Why on Earth do I Still Dance?

April 21, 2016
stretching in amsterdam

I found myself asking this question over and over again a few weeks ago. It is hard to imagine
pursuing another career path right now, but sometimes I wonder, “Am I in the right profession?”
“Would I be happier doing something different with my life?” These questions come up, and I am now
coming face-to-face with them.

I just returned from a five month dance journey in Israel, and I stayed abroad for a total of almost
seven months. The experience was indescribable, but I can say that I feel incredibly fortunate to have had it.

After such a rigorous, yet blissful time spent dancing, training, performing, and choreographing at
Kibbutz Ga’aton for the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s (KCDC) Dance Journey program in
the north of Israel, it has been a challenge to return to the States and my “normal” routine, whatever
that means. I spent the majority of my time there in the studio, filling each day with ballet, KCDC
repertoire, master classes, contemporary techniques, Gaga, and rehearsals. I was thriving within the
creative environment that cradled our international dance village community. Surely, this was inspiring
and opened my eyes to new ways of understanding how dance fits into my life.

As a dancer, it is true that my life is anything but ordinary. My schedule is always extremely
random and unpredictable. I can honestly say that I am never bored. I cannot even fathom what it
means to be bored. In Philadelphia, where I now call home, I have an amazing part-time job as a KIND
Brand Ambassador (KBA), and it is flexible enough to accommodate my sporadic schedule. Some
months are busier than others, but I am often traveling a lot due to rehearsals, auditions, and
occasionally, trips for pleasure.

Nonetheless, I feel that dancing is the happy marriage of work and pleasure. It is not “easy”
work, but it certainly feeds the soul. The work is too demanding and difficult to do it solely for the
money or fame – one must be disillusioned if they think that choosing dance as a profession will lead to
great wealth and celebrity. Of course, these two desirable outcomes are not impossible to obtain, but
there is no guarantee. Therefore, it is important to dance for a greater, deeper cause that comes from
within.

Of course, I love to dance. There is no question about it. However, when you dedicate every
seed of your being to something, you are likely to experience some mixed feelings. After all, it requires
a substantial investment of time, energy, and money. Those precious resources are valuable and it is
important to spend them wisely.

Sometimes I consider the notion that I could be doing something more impactful and influential
with my life. I could be making a greater difference in the world and possibly living more comfortably,
without having to make so many sacrifices. I am a full human being, and I have other talents and
interests, in addition to dance, theatre, and performing. For instance, I love writing, and I enjoy
researching sexology, psychology, and human relationships. Why some people are insanely attracted to
one another, and why others do not experience this same magnitude of chemistry, has always intrigued
me. I could go to graduate school and earn a doctorate degree in order to become a Sexologist. Still,
would this result in happiness? These are goals, dreams, and fantasies of the future. I also love being in nature, traveling, spending time with loved ones, doing yoga, and enjoying the finer things in life like drinking Oolong tea and baking healthy desserts.

That being said, I still yearn to perform at the end of the day; I feel most satisfied when I am
onstage, and that is how I know I am in the right profession. Of course, it does not always come easy,
and that makes things much more interesting. In fact, keeping up with what is current and relevant in
the dance world is definitely a chase and a hustle. Dance keeps me on my toes, challenges my
perceived limitations, and helps me remain present and curious. I am able to exercise skills that I would
not otherwise tap into doing other ordinary life tasks. We are expected to be able to creatively problem
solve, keep large amounts of information and choreography in our minds and bodies, take it all a step
further, and get adequate sleep and nutrition.

The daily maintenance and demanding requirements that are necessary to maintain and pursue a
career as a professional dancer are no joke. Attending daily classes, cross-training, and creating a
sustainable life for oneself are definitely at the top of the priority list. Furthermore, it is important to remember that as an artist, we need something to express. We cannot simply spend our every waking moment in the studio. We spend a great deal of time rehearsing and training, but we need something to dance about. Therefore, I seek harmony and opportunities to have new experiences in order to ensure that I really feel alive. An artist must feel. We cannot numb these emotions and experiences that make up the human condition.

When I really think about it, I feel exhilarated on a daily basis, and that is not something
everyone can say. Sure it takes a full investful of the self, but it is worth all of the work. I am now
realizing that I am exactly where I need to be right now.

Honestly, if I had to answer that question, “Why on Earth do I still dance?” it would be
becomes I love it. Truly, there is no better reason that I can think of. However, as you can see, it is
much more complex than that. It takes a commitment, and it is important to continuously ask yourself if
you are up for the challenge, the investment, and the surplus of joy that it provides. This is my vow
renewal to myself and to dance. Let’s do this, Baby. Dance ON!

– Nika Antuanette
Former Summer Study NYC 2015 Student

photo: Ivana Tomasevic

Why on Earth do I Still Dance?