The Joy Of..Teaching Adults

 

“It gave me something to lean on when I was struggling. It made me realize that I am a strong teacher, and maybe I could enjoy the title of ‘dance teacher’ just as much as the title of ‘dancer’.”

As adults, we understand the value of time. Unlike our earlier years, we have more control over how our time is spent and what our time is delegated towards. The only catch is that there is much more to be done – work responsibilities, exercising, eating well, getting enough rest, hydrating, planning, paying bills – and there are people to take care of other than ourselves – our significant other, children, family, friends, pets. Sometimes the teeny, tiny wedge of our pie chart that we had hoped to dedicate to ourselves, ends up shrinking or maybe gets pushed out of the chart all together. This is when we start to feel the effects – fatigue, boredom, anxiety, sadness, anger, resentment, being at a loss for who we even are anymore. Whether you are in this cycle now or have been in the past, we all can relate to this as busy human beings (and works in progress). I salute each one of you in your individual struggle to embrace yourself and make time for YOU. This common human struggle is why I love teaching adults.

I started teaching in college. When I began at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, I intended to only get a performance degree. After completing the mandatory pedagogy course freshmen year though, I found that I really enjoyed teaching. And so, I switched my major to Ballet Pedagogy. I was able to perform as I intended, while also getting the added bonus of a ballet teaching degree. I knew that teaching would be essential to supporting my performance career, and, of course, I wanted to have a back-up plan for myself.

It’s a blur to me now when I even started teaching adults. What I do remember is initially being very intimidated by the task. While most adult ballet classes are labelled or defined in some way – beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc. – there’s not often a huge offering for adults. Therefore, as a teacher, you’re often presented with a huge spectrum of student abilities. As both a teacher and a people-pleaser, I want everyone to be happy, to be appropriately challenged, to enjoy themselves, and not feel overwhelmed! But finding this balance for each student was so daunting to me when I began teaching adults. (Honestly, it’s still a little daunting today too, but the love outweighs the fear LOL.)

Aside from level and ability, adults are also fully functioning humans with their own opinions. This we know. As a teacher of small humans too, there is an immense difference here. Adults, unlike children, will offer their opinions and choose how they want to spend their time. Early on before any adult class I would think to myself, “What if they don’t like me?!” This is partially my own personal problem, but it can be a thought for any teacher. Teaching younger students you may have a large number of kids but for a variety of reasons – convenient scheduling, attending class with a friend, limited number of levels within the school, or maybe the parent(s) believes your teaching methods work for their student. Adults, on the other hand, can decide for themselves what kind of class they want to attend. I know that not everyone is going to love my class, and you know what? That’s okay. Maybe they find it too hard or too easy. Maybe it’s got too much barre. Maybe they don’t like my music, or maybe I make too many weird little jokes. All those reasons are valid, and I respect that they get to make that choice.

“It is a conscious choice that they make to come to class, [to] set aside their busy lives, and to do something for themselves. I am always humbled to be a part of their time.”

After a serious injury about five years ago, I exited the company scene and decided to try my hand as a freelancer instead. With my mornings oddly free of ballet class for the first time in about nine years, I was given a Wednesday A.M. adult ballet class to teach. At first, it was a special kind of torture. Teaching class on the same floor as the company, around the same time as warm-up, made me feel like an absolute failure. I didn’t feel like myself. I would walk around and correct, offering the occasional wave at someone I knew in the hall, and think to myself, “What had I let happen to me? I’m not a dancer anymore.” Week to week though, I maintained a faithful crew of students. It was a challenging blend of students too, that I had originally thought I couldn’t conquer – a spectrum of ages, some comfortable with center work, some not, some with past professional careers, some totally beginner, one student even on pointe every week. What made it all the more enjoyable was their encouragement and the bond that we all built together. It gave me something to lean on when I was struggling. It made me realize that I am a strong teacher, and maybe I could enjoy the title of “dance teacher” just as much as the title of “dancer”. Writing about it now, I miss “my Wednesday morning crew” so much.

What means the absolute most to me about adult students, is that they choose to entrust me with their time. It is a conscious choice that they make to come to class (live, or virtual nowadays), set aside their busy lives, and to do something for themselves. I am always humbled to be a part of their time and to help them nourish the love for dance that they still have or are just now exploring. The responsibility I have to my adults is huge. Sometimes the weight of it overwhelms me, but overall it holds a special place in my heart.

I am honored to be a part of your life, and I hope to make your choice to dance all the more worthwhile.

My Weakness and My Strength

“How can an industry that promotes such beautiful art also make us feel so badly about ourselves sometimes?”

Dance is my weakness and my strength.

Sometimes I wish I had fallen in love with a different occupation – something that truly pays the bills and/or something that doesn’t require giving so much of yourself (/ALL of yourself). Unfortunately, there were many moments in my life when dance made me feel bad about myself. I spent a lot of my company career trying to satisfy someone else, to fit in, to not disappoint, to match, and to blend in. I thought all I had to do was “hunker down”, neglect my own needs, and put in my time. But even then I did not always receive the reciprocated respect I was hoping for.

I write today in response to Kathryn Morgan’s brave and necessary reflection on her experience with Miami City Ballet. It was instantly clear that the content of her video resonated with many of us from the ballet world. Ms. Morgan boldly spoke about the toxic body shaming the dance world still perpetuates. Some companies unfortunately still promote the concept that you must be a certain size or fit a certain mold to be valued. Her words and her honesty made me want to get involved in the conversation.

I admit that I did not realize how deeply embedded ballet was in my brain until I started seeing a therapist for my mental health (Happy belated #worldmentalhealthday). All these years I naively thought that I had done a good job of compartmentalizing, keeping ballet in the studio and living the rest of my life according to me. But that was not the case. The situations that always bothered me the most, that would eat at me longer than necessary, were interactions I had with others in which I felt that I was not meeting their expectations. The thing that would drive me to anxiety wasn’t, “Is this what I want? Is this what I need?” But rather, “What will they think of me now? I’m letting that person down. I feel so bad.” The chronic need to please, a toxic personality trait that stems from my experience with ballet, had seeped into my regular life. What I am now trying to relearn essentially is how to care for myself and meet my own needs first. This is something I am still working on today and something I will always have to work at.

“I want my students to know that ART DOESN’T FIT INSIDE A MOLD.”

I do not regret my relationship with ballet. There are many moments that hurt me and are still etched inside my brain, but those moments made me stronger and wiser. Ballet dancers are strong, confident, perseverant, daring, and efficient. But the attack and the bravery that you may see onstage does not always directly translate behind the scenes. You may be surprised to find that offstage and in the real world, many dancers exhibit completely alternate qualities when it comes to addressing personal and social situations.

As artists we must strive to eliminate stories like Ms. Morgan’s, stories in which beautiful, hardworking artists are belittled and shamed. Mental stress, depression, eating disorders, and anxiety are all real experiences that all humans are susceptible to, especially dancers. We must eliminate the stigma associated with mental health and stop expecting every shred of a dancer’s mind and body to be strong. I want my students to know that ART DOESN’T FIT INSIDE A MOLD. It’s about movement, artistry, individuality, and diligence. An audience wants to watch someone who is real, who breathes and feels and has flaws. And we don’t choose dance because it’s easy. We want to feel everything, the highs and the lows – the fear, the pain, the love, and the joy.

The Day That Hope Was Restored

The past four years have felt extremely dark at times, this year being the darkest of them all.

I was extremely excited for Tuesday. I know many of us were. Tuesday felt like a day that held just as much importance as a personal milestone or a favorite holiday. But when the day did not yield immediate results, as our culture has become accustomed to in all facets of life, it became one more day of fear. One more day we had to wait. And then another. And another.

I’m embarrassed to say that even after countless hours watching MSNBC last week, when the news officially broke on Saturday morning I was giving myself a mental break from election coverage. Instead I was watching the Great British Baking Show – not the most exciting “where were you” moment, but oh well.

When I remember this past Saturday, I will remember watching Kamala Harris’ acceptance speech. While I thought I had already experienced the flood of feelings, of relief, joy, and excitement for the future, when I watched Vice President Elect Harris take the stage, I broke. I wept with joy and with pride to see a woman, representing us all. A woman who represents women of color and of Asian and Indian descent. May she be the first of many to bring diversity to our government, ushering in change and showing young people everywhere that this is a possibility for them, too. When I cried I felt the relief, the weight lifting off all of our shoulders, the realization that we can move forward now. It is a day I will always remember.

The light at the end of the tunnel is so much brighter and finally within our reach. There is hope that we will see progress in our country again. This weekend marked not only the return of progression, but also the return of respect – respect for humanity and diversity. We no longer have to tolerate a president who is tearing us apart and tearing us away from the rest of the world. Hate is not acceptable, and it is not welcome here. May we come together and fix what has been broken. May we look to our two new leaders and the fellow leaders they will choose, to guide us, to break glass ceilings that restrain us, and to help us better relate to one another as Americans.

Dancing At Home – 6 Struggles that have Made Me Grateful for the Ballet Studio

“All of these challenges, while conquerable, help us to realize what a gift it is to dance in a studio.”

I live in a small apartment. It’s about 740 square feet — just barely enough for two adults, all their stuff, and one cute beagle. I’ve never had negative feelings about living in a small space though. Considering the fact that we will be moving soon and it’s not permanent, I try not to stress about it. But the past six months has had me wishing I had infinite square footage, or at least a spare room at my disposal.

These are my top home studio complaints and struggles. I don’t think that I’m alone when I say that we may have taken some things for granted when we were in the studio…

1.) Finding justtt the right space – My home ballet journey has definitely evolved over the past six (now almost seven?!) months. When this all started, it seemed like such a funny, novelty moment to grab my dance bag, dress for class, and head to the kitchen. I first deemed the kitchen to be the best space for ballet purely because of the floor — our kitchen and bathroom are the only areas with a hard linoleum surface; everywhere else is carpeted. As the months wore on though, I found myself setting up in the living room instead. This began partially due to the fact that I was switching spaces mid-class anyway, in order to allow my legs enough room to extend and rond de jambe by the time I reached fondus. I basically tired of the mid-class move and started sticking it out for the whole class in the living room. This is my new norm, and I can also easily pop on a YouTube barre and follow along from the TV.

2.) “The commute” – Commuting to dance class used to involve me hopping in the car with my dance bag and driving about 15 to 20 minutes into Charlottesville. While dancing from home eliminates the commute, there’s also a whole slew of things I need to do to prep for a class that basically add up to a commute time when all is said and done. When I was taking class from the kitchen, I found myself constantly having to wipe down the counters, move drying dishes, give the floor a quick sweep, move our kitchen floor mat, etc. I am a bit embarrassed to say that one time during a Zoom ballet class I even went so far as to pop some roasted potatoes in the oven, turn off my camera once they were done, remove them from the oven, and then turn my camera back on like nothing had happened (what is life).

The many faces of dancing in the kitchen…Can we also acknowledge that Skylar Brandt shared me to her story?!

3.) Distractions abound – It is a constant struggle to focus when there are other things going on in your apartment. Not to mention easily accessible snacks! Going to a studio there is always a clear mission, a defined moment for myself to dance, exercise, and enjoy the art form. But at home the intention can get so clouded by everything else.

4.) Technical difficulties – If these were listed based on “most challenging to deal with”, this would definitely be rated number one. The list of potential tech problems is long: freezing, audio problems, loss of internet connection, loss of power (I can never remember to keep my computer charged), finding a successful camera angle — you know the drill. Fine tuning your tech set up is an art form in itself. While I feel like I’ve learned a lot about technology in the process, I also still feel very much like a confused 31-year-old.

“Overall, there is a lesson to be learned — a lesson in patience…”

I took a lot of these towards the beginning of quarantine, thinking it would be fun to see how many classes I took in the kitchen…and then the novelty wore off…

5.) Aches and pains – While tech problems are frustrating, the aches and pains of dancing in an unconventional space are hard to deal with as well. To be honest, there have been times when I have had to simply admit defeat. Without a sprung floor or marley for some cushion and support, there have been moments when it is just too painful for my body. While I like my current set up working in the living room, it does also put a lot of extra stress on my hip flexors and calves — as I constantly must try to lift up and out of my heels and my hips, “out of the carpet” essentially. I’ve taken a break from center work for a bit because the carpet poses too big of an obstacle sometimes. While I already am not much of turner, carpet makes the push to turn quite difficult and has made my landings very questionable, to say the least. While the kitchen floor provided nice solid footing for a while, that too became an irritant, inflaming my bunions and the soles of my feet.

“I’m not in the way, am I?”

6.) Dancing with pets – While I love my dog, there has definitely been a learning curve in trying to complete a class with my beagle nearby. We’ve had some good moments and some laughable moments. While I used to just start a class and hope for the best, I now know that I’m going to have the best results if my dog is occupied and/or tired. Oliver is now a pro at staying out of the way of my workouts and ballet classes, but it took us a while to get here. Let’s just say that he’s very aware of Zoom and FaceTime. He’s found his own unique way to participate in some classes — both sitting directly in front of me during Pilates so my teacher can’t see me and standing too close during ballet. He’s not a fan of frappes anymore!

Trying to stay on the positivity train!

Overall, there is a lesson to be learned — a lesson in patience, something I don’t always have much of. All of these challenges, while conquerable, help us to realize what a gift it is to dance in a studio. It is such a blessing to have access to dance education in a quality space, with friends and students who are also invested in the arts surrounding us. While this time is difficult, it has also given me moments I will never forget — plenty of laughs, Oliver howling at other pets on Zoom, taking an afternoon to teach my mom a virtual class. While virtual isn’t necessarily best, we can still have those human moments with one another — gathering in a common “space” of sorts, to dance and be “together”.

For Those Who Feel Lost

“Everyone is on a journey we know nothing about.”

If you are a planner like me, you may also be wondering why you are not further along on your journey than your naive teenage self thought you would be at this point. I assumed that by now I would be at the peak of my career, married with one or two children, and a homeowner. Some individuals have all this and more, and I genuinely applaud you. But we all have different expectations for ourselves, and we all make different decisions along the way.  Personally, I am not exactly checking off all the boxes I thought I would in my own vision. What’s to blame? College debt? The pandemic? Or is it that I am simply in a different place in my life than I thought I would be? 

The past year I have been in a long period of limbo. As my significant other is hard at work completing his PhD, I made the decision to stop teaching last fall in anticipation of our move. For a week or two at the end of last summer, I had NO IDEA what I was going to do for work. I was a mess of nerves. I finally pieced together a plan for myself, and,  thankfully, within a couple of weeks, my schedule went from utterly empty to full again. The only downside was that aside from some private lessons and subbing gigs, my path from August 2019 to late summer 2020 did not include any dancing or teaching whatsoever. If you know me at all, you know that that is my life. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it hurt my heart. I miss my students more than I can say.

There was a plus side though that kept me going (until COVID-19 hit): I was able to attend many more ballet classes than usual. From September to February, I attended an array of adult, company/trainee, and academic classes. It really was a glimmering silver lining to the whole situation. Although I felt out of touch with my career path, I had time to devote to myself and my dancing.

“I feel rather lost…in all honesty, I am having trouble finding the humor and the bright side anymore…I believe we still have a long way to go.”

My last post was full of optimism and hope…and coincidentally it was written in early February 2020, about one month before the world took a turn for the worst. Fast forward to September 2020, six months into COVID times, and I feel like the “we can do this”, honeymoon vibes of this whole situation have utterly evaporated. I feel rather lost. When this began, I was eagerly baking every day, Netflix and chillin’ with bae, spring cleaning, and laughing off the comedy of dancing in my carpeted living room. But in all honesty, I am having trouble finding the humor and the bright side anymore. Many things have improved – no more wiping down the groceries, and I have taken a few classes in studio with a mask on – but things are so different. I believe we still have a long way to go.

The past year I have struggled immensely with the constant need to meet other people’s expectations. This pandemic has forced many to try to compensate for the hard times. We feel like we need to have some moment of enlightenment or make big changes, since we have the time to do so at home. But what if we just admit to ourselves that this is hard, and we are struggling? Every day I find myself dwelling on the fact that I have strayed from my path…wondering when this will all sort out. I feel like I have to explain myself and give excuses, but you know what? I do not need to rise to the expectations of others. I try to remind myself (and I remind YOU) that I do not have to tell the whole story all the time if I do not want to. This is hard, and we don’t have to pretend that it’s not.

Everyone is on a journey we know nothing about. A journey that may be filled with positive turns…or perhaps one that has been filled with ups and downs and a current destination that they want to change. The important thing is remembering that you can change your story if you want to. It is not always easy, and you may have to ask for help. You may have to do something extremely difficult to get yourself to the other side. If you are still lost, that is OKAY. Your story is unique to you – Know that you are not alone and keep walking.

A Toast To The Small Victories

“Remind yourself that everything you do does not have to be an accomplishment that is gargantuan in size.”

When was the last time you took inventory of your accomplishments and mentally applauded yourself? Honestly, I might say never. Ha. Is that a bad thing?…Yes, definitely yes. I’m here today with a small post and a round of applause for all the small victories out there (key word small). Because…

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

I would apologize for my time away from my blog, but I do that too much, so no apologies! It’s been a trying time, but after a somewhat emotional Christmas time and a good amount of moping, I’ve started taking some steps towards what I want. Go New Year!

Things that I’ve done recently that make me happy/make me feel more like myself/allow me to take care of myself (my Dad, the professional editor, would absolutely hate that string of thoughts in one ugly fragment like that, “Sorry, Dad!”):

1.) I’m making more time for what I want to do i.e. ballet class, working out, breathing, etc.

2.) I applied for a job in Cambridge, MA. I “bit the bullet” finally, got my résumé fixed up, did some networking, and actually applied for something. I cannot say how grateful I am to the faculty and staff at my alma mater, The Hartt School at The University Of Hartford. I reached out and explained that I am looking for new work in a variety of cities, and they eagerly responded with a plethora of options and contacts. Another reason I feel so proud and content to have received my dance education there. Thank you again, Hartt.

3.) I’ve been getting back into teaching and back to work at the studio. I can’t change the decision I made to not work this year, BUT I CAN forgive myself for it and do my best. Right now my best is: teaching weekly private lessons to a favorite student of mine, who’s just started pointe (!); teaching a six week session for little dancers ages 4-6; subbing; and working my old administrative, Friday night shifts. Just being in the building and being slightly involved in my art form again helps me breathe a huge sigh of relief on a regular basis.

4.) I applied for a choreography commission…this is all pretty foreign to me and something I’ve only participated in once, but I’m so glad I went for it. It ended up being a no-go due to budget constraints, but the process of talking to some connections and learning more gave me some very helpful tools for the future. I am someone who is always personally nagged by “what ifs”, so inquiring and getting a final answer on the matter is a huge help mentally.

5.) I got a massage. The last time I got a massage was 2014 or 2015, I think…Needless to say it was a relaxing, yet painful, experience, and the knots were REAL in there. I’m trying to build a new habit, so I made an appointment for next month too (cringe for the cost, but kudos for self-care).

So, cheers to taking the small steps. Remind yourself that everything you do does not have to be an accomplishment that is gargantuan in size. Honestly, lately I have found myself wishing that I could throw my phone away and delete all social media accounts – the constant amount of competition with one another is exhausting. No one is perfect and rarely do we show our flaws or the struggle that got us to where we are today. Do not be afraid to be you, to submit yourself to a place of transition, and to take a step. Even if it’s not in the right direction or even if you fall, you WILL figure it all out.

Look how far you’ve already come.

My Thing: Confessions Of An Artist…Ballerina…Teacher…Work In Progress…& Human Being.

“It is comforting to know that I am not alone.”

I’ve always done the same “thing”. For years I haven’t wavered, wondered, or had to get creative (from being creative). It’s just the way my life has always been. I knew exactly what I wanted, how to get there, and what my most immediate plan of action was.

I have always been a dancer and a dance teacher…an active participant in the arts. However, I also always assumed that when the time came for me to move on to my next “thing”, I would know exactly what that should be and how to seamlessly transition. I thought it would be obvious how to achieve my next goal, and it would make me nearly as happy as performing…a close second, let’s say.

I’m still dancing now. It’s nowhere near the commitment and schedule I used to juggle as a performer, but I just don’t want to fully give up yet. I completed my first gig as a freelance artist last year and hope to dive into other similar ventures in the future (wink, wink). But in this new-ish phase of my life, there’s the nagging question, “what’s next?” I rack my brain frequently. For a few months this winter, the question kept me up at night. I’m always searching for answers and ideas that I might not have uncovered yet, in my quest for self. “What else can I do?” “What else am I good at?” “Do I want to go back to school?” And the ever practical, “Can I make ends meet, in the process?” I know what’s meant to be, will be, but I have never been the patient one who is willing to relax, loosen the reigns, and find out.

“There is also a huge…part of me that has been very afraid to come back to this place.  It’s hard as a perfectionist to admit when you feel so much less than perfect.”

 

I’m so happy to be back in this blog-space of mine, and I apologize for the huge delay. I have been at a loss..for time and for the right words. There is also a huge (more than I’d like to admit) part of me that has been very afraid to come back to this place. It’s hard as a perfectionist to admit when you feel so much less than perfect. But the further on I venture, I am able to realize and make peace with the fact that no one and nothing is perfect.

It is comforting to know that I am not alone. My professional life as a dancer has been spent surrounded by AMAZING, CARING, BRILLIANT individuals. As I reach a pointed toe out for the next stepping stone of my life, I know that I am not the first to make this type of journey, or experience the vast array of emotions that come along with it. Many of my friends no longer dance professionally, or, like me, are currently trying to figure out what’s next.

Admittedly, I still feel at a loss at times…overwhelmingly sad and disappointed. Supporting and sharing my knowledge with my students means the world to me, but I envy all the days they have ahead. Those terrifying, exciting, nerve-racking shows, auditions, classes…I wish someone had told me to truly relish in them…or at least that I had listened.

It’s scary not to know exactly what’s next. But for every confusing, difficult, heart wrenching moment when I miss the intensity of the life that I had, there is another moment in which I appreciate what is wonderful now. I still have “my thing”. I am able to experience ballet…What if nothing else makes me happy? {At least I’m still able to fly.}

Capturing The Good, The Bad, And Everything In Between

There are certain things I will never understand. I still find it frustrating and painful to juggle the concept of loss. Why must we lose people to another life beyond? About a month and a half ago, a dear friend of mine and an artist of the Charlottesville community passed away. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to Keith Alan Sprouse.

Photographer Keith Alan Sprouse was a friendly and welcoming face at the Charlottesville Ballet throughout my first season dancing with the company. I remember him spending the day with us on a weekly basis, grande Starbucks cup in hand, snapping his camera throughout classes and rehearsals. It was fun to have a spectator for class, and having him there always gave me a little extra push to try to look stellar for his photos! On breaks he would chat with us, comment on our latest works and rehearsals, ask questions about the ballet world, and share his favorite images of the day. He was a positive, humorous, supportive, and motivating force in the studio, especially on those days when you feel like you’ve never actually danced a day in your life. Keith would remind us of our awesome feats and make it all seem a little less daunting.

In February of 2015, Keith offered to do a series of dance shots with any interested company members. Three close friends and I all signed up for ours on the same day. Keith let us try different poses, a variety of ensembles, and let us view photos take by take so we could really refine the shots. It was awesome having such a talented photographer to work with, but also someone so patient and encouraging throughout the process. Keith made me feel like a star that day, and I so cherish the images from that shoot. He caught me at my very best, and I am so grateful for that experience.

“…there is no filter for pure life.”

When I found out that Keith’s state was declining this fall, the sadness and regret flooded in, along with the “I hope” and “I wishes.” I hoped he would make it through, and I regretted not having visited and stayed in touch recently. What I really wished most of all, was that I had spent a few more minutes chatting with him when I saw him last.

No one ever said life was fair, but when I hear about the loss of a wonderful person like Keith, it’s so hard to understand. My heart goes out to Keith’s family and friends, and in honor of my friend I am trying to make a promise I know he would want me to keep.

Life is short. Too short to worry, to hesitate, or to dwell in anger or sadness. Keith was never one to worry or stress. He knew how to fully enjoy life and the company of others. I vow to try to embody this positivity myself. Keith, I will try to follow by your example. I cannot thank you enough for all of the wonderful memories you captured, and for the cheerful company and support you always provided.

A camera sees everything – the best, the worst, the mediocre. But there is no filter for pure life. Photographers like Keith offer us snapshots of the highs, the lows, and the in between. But how we fill in the dots beyond the camera is up to us.

Keith collage 2

Know Yourself, Then PUSH Yourself

“How can you push your dancers to give all of themselves, without holding back or giving up, while staying safe physically?”

Dancers are taught to push until there’s nothing left…To exhaust the body and give more than 100% at all times – in class, in rehearsal, in performance. We are ‘spoon fed’ the concept from day one that ballerinas are a special breed (and they are). Achieving success requires us to be calm and collected, focused, impeccably precise, and emotionally unshakable, even in the face of criticism and harm to the physical body.

While I believe those factors to be non-negotiable requirements, I am equally aware of the potential danger behind this message, not only in terms of our physical state, but also mental condition. While there are many who promote and encourage the self-care of professionals, some teachers and mentors do not (I have experienced both sides in my career thus far). Understandably, it’s a fine line to walk, especially for an artistic director or ballet master/mistress. How can you push your dancers to give all of themselves, without holding back or giving up, while staying safe physically?

“There is a time to push for more, but there is a time to conserve too.”

I, too, struggle with this as a dance educator. At times I feel hypocritical, but I have to fully communicate the need to PUSH oneself. If a student does not have that desire, there’s not much I can do on my end to cultivate it. It has to come from within. On the other hand, there is the student that gives 110% at all times, but struggles to understand signs of fatigue and overuse in their body. There is a time to push for more, but there is a time to conserve too. As a teacher, it can be difficult to understand and/or translate individual cues, recognizing the difference between laziness and fatigue. But this is my greatest responsibility.

What is lacking, for many students especially, is self-care – both physical and emotional. It is impossible to expect success without properly caring for the body and the mind, not only in the studio but also outside of the studio. The body requires stretching, massage, icing, the stabilization of weak areas/potential injury spots, additional conditioning, and aerobic exercise, in order to sustain a high level of dance training. The mind, on the other hand, is taxed with millions of different kinesthetic commands, as well as complex patterns and choreographic pieces. It is a dancer’s job to allow mental capacity and the clarity to ensure confidence, artistic expression, and freedom from anxiety and fear.

The vast amount of energy that must be devoted to dance can be overwhelming to a dancer of any caliber. In a world that demands excellence from all angles, the demands of ballet seem impossible to maintain. But those who really want ‘it’ understand and accept the unique commitments required to truly grow as artists. We learn when to push, and when enough is enough. Only when we are truly tuned in, mentally and kinesthetically, can we reach a high level of excellence, and hope to sustain that excellence in the future.

The Joy Of…Dogs!

“My career is very different than it used to be, but I take tremendous pride in the fact that it still exists because I say so.”

Hello WordPress & hello to my readers! I can’t even remember the last time I was here! Since I have been absent for such a long time, I’m going to keep it simple with some updates, in yours truly’s favorite format (for the OCD, perfectionist inclined) – a list.

A light summer read, a list of excuses, a list of updates, what have you….

1.) Taking the “Dog Days of Summer” to a whole new level – About 4 weeks ago, my boyfriend and I became parents………to a beagle! Our fur baby Oliver is about a year old, has gained three pounds since coming home from shelter life, is extremely friendly, food oriented yet inconveniently stubborn at times, and likes to chew – EVERYTHING! Learning curve is an understatement. Although Oliver has a lot of good puppy skills already, he’s got a long way to go! I look forward to the day when we don’t need to keep all of the accent pillows in the laundry closet, but for now we’re taking it in, helping him learn and succeed, and working together as a little team of three.

2.) #tooblessed Ballerina returns to the stage – So proud of myself. Leave me some room to brag here, ‘cause it’s happening. I still miss the hardcore, professional dance world so much, but I’m proud to announce that I was able to keep my head in the game and perform onstage in a full length ballet after a year of being my own director. My career is very different than it used to be, but I take tremendous pride in the fact that it still exists because I say so. I know that what I was able to accomplish performing with Roanoke Ballet Theatre this month was a victory all my own.

3.) Family matters – Another big moment! You know that, a.) you’re a pro adult, and b.) your family is super busy/putting child #2 through college, when your Dad and bro haven’t visited your local digs in three years! I’m not gonna lie, I primarily used Italian guilt (it runs strong) to coax the three of them into coming for a visit. However, it was truly a joy sharing my “new” apartment with them, my new puppy, new restaurants and experiences, and another gig on the stage with them.

IMG_3154
One of my favorite photos ever hahaha

4.) Proud dance mama – My 3rd school show as faculty member for the Charlottesville Ballet Academy has come and gone! So proud of all of my beautiful students and the energy and love they poured into their three performances.

IMG_3129
My girls shining like patriotic stars ❤

5.) Runnin’ it – It’s that time of year again! This upcoming Tuesday will be my third annual attempt at pretending to be a runner! (LOL) I’ve made it tradition to travel back to my hometown in Massachusetts each year for the Fourth of July weekend, while there participating in Pittsfield’s Fourth Of July 5K, alongside my Dad and brother. After a year of consistent ankle strength and no accidents, I’m hoping for an even better PR this year!

~

Thanks for staying with me all! Wishing you a beautiful and relaxing start to your summer! You’ll be hearing from me soon, but until then, dance on. ❤