Dancing away from home as a talented young artist: A talk with Catherine Rowland
It's not uncommon for elite young dancers, gymnasts, skaters and other sorts of athletes to relocate from home in order to put everything into training. The common quality of this phenomenon doesn't mean that it's not a significant shift for these youth, however; academics, friendships, family life and more can really change. On the other hand, with support from friends and loved ones, as well as a persistent, positive attitude, this change can be smooth enough to weather. Flexibility of mind, being able to consider and adjust to new ways of doing things, seem to truly help here as well.
Elite young ballerina Catherine Rowland made this life change, exuding that good attitude and receiving that support from people in her life. Both things are putting her on a path to her dancing dreams. Beyond that, she has wisdom and a maturity of perspective to offer young artists like her, making big changes toward their dreams or simply working hard without significant structural changes. And all along, she dances in Só Dança style! Her favorites include the Stretch Canvas Split Sole Ballet Slipper, the Só Dança Black Canvas Backpack, warm-ups, and the Sara Mearns Collection leotards. Let’s hear more from Catherine!
Please describe your process of moving from home for dance. How old were you? Where did academics fit in? What other significant parts of life where there to navigate?
“When I moved away from home, I was 13 years old, but my mom came with me for my first two years. I now live on my own with the most amazing host family who are like family, but I certainly always miss my family. My whole family is very closely knit, so when anyone moves away, it is a big change. My family supports me in my dreams and passions, so moving away was, of course, difficult, but they understood and supported me. I am so thankful for my family, as they are always there for me and love me unconditionally, a true gift from God.
To be completely honest, my switch from homeschool academics to online-based was a smooth transition, as my mom did the best she could to research the most beneficial program for me. I used to go to a one-day-a-week program where they would teach me all of my academics for the week, so when I moved away, I had to leave my program and go completely online. Personally, I love my online school, as I am a very independent worker, and, most importantly, it works well with my busy schedule.”
Passionately committed dancers also often have trouble maintaining strong friendships (at least apart from those with whom they share the studio day in and day out), given the time and energetic commitments of their dancing lives.
As much as you feel comfortable sharing, how did you find this dynamic? What might have been helpful or challenging for you here?
“Maintaining strong relationships with friends from home has been a challenge, but to be completely honest, FaceTime and text have been the most helpful tools! I also have been blessed with the most amazing and compassionate friends who understand why I moved away and encourage me in what I do.”
What else might you have found challenging about being so committed to ballet at a young age? What helped you navigate these challenges?
“To be completely honest, because I love what I do more than anything, any challenges that I have faced have been worth it. I dance because I love it and want to pursue it as a career. My advice is, if you love it enough, then the sacrifices made or difficult circumstances which may have occurred or will occur, no matter how big or small, will all be worth it in the end.”
Balanchine famously said, ‘I don't need people who want to dance. I need people who need to dance.’ Looking back, are there aspects of the experience that you wouldn't change for anything? Can you please speak to that?
“There are many moments that I wouldn’t change for anything. The relationships I have built and things I have learned are priceless, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I am beyond thankful for them. I absolutely love the never-ending process of finding and correcting, although some days are more difficult than others. Doing the same things over and over again can become arduous, but I am reminded by myself and teachers why I do what I do and it is worth it…every part!”
What have you learned during this period of your life that you'll carry with you? What did it importantly instill in you? How will you bring that forward in your career and life to achieve your dreams?
“I especially learned how important people are and the importance of making people important, whether it is friends or family. The relationships I have built throughout my life will forever remain priceless to me.”
How might you advise a young dancer who is where you were? What might have you, now, told yourself?
“The ups and downs, the obstacles, only make you stronger and more knowledgeable in the end, so keep going, and don’t ever forget the importance of people who are special to you, as they only add on to the journey.”
Are there larger systemic changes that we can make in the dance world to ease the path of passionate, committed young dancers? How can family and friends help?
“The most amazing tool that will help any young dancer is the support from their teachers, friends and family. From personal experience, this has been a crucial aspect.”