Finding What Makes You Unique & LOFD Writes for Dance Magazine

My story on the all-new Dance Magazine website
I really can't express how grateful I am to be having a whirlwind year when it comes to opportunities and achievements. To be completely honest, I had wishes and dreams of this stuff happening in my performance career. Little did I think that I would actually find what I was looking for and more in only the first year following the end of my time onstage. Last week, I had both the honor of being featured by Dance Magazine and writing for the same periodical in one fell swoop. It has been on my goal list for a few years now to write an article for this major publication and to have my work in the studio and on the stage highlighted, as well. If you want to check out that article, you can click this link right here to be swept over to Dance Magazine's new website to read my article.

The Graduating Class of the dance department at Hunter College
I'm currently riding the Bolt Bus back from New York City to spend an evening with my husband and a night in my own bed. At the moment, I'm currently riding off the high of sharing my knowledge and experience with the graduating class in Hunter College's dance department, where we discussed marketing oneself online and in-person, how to prepare materials for auditions, and techniques in cultivating social media for self-promotion. We talked about many things throughout this 2-hour interactive workshop that I curated especially for these students embarking on their first year out on their own. One thing that we addressed that I haven't talked about in great detail anywhere is how to find what makes you unique and how to use that to stand out in a crowd. So, I thought why not discuss that right here, right now.

This concept kind of drives me nuts, but every one of us is unique. In fact, the only thing that is normal about every human being is that we are all unique. While some dancers have amazingly high leg extensions or perfectly centered pirouettes, others have artistry that really shines through and can move people to tears. But there are other aspects of self that help dancers become visible. Perhaps, its your hair color, your fashion sense, your interests offstage, or your upbringing. There are unique characteristics that we are born with and different personal experiences that we all have had that distinguish each of us from one another. While many of us try to find success through our technique and artistry, it is more common for those who rise to local, regional, national, and international attention to be singled out for their uniqueness rather than their technique. This is due to the fact that many people today have impeccable technique, sky-high extensions, and can turn on a dime. Today, people tend to be drawn to artists who are imperfect, but intriguing, relatable, or any combination of the two.

How does one find what makes them unique and then use it to their advantage onstage and offstage? This often requires a lot of trial-and-error to accomplish. For me, as a dancer, I had nice facility with very good technique and considerable acting skills. I always felt like my acting skills distinguished me from others since I didn't have incredible facility. But I was never able to gain the national or international attention I had dreamed of attaining in my work as a performing artist with my skill set. Only when I began freelancing and developed this blog had I begun to even tap into a little bit of what makes me unique in this vast, yet small dance world. I didn't realize it at the time, but what was distinctive about me as an artist was the candor and honesty that I am willing to share publicly about my work and our art form. While this has nothing to do with my dancing, it is a distinguishing quality of mine that I seemed to have naturally cultivated. It absolutely has helped me stand out in a crowd. During my performance career, this quality of mine helped me gain employment across the nation as a freelance artist and got me a few nice nods with attention from Dance Informa and a short article about health care in Dance Magazine.

I didn't have to try hard to develop this characteristic in my media and social media work, as this has always been a quality of mine since childhood. I remember sitting with a friend at the Kirov Academy of Ballet who asked me to be honest with her about what I thought of her technique. I remember her pursing her lips, letting out a short close-lipped smile, and stating, "That was mildly painful to hear, but I know that you love me and I now know what I need to work on to get where I want to." And the beautiful part of this story is that she got her dream job to dance with Universal Ballet in South Korea, where her mother had been raised. So, while I have always had this unique quality, it took freelancing and this blog for me to figure out how to use it to benefit my career.

Rose Montgomery-Webb (Photo: Unknown)
Now, let's talk for a moment about what you are really here for? How can my sharing of this story help you. How can you determine what makes you unique and utilize those qualities to help become your most successful self? The first and most obvious place is to look within yourself. I always say that you should start with your story. Where did you grow up? How did you grow up? I remember having this conversation with one of my students from Alaska Dance Theatre who is currently a trainee at Ballet Met. She was raised in Alaska, but adopted from South Korea while she was an infant. While she didn't see these aspects of her life as anything out of the ordinary (and it was beautiful to see that she didn't), in the eyes of others she was having wildly unique experiences before she even had cognizance of it. As she has entered her years of auditioning for companies and finding her way towards becoming a professional, I have always told her to own those two facts and be unafraid to openly share about these things. This has paid off in certain ways, beyond her training opportunities and gaining a scholarship to attend Ballet Met for the summer that led her to this traineeship, she was selected as a guest host for the Premier Dance Network's Becoming Ballet podcast. If you can look into your life and see and share what unique experiences made you into the person that you are today, you may be on the right track to finding your definitive story. Look at Misty Copeland and how her story has catapulted her into legitimate fame.

James Whiteside (Photo: Unknown)
There are other unique things about people that are outside of themselves and their experiences. For instance, Kansas City Ballet dancer Kelsey Hellebuyck has a hell of a knack for fashion. She runs a blog that documents her outfits from day to day, which has had her featured in Pointe Magazine and other media outlets. Kathryn Morgan had a meteoric-rise at New York City Ballet then was struck with a debilitating illness that forced her off the stage. While she already had a unique story, she has found even more ways to make herself distinctive by developing a Youtube channel that offers tips, tricks, and training for young, aspiring dancers. Margaret Mullin (Soloist with Pacific Northwest Ballet) has been working as choreographer and director on a film documentary, James Whiteside (American Ballet Theatre Principal) rose to celebrity status thanks to his viral music videos and non-apologetic openness about his lifestyle, and Abigail Mentzer (former Pennsylvania Ballet Soloist & current dancer in the Phantom of the Opera tour) has become well-known for her interest in dancewear and her company that grew from that. Aside from finding what makes themselves unique, these artists have also developed their unique passions outside of the dance studio to garner attention, likes, and an adoring audience.

I wouldn't have gotten the opportunity I had today at Hunter College and the one above with Dance Magazine if I hadn't figured out what made me unique and ran with it. It can be so frustrating for somebody to tell you that everybody and nobody is unique. And while I fully agree with that statement, we can only blossom fully when we learn how to genuinely be our own unique self. Take some time to tap into and cultivate multiple parts of yourself that you feel are distinguishing. But be sure not to get disillusioned when certain things you have worked towards and hoped for don't actually catch people's attention. Practically nobody figures out the key to success on their first try. Keep putting yourself out there, keep fine-tuning your ideas and story, and (if you are lucky) your uniqueness will help bring you to the forefront of attention onstage, offstage, and in communities around the world.


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