Being a Dance Mentor

Nobel Banquet prizewinner, Rosalyn Yalow, once said to a group of students:

"If we are to have faith that mankind will survive and thrive on the face of the earth, we must believe that each succeeding generation will be wiser than its progenitors. We transmit to you, the next generation, the total sum of our knowledge. Yours is the responsibility to use it, to add to it, and transmit it to your children."


As dancers, we all have people we secretly - or not so secretly - admire from afar. We stand in awe of their physical ability or their impenetrable work ethic and spirit. We strive to extend our legs to the same height of their extension, and push for 32 fouettés en tournant just like Pierina Legnani.

While these role models play an important role in our dance lives by helping us visualize and strive for perfection, today we are discussing those who are on the front lines of making your dancing happen: Dance mentors.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction," as John C. Crosby defined.

Dance mentors can include:


Dance Teachers:

The ones who are in the studio space with you; correcting your epaulement or reminding you to spot. The ones who track your progress in details, and give you information that will help you directly understand movement and development of your dance.

Dance Parents / Family Members:

The ones who are in the waiting room or backstage ready with bobby pins, extra ballet shoes, tights and hairspray. The ones who can put on fake eyelashes while passing out words of encouragement (even if it's not your direct parent). The ones who travel back and forth to practice or to grab you food or water.

Dance Administrators:

The ones who run the office and welcome you to the studio with a smile. The ones who type up rehearsal schedules, order the costumes, and make sure your name is spelled correctly for programs.

Dance Writers:

The ones who put dance into words via dance reviews you read in the papers or books about the history and current state of dance. The ones who track fads and shifts in the dance world, and discover the words to describe it to the world.

Dance Supporters:

The ones who attend concerts and help fund scholarships or shows throughout the world. The ones who keep their eyes on emerging dancers and understand the work involved with the arts.

Mentors are people we know, and people who know us, who have taken the responsibility to share ideas, spread knowledge, foster progress and be actively involved with the growth and professional development of a person. Mentors dedicate quality time and effort to junior students as they take on a journey of growth. Mentors help identify goals and a pathway to reach that goal.

A good dance mentor will:


Be Available

The core of mentoring responsibilities is making oneself available. A good dance mentor won't make the mistake of thinking that mentoring will take over their professional lives and leave no time for their personal dance endeavors.

Listen Carefully

A good dance mentor will listen to even the parts of communication that aren't being said. They will help trainees through the difficult times of dance training, the emotional highs and lows, and the physical demands simply by listening to what is going on in their trainees body/mind/spirit.

Keep in Touch

Sometimes, just picking up the phone or responding to an e-mail is all it takes. Communicating regularly with trainees is essential. A mentor can help anticipate problems, discuss possibilities, weigh pros and cons. Sometimes, trainees only need to talk something through until they have a clearer vision of the situation.

Allow for Differences

A good dance mentor knows that they aren't trying to make a carbon copy of themselves; they are helping nurture someone else who comes to the table with different abilities and knowledge. While the emotional dance journey may be similar, the physical journey is unique to each dancer. A good mentor will understand this, and allow for input and growth that is unique to their trainee.

Let Trainees Make Decisions

A good dance mentor is there to provide advice, help, and encouragement. They are there to listen, ponder, question and engage. However, they are not the decision-maker: the trainee is the decision-maker. The trainee must, in the end, move forward on their own ground.

Teach by Words and Example

A good mentor will be clear in their communication and their actions. They will think before they speak, and think before they act. A good mentor will live a life and show a life that helps the trainee understand how to function in the field as a positive force.


Dancers: If you have someone in your life that fits this description, tell them how thankful you are for their mentor-ship in your dancing life. Tell them how much you appreciate their time, attention and dedication to your growth.

Dance mentors: Thank you for the work you do! It is a big responsibility, and you are doing life-changing work. Work hard to be a better mentor, and continue to improve your presence in the young dancer's life.


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Design & Development by Shane Jeffers