Balancing school and dance
Mental Preparation

Balancing school and dance

A cursory glance at the Twitter accounts or Facebook profiles of many teenage and early 20s Irish dancers will show that they are multitasking wizards. On top of dance classes and competitions, many are juggling their heavy school schedules with extra curricular activities. How do they stay on top of it all and maintain their good grades as well?

The first key is organisation. Jason Hays, 2014 Senior Mens World Champion and a junior at the University of Texas at Arlington, keeps his life in check with a tried and true planner. “I like to use a monthly planner so that I know when I have exams, competitions, and work. Thankfully most of the work and dance schedules are structured within a time frame so that gives me leeway for my school classes.” Keeping track of your schedule in this way not only allows you to see how much time you can give to certain areas of your life, but also allows a sense of control amongst the busyness. Kevinah Dargan, 2014 Ladies 19-20 All Ireland Champion and a junior at the College of Brockport takes her organisation one step further. “Normally when I make my schedule for classes, I will put all my classes right in a row in the morning. This way, I can wake up early, get classes over with, and have the rest of the day to do all my school work and practice. Being able to schedule when I want my classes has really helped me with being able to balance my school and dance schedule.” If you have the option of scheduling your classes to suit your lifestyle, this is a fantastic option.

Some other great advice Dargan has when it comes to managing your time and staying organised is to study early and study often! “I started studying for my final exams super early so that I could study for each exam about a half hour every day over a longer period of time rather than studying 3 hours a day for a shorter period of time. This left more time for practicing.” This is particularly good advice when majors clash with school exam periods. Hays adds that his secret weapon for study is “Lots of naps! Sleep can get cut pretty quickly so if I am awake late into the night studying, finding some down time to take a power nap helps me to recharge.”

It’s about being organised, being willing to work hard, and being able to make sacrifices. Whether that sacrifice comes in the form of early morning and late night practices like Dargan, who says “I either have to wake up at 6:30am to go practice before class, or have to wait until 9 or 10 at night to go practice. But I still work it out where I am able to practice every day.” Or whether that sacrifice is on a bigger scale like moving out of home, like Hays “Suddenly my 3-5 hour daily commutes driving everywhere are now less than 1-2 hours. It was weird moving out but it has helped me stay on top of things without anything being sacrificed.” The most critical part of balancing school and dance is having a solid support network. This involves talking to your dance teachers, your school teachers, and your parents to make sure everyone knows what you need to achieve everything you want.

How do you balance school and dance? What advice do you have for other dancers? Share below in the comments.

Image credit: Michelle Acheson
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