Who are the hardest-working students on campus?
Alyssa McIntyre, 20, a junior dance major, may argue that students in the dance department are, hands-down, the hardest-working students at SRU.
But rather than bragging, McIntyre said that she just wants people to recognize the work that a student in the dance department must put into their major in order to truly succeed.
“I feel like a lot of people think that dancers are just here because it’s an easy way to get by in school, and in actuality, it’s a really tough major,” McIntyre said. “It’s really hard work, and because we all have such a desire to dance we don’t consider it a joke at all.”
Many dance majors, like McIntyre and senior Ashlee Parker, 21, have spent the majority of their lifetime practicing dance.
Parker was first introduced to dance by her parents at the age of 3. While she took a short break at 8 to play basketball, it didn’t take long for Parker to realize that dance had become a part of her life that she didn’t want to live without.
“I think at the moment when I went from basketball [back] to dance, that’s when I really realized that I didn’t want to do anything else but dance, and just knowing that, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop doing it,” Parker said.
Parker said she has been dancing since. She said that the SRU dance department has become more than just her major—her fellow students and faculty are her family and her support.
“I feel like the dance department is very family-oriented,” she said. “When I first came here, we all said the same thing—we all felt comfortable. We didn’t feel like it was competitive. A lot of the other schools that have dance are probably more competitive, and here I just felt accepted. In my classes, I don’t feel like people are judging me. I feel like we’re all here for the same purpose, and we’re all here to learn. And we all want to grow together, not against each other.”
Dancer and 2012 SRU alum Kaitlyn Dye, of Frostburg, Md., had similar thoughts about the dance department. She emphasized that the struggles and love of their major seemed to bring dance students closer together.
“At Slippery Rock, we kind of all flock together,” Dye said. “You have your liberal arts and your performance arts classes, and it’s very stressful because it’s so busy. We had all of our homework, and we had rehearsals each night for three or four hours and trying to have a social life as well. We never had time to be ‘normal’ college students.”
According to McIntyre, the average dance major devotes 40 and 50 hours or more each week to dancing alone.
“The hardest thing about being a dance major is everything that you have to give up,” McIntyre said. “A lot of us don’t get home until 11:30 every night, so I think that’s the hardest part about being a dance major—just trying to find the time to relax.”
Dye, who has danced in the National Collegiate Dance Festival, the American Dance Festival, at the Kennedy Center in Seattle, and in Salt Lake City, said that for a dancer, the day is never over.
“I would have to say that my biggest lesson that I learned [through dance] is that there is never a start and a stop to your artistic career,” she said.
While Parker, who will graduate in the spring, recognizes that finding a job after graduation will require even more hard work and devotion, she is looking forward to applying what Slippery Rock has taught her.
“I [look forward to] just going out and applying everything that I’ve learned here,” she said. “I know it will sort of be a different world, and it will be hard, but I just want to push myself to go as far as I can with it, and I think [the opportunities are] very exciting.”
So while McIntyre said she believes that a lot of hard work is necessary to be a dance major, she also believes that it’s well worth it.
“[Dancing] is what we love to do, so we don’t mind it,” McIntyre said. “Yeah, it may bring us stress sometimes, but no one really cares because it’s what we’re here for.”