We all start off as specialists in something. I guess we have to in order to get our technique straight. Some of us cross-over into other styles or become a chameleon. This can be for various reasons – boredom, lack of work, or falling in love with a style after seeing it performed. The chameleon’s adventure can be difficult mentally and physically. When you are outstanding at one style, it makes you feel vulnerable to admit you don’t know something and put yourself out there for failure in taking up another style.
Even just taking a class in another style can be torturous to the ego. It can make me feel like such a beginner and that I’ve lost my edge. Often, I walk away from a new class realizing how much I don’t know. I use this to get inspired to push myself to be more than just passable in that style. The more I can draw from different styles and techniques, the more employable I am. As a dancer though, there is always so much I don’t know which is part of what makes a career as a dancer so amazing. There is always room for improvement. Once I believe I know it all, I will stop growing, stagnate, and the end of my career will be imminent.
My chameleon adventure started unexpectedly. I had attended a show a few weeks before it happened. It was amazing, hard hitting, and appealed to a side of me that I didn’t know could be appealed to. I had goose bumps during so many parts of it. I knew the majority of the company was ex-professional or semi-professional ballet in background. But they were amazing in how they used the technique they knew and broke the lines in so many ways to create this show. I walked away wanting to be part of it.
I don’t know if it was manifestation or just pure luck, but I was asked to come to one of their company classes through a connection we mutually had in our dance community. I remember showing up, thinking this was just a dance class. I was sitting on the floor warming up and all these beauties started walking in, one at a time. I instantly recognized them from the show and realized this wasn’t some side company of the show that I had been invited to take class with – this was the company I had just seen on stage a few weeks back.
My inner voice started telling me to run, that I didn’t belong. It was nerve wracking to say the least, especially since I didn’t have a ballet background. I worshipped ballerinas, but was never going to be one. Four months later, after attending my first class with the company, I was offered a spot on tour with them. The look on my face obviously gave me away as they asked me if I needed what they said repeated. This was the first time I felt like I had made it in a new genre aside from my original specialty. 8 years later, I haven’t looked back and continue to learn new styles and obtain work as a cross-over dancer.
Becoming a chameleon takes work, guts, and putting my ego aside. The long-term benefits of it in my confidence, technique, and stage presence make the growing pains of it worth it. I make a point of taking at least one class outside my main genres every week. What class will you step out of your comfort zone into this week? Let your adventure begin!