discipline, timing, teamwork and how to always wear a smile on your face.

If you want it, you’re going to have to work for it

Trying to get an oversplit? You’re going to have to stretch every day. Want to get to the next level class? You’re going to need to perfect your skills. Have a huge performance in a few weeks? You’re going to need to eat, sleep and breathe the choreography. Nothing will teach you how to work hard like dance. Being an art and a sport, you need to be a master of both. Dancers are resilient both on the stage and off.

Ending my dance career was the most bittersweet moment of my life to date. Luckily, I have hundreds of memories to smile back on, friends I can call up and lessons that will last forever.

Kendra Lamer

UW Stout '19

Kendra Lamer is the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at UW-Stout. She is a professional communication and emerging media major with a concentration in applied journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. When she's not doing school work or writing for Her Campus, you can find her dancing at the studio, going for a run, drinking coffee or decorating for holidays way too early. After graduating, she plans on pursuing a career in public relations or journalism and adopting lots of dogs.
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