It isn’t all song and dance for dance majors

Some people can be quick to discredit dancing as just a hobby, and not something to pursue as a career. For dance majors at Oakland University, it is more than a hobby or a degree: it is a lifestyle. Dancing can bring students together and create lasting bonds.

While many college students struggle to find free time, dance majors find it especially hard. Once they factor in homework and part-time jobs, free time can sound like a foreign concept.

“It’s hard when you have rehearsal at 10 p.m. and have to be up at 8 a.m. for dance class,” Mariah Chandler, a senior dance major, said. “All your friends who aren’t dance majors want to go party or shopping, and you are like, ‘I can’t go.’”

Most days start early and end late. Many dancers begin each day with an hour-long dance class and end with a three-hour rehearsal at night. The middle of the day tends to be filled with general education classes and those covering dance theory and history.

According to Chandler, there are many benefits to being a dance major at a smaller university. For her, it is the family atmosphere within the program, something she credits the faculty for fostering. When one spends six hours a day with the same people, they are bound to become closer.

“Everyone is supportive,” Chandler said. “If there is any safe environment for growing yourself, it should be in school.”

These bonds do not end when class does. With such busy schedules, many students find themselves sleeping over at other dancers’ homes. This can happen on a weekly basis.

Gregory Patterson, Associate Professor of Dance at Oakland, said emotional resilience is forged through the community bonding.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” Patterson said.

Because the students spend so much time dancing, the program keeps an extra eye out for injuries. Dance majors are required to take courses like kinesiology, where they learn how to move their bodies correctly to avoid injuries.

There is a strict policy on how many classes one can miss before a student’s grade suffers. Even though classes can add up in an already jam-packed schedule, it is important to faithfully attend each one. For a dance student, an injury that precludes them from class can mean a failing grade.

Classes can get stressful. From choreographing solo performances to working in duets and trios, there is never a dull moment. That is why professors always keep their doors open.

“They get tired,” Patterson said. “We talk about priorities and conserving your body when you aren’t moving.”

Dance is a competitive program. Some days, students may wonder why they are doing it, but then there are others when it is all worthwhile.

It is something you have to be “committed and pretty much passionate about,” Patterson said.

It takes hard work. But, like most things, hard work pays off.

“If it’s what you love, then you have to do it,” Chandler said.