By: Anthony Gladden
It’s touched numerous times throughout the day as each dancer enters and exits the house they call home: The golden ballerina statue that stands about 2 feet tall and gives off a beautiful glow when the light strikes just right. She’s by the front door, offering good luck to those who need it.
“It starts off with the 7 a.m. touch when we all try to make it to the studio to practice or workout,” said Tessa Cornwall, age 21, senior dance major at Western Michigan University.
The life of a dancer at the college level can seem to be fairly easy, from the outside looking in. But Cornwall, Elizabeth Raglin, age 20 and Sarah Rot, age 21, all senior dance majors, know that the life of a dancer is stressful and very competitive. The physical endurance, demands on the body and continuous hours spent at “the Dalton” are what makes the life of a dance major so challenging.
The day starts with a typical breakfast of cereal, toast and OJ along with a rub of the statue, then it’s off to the studio at the Dorothy U. Dalton Center, likely for the rest of the day.
The same long legs that twist and bend, kick into the air or sweep a pointed toe gently across the floor seem to be sleepwalking as Cornwall, Raglin and Rot enter the studio, slowly.
The first morning session at any dance studio is most important. All the kinks and knots left in the body from previous sessions are worked out with warm-up stretches, turns and jumps. In this session, the dancers need to get focused both physically and mentally.
Hours later, the break all the dancers are waiting for arrives: An hour for lunch, or what the dancers like to call a hour of “freedom.”
To some it may seem like a light snack, but Cornwall only she eats is a few pieces of celery and a juice, Rot eats two apples (one red, one green), and Raglin has milk with a granola bar and stashes a piece of candy for later.
“This is when most students are on their way home for a nap,” said Rot while biting aggressively into her red apple. “But we get to go enjoy time at rehearsal.”
By early afternoon, many students are heading home for the day, but this trio is heading back for five consecutive hours in the Dalton, where they will rehearse for upcoming performances and audition for shows such as the winter gala concert, graduation presentations and the Western dance project.
“We choose to dance at the college level and we somewhat know what we’re getting into when we come here, so there’s no room for complaining,” said Raglin.
By nightfall, the dancers are free from the Dalton. They saw daylight maybe three times this day.
Whereas other students might get together with friends or go out to have a few drinks, the dance majors head home. With the damage done to the muscles and tendons from a day of twists, turns and jumps, the dancers go straight to the freezer for bags filled with ice. They balance them on sore joints and tuck them into clothing while they rest on the sofas.
With one last touch of the golden statue, the dancers head for bed, to do it all over the next day.