A New Chapter in Motivation

By Emmaly Wiederholt

How does one go from taking an occasional dance class to dedicating one’s life in pursuit of dance? When does the switch happen? When does a person go from enjoying movement classes and occasional performances to being utterly obsessed with dance?

Because let’s make one thing clear: I am obsessed with dance. I don’t work part time jobs or take endless classes and workshops or rehearse and perform for sometimes no compensation or attend endless shows or run a blog called Stance On Dance in my free time because dance is a passing hobby. I’m utterly obsessed. I can’t seem to stop dancing/seeing dance/thinking about dance/sharing dance/loving dance/hating dance. Yep, even hating dance is part of the obsession.

So where did all this dance obsession come from? A motivational teacher, a life-changing show, the momentum of music, the sheer physicality, the discovery of new pathways of movement: it’s hard to put my finger on it in retrospect, but at some point an outside person or experience made me want to pursue dance.

The performance. The teacher. The music. The demands put on the body. These are external sources of motivation. I came to love dance because something outside of myself motivated me to.


At this point I have been dancing 22 years. I know that’s not much compared to some, and a lot compared to others, but let’s say I’ve spent a decent amount of time pursuing something I’m utterly and completely obsessed with that I’ve developed a feel for what I like and what I don’t. I have a sense of what challenges me or what bores me. I know what external motivators currently keep me going.

I will soon, however, be leaving this niche of the dance world I have grown to know and love. I’m turning a new leaf and getting my masters in arts journalism. I’m certainly not done dancing, but I suspect I’m done dancing as I know it, at least for the time being.

As my mom says, people change or life changes around people, but change is inevitable. So while it’s been a blessing to take classes regularly from incredibly inspirational teachers, or see performances that challenge the scope of what dance can do, or perform in ways that push the limits of my body and mind, these things weren’t meant to last forever.

And truly, what’s the point of being routinely motivated if at some point I can’t keep the motivation going for myself and perhaps even share it with others? At this point I have a body of experience, and armed with this body of experience I aim to be my own motivation.

Can I show up for any class, or go weeks without dancing, or watch my body change and adapt to different settings and demands on it and still be wholly engrossed? I can’t begin to guess what future experiences will cross my path and motivate me to pursue dance in different ways, but at this point I don’t want to be dependent on the external motivations I’ve come to know and love to be what keep me going. Instead of relying on those well-known sources of motivation to fuel my dancing, I want to fuel my own motivation and be available to letting new sources of motivation affect me. I can’t begin to know what’s ahead for me in dance, but I can jump into the abyss with the confidence that I will continue to be motivated and that I don’t need to cling to what I know. I can turn a new chapter with grace.


My dance started as a passing fancy and burst into a passion at the point of some initial inspiration that motivated me to pursue dance seriously. That passion has been cultivated and kept alive through further inspiration and motivation by teachers, classes, workshops, rehearsals, performances, etc.

But when does that passion fuel its own fire? Can I keep on burning without all the external motivators I’m accustomed to dowsing myself in? Am I burning on my own yet? And what else can make me burn bright with dance?