Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you've been on a competitive hip hop dance team for three whole years. When you've developed fun relationships with your teammates and have gotten used to the familiar way of how practices run, you begin to feel comfortable. Maybe a bit too comfortable to leave. I never pictured when or how I would say goodbye to my team when the time came, but with the unpredictable flow of life, all great things come to an end eventually. Along with the many veterans who have left the team, I am now another one to do the very same. Since a lot of you have asked me about what it's like to be on a competitive hip hop dance team, I've compiled a few fun facts or lessons that I've learned from my personal experience of being on a dance team for three years.
Joining a dance team is a more valuable and memorable experience than taking any workshop or class.
When you're a part of a dance team that you see three times a week, you're bound to develop close friendships with a few individuals. From every practice to that draining period of time known as "hell week", every hour spent with your team will be a unique feeling that you can't get from any other team or class. When you take part in a workshop or class, the process feels a bit transactional to me - you simply pay to learn choreography for the day, then leave. And since I've always been a fan of forming genuine relationships, I am confident that I'm the type of individual who prefers to join a team versus take a class.
You will need to learn how to balance your work life with dance.
I really don't know how I did it, but there was one competition season that took place while I was working as an Assistant Manager at a retail store. This position required me to be on my feet for 8 hours of this goddamn full-time shift. Surprisingly, I somehow managed working from 1PM-10 PM, followed by dance practice from 10PM-1 AM, followed by another morning shift from 9AM-6PM. And in all honesty, this was probably one of the most productive and hard-working seasons I ever experienced. If anything, wouldn't you have expected the complete opposite out of me with a crazy and demanding work schedule like that? At this point in my life, I made the best out of my stressful situation. Instead of feeling completely drained, I felt inspired to work my ass off to catch up on any choreography that I may have missed. I met up an hour early with a teammate (shoutout to Jordan!) before practice for two weeks and literally only went home for 30 minutes to quickly eat and change into my dance clothes. In this specific case, I used my busy schedule to motivate me even further and ensure that I wasn't falling behind. However, if you find that work is taking you away from multiple practices or draining your motivation to give it your all on a team, then maybe its best that you take a break from the team or leave temporarily so that you don't drag the team down with your absences or sluggish attitude.
You will feel unmotivated at times.
Even if you love dancing, there will be times where you feel more discouraged or unmotivated than ever. Maybe you didn't get casted into a piece you really wanted to get in or maybe you have choreographer's block and can't solidify the next 3 8-counts of your piece - whatever the reason, you just feel like a lazy fuck. I'm going to be brutally honest and admit that there was one summer where I felt super lazy and unmotivated to come to practice. This laziness eventually bit me in the ass, as I ended up learning the closer the same exact day as the showcase. When you realize that you've become a lazy dancer, you're not only letting yourself down, but also your teammates. And yes, I was called out for learning something on the same day as a show - and I deserved just that and more. If anything, this experience has taught me to get my shit together for future showcases and that I shouldn't even be on a team if I'm going to half-ass my way through it. Throughout this unmotivated phase, I became a more driven and wiser dancer.
When you're in the dance studio, personal lives (drama, stress, troubles, etc.) stay, or at least should stay, out the door.
Every Monday night, Wednesday night, and Sunday afternoon, we dancers dedicate a chunk of our lives towards dance. That means relationship problems, work stress, friend drama - leave it at the door. As difficult as it may be, there are only so many hours in a day and if you're on a dance team, then you've made the commitment to dance. If anything, feel free to share any good news that you have with your teammates since we're all here to support and lift each other up. As a team (#squadgoals), we go to the studio to vibe off of one another and to share our passion for dance with the community.
Every competition season will be unique.
I never realized how truer this statement was until I experienced it for myself multiple times. Dancers you've grooved alongside with on stage throughout one season can totally disappear the very next season, with no mention or reason of their sudden disappearance. Experienced veterans that you've looked up to for years will announce their last day on the team before moving on to a newly accepted career or pathway in life. With this in mind, be sure to cherish every moment that you have with your team because each season will never be the same.
To previous/current teammates reading this, thank you so much for the time that you've spent with me in the studio and I've enjoyed sharing the stage with you all! To my previous/current director(s) and captain(s), thank you so much for your patience for all that you do for the team and your hard work truly doesn't go unnoticed. Good luck with everything and I hope to watch you all killing it on stage in the near future, next time as an audience member. Again, it's unbelievable that I was able to join my dream hip hop team, but it happened and I couldn't be happier to end this chapter of my dance life than with VIPSJ.
Also, if you're the type of individual who has always wanted to get into hip hop (or any dance genre for the matter), then honestly, just GO FOR IT! Experienced dancers don't grow overnight - they take months and years to get where they are today. I've had a lot of friends confess to me that they really want to start dancing, but don't bring themselves to join a team or take a class. Honestly, nobody will be able to see the potential that you have if you don't see it in yourself. So...the next time that you have the urge to dance, do yourself (and your body!) a favor and go to the next dance workshop, class, or auditions that is offered in your area! Trust me, the dance community is very supportive and all we really care about is if our dancers are enjoying their time on the dance floor. Joining VIPSJ has been one hell of a ride, but the entire experience will be forever memorable and unforgettable.
Watch my last performance with VIPSJ: Complex Dance Competition 2016
If you have any dance-related questions in regards to joining a team, becoming a better dancer, etc., don't hesitate to ask me at all! I love hearing and answering all of your questions and I'd love to do anything in my power to help y'all out :)
Sandals: Steve Madden