Why Dancers Need to Know About the Life-Changing Magic of Office Hours

October 1, 2019

“Part of my job is to have at least two hours a week where I sit there, waiting for someone to come talk to me,” says Heidi Henderson, professor of dance at Connecticut College. But dance students in particular often don’t think to go to office hours. Why not? Unless you have a specific problem to address, it can feel weird to just sit and talk with professors. Far from it: “Coming to office hours is a way of going above and beyond,” Henderson says. “I notice which students come to talk about dance or life, and I’ll note that in recommendation letters.” As you’ll soon see, office hours encompass much more than just a nice chat.

You Need Advice

The most obvious reason to take advantage of office hours is to get artistic, academic, or professional advice. Tina Curran, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s dance education BFA program, suggests you go to office hours throughout college. “The first year is about acclimating to this environment,” she says. “The second year is, ‘What kind of dancer am I?’ Third year is an investigation of choreographers, focus in the field, and exploration of strengths. And fourth year is resumé-building, branding, and making connections.” With their years of experience and wisdom, professors can help you with all of that.

You’re Struggling in Class

“It’s easy to feel resistant to learning new things because you’re forced to be a beginner,” Henderson says. “I wish you’d come talk to me if you’re insecure about the newness of the college dance curriculum. I can reassure you that learning new things always takes time. You’re doing better than you think.” Office hours are also an ideal time to bring up any in-class accommodations that might help you learn better.

You’re Going Through Something

If you’re having a rough time (mentally, emotionally, or physically) outside the studio, it can disrupt your work in the studio. “We really want to know about the holistic health of our students and make sure they are safe,” Curran says. “It’s perfectly appropriate to tell me, ‘Hey, this is going on in my life and this is the kind of support I need, or am already getting.'” Office hours shouldn’t be confused with therapy, but neither should you feel shy about keeping faculty abreast of anything affecting you as a student and artist.

You Just Want to Talk

Henderson and Curran agree that you don’t need to come with anything specific to address. “I love talking about what’s going on in the dance world,” Henderson says. “From seeing you in class, I already have choreographers and companies I want to direct you toward, that I think would suit you as a mover.” “I want to learn about your previous dance experiences, what brought you here, what your journey has been about, what excites you,” Curran says. “We want to get to know you.”