Finding a Niche through Dance and Communication

Lily Cryan shares her experience as a student in both the School for the Contemporary Arts and School of Communication.

Lily Cryan is a student pursuing a double major in both the School for the Contemporary Arts and School of Communication. On May 29th, Lily shared her experience as a student in the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology to future students at SFU’s Information Evening.

We have caught up with Lily to find out more about her undergraduate experience, and are delighted to share it on the FCAT Blog.

Communication and Dance are two programs offered at FCAT. Being a double major student, how do you feel the two relate? What are some key things you have learned through being involved in both programs?

I think Communication and Dance are both about communicating a message and examining the underlying assumptions about the social and media driven world we inhabit.  I find that Communication is a nice complement to my Dance degree as it gets me back into the world of academia after long days of moving.  Its been great to have what I am learning in Communication influence the things I create in Dance in terms of themes I explore in my choreography, ideas I have around spreading dance, and general organizational skills I gain from Communication that I can use to manage my dance career. 

A lot of what happens in dance is freelance work and I know that my foundation in Communication will help me build my portfolio, manage myself as a professional artist, and use my writing and research skills to apply to grants and start programs.  For instance, the Dance Student Union is applying for a grant to run our interdisciplinary show Ascension for the third year in a row.  As Co-President of the Dance Student Union and organizer of the show I was an integral part of the grant application process and my Communication skills were invaluable in constructing a strong application. 

What has surprised you the most about being an FCAT student?

What has surprised me the most about being an FCAT student is the interconnectivity between passionate students.  If you want to get involved there are 30 other students just like you who are enthusiastic about participating and making events and programs happen at SFU.  Sometimes it is easy to feel like a small fish in a giant pond when you are just going to Communication classes every day but when you start to see familiar faces the community feels much smaller.  Especially in dance we get to know our professors and fellow students so well because we are in such a small program it can be a culture shock coming to a bigger program like Communication.  But really, University is all about the connections you make and there are tons of other passionate students who are like-minded and willing to make those connections. 

Looking back, what advice do you wish you were given when you were considering going into SFU?

The advice I wish I had been given from day one is to get involved as much as possible with whatever you feel most passionate about.  The “cool” thing in High School is to be a rebel or laid back or disinterested but that is not true in University or life after University.  If you get involved with something you are passionate about from day one you will be so much more successful.  The extra effort you put in to school and work during University will make all the difference for getting a job in a world where University students are not guaranteed a position after graduation. 

Find a club, live in residence, join a student union, form a study group, make your own path.  SFU has so many opportunities for student led initiatives it would be a shame if you missed out on them because you are stuck in a mentality where being disengaged is cool.  As we say in Residence Life our goal is to be “Passionate about passion”.  That is where the really amazing things are happening at SFU - with passionate people.   

Describe your most engaged moment here at SFU.

My most engaged moment was probably running the Dance Student Main Stage Show “SC∆TTER” this year while being a Community Advisor in Residence.  My friend Desi Rekrut and I were directly responsible for all of the artistic decisions made concerning SC∆TTER.  When the show finally came to fruition it felt like the show had our stamp on it.  At the same time I was also a Community Advisor in Residence Life and contributing to our Arts and Culture Council “Art Attack” while making sure my residents were taken care of and involved.  Juggling a lot of different things at once is a hallmark of my time at SFU and I think it is a theme for a lot of SFU Students.  There are so many great things to do it is hard to pick just one!

Being in the School for the Contemporary Arts, there is no doubt you have a busy schedule full of classes, rehearsals, and performances. What is the day-to-day life of a Contemporary Arts student like?

The day-to-day life of a Contemporary Arts Student is full of rehearsals, classes, food, and fun.  I think most Contemporary Arts Students spend the bulk of their time at the wonderful SFU Woodward’s Building in Downtown Vancouver.  I start my day with technique class and then depending on the day I have a 4-hour repertory rehearsal or an improvisation or composition class. Sometimes I have a Communication class following all of that or some days I have rehearsal before we have even taken a technique class.  Every day is different and even when you have a set schedule things change constantly.  I think one of the nice things as a Dance student is that the amount of outside class time that is spent on class work is very minimal although you are almost always rehearsing an outside project for fun or for a student show. 

What are some of your favorite extra-curricular activities? How do you find balance between those activities and your academic studies?

For me my extra-curricular activities are making new dances or dancing in other peoples work, organizing shows and events, or seeing shows and volunteering for events around the Vancouver Arts Community.  I do spend some downtime watching movies and I love to cook and spend time with friends but my days are very busy.  I don’t think of extra-curricular activities and academic studies as being separate, I think everything that you do benefits you as a person and that is the most important part of University life.  Growing as a person is your job while you are in school and whatever you do to grow- academics, community involvement, social time, volunteering- is great. 

What is one question you wish I'd ask, and how would you answer it?

I wish you would ask “What is the value of a fine/performing arts degree at a University”?

I think the best thing about doing a performing arts program at University is that you are trained to be a full thinking artist.  The emphasis is on producing interesting work and contributing to the arts community just as much as having great technique or performance quality.  SFU produces full thinking artists who are going on to make their own path in the arts world and that is more valuable in my opinion than a perfect arabesque or 6 pirouettes. 

Do you have a website, an online portfolio, LinkedIn profile, etc. that you would like to share?

Unfortunately no, but if people would like to contact me they can do so via email at lcryan@sfu.ca