Over the past few weeks, I had two good conversations on what being a professional dancer entails. Both conversations helped me learn even more about what it takes, and I also ended up admiring the dancers more.

My regular teacher, Danielle, said that being a professional dancer involves doing the behind the scenes work religiously, even if you’re too tired or don’t want to. She was talking in terms of attending lessons, practicing, etc. I think it’s a good point to keep in mind; I sometimes think that professionals are just born that good, and I forget that there is a lot of hard work and discipline behind what they do. I think the amount of discipline and hard work is almost more impressive at times. I know from experience it’s very easy to let other interests or lethargy get in the way of your practices.

In a similar vein, Aradia mentioned that she continually trains in Middle Eastern dance, even now as an established professional. I found that particularly inspiring, since she has been dancing so long and is so talented already. She probably does not train in the same way I try to (regular classes), but I really respect the fact that she still does. Perhaps her humble attitude and dedication to her dance education is why she is a master teacher.

Aradia and I also talked about the importance of having an arsenal of skills and knowledge. She said back when she started out, the categorization didn’t exist the way it does today (Egyptian, Turkish, Lebanese, etc.) and that everyone learned all styles and how she is glad that she did. Because she is hired for parties and major events, Aradia, like other professionals, needs to be able to cater to and understand the client. For instance, the infamous “don’t show the soles of your feet to the audience” rule, which can be very offensive to Arabs. In a less severe instance, though, she said that audience want to see a certain flavor sometimes and that one should be prepared for that. Some audiences are tough to please and don’t want to see Egyptian if they’re expecting Turkish. She said that you don’t have to completely change your style, but you do need to give them that taste.

I seek to learn different aspects of Middle Eastern dance, because I’m interested. I never really thought about the importance of tailoring your act to an audience like that.  Ironically, I train myself in physics similarly because I want to be prepared for whatever research I have. Hearing these two teachers’ takes on professional dance has inspired me to be even more disciplined in practice and learning and train in as many styles and techniques as possible, even if I’m not as interested.