Graphic by Jan Dove

Shira's Mailbox Missives
Dance Or Career:
Which To Choose?

Dear Shira:

I've been accepted to two graduate schools in my field, and I need to choose which one to attend. I'm hoping you can help me with my decision!

One is a very prestigious university in my field. If I attend it, I'll be able to get a great job directly out of college, and it will equip me with state-of-the-art knowledge of my field. Chances are it will put me on the
road to a long, successful career with excellent opportunities for advancement. The problem is, it's located in a city that has very little belly dance activity. There wouldn't be much opportunity for me to continue pursuing my love for the dance while I'm there.

The other school is less prestigious and less leading-edge, but still respected. It will still equip me for jobs in my field, but it won't carry the prestige of the first one. The reason I'm attracted to it is that it's in a city with a vibrant Middle Eastern dance scene. There are many local teachers, and regular dance events. I'm sure I'd be able to attract students and continue teaching dance, plus there'd be a large community of fellow dancers. Also, this school has a program in Middle Eastern Studies. I could really grow as a dancer if I went there.

So which do I choose?

--Indecisive Irene

Dear Irene,

This is your life we're talking about here. You need to weigh this decision in terms of how it will affect you in 10-20 years, not what it will mean for the next 2-3 years.

You need to pick the school that will better help you reach your long-term goals. If you're committed to pursuing a career in this field you've chosen, then pick the school that will give you the best possible education for long-term success in that field.

I know your love for the dance makes it tempting to pick the second school. But since you're already teaching dance, there's nothing to stop you from setting up shop to teach it in your new home, too. It could be very satisfying to be the teacher who builds an Oriental dance community in a place that previously didn't have much.

You can still stay involved in dance no matter where you choose to live.

Subscribe to 3 or 4 dance magazines. Build a dance-oriented web site. Continue your dance education through weekend workshops or festivals in neighboring cities, and travel to attend week-long seminar opportunities. Work with people who teach ballet, flamenco, modern dance, and other forms to produce dance events featuring a range of different styles. See if you can squeeze an elective or two on arts management, grant writing, and other useful topics into your course schedule. Although the Middle Eastern course of studies in the other school sounds very interesting, you can acquire a lot of good cultural knowledge on your own through reading great books like "Dreams Of Trespass" or "A Trade Like Any Other".

Remember, after you graduate you'll be free to move anywhere you like, and with the degree from the prestigious place, you'll be able to choose from several well-paying jobs that will fund your dance activities. Maybe one of those job opportunities will be in a community with an exciting dance scene!


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When the musicians came from Egypt we promoted this type of music for the shows here too. So, now it has become more popular.