Choosing a Dance Style

Young woman practicing ballet in dance studio
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Choosing a dance style seems, at first, almost too obvious to talk about: just go with a dance style you're interested in and then learn to do it. But the obvious answer overlooks several questions you may want to consider before you choose.

Interest vs Potential Profession

One of the catch-22s about a career in the arts is that by the time you're old enough to make an adult choice of an art form, you're probably too old learn to become a professional. While there are always exceptions most professional dancers start at a very young age -- five or six is a typical age when future ballerinas begin taking lessons. Principal ballerina Misty Copeland ran into some resistance early in her professional career because she didn't start ballet lessons until she was 13!

To put this another way; if you're already an adult, the decision -- recreational interest or professional dance career -- has more or less been made for you. 

In any case, if you're considering a dance career, know that it's an extremely demanding profession. If you've ever seen a flock of ballerinas leaving the concert hall, you'll notice that they all have very similar bodies with extremely developed calves. Developing those bodies took countless hours of rigorous daily practice and continual training. Ballet dancers can have wonderful lives, but mostly in the company of other ballet dancers. The same holds true for Broadway and pop dancers as well. It requires an extreme commitment that only a few persons have. 

Most, not all, professional dancers start with ballet, then, at some point in their careers specialize in another dance form -- Broadway, for example. But taking ballet lessons is an excellent way to begin a professional dance career of almost any kind.

If, on the other hand, you're interested in dance for social reasons -- as a way to meet and become friends with others --or as a pleasant way to exercise, you're free to choose any form of dance you like. Which kinds of dance interest you? What would you like to be able to do on a dance floor? That's a good place to begin, although there are one or two other things you may want to consider as well. 

Social Aspects

There is such a thing as solo dancing, but more often we dance with others. Each dance style tends to attract like-minded persons. If you're a 19-year-old, then choosing hip-hop is certainly a reasonable dance style choice and many of the persons you meet in dance classes or at local dance clubs that play a lot of hip-hop and EDM may well become friends. 

This doesn't mean that you have to engage only in dance styles that attract persons in your demographic. You may well want to learn a dance style that will put you in contact with persons of ages and ethnicities different from yours. That can be a great experience. But it does mean that the social aspect of dancing is important and that you need to consider consciously the social experience you want to have when you're choosing a particular dance style.

The Benefit of Experimenting

When your reasons for choosing a dance style are social and recreational, you may find that "dabbling," although frowned upon by some, is exactly the right thing to do. You may be attracted to flamenco, for instance, but wonder how you would fit in socially. The best way to find out is to try it. You may be that middle-aged suburbanite who's attracted to hip-hop. How would that work? Again, there's a good way to find out. 

Once you've tried a couple of different dance styles, you might even find that you'd like to try more and that experimenting is part of the fun. Meeting persons you might not otherwise meet might be one of the benefits.