By Dr. Linda Amerson
The decision to become a professional dancer requires dedication and countless hours of practice. The arts draw supporters to experience creatively choreographed routines. There are many talented dancers, both male and female. Hydeia Champion is a professional dancer from Chicago,who now resides in New York City. She studied dance at Stephens College and Webster University, completing in 2017. Due to the fluid movements of twirls, flips, and using props at times, one common hairstyle is seen in female dancers. Hydeia elaborates about her dance and hair journey.
I decided to start dancing during the summer when I was 14. I’d been a cheerleader, member of show choir, and played volleyball so I was already pretty athletic and flexible when I started dancing and that helped me advance faster even though I started at a late age. From a summer program from the Joffrey Ballet I got invited to a year-round program with them where I could take classes for free, work on choreography from the summer program and perform throughout the year and at The Joffrey Gala.
My teacher, Karen Montenero, was my dance mom when I was in college away from home. She understood me and really boosted my confidence. She also told me I should transfer to a school that would challenge me and wrote an amazing recommendation letter. Artistic director Tiffany Rae-Fisher is another role model. I was struggling with being offered a job with slavery as the subject matter and not wanting to take it. She told me I didn’t have to be ashamed of not wanting to show myself and dedicate my artistry to reenacting a period of time when I wasn’t even seen as a person. I didn’t take that job and I was much happier for it.
COVID-19 has impacted Professional Dance
Dance really has no clear future of coming back in America post COVID-19, since the arts are so underfunded. I only suspect that the larger institutions and commercial dance institutions will still be around. A lot of the smaller companies will probably go under. Logistically speaking, dancing and social distancing don’t match; you’re in a hot studio, working out and breathing on others, you touch the same bars, you lay in poorly wiped-over puddles of other people’s sweat, and you wait for the class in crowded hallways. It’s actually pretty sad.
I keep my hair in braids about 70 percent of the time for dance. It’s low maintenance and versatile, plus I can do it myself. Any style that can be pulled back and out of your face works well for dance, so the person’s hair length plays a role in what styles they wear. My hair challenges come in if I have to do a hair change for some reason. Even with braids, a bun to a ponytail during a two-minute quick change is not possible, and I have to tell my director that before he organizes the show order. Having my natural hair out for a performance is a hard no, even though it is longer now. There are too many accidents (humidity, spilled water) that could happen that could lead to me derailing the show and it’s just an added stress I don’t need.
Tips to an aspiring dancer.
1. If you can dance in Europe, GO.
2. Sometimes in dance, people shame ambition, especially in students with stand-out talent. Keep doing the things that cultivate your talent and don’t be afraid to be “extra.” Ask your teachers questions and for corrections, work on those corrections off to the side (teachers always notice, and they are watching), take your warm-up routine seriously, honor your body when you need rest, and never underperform in class out of fear of “doing too much.” The last one is more of a problem in the Midwest than it is here on the coast, but if you plan to move here get accustomed to your own excellence.