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Lindsay Cannistra: The Dancing Engineer

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Hi Everyone,

Most of you know that dance has been a major part of my life. For those of you who don't know me well, I have been dancing ever since I was 3 and still continue to dance today. I couldn't imagine my life without dance in it. Engineering is also a major part of my life now. For the past 3 years I have been learning everything I can about chemical engineering at Clarkson University. For me, dance and engineering go hand-in-hand. What if I told you that dance helped me become a better engineer? Would you believe me?

Engineers must be able to design, build, or maintain structures by applying practical knowledge about math and science to solve problems. In order to do this effectively, engineers must be creative. Companies want employees that can stand out in a crowd. For CEOs, creativity is one of the most important leadership quality for success in a company, equal to integrity and global thinking. Companies are looking for those individuals that think out of the box and who can use their own creativity to solve a problem. Creativity is the key to successful engineering.

When you think of the word dance, what do you think of? I can definitely tell you that many people, if not all, do not think of engineering. When people think of dance, they think of the arts, and not the technical aspect of the world. Dancing is much more than listening to music and moving around a vast stage. Dance lets you express yourself in ways that you cannot do when writing or talking. When I dance, I tell a story through movements. Dance opens up a different way of thinking and communicating. It sends a message to your brain that sparks your imagination and originality. Mary Ann Brehm was a dance teacher for many years and studied the relationship between dance and creativity, and how one can apply it to the workplace. Brehm stated, “When people create dances, they practice a higher level of thinking that then helps them with academic concepts.” Because dancers practice this higher level of thinking, they are able to apply this same way of thinking to school and the workplace. This skill enables dancers to stand out because of their creativity and higher level of thinking.

Communication is essential when it comes to engineering. As an engineer, you are always communicating with someone. You are either working on a project with others, or presenting to various people about an aspect of your project. Communication is also vital in dance but is much different than "normal" communication because it involves no words or talking. When performing, a dancer communicates through movement feeling. Movement communication is the use of communicating through your body language or a gesture. Sometimes words can be unclear to many people when you are working in a group. By adding movement when you speak, people can understand what you are trying to say better because they have something visual to help them out. Dancers are able to communicate with people by not only talking, but by performing their information to the group. I think of presenting or public speaking as one big performance. I don't just stand up there and talk, I try to use visuals or gestures to actually make people understand what I am trying to tell them. Dance has also made me feel more comfortable when public speaking because I have had a chance to perform in front of hundreds of people before.

Dance has always been a passion of mine ever since I was young. Dance gives me the power to be my own unique person. I have danced for 17 years and every year that I keep dancing, the more creative and unique I become as a person. Dance brought a sense of creativity into my life that made me grow into a unique individual as well as an engineer. Because of this creativity, I feel like I have more of an advantage in my career field (engineering) than anyone else does.

Being able to stand out in a crowd is what people always want to do, but really struggle with. You want to be different so you can set yourself apart from others, especially when competing for a job. You want to have that quality that makes people want to get to know you. When you are talking to someone, they should be thinking "Wow this person is the most unique person I have ever met" not "I have heard this same response so many times before." Dance has allowed my creativity and uniqueness to shine through my personality. These are the qualities that set me apart from others. This is the reason why I stand out. Dance has done more than just become a hobby for me, it has helped me grow into the person I am today, and the person I am becoming.

Now do you all believe me when I say that dance has helped me become a better engineer?

Until next time,

Lindsay