Janelle P.

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Former Dance2XS Michigan member, current Coordinator of Student Success and Advisor for Physical Graffiti at Millikin University. Lover of dance, travel, and dogs.

Here I am in my 20 somethings, full-time wearer of many hats, and I can’t tell you how much I get pulled into what I like to call the “black hole of dance”, where I find myself watching videos of old performances, rehearsals, or choreography. For hours. And then it’s 2am and I’m stuck reminiscing about how much I miss it.

It was into my later years of high school, I realized how much I actually loved to watch dancers perform - and that’s all I did. I went to shows, began watching anything dance related on TV or on the internet, and eventually, I made the decision to be one of those performers. Making that decision meant that priorities were going to change - and they did. Dance really took the front seat when I was in college because it was everything that school was not. It was fun, I was actually eager to learn something new, and staying up til 3am for late night rehearsals was worth it. I was spending time with people who turned into my family. I was performing my heart out in different places, and I loved every single bit of it. I learned more and more about how to be creative, how to tell a story without words, and how to function the next day with all of an hour of sleep. Dance was a full-time commitment.

When I was in graduate school, one of my field instructors actually pulled me aside and advised me to quit dance. It was pretty obvious (by obvious, I also mean really embarrassing) that she had noticed:

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1. I was falling asleep in class. A lot. Staying up til 3 at dance practice, and then until 5 to finish an assignment, and going to class at 8 was getting exhausting. So to avoid this, I would stand in the back of the class to stay awake. But it got to me - I was falling asleep even whilst standing. You know when you jolt yourself awake after you nod off? Your chin falls off of the hand that is propping you up, or you’re just lucky that by design our heads are attached to our necks to save it from falling off of our bodies. When you’re standing, your body slowly slides diagonally down the wall that you are leaning against, just like the arms of the clock moving from 12 to 1. I was usually at the 1 o’clock position before I ever realized what was happening, and luckily, my feet were quick to catch my fall, but you can only pretend you “tripped” on something so many times.

2. My academic performance was starting to spiral. Downwards. During one of my paper reviews with her, she pointed out that I typed “dance” instead of what should’ve been “students”... so the sentence actually read “There was opportunity to make sure each of the dance was meeting the learning goal.” This is a true story, and what’s worst is how I awkwardly tried to laugh it off during this meeting and was not successful. I probably typed that during a late night practice in between dances. Or while randomly choreographing in my head to every song that I heard. Or it was 3am and I truly believed that dance was not meeting any learning goals. No one will ever know.

Grad school is extremely demanding, and I had chosen to do an accelerated program that required more out of me in a short amount of time. I really thought I could dance on top of all that, but the realization is that I chose to pursue a career outside of the dance world, and I had to commit to that. All of this also meant that I could no longer commit to dance the way I wanted to, but I knew that my field instructor was right, and I had to reprioritize.

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So I took a break from dance. After grad school, I taught middle school for 3 years. Teaching is more than a full-time, 40 hour/week job. I was spending close to 60+ hours before and after the school day and on weekends to manage the workload. Additionally, when I did have a free weekend or a few days off where I didn’t have to work, I tried to spend that time traveling. I did as much of it as I could during my summers before having to be back at work to set up my classroom. Traveling is something that I’ve always loved to do - I’m actually surprised I haven’t sold all my belongings and quit my job to travel the world yet. Sometimes it came down to “Do I spend this money on dance workshops or save it for a plane ticket?” With all of this, there truly was no time for dance at this point in my life, but I had to remind myself that I chose this type of lifestyle.

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Eventually, I became better at time management and was able to squeeze in one hour-long dance class a week. It felt great to be dancing again, and I realized how much dance had an impact on my overall well-being - I was constantly meeting new people and creating meaningful relationships, harnessing my inner creativity, and most importantly, I became more confident in multiple areas of my life.

Today, I am an advisor/instructor/program director/etc at a university, which is already a handful in itself. But not too long ago, I was presented with the opportunity to be the faculty advisor for the institution’s only hip-hop team on campus and spending time with them is probably one of the parts of my job that I enjoy the most. Although it’s a voluntary position, I do take it just as seriously as any employment opportunity and may actually be more invested in them than I am other parts of my work (shhhhh), but I feel like this is the one time in my life where all of my worlds are aligning, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m finding myself choreographing again and teaching at workshops, and it feels right after a several year-long hiatus. I periodically visit their rehearsals to offer support and feedback - sometimes I choose to stay late even with having to work early in the morning, but I’m a firm believer that if you love it, you find ways to make it work.

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I see them hold auditions and congratulate new members. I see these students perform their hearts out after many late-night rehearsals. I’m watching them work together to tell a story through a set. I’m helping them find opportunities outside campus to meet new people and network with other fellow dance groups and choreographers. I see the frustration and the hurdles they face, but at the end of the day I see them start to become a dance family, and I’m pretty lucky to have found a place for that in my life again.