My new goal: Doctor of Dance

Dance Scholar – aka Doctor of Dance

I don’t really have a good excuse for not posting on this blog in the past months, but let’s say it’s because I’ve been busy. First I was applying for grad school, then waiting in agony to hear a response, then making a decision, and finally making plans to attend grad school. The result: starting September 2012 I will be attending the University of California at Riverside in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies. I’m very excited and also downright terrified.

Having grown up entirely in the Northeast and never even previously visited California, moving to the West Coast and away from my family is certainly a nerve-wracking new step for me. Not to mention the whole 5-6 year rigorous Ph.D. program that may just eat me alive and challenge my every personal weakness. Yet, I’m also truly excited about a new adventure, and I strongly feel that this grad program is the right next step for me in my life and career.

And so here is my attempt at summarizing the journey that has brought me to this new path…

I’ve always been a thinker. My natural tendency is to analyze situations and the world around me – inquire, investigate, problem solve. In high school, this manifested as strong affinities for math and science. The processes made sense to me: look at a problem, hypothesize, study, test, solve, and be led to another problem or question.

I didn’t used to think this side of me was relevant to my dance-loving side, though. I started college thinking I would continue to dance and separately do Pre-med studies. Yet as time went on and my professors opened me to a new world of understanding dance as art, I came to find that I could apply those same natural analytical tendencies to my true area of passion.

And that’s exactly what I allowed myself to explore when I started this dance blog. My blog was a tangible way to track the examinations into the world of dance that I was interested in pursuing. Instead of dance criticism I chose a more journalistic approach, exploring questions about dance from many facets, like funding, education, exposure, etc. I didn’t really think these explorations would lead to anything; the blog was just something I did on the side to engage in discussions that I found interesting.

Then I went to the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) conference in 2010. I had heard of CORD, the national association for dance scholars, from an undergraduate professor and had been a member since that time; but the theme of this particular conference piqued my interest, and I made it a point to attend. It was there, over a cold November weekend in Seattle, that I felt I had found a natural fit in the academic community. It seemed I had finally found the marriage between analysis and study that I was naturally drawn to and the field of dance, which I was passionately devoted to. And thus I was led to searching grad schools, applying, and eventually deciding to attend.

On one hand, I whole-heartedly admit that entering a Ph.D. program for dance is just an excuse to engage in the deep, extended study of dance I’ve been yearning to do ever since I got my first taste of critical dance analysis in undergrad. Part of me feels I simply won’t be satisfied until I am able to reach that level of study and that I won’t feel able to adequately serve the field without this deeper level of understanding. (Plus Doctor of Dance has such a nice ring to it – the t-shirt has already been commissioned.)

I do also believe, though, that grad school is the right next step for getting me where I want to go in my career. Not that I know exactly what it is I want to do in the field once I graduate (wouldn’t that be nice). But I now feel certain that grad school will not only help me figure out my future goals but also provide the experience needed to reach those goals.

Thus, after some reflection, I’m very glad that I decided to go to grad school and specifically accepted attendance in the Riverside program. It may not be the road commonly traveled, nor the easiest or the cheapest, but I think it’s the right road for me. I’m quite terrified of the challenges that lie ahead but also excited for this new adventure, and I look forward to further developing as a dance writer, professional, and lifelong fan. New motto: Ph.D. or bust!