Terrill Mitchell, company member of MET Dance, finds a lot of motivation in failure. The 28-year-old Mitchell grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, a small town, training as a competitive dancer (yep, like the kids you see in Dance Moms). He was the only male dancer at the studio where he trained and somehow "only" was translated into "best."
"I was the only male dancer at my studio and so, of course, I was the best," Mitchell tells us laughing. "I never did anything wrong and everyone just thought I was amazing. Then, when I got out and saw more and better dancers, I realized I was a really bad dancer."
It was, he remembers, a bit of a shock.
When it came time to go to college, Mitchell auditioned for the dance program at Point Park University. He didn't make it.
He started school as a photography major, but it was short lived. "When [dancing] was taken away, that's when I realized how much I wanted it. It was just a couple of weeks into the first semester and I was seeing all of these dancers on their way to class. I thought, 'That's what I'm supposed to be doing.' Point Park had a [intensive dance training] program for three months. After you went through the program, you could audition again. If you didn't make it, that was it, you couldn't audition anymore."
Some 22 students entered the intensive program and auditioned again. Mitchell was one of only two that were accepted.
"The fact that I didn't make it into Point Park the first time, that's always with me. It helps me remember to always do my best because I might not get another chance."
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What he does: "If someone asks me what I do, I tell them I'm a professional dancer, teacher and a choreographer. I don't think I'm necessarily a storyteller. I think, no matter what, an audience should be entertained. They shouldn't have to sit there and try to figure out what the story or the message that we're trying to get across."
Why he likes it: "As a dancer, I love when we're putting a piece together, when we can see it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Sometimes we spend months rehearsing a piece, and then we have just one or two performances so it's really the rehearsal where we spend most of our time.
"As a teacher, seeing [my students] develop as mini-artists, that's really wonderful. When we're in rehearsal, I can say, 'Do it this way, do it now.' But when we get to the performance part of it and they step on stage, there's nothing else that I can do. It's exciting to see them take it out of my hands and own it."
What inspires him: "The fact that I was an awful dancer [when I was younger] and didn't know it is really inspiring to me. I refuse to let my kids go through any of that! I try to teach them what I wish I had known when I was their age - about how cutthroat people can be [in competitive dance], how important technique is, what to do when you get rejected. They're learning about having a tough skin now."
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If not this, then what: "My hobby for the last five years has been web site and graphic design. I have so much fun with that. I know what dancers want to see when they get a flyer for a master class, what's going to sell them because I know what I want to see in a flyer, I know what sells me. That has kept me really busy. Later on I would want to go into photography more."
If not here, then where: "I would say San Diego. I have family there and it's close enough to LA that I could pursue a professional career there if I wanted to. There are lots of schools and studios there so I could always work. Plus San Diego is competitive enough, but not [overly] competitive."
What's next: "This is my last season performing with the MET. I've been with the company for seven years. When I was at Jacob's Pillow the second time, this last August, I realized I have done everything I wanted to do as a performer. I'm ready to hang up my performing shoes. Hopefully, I will still do administrative work with the MET. I don't want to own a studio right now but I do want to build the skills I'll need if I ever do, putting together a curriculum, working on the administrative side."
More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page). Deji Osinulu, photographer Mason Sweeney, artist K.J. Russell, sci-fi author and writing teacher Emily Robison, choreographer and filmmaker John Cramer, violinist and concertmaster Shipra Mehrotra, Odissi dancer and choreographer Winston Williams, comics artist Octavio Moreno, opera singer Dylan Godwin, actor, storyteller and teacher McKenna Jordan, independent bookstore owner Steven Trimble, mixed media artist Sandria Hu, visual artist and professor of art Robert Gouner AKA Goon73, photographer Shawna Forney and Erma Tijerina (aka SHER), culture gurus Mark Bradley, photographer James Ferry, comics artist Keith Parsons, author and philosophy professor Alonzo Williams Jr., photographer Rudy Zanzibar Campos, painter Paige Kiliany, director Betirri Bengtson, visual artist Melissa Maygrove, romance novelist Natalie Harris, bridal gown designer Larry McKee, cinematographer Tiffany Heath, filmmaker Jonathan Pidcock, Jewelry Maker Mallory Bechtel, actor, singer, dancer Janine Hughes, visual artist Nyssa Juneau, artist John Merritt, artist Leslie Scates, choreographer and dance educator Denise O'Neal, producer, director, playwright Jason Poland, cartoonist Courtney Sandifer, filmmaker, actor, writer Lloyd Gite, gallery owner Henry Yau, The Children's Museum of Houston's publicity and promotions guru Angeli Pidcock, fantasy writer and mentor Jennifer Mathieu, author Scott Chitwood, writer Anat Ronen, urban artist Amber Galloway Gallego, rockstar and sign language interpreter Michael Weems, playwright Lane Montoya, artist Jordan Simpson, SLAM poet Joey & Jaime, designers Suzi Taylor, photographer Ashton Miyako, dressmaker T. Smith, artistLindsay Finnen, photographer Kaitlyn Stanley, tattoo artist Eleazar Galindo Navarro, video game maker Kate de Para, textile and clothing designer Shawn Swanner, video game painter Andy Gonzales, painter Chris Foreman, comic book sketcher Theresa DiMenno, photographer Jessica E. Jones, opera singer Atseko Factor, actor John Pluecker, writer, poet and language justice worker Ricky Ortiz, painter, tattoo artist Rabēa Ballin, artist David Wald, actor Lisa E. Harris, performing and visual artist Stephanie Todd Wong, executive director of Dance Source Houston Pamela Fagan Hutchins, novelist Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer