I can remember sitting down at the end of my first year at Tisch Dance to write this post. There were so many pieces of advice that I wished I could have travelled back in time to whisper in my younger self’s ear—so many, in fact, that I had to do some serious editing in order to get the information into a bloggable format (It’s still a little long. I’m not sorry.). Now, on the tail end of my undergraduate career, I’ve realized that what I have learned about myself through my adventures as a second year Tischie is far simpler.
I think that there’s an idea that by the time you’re my age (21, beginning my senior year of university), you ought to have some concept of who you are and where you stand in the world. And I also think that in a world that can be obsessed with categorization, it’s easier than we realize to slip into the roles that we perceive—not necessarily a denial of self or anything so extreme as that, but perhaps a settling in to the person we believe ourselves to be. “This is who I am, and this is what I do,” we say, and we find our way forward following the pattern that emerges. And, speaking as someone who has declared to anyone who would listen that I was going to move to New York and be a professional dancer since I was thirteen years old, that is not a bad thing.
But how strange would it be to define ourselves, for the rest of our lives, solely by what we studied in college or the job we chose to do? This is who I am, this is what I do. There’s the dancer, the finance bro, the English geek, the anthropologist, the art historian.
So many of the craziest cool experiences I’ve had in the last eight months have happened because a part of me said, “Yes, and maybe I could be this, too.” I have been a dancer, yes, but also a choreographer, a collaborator, a sound tech, a stage manager, an office assistant, a writer, a fact checker. I have brainstormed and problem-solved with a team of designers over a giant, three-dimensional Rorschach-inspired set and sat with a string quartet in performance to help align musical cues with visual ones. I’ve talked to students considering entering the mad world of Tisch Dance, scribbled impressions into my notebook when invited to review a colleague’s work, and dug through the photo archives of Dance Magazine as a summer intern. This, I am beginning to think, is what it means to have a life in dance, not just be a dancer—performing a new contemporary ballet at an outdoor festival in Queens in the afternoon and then calling cues for a friend’s new work that night, plus an infinite number of possible variations thereof.
Accepting that I actually do not know everything there is to know about who I am and what I am capable of was admittedly a terrifying realization. I had, for years, been able to say with relative certainty what I was and what I was not, where I fit and where I never would. And then I was proven wrong on many counts, so much so that I scheduled a meeting with one of my teachers to explain (read: freak out) that I had no idea who I was as a dancer anymore.
Thinking back to this time one year ago, if I could say one thing to myself it would have been this: You know who you are, but you are also so much more than you realize.
Now this is obviously veering into dangerously corny territory. Which, okay, I sometimes live in. I’m not saying I don’t have limits. But I will say this: I have far fewer than I once believed.
So this is what I say to you, the dancer, the economist, the writer, the curator. Whoever you know yourself to be today, brilliant. But this isn’t everything you are.