What is it like to be a dance major? Well, I am here to dispel any doubt: it is intense. A study conducted earlier this year determined that being a dancer is, in fact, the most physically demanding job in the United States. However, as a dance major, I can say that it is both a rewarding and exciting journey.
I’ll start by briefly introducing myself: my name is Sierra Severt, and I am a double major in dance and English here at Kent State. I am pursuing my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance performance, and for my career, I hope to dance onstage with a professional dance company.
This semester, I am taking mostly dance classes, along with a few general education classes. Like many college students, I have a different schedule every day of the week. Some days are shorter, some are longer, but all entail physical exertion and mental stamina.
Without further ado, here is an inside look at a typical day in the life of a dance major at Kent State.
Tuesday, 6:45 AM
I wake up at 6:45 a.m. every morning and prepare myself mentally and physically for a long day of classes. I commute from 30 minutes away from campus, so I make sure to leave myself time to make the drive and arrive early to the Center for the Performing Arts (also known as the CPA). Before my dance classes, I warm up my body with some basic exercises and stretches. I am a big fan of Pilates and yoga, so I like to incorporate both of those into my morning routine.
Modern Dance Technique Class
Every morning, Monday through Thursday, I take a Modern Dance Technique class for one hour and 40 minutes. In these classes, we learn the basics of modern dance and practice various combinations of steps to improve strength, flexibility and coordination. We start with a warm-up, do some conditioning, practice various modern techniques and end with a choreographed combination to apply our corrections. These classes are very intense, and by the time I walk out of class, I feel like I just ran a marathon!
Ballet Technique Class
After modern class ends, I have a short break, and then I continue dancing in ballet class for another hour. A typical ballet class consists of a sequence of exercises at the barre, increasing in difficulty, followed by similar movements in the center of the room.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take the entire class in pointe shoes in order to prepare myself for rehearsals that I have on pointe. Pointework is challenging but very fun. It takes a lot of foot and ankle strength and can even be dangerous for someone who does not have prior experience with ballet technique. I have been training in ballet pre-professionally since I was nine years old and have been on pointe for about six years. Yes, it does hurt! I form new blisters on my toes after almost every pointe class. It is such a unique feeling to be able to balance on the tip of a pointe shoe, though!
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, ballet classes last for an hour and a half. Ballet is my favorite style of dance, so I always enjoy my ballet classes!
At noon, I limp out of ballet class with sore muscles, ready for some rest and refreshment. As a commuter, I usually pack myself something to eat from home, but occasionally, I buy myself a meal from somewhere on campus. During my break, I take the time to relax and rest my body after a physically demanding morning of dance classes. After I eat, I try to squeeze in one or two assignments before my afternoon classes.
Jazz Styles Class
Back into the studio I go for another dance class, but this time it’s jazz. This class is another hour and 40 minutes of dancing, but I always have a lot of fun with the jazz combinations.
This semester, one of my academic classes is the Freshman Honors Colloquium course, which is fully remote. Sometimes, I head to the Performing Arts Library in the basement of the CPA for my class, and other times I trek across campus to the main library or student center.
This is my chance for some much needed rest. Some days, I curl up for a short nap, and others, I buy myself a chai latte for caffeine to stay alert during evening rehearsals. I also like to spend this time with friends, which helps me de-stress and relax.
Kent Dance Ensemble Rehearsal
To finish off the day, I have two hours of rehearsal for the Kent Dance Ensemble every Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I have rehearsals for the Fall Dance Concert.
There is so much hard work that goes into each dance performance. The main two components are classes and rehearsals. In daily technique classes, like modern, ballet and jazz, we work on refining dance steps and skills to be used later in choreography. In rehearsals, we apply those skills to specific pieces of choreography, which will later be performed on stage. It is a long process, but the end result is so worth the hard work!
COVID-19 changes in the dance division
Due to the pandemic this semester, all dancers in the dance division are required to wear masks at all times. This includes while we are dancing in classes and rehearsals! This can be quite challenging at times, especially when we start doing harder steps that involve more cardio work. The floors of the studios have 10-foot by 10-foot boxes that we stay in for entire classes. After class, we wipe our floor areas and anything we touch with sanitizing wipes. Like most activities affected by the pandemic, it’s not an ideal situation, but it is definitely worth it to be back in the studios.
My first impression after the first six weeks of the semester: the program is much more intense than I expected, but it is also very fun. Oftentimes, I am in the studios dancing for around six hours each day. Despite how exhausting it can be sometimes, this is actually a good thing, as my goal is to prepare for a career in dance, which requires up to and over that amount of dancing every day. The training is versatile, and I am looking forward to seeing how my dancing changes after four years of hard work!
The verdict is out: being a dance major is no easy task. At the same time, it is so rewarding to be able to do something I love every single day.
Sierra Severt is a freshman dance and English double major. This is her first semester blogging for The Burr. She is a member of the Kent Dance Ensemble, and she enjoys learning and writing about the different kinds of art. She aspires to dance with a professional ballet company someday while editing for a magazine or publishing house. She loves dogs, cats, yoga, cozy sweaters and chai lattes, and she has a mild obsession with “Criminal Minds”. You can follow her on Instagram at @sierra_s__ or email her at email@example.com.