Kendra Heithoff on Mentoring

As we continue our series about mentoring, I thought it would be helpful to talk to someone about being a mentee. Kendra Heithoff, Artistic Director of sixoneseven Dance Collective,  immediately sprang to mind because she has participated in several choreography programs in Boston.
Summer Street Photography 

by Kendra Heithoff

As a young choreographer, I've had my share of mentor relationships. I can honestly say that I would not be the artist I am without these relationships. I can also say that the concept of mentorship and 'young artist development' gets thrown around almost as much as trendy catch phrases like 'being green,' 'collaboration' and the use of the word 'natural' in the food supply. 

Obviously artists of all stages (mentors and mentees) need a solid community of artists whom they can turn to for support. It creates a vision beyond yourself and helps translate your ideas into tangible works of art that others can also appreciate. Here in our intimate Boston dance community, we need all the mentoring programs we can get. No one can argue with that. 

In my humble opinion, what often gets overlooked is the time it takes to develop these kinds of mentor relationships. Having participated in both the Dance Complex's Shared Choreographers Concert and Green Street Studios Emerging Artist Program, I learned much from the concert mentors designed to help in the fast and furious process in which the dances were created. The mentor's feedback was absolutely helpful towards the particular piece I was presenting, but that's where it - and ultimately the relationship with them - ended. Not that I wouldn't have wanted to foster that relationship further, but the simple facts remain that these short term programs are designed to get people in and out and on to the next concert. Perhaps we are shortchanging ourselves. 
Relationships take time, and the intimate experience of sharing the process of making art together takes just as much time as an old friendship. There is no easy answer since programs like the ones listed above do an excellent job of connecting as many people as possible to a larger community of dancers, as well as provide an excellent space for sharing work with real live audiences. 

I will be the first to say that I'm no better than anyone else, but, in the end, it all comes back to one thing: how willing we are to take the time to foster and maintain relationships. 

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