Robyn Jutsum is relatively new to the NYC Dance scene but she’s hit the ground running. Read on to discover how she stays balanced amid the chaos and how she’s working to make her dance goals a reality.
Jess Spinner: Why don’t you start with how you got your start in dance?
Robyn Justum: When I was little my parents decided to put me into some very basic ballet fundamentals [class]. They knew, they would joke that I would kick in my crib when I was really little. They figured try it out, and see if I like it at all.
Once I got old enough that I could vocalize and express this is something I would like to do. Then they looked into, ok we want her to have good training whether this is a short lived hobby or something more, they wanted to make sure I was getting good training.
So they started to enroll me in classes in the local ballet school and kept going with it, and as I got older I realized it was something I was really passionate about. And so I followed the ranks of the studio, working my way up through the levels. I made that my focus outside of school.
Jess: Good of your parents to pursue more serious training.
Robyn: Yeah, I really appreciated it. They both have backgrounds in music, so they kind of understood that arts perspective which came in handy for their decision to enroll me.
Jess: You ended up at Butler [University]. How was your Butler experience?
Robyn: I loved it. It was so so grateful I ended up going there. The dance department is phenomenal. I was so fortunate to work with the faculty there. And it was really great because I knew I wanted to go to school. In high school I knew I was not mentally or physically ready to join a company, whether that be through a trainee program.
I definitely knew I wanted to go to school. I love academics. I love learning. So that was really important to me. The thing with Butler that really caught my attention was that I felt like it was designed like a trainee program, and it definitely is.
You certainly get your full academic perspective on things when you’re there. But you’re in the studio pretty much all day. You’re in academic classes, but you’re performing a lot, rehearsing a lot. You get exposed to a variety of teachers’ perspective in regards to ballet technique and developing your artistry.
And so for me I really appreciated that because I felt I came out of the program stronger and more confident with what I was looking for in my career. And for that I will be forever grateful. I made amazing friends, and came out of my shell a lot. Overall, I loved it.
Jess: What’s your approach to fueling yourself for dance?
Robyn: I always make sure I eat breakfast. I’m definitely a grazer. I tend to snack throughout the day. It’s partially out of habit with rehearsals and dance, but I’ve also never been a huge eat a big lunch person or anything. But at the end of the day I make sure I eat a big dinner.
Jess: Do you do any cross training?
Robyn: Yeah. I don’t do as much as I would like, just giving living in the city on a budget being a stereotypical struggling artist, it is hard financially to make that work. I definitely try when I can to take yoga, or strength and conditioning.
Anything like that will stabilize my core, continue to maintain my extension. When I can I try to get into some cross fit classes. I love dance cardio, anything in that realm. It’s definitely big for me. Now that I’ve moved apartments, there’s actually a really great gym close to where I’m living. So I just joined that so I can kinda get back into my gym routine as well.
Jess: Where are you taking classes as you’re preparing for this upcoming audition season?
Robyn: So I do the work-study program at Steps on Broadway, so that’s where I typically take classes at just because I’m there all the time and the work-study program helps out a lot with that.
On occasion, I go down to Broadway Dance Center. Those are kinda my two main ones. I haven’t stepped out too much and checked out other studios, but I know that Peridance and Gibney are wonderful alternatives to Steps and BDC.
Jess: Who are your favorite teachers at Steps?
Robyn: I love Heather Hawk. I take her whenever I can. Her barre always sets me up well for center. I always feel relaxed and never embarrassed. Even when I’m frustrated in her class, I never leave the class in a really negative headspace, which is really really important. So her class is definitely up there for me.
I also love Karin Averty’s classes. She was gone for most of the summer, but she’s back for the fall, which I’m really excited about. Her classes I always feel are setting you up for variations. It’s a more stamina-based class. Her barre is really excellent. It’s long, a little more exhaustive than some of the other teachers at Steps, but in a really great way. Those are definitely my two favorites.
Jess: How do you maintain balance now with all of the craziness of the city?
Robyn: So definitely trying to find ways to take time for myself, that’s productive time not – You know it’s just so easy to get into the habit of you come home at the end of the day and just sit and watch Netflix and that’s all you do. So I try when I can to go and do something whether it’s in the evening or if I had a day off from work.
Even if it’s just wandering around Central Park or going out to movie or meeting friends for happy hour, something that is totally separate from the studio and that reminds me that I do live in New York and that there is so much to explore when you’re here.
When you live in the city it’s so easy to beeline it for what you absolutely have to do and kinda forget there are all these things you can check out when you live here. So definitely trying to take advantage of more of those. And just surrounding myself with more things I love to do outside of dance
For example, I do love to cook and bake. For me that’s very cathartic. Even though it’s kinda in my routine, at the end of the day it’s nice being able to go home and cook dinner. It’s nice, it helps me unwind, it’s kinetic energy I’m using that’s not my full body.
Things like that for sure. And of course keeping in touch with my friends from back home and Butler just trying to maintain those connections is so important, especially in New York is a lonely city at times. Just reaching out to the people that know me best, that I know best, and that are there as a support system.
Jess: What are some of the goals you have in dance right now?
Robyn: Right now, this has been an ongoing goal, pretty much since my last semester at Butler; trying to reestablish my sense of confidence in my dancing. It’s been something I’ve been struggling with for quite a while now. It’s jarring for me to deal with because I’m always been so for the most part, I’ve never let myself get too much into my head.
I’m a thinker, so I overthink things and it’s something I’ve had to work on. Especially of late, I’ve been trying to really trust myself more and embrace what I have to offer, what I can bring to the table because a lot of times it’s really easy to so focused in on all of the flaws in my dancing and my artistry instead of identifying those things and working on them without being so self critical.
It definitely does get in my way a lot of the time, being able to make strides in my dancing. And smaller things, I’m really still working on my turning. Right now I’m waves going up and down with my turning. Some days I’m turning really spot on and feel like I’ve gotten a break through and everything feels great. And then all of a sudden I feel like a top that’s just been toppled over. So I’m just really trying to work on that. Long term, hopefully get a company contract, that’s the big picture goal. Yeah, so really trying to get out of my head and turning.
Jess: What accomplishment in dance are you most proud of up until now?
Robyn: See it’s hard when you are constantly criticizing everything, trying to analyze to think of something more positive. Let’s see, I think this is big picture, probably a little surface level, I think just continuing to pursue a career in dance.
Growing up I was very lucky to have great fantastic training and a really big support system, not only from my family but also my teachers, and that has continued. But at the same time, making the conscious decision to go to college, rather than to jump straight into a company without losing sight of my professional aspirations.
After college it would have been very easy not to have a contract after graduation and just be like ok that’s it. So although its hard at times to remind myself of this, but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve kept going with it and I haven’t lost sight of what I really want to do and keep working towards it.
Jess: That’s awesome. I think it can be one of the hardest things when you finish college and you don’t get that contract right away, you have all of those thoughts: gosh I’m old now and I’ve just spent all of this time working on myself and my dancing and why didn’t it materialize right away. What I am I doing? Should I keep doing this?
I think that you should be really proud to continue doing it and remember that the timing of our lives and careers is just different for everyone. I think more and more there are stories of dancers who are in similar positions and it might take a year or two where the opportunity opens up to you…that’s awesome, good for you.
Robyn: Thank you. It’s definitely a game of exercising patience for sure. That’s definitely something that can be hard at times, but I still think it is worth it to do. And as you said, it’s a very individual process too.
Jess: And sometimes too it’s just also the like I said with opportunity, you never know what companies are looking for when. Sometimes it’s a height thing; sometimes it’s just a matter of open positions and whatnot. You have to wait for all of the stars to align.
What does being a whole dancer mean to you?
Robyn: I think being a whole dancer really means, as we were talking before, finding balance. I think finding the balance between pushing yourself and embracing your dedication and your creative process and your focus without looking back and having that perspective on everything.
It really comes down to finding that balance between loving what you do and not letting that almost obsessive passion take over from the real reason why you are a dancer- it’s the fact that you love it. You really want to make sure you are never losing sight of yourself, never losing sight of what your goals are or getting wrapped up in everything else that’s happening because it’s so easy to see where other people’s professional tracks are going or what is the latest diet fad, anything like that. So really finding ways to stay true to yourself, and doing what is healthy from a mental and emotional standpoint, as well as a physical standpoint.
Jess: Any advice you would give to younger dancers or any other aspiring dancers?
Robyn: I don’t know how qualified I would be to give too much advice. I guess I would say: with younger dancers especially, first and foremost, never give up. If you really want it, continue to go for it. Really take advantage of the resources at your disposal, whether that’s your teachers at your studio, your friends
If you get the chance to work with a guest teacher, take a series of master classes, especially with today’s professional dancers, if they are teaching a master class they might not have the time to sit down with each individual student that is taking the master class series, but if you get the opportunity to talk with them or make a connection with them take advantage of it.
I think it’s very important to network especially today with everything social media oriented. Especially for younger dancers today it’s crucial that they remember it’s about their dancing and what they want out of their careers and to not listen to what everyone else is doing with their own personal track, because again it is very individual
So just because someone else is doing this workout regiment or maintaining this diet or what-have-you doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for you. I think especially when you are so caught up in what you want to do professional and especially as you’re growing up it’s really hard not to get caught up in that because you get such intense peer pressure in and out of the studio. I think just anyway you can to maintain perspective on everything and don’t give up, keep working for it.
Jess: That’s great! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.