This month the Pacific Northwest Ballet School Mentorship Program’s discussion topics focused on building confidence as young adults and aspiring dancers. 

Major themes that emerged through our November sessions were:

  • Hard work is admired in whatever field you are in.
  • Re-learn to be a good dancer for yourself. No one in the room or in the theaters to validate.
  • Finding your unique voice as a dancer will help get you jobs.

In November, the PNBS Mentorship Program had two sessions with each group of students. The first sessions were open conversations about who we are, who we aspire to be and why. A large part of this conversation was focused on what it means to be a woman or a man in dance, and how that influences the way we approach our roles as artists. Regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or orientation, hard work is the backbone for dance, and it is your own uniqueness that helps to set you apart from everyone else. We are slowly breaking the mold of gender stereotypes in order to promote more individuality and less uniformity in aesthetic and character. This is helping to create space for artists and especially students to discover and find their own voices as dancers.

For the second session, we invited PNB company dancers Mark Cuddihee, Christopher D’Ariano, Angelica Generosa, Leah Terada, and Sarah Villwock to speak to the students. The guests were asked the same questions students came up with in the first session in order to continue the conversation. Whether a student or a professional dancer, we have shared experiences and similar journeys when on the path to achieving our dreams.

We went around to each student and guest speaker to ask them what they were proud of. It is easy to get caught up in perfecting each combination in classes, hitting the furniture around us when dancing at home, and doubting our worth. Most importantly, we need to remember who we are and how much we have accomplished to get to where we are. We reminded the students that each time they doubt themselves or wonder whether their hard work is worth it, we told them to look back at their list of things to be proud of. In these times it can be hard to look at all that one has accomplished when feeling unproductive or drained – that’s why it’s so important to have perspective when it is difficult to dance.

Read on for a list of highlights of what our students are proud of. In addition to these inspiring comments, we wanted to share some resources with the PNBS students and the PNB Blog viewership.

Positive Daily Affirmations: Is There Science Behind It?
An article from Positive Psychology with information on Positive Thinking, Daily Affirmations, and the science behind how these practices affect your mental health. 

The Place to Challenge Ballet’s Gender Stereotypes? In Daily Class
A New York Times article about challenging ballet’s stereotypes in ballet classes with examples from American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet dancers.

Counselling for Dancers is a website with mental health articles and other resources specifically tailored for dancers and former dancers. 

List of what our PNBS students and dancers are proud of:

  • I am proud of myself for getting up every morning to take ballet class in the dining room. 
  • I am proud of how far I have come to be a student at the PNBSchool.
  • I am proud of my work ethic, even when I doubt myself.
  • I am proud I can stay motivated to just keep trying.
  • I am proud that I do not judge myself for who I am. 
  • I am proud I have not gone insane going quarantine. 
  • I am proud of my skin color and race. 
  • I am proud I graduated high school.
  • I am proud I got accepted to college. 
  • I am proud that I got a driver’s license.
  • I am proud to have taught myself to compose and create music.
  • I am proud of who I have been for my family. 
  • I am proud of how much I care about other people. 
  • I am proud of being able to openly express what I believe, especially about Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community. 
  • I am proud of my curiosity to start branching out to try new things outside of dance. 
  • I am proud of myself for sticking with it, especially this year.
  • I am proud of my determination to set goals and achieve them. 
  • I am proud of myself for being brave.
  • I am proud of my persistence and perseverance to keep on pushing through the daily challenges. 
  • I am proud that I have taken responsibility for my actions and started planning for my future.