The Skills of a Professional Dancer

To become a professional dancer it takes much more than good technique, artistry and facility. It also takes an entrepreneurial  spirit. You have to be persistent, even when faced with disappointment. You have to learn how to save money because you aren’t guaranteed a job, and even when you have one a contract renewal isn’t always promised. You also have to be willing to take jobs outside of your intended career path to make ends meet while you aren’t dancing professionally. In addition dancers have to be great networkers, I personally feel that my weakest skill is networking.  Taking class at the right time and the right place makes a huge difference in who you are exposed to but also being willing and able to talk to directors and organizers can be the difference between a contract an another refusal.


Got Energy?

Hi my name is Olivia Schmid and I’m combining my love of electrical engineering and dance at SMU. Working in such different fields has brought me a uniquely creative perspective to problem solving and the process of dancing and choreographing. I strive to create projects that bridge our connection between the electricity around us and the energy in the human body. If you’re looking for an innovator in the technical and performance aspects of dance then feel free to contact me, here take my business card.

My Motivation

In reading the article, What the Best College Students Do, by Ken Bain. I realized that I have the tendencies of both strategic and deep learners. I often enjoy learning and look to find how the lesson is applicable to me and my life. But I have also found that not every assignment is weighted equally, especially in college classes and sometimes  I have to use my strategic learning abilities to get through work quickly so I have time to work on other projects. It takes so much longer, for me personally, to “learn deeply” that I find myself resorting to learning strategically when I have little spare time.

I think that naturally most artists are a combination of strategic and deep learners. Deep learners have to be passionate about what they are doing, as most artists are. But we also have to prioritize what is important to us and this is where strategic learning can be useful.

My Values

As selfish as it may seem, I think that I value my utility the most. Aspiring to become a professional dancer means that you have to assign a high value to your self and your work. I have to value my body which requires me to eat healthy food, get plenty of sleep and take care of myself when I get sick. I also have to value my time. I have spent countless hours in and outside of the studio practicing my craft and while it can be difficult to balance academic requirements as well I know that there is no other way to succeed in both. Artists are required to value themselves first, so that they may give more fully to their audience. This is not to say that I don’t care for others. I have just put my career plans first.

I would not mind being separated from my family and friends to pursue dance because the opportunity to work in a professional dance company is offered to such few people. I wouldn’t care if I had to work for an organization with different religious or political views than me because there are plenty of other topics that we can make connections through. After all art has the ability to bridge boundaries, as long as I was in an environment with other passionate people working for a common goal I would be happy.

Work Habits

In general, I think that my self efficacy is fairly strong. I have the desire to finish the projects that I start and have found the methods that work best for me. For subjects that require mostly memorization or simple tasks that require less higher order thinking I like to switch tasks as soon as I find myself losing interest in a subject. This prevent’s me from getting bored and keeps me focused. I also prefer to work in a place with few distractions but I don’t have a problem with ignoring most distractions. For problems  that require more creativity, problem solving skills or group work I like being in a place where I can get up and pace, talk to myself and drink coffee. These little tricks keep me energized and focused while I work.

Being a dance major also means that I have to focus in class and commit choreography to memory very quickly . Sometimes for long stretches of time. I realized from this assignment that I tend to go over my choreography during my breaks in the day. This has been an effective way for me to work more productively as a dancer and increase my chances of getting and keeping a professional dancing job.

Finding My Calling

This is my first post for my First-Year Arts Community Experience class, otherwise known as FACE, at SMU.  I am originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida and started taking dance classes at a small studio in St. Augustine, FL called The Dance Company. I initially began dance classes at the age of nine at the request of my mother, who is a former professional dancer. When I began dance classes, it was for the simple enjoyment of movement. I had no thoughts of becoming a professional dancer until ninth grade, as an entering freshman in Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, a magnet school for the arts in Jacksonville, FL. I realized that if I wanted to become a professional dancer dance had to become  my main priority.

I don’t think that I could point to a specific instant in time when I realized that dancing was my calling. It was more that I found my simple enjoyment of dance evolve into an integral part of my being. Dancing has become part of my identity, without it I would feel as though my soul has been severed.

It is interesting to me to contemplate my goals for the future while I am at SMU. There are a plethora of resources available to me, while I will probably not be able to participate in every opportunity that comes my way. I want to focus on putting my full efforts into the projects I take on; my current goal is to make the best return possible on the investment I have made in SMU and in myself to become a successful artist upon graduation.