Handling rejection and intimidation as a dancer – Dance Matters

Written by | B-Roll

Professional dancer Mhari Wilson answers questions about facing rejection and what to do when your family wants you to do something other than dance.

Q: I’m 16, love to dance, and want to be a full-time professional dancer. My family, however, doesn’t think it’s the right choice for me. They want me to find something else to do for a living. They tell me I don’t have a chance, that the competition is very high, and basically that I’ll never “make it” as a dancer with a successful career.  How do I convince them that this is important to me, I really want to do this, and to let me make this decision? – Jessika S., Seattle, Wa.

A: I can appreciate your love of dance and the desire to make a career out of it. “Can you really enjoy hours of learning movements and stretching muscles until they ache?” they will ask. For the dancer, it’s not a question, it’s a life. There is a sense of achievement in the learning of dance technique as much as in the performance aspect. Non-dancers can understand the applause, but the mysteries of preparation are sometimes beyond them. It seems that your family is concerned that you’re “missing something”. Dancers must make the effort to keep the lines of communication open with the important people in their lives, to help them accept, if not understand, in the same way a dancer does, what the desire to dance means.  Also, please ask yourself: what would I do if I couldn’t dance? Explore avenues of options. Write them down. Talk it over with your family. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the dance world is so unique in its drives and dreams that you are not attached to humanity. Remember: you are a person who dances as well as a dancer who also happens to be someone’s daughter, niece, and even friend.


Q: I’m a professional dancer in the corps of a major ballet company. I’ve worked very hard over the past couple of years but I feel like I’m in a “one step forward, two steps back” situation (no dance pun intended). I’m having negative feelings about myself and a feeling of intimidation and rejection within the company. It seems so highly selective! I want to talk to my mom, but she’s not a dancer and wouldn’t understand. HELP!  – C.P., NYC

A: ALL company members have moments of being passed over by the management. This does not necessarily constitute a rejection of them as dancers. Never blame your problems as a person on the fact that you’re a dancer! Talk to your mom, you’ll be amazed that she is most likely your biggest fan and has an understanding about struggles that you haven’t given her credit for. I think you’ll find some settling answers from her regarding your own attitude towards dance and the “other” world in which you must live. Commitment to dance will not carry you through a lifetime without an equal commitment to being a whole person from whom the artist draws inspiration and understanding in performance. If you want everything, if you take the responsibility for yourself and refuse to be diverted or stopped in your quest for your dream by the judgements of others, you can do it, and you will find a way to manage the organization.
– Mhari Wilson

Photo by TJ Seren

Mhari Wilson is a member of a famous dancing family. The daughter of original Joffrey Ballet founding members Brunilda Ruiz and John W. Wilson and step-daughter to Paul Sutherland, she had the good fortune to grow up, tour and study with both the Robert Joffrey and Rebekah Harkness Ballet Companies. A professional dancer at 13, she also worked in eastern regional companies, as well as working as Gerald Arpino’s  demonstration model for the City Center Joffrey Ballet in New York City and for Paul Sutherland at Ramapo College in New Jersey. A 2x nominee for the Idaho Governors Arts Award, a Boise Channel 7’s Hero, founding member of the Aspen Dance Connection and Boise’s Alley Repertory Theater; Ms. Wilson has been a teaching artist in Dance for over 40 years. She currently teaches at Eagle Performing Arts Center and for Very Special Arts/Idaho, specializing in classical ballet and developmental dance respectively. She is the author of the ‘Ballet-On-the-Go’ ballet glossary and reference guide as well as a dance-themed children’s book to be published in 2018.


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Last modified: August 13, 2017

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