Check out our podcast episode on this hot topic! Listen now on Apple Podcasts & Spotify!
Ask any dancer about who or what influences them and there’s a good chance that their teacher(s) will be on the list. Dance teachers are hugely influential in dancers’ lives, from novice to pre-professional and even professional, but how can dancers take those relationships a step further? The answer is through mentorship. On episode 55, Courtney and Lesley sat down with IDA Judges, educators, and mentors Jordan Beyeler and James Washington to discuss mentorship for dancers and its benefits.
So, what is a mentor? James defines it as “receiving guidance from someone who has a skillset in a specific area,” but notes that the definition in dance goes beyond that, reaching toward inside knowledge and wisdom to share. Jordan agrees, adding that she thinks about a mentor as a “dance life coach.” She recommends that her students find dancers they admire and who are on their same desired path and reach out to them because the worst that can happen is that the person will say no. But it’s important to note that most dancers in the industry keep their feet in different areas, whether commercial, concert, or somewhere in between, so young dancers should consider reaching out to different people for different types of assistance.
But does every dancer need a mentor? According to both James and Jordan, the answer is probably no. It’s important for dancers to pick and choose when they need assistance, whether it’s taking a look at a solo audition or video submission, or offering advice on a self-choreographed piece. Courtney also notes that often our friends and network can serve in a similar capacity if a dancer isn’t in need of a mentor in a specific moment.
If a dancer is interested in mentorship, how can they be sure that they’re ready to reap the benefits of mentorship? First, it’s important that dancers are prepared to take advice from an expert, even if it’s not what they necessarily want to hear. There is a level of maturity that dancers need to possess when they seek out a mentor. As Jordan explains, the dancer is responsible for clear communication, listening, and taking the advice from the mentor--otherwise, they’re wasting their mentor’s valuable time. James also notes the value of saying “thank you,” both in person and via handwritten notes. Those two little words go a long way, as does being nice to everyone you meet--we’re said it before and we’ll say it again: the dance world is small!