I am a……

Ok, so sometimes I don’t know how to introduce myself. I mean, I know my name and everything, but some scenarios require I explain a bit more about myself- what I do, why  I have the skills that I have, etc- and this can be where I start to get a little flummoxed.

Here is an example:
At yoga, I have been recently asked repeatedly how long I have been practicing. To which I reply, “just a few weeks”. Then people feel uncomfortable because they have been practicing for much longer, or not, but inevitably our physical starting points are vastly different. Then I explain that I am a dancer and that is the point I struggle.

  • They may be looking at me and, as I shared yesterday, I imagine they are thinking that I don’t look like a dancer (sylph or stripper). Should I continue explaining?
  • They may have never met anyone that identifies themselves as a dancer and they are processing what that actually means.
  • They, due to their (lack of) understanding of dance expect this means I have been dancing recreationally my whole life.
  • They tell me they are/were dancers, too. And it becomes apparent to me that we don’t share the same definition.

So, I often play with other “titles”. Dance educator, choreographer, dance specialist….. In fact, to go back to body issues, when I was heavier I found these titles much easier to utter.

How do I convey, in just a few words, the breadth and depth of what I do?

Not only that, in these instances I feel the need to defend dance as an academic, intellectual, valuable pursuit. That, I dare say, is the root of the problem.

How do I defend what I do? Why do I feel I need to? Why is the idea that Dance is “fun” such an insult?

Maybe I will try “ I work in Dance”. That might invite clarification if any one wants it and sets me up to take a little more time in my explanation.

Or maybe I am over-thinking.

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10 thoughts on “I am a……

  1. I like confidence coach as well. As a male, I say I’m a dance educator, cause just saying “I’m a Dancer” elicits the same reaction you mentioned.

  2. interesting….I vary my response to that question A LOT. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “I am self-employed” which tends to silence people. I think they are afraid to ask any more questions. I also use..dance teacher, I work with kids, teacher, sometimes I even go with dance competition adjudicator…hahaha…which gets looks & very random questions!

  3. I know what you mean though for a slightly different reason. I teach dance theory – lighting design, management, and history. I feel I need to qualify “dance educator” because I don’t actually teach movement. Most people are not aware that people teach what I teach. So a simple, “what do you do” at a party or mixer turns into a much longer conversation than one might think necessary. I worry then that I’m monopolizing the conversation or giving people WAY more information than they really cared to know. But I too feel that it is important to explain because I feel so very proud of what I do and the work of my colleagues and students. I joke that dance is the ugly-red-headed-step-child of the arts, but there is truth to the joke. We may all laugh knowingly when we talk about times we’ve explained that “no, we don’t do THAT kind of dance”, but it speaks to a larger issue of how little the general population is aware of dance as an art form and an important educational tool in our society. So, the answer to “what do you do” may continue to be long and awkward, but it is an opportunity to spread the word about our work to one more person.

    1. Good point. When I was younger and single, I got so tired of meeting people, getting the once over, and then the inevitable, “what kind of dancer?” I used to say, “no laps, no tables, you have no clue.” But that was the first time I started playing with how I verbally claimed my identity.

      Then I felt the sting when people assumed that I teach at a studio. Teaching at studios is great, but where I am located geographically, most studio teachers don’t have BFAs in dance, let alone MFAs. So it doesn’t recognize the level of my own education, or experience- let alone what I teach and how. When I taught at the college level, I could start by saying where I teach and then talk about which discipline. That helped the framing of dance as a “legitimate” profession.

      And now that I am currently in the public schools, people usually comment on how great that is that dance is offered to my students (true!) but still view it as a “break” from their “real” learning.

      Yes, it speaks to the need to greater arts literacy and appreciation. Thanks for sharing, Megan!

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