Gotta Dance: Insiders Give Pointers for GCU Students in Arts
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Susannah Keita, GCU’s director of dance, probably hears the question in her sleep: “Is this going to lead anywhere?”
“This” would be a degree in dance for Keita’s students, who now number about 60 in only the third year of the program at GCU. Keita understands the concerns often expressed by the parents of prospective and current students. She has been there herself.
“A dance-education degree has balance, and you’ll come out with 21st-century skills,” she says. “You work in teams and you learn to problem-solve creatively.”
“Anywhere” could be, well, anywhere. Leanne Schmidt, one of Keita’s adjunct instructors this year, offers her own experience as testimony that following one’s passion requires perseverance, a laserlike focus and a willingness to hit the road.
Schmidt, 32, recently conducted a week of guest-artist residency on campus, teaching modern-dance master classes, performing her one-woman show, “Schmidt Happens,” and working on a new piece that will premiere in the spring in New York City with her dance company there. Three GCU students will travel to New York and perform in the piece, titled “Not a Love Story.”
“Even with family and friends, (dancers are) faced with the question: ‘What do you do?’” says Schmidt, who is originally from Buffalo, N.Y. “I still find myself tripping over the words to describe what I do to the average person.
“You have to know who you are, and what you want to be, and how you want to do it.”
Kim Goss, 31, originally from Salem, Ore., came to campus to help with Schmidt’s residency. She graduated in 2003 from the dance program at Arizona State University and moved to New York without knowing a soul.
The struggling-artist stereotype is alive and well in the big city. At one time, Goss worked two restaurant jobs and took two dance classes a day, and now she funds her dance endeavors by teaching Pilates.
This has been her life for the past 10 years — and she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“You do it because you love it, not because you want to be rich, and you have to be OK with that,” Goss says. “I took it day by day. I didn’t ever feel I was frustrated.”
Schmidt recommends that students develop an artistic mission statement, in addition to a performance reel and a quality resumé or website. It also can be helpful to identify a mentor who can supply guidance and perspective along the way.
“Those should all be in your pocket as you leave college,” she says.
The college years, she says, are a key stage for a dancer or any performer.
“It’s the transition from hobby to artistry,” she says. “It becomes a commitment that will make or break how successful you’ll be…. If you can’t live without dance, then that’s your purpose.
“I do not know life without dance, and there’s nothing else I want to do.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.