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.

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”.

Versatility At Its Finest

Hello Dancers And Friends!

I’d like to address a special blogging award I received about a month and a half ago (apologies for my lateness!), called the Versatile Blogger Award. Many thanks to The Book Swag, which I very much enjoy following, for the nomination! Check it out!!! –  https://thebookswag.wordpress.com/

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The Rules are basically as follows…

  • Thank the person who gave you the award & include a link to their blog! 
  • Select & nominate 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • Share 7 things about yourself…that your blog followers may not already know…
  • Display your VBA award!

As my blog approaches its second anniversary (!!!), I’m very happy and honored to receive some recognition from fellow bloggers/talented writers within the online writing community. 🙂 As a dancer, inside and outside of the studio, my mind is always creating something. I’m so grateful to have this outlet for myself. This space is extremely cathartic and essential to my artistic personality now, and it is thrilling to receive positive feedback regarding my thoughts. Thank you, wherever and whoever you may be for your support, your ‘shares’, your comments, and for simply taking the time to read what’s on my mind. Without further ado, here’s a little fun for this week…

7 Things You Might Not Know About Ms. J.O.D. (that’s me!)

1.) Some of my little adorable students call me “Ms. Ballerina”, or occasionally even just – “Miss Ballet”.

2.) I don’t only teach children, I also supervise them. My current (other) part time jobs include child care employee at ACAC and nanny/babysitter. Do I want to have children of my own someday? Yes. However, for now, it’s quite enjoyable to have the option to designate the care of the children I supervise back to their lucky parents!

3.) Although I am a professional dancer and have a lot of flexibility to draw from, I have basically zero gymnastic skills. I hate being upside down, can’t stand on my head or my hands, can’t quite do a cartwheel, and although I can invert and do a backward roll, know that I am faking it like crazyyyyyy each time….

4.) In another life, or maybe sometime in this one, I would love to be a baker or a chef. I can’t get enough of my cooking shows and baking competition shows. Favorites include, Chopped, The Next Great Baker, Cupcake Wars, Giada At Home, and (don’t judge) The Pioneer Woman.

5.) I know this isn’t quite original, but coffee is one of my great loves. I only drink about three cups of coffee a day, but I like it in its purest form-black, no sugar, no cream, just pure, rich deliciousness. I like drinking espresso straight from a demitasse cup, and I could live at Starbucks.

6.) I love me some word games – Scrabble, Bananagrams, word searches, I’m all over it.

7.) Although I’m proud of being a big girl (now!)/adult and moving away from home, onto bigger and better things, I get homesick. I LOVE my family, and I get fam withdrawal if I’m away for too long. I call my Mom and Dad every day to catch up/bother them.

I NOMINATE –
You Have Time To Read, In My Ginger Nature, Tendus Under A Palm Tree, Setting The Barre, loved.chosen.beautiful.enough, The Renegade Press, Dance Healthier, A Ballet Of Life, Corporal Culture, Tutus And Tea, Gretchen Rubin, gregfallis.com, My OBT,  Butterfly Mind (new to me, excited to follow! I love this post in particular)

What Are You AFRAID Of?

“…in order to rid ourselves of fear, we must confront it..look it in the eye…”

…Good question, right? Hopefully, it’s obvious that we’re not digging deep for a consistent fear of spiders or perilous heights though. For some of us (the more anxiously inclined), the initial inquiry could also be accompanied by the question, “where do I even begin?” Personally, I am not afraid to reveal my fear – of change…of stupid little things (like going to a different yoga class than I’m used to-typical “First World problem”)…of trying something new, being somewhere new, stepping outside of my comfort zone. But while I personally recognize that fear can hold me back at times, I must also commend myself for the things I do try and for the forward steps I venture to take.

Admittedly, I have forgotten that a crucial, structural piece of my right ankle is no longer “there”. It is in pieces…an obsolete, useless ligament, ready to snap at any time…an extraordinarily flexible ankle, in the worst sort of way.

I was talking to a friend/mentor today and realized that physical fear has not crossed my mind in a long while. You may be wondering why it’s taken me so long to get over this injury. I am NOT AFRAID to admit that my ligament tear was physically terrifying. Largely due to the fact that my career relies 105% (if that were possible..and I think it is) on my body. Since I’ve spent the majority of my life working on being intrinsically aware of my physical being, I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore. It was like experiencing a betrayal. As physically, intellectually, and emotionally adapted human beings, we take basic operations of the body for granted at times. When you fall or cause damage to yourself while walking, running, or even dancing your heart out, it’s scary to feel weak and vulnerable. We blame ourselves and wonder why and how this could have happened.

Trusting your physical capabilities is just one of many examples of how to release and come to terms with fear. While it is the least desirable of all possible options, in order to rid ourselves of fear, we must confront it..look it in the eye…and try to understand why it’s there. Face it. Wrestle it into submission. Be uncomfortable.

I challenge you to put yourself in an uncomfortable position. Because you are stronger and more brilliant than you ever may have imagined. Be AFRAID…and see where it leads you.

Wandering Thoughts…

Hello Dancer Friends,

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. (Spring Fever!) To make up for lost time, I thought I’d change it up this week with a new/different type of post…

I wholeheartedly appreciate and adore the things in my life that are amazing and good (god, so many things!…boyfriend, family, friends, a strong and able body, my art—writing and dance, the list goes on..), the things that make my life unique and special to ME. However, I also admit to feeling a bit like a ‘wanderer’ lately.

Negative vibes completely fog my exploration of self at times. The good is overshadowed by the blur of the uncertain. I accuse myself. I “should” myself. I think, “maybe I’m being too lazy”, “maybe I’m not doing enough.” But when that happens, here are some of the little things that pull me back into reality…the reality that life is good.

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Spring blossoms outside my door

Things currently helping me on my “ever-evolving” journey:

  • This recipe – there’s nothing better than the smell of fresh baked goods. This recipe’s so easy & so delicious…baking in the oven as I finish this post!
  • The Happiness Project – check out the entire website! Blogs to read, books to buy, podcasts to listen to! I LOVE to listen to this in the car throughout the week, whether I’m making my weekly journey to Roanoke for rehearsal or just driving around town…
  • EASTER! – Looking forward to my “surprise” Easter “basket”, arriving soon in the mail from Mom & Dad. I love the low-stress, springtime joy of Easter – a holiday to celebrate rebirth and new beginnings, time to gather with friends and family over good food and maybe some Easter chocolates (may even try my Mom’s lemon meringue pie recipe on my own this year) *side note-mini Cadbury eggs are life

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    A stop along the weekly road trip…
  • Cinderella – diving back into this ballet (haven’t done this since high school!) has been a joy. I love the haunting and oddly different sound of the Prokofiev score. The waltz from Act One/Two gets stuck in my head for hours…
  • Conversations On Dance – I guess I spend a lot of time in the car, ‘cause here’s another podcast that boosts my waning mood throughout the week. This duo from Miami City Ballet interviews some of the most fascinating and influential current icons of the ballet scene. I love hearing more about their careers and the experiences of their esteemed guests…
  • Community – I’ve been watching an unusually high number of scary movies lately. To quiet my mind and provide me with a desensitizing show before bed, Community’s been my go to on Hulu. Funny, light, and zero supernatural beings…

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    Summer time means lots more time out here ❤
  • Summer, summer, summer time – The promise of glorious sunshine, time spent by the pool, warm nights, visits with friends and family, and a super flexible schedule, keeps me optimistic.

Until next time J.O.D.ers!! Thanks for reading! Please feel free to read up on some of my old posts and stay tuned for next week!

Shrouded In ‘Shoulds’

“Remove [should] from your inner dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself what you need in this moment…”

Should I? Should I really? Should that bother me? Should I brush it off? Should I be doing something else? Should I give up? What should I do next?……..questions like this cloud my head often. The quality and speed of my progress in many different areas can quickly be hindered by the emergence of should. The toxic word rapidly poisons thoughts and ideas, and can easily fuel a perpetual cycle of uneasiness and self-guilt. But I know I don’t bear this flaw alone. As a society, we are always pushing ourselves to become better versions of ourselves. But as we push to change and make improvements, we walk a fine line along the way. We must remember that although we nobly seek change, the desires of our hearts and minds exist for a reason.

“Shoulds” present a unique problem. The motivation behind our efforts always stems from a positive place…a driven, wholesome desire to change and adapt for the better. But as we proceed, whether we are investigating a new habit or a major life change, or simply making daily life decisions, we must ensure that the steps we take really add to our overall happiness.

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It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of change. We can easily convince ourselves “this is what I want!”, when we’re actually following in the footsteps of another or chasing after an ideal. If you’re feeling tortured and discontented, is the self-questioning really worth it?

The next time you sense should entering your brain, STOP it in its tracks. Remove it from your inner dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself what you need in this moment, what will make you happy, and what will best serve you today and in the future. Don’t argue with yourself, don’t agonize, or create self-guilt. You know what you need to do, and you should.

An Allegro Anecdote: The Austin Toe Episode

“We’re idyllic, graceful beings onstage, but…in the light of day we have our more human moments.”

Ballet dancers are a rare breed. Superhuman, flexible, musical, artistic, graceful – all are common adjectives used to describe this specific subset of artistry. However, those of us within the dance field have definitely had our share of non-graceful moments. Let me share one of my personal un-graceful, unlucky moments as a dancer, braving the “elements” of the real world.

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One particular weekend of adventure…PC: me

Seven years ago (whoa) I attended Ballet Austin’s summer intensive program in Austin, Texas. It was an exciting time for me. I took my first solo plane trip, and as a soon-to-be college graduate, investigating a potential company for the summer was a thrilling opportunity. The BA program was six weeks long. Dancers were given not one, but two opportunities to learn original choreography, by Artistic Director Stephen Mills, and perform for audiences in the studio theatre. It was a difficult program, and definitely a challenge for me. As a more classically inclined, Vaganova trained dancer (from my days spent at Bossov Ballet Theatre) the more neoclassical, quick, and sometimes dry classes were very different from what I knew, yet still very valuable to my training.

As the summer passed and I developed friendships with other dancers within the program, we used our weekends to not only rest, but also to explore the culture of the Austin scene (did I mention I was 21 at the time?..) On a typical weekend adventure, we sought out one of our favorite delicious Mexican restaurants. I attended, dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops, prepared to combat the hot, dry weather of Austin. (I was obviously a much younger version of myself, since my feet weren’t killing me hiking around Austin in only flat flip flops..)

Graceful ballerina that I am, on the way back I tripped dramatically on an uneven section of sidewalk, stubbing the very top of my big toe bluntly into concrete. The pain was immediate and the force split my skin, blood gushing out onto my flip flop and the sidewalk. Since we were just a few blocks from our dorm, my friends and I thought I could make it back without requiring first aid care. But I couldn’t make it. My sandal was now stained with blood, and it just wouldn’t stop. We made a quick pit stop at a gas station (ew), and I wrapped my toe up like a mummy, with a thick glob of toilet paper. Glamorously blood stained, I made it back.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’d nearly incapacitated one of my precious feet within the course of about three hours.”

I proceeded to panic with my suite mates for a bit about the status of my toe, and we debated whether or not I’d be able to suffer through pointe work and rehearsal the following day. I figured all I could do was care for my toe and hope for improvement as quickly as possible, so I hopped in the shower to rinse off from the day. My toe finally clean, I stepped out of the shower into the small bathroom. Now this next part I promise you I did not make up; it is the honest truth. I pulled my towel from the bar on the wall, and the wobbly hardware loosened, sending the bar down. I wish I could say I had been quick enough to step out of the way, but I had no such luck. The towel bar came down vertically and smashed directly into the pinky toe of my injured foot. The force and the sharpness of the metal, immediately sliced my pinky toe nail into two pieces, and for the second time that day, I started losing a lot of blood. I finally cried with disbelief at it all. I couldn’t believe it. I’d nearly incapacitated one of my precious feet within the course of about three hours.

Suffice to say I got some pretty weird and unbelieving looks when I explained my unfortunate tale at the summer intensive the next day. I remember Michelle Martin, the ballet mistress, looking pretty skeptical as I gave the details, but my gauzed, mummy toes sealed the deal. A visit to the company’s nurse was less than comforting, as she cautioned that I be very careful not to let the wounds become infected.

A BA first arabesque at the Capital building..PC: Mom

After taking one full day off from dancing and a few off from pointe work, I was able to jump back into my classes and rehearsals, bandaged and ready to make the best of things. The pressure of a pointe shoe didn’t bother my toes much, but with only the barrier of a technique shoe and some gauze between my toe and the floor, ‘flat’ was rather painful for a while.

This wasn’t my first unfortunate event by any means, but this episode was one of many times where I learned to grit my teeth and power through. There are definitely occasions as dancers when we need to admit defeat, give ourselves a break, and “sit one out”. However, we are also often asked to spring back into action as quickly as possible. Time is precious, and we must defend our title as superhumans, after all. We’re idyllic, graceful beings onstage, but, obviously, in the light of day we have our more human moments. Today, my little raggedy pinky toe nail (that never really grew again) reminds me of my imperfections, but it also reflects my superhuman ability to carry on.

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Confessions Of A Work In Progress

“Confidence should not only be the result of compliments from others, but also the effect of a constant stream of compliments you give/allow yourself.”

It has been an unfortunately long time since I’ve attended to my blog. I admit that my neglect of this “space” is partially due to busyness, both work-related and social, but it is also due to fear of what’s next. I have done my best to give a significant push of energy to the start of 2017, however, as I consider possible change, fear, uncertainty, and self-abuse creep up on me. Although I have enjoyed my time teaching, working as a freelancer, and having an independent schedule, I suppose there will always be a part of me that misses the full time life of a company member. I earnestly admit that I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS. After all, life is no fun at all if you have nothing to truly live for or improve upon. Here are five aspects of my life I am currently trying to address…

1.) TIME – There’s never enough of it. Time constraints and the quick passage of time can cause me to absolutely panic, personally. I either don’t understand time correctly, or I just prefer to live on the edge constantly. Every day I promise myself I will leave the house at a specific time, yet every day I chronically leave ten minutes late. I’m not lounging around, or sleeping in, I simply want to cram in as much as possible before leaving for the day, and my over-ambition sets me up for failure. As a dancer, I have been trained to embrace every second, yet my pursuit leads to my demise.

Spare time, on the other hand, I find utterly intriguing and promising, yet I have a ridiculously hard time utilizing it. My high hopes of accomplishment can lead me to disappointment. I idolize the completion of the tasks that I avoid. This is when my procrastination and my fear take over-something I am always willing to work to overcome.

2.) FRIENDSHIPS – I have been lucky to have strong bonding friendships within the dance community all my life. As I continue to attend class at three different companies/schools, I still feel camaraderie whenever I step into a familiar studio. However, being a “free agent”, in and out on my own unique schedule, can make close interaction a bit more difficult. Many of my close friends have gone their separate ways, to other companies or onto other adventures, and I truly miss the energy of bonding and working together in the studio. But there are always opportunities for new friends, and what a joy it is to realize how many wonderful people I have already encountered in my lifetime.

3.) CONFIDENCEConfidence should not only be the result of compliments from others, but also the effect of a constant stream of compliments you give/allow yourself. Plain and simple (yet so hard to practice).

4.) HELP – When I teach, I always stress the fact that I accept and encourage questions. I think artists especially tend to stifle their questions, in order to appear sharp and quick. However, any teacher or choreographer will be the first to admit to you that questions are valuable and can actually shine a light on a dancer’s efficiency and complexity of thought in relation to movement, body, and music. Questions are good for you; don’t cast them aside!

It’s also 100% acceptable to have questions about yourself and your emotions (something I’m just discovering). It’s okay to ask for help from an impartial party. Talking to someone other than a friend, a significant other, or a family member gives us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and fuel ourselves with self-knowledge for the fulfillment of future decisions.

5.) HAPPINESS & LOVE – Last but not least, I am forever learning how to find happiness in the little things, sometimes things that are not necessarily dance-related. It may sound like a dumb problem to have, but my life has been programmed to draw great amounts of joy from dancing. I realize more and more with each passing day, that I have so many other things to be joyful about. I love every day, even the simple motions (like cooking or having a cup of coffee); I love my growing strength (one year, six months strong, missing an ankle ligament); I love my boyfriend (the smiles, laughs, and love are endless); I love my family and friends; I love writing; I love working with kids; and I love teaching others about the joy of dance.

I am a work in progress, working to progress.

I'm not much of a jewelry fan, but anyone that knows me, knows I wear these four constantly. Two are brand new-they all have such a special message to me, I rarely ever take them off.
I’m not much of a jewelry fan, but anyone that knows me, knows I wear these four bracelets constantly. Two are brand new (yay birthday!)-they all have such a special message to me, I rarely ever take them off. ❤

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Watchful Eyes

“…there is something about a formal presentation of one’s skills, that definitely ups the ante.”

What exactly is it about an audience that shakes our nerves to the core? Is it the desire to attain perfection? Or maybe the worry that we might fail? Or is it that very simple and innate human fear of judgement? We all have different reasons, both stated and deeply personal, but I can assure you that if observing eyes send you into a panic, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

As a ballet teacher, I am currently in the midst of “Parent Observation Week” – the three dreaded words for any teacher that equate to an annual or bi-annual event held during the academic year. This busy week presents an opportunity for students to share their class experience with family and friends, and showcase the development of their dance technique, as well as their favorite steps and combinations. For teachers, it is a time to become better acquainted with parents and to highlight a class’ progress, as well as the individual advancements of students.

However, despite the obvious positive points of parent observation, it can be an anxious time for students and teachers. For young students especially, it is an introduction into the pressures of performance and the anxiety that can come along with it. For more advanced, mature students, it is necessary time to prove oneself and gain practice for future auditions and opportunities. For teachers, too, it can be a nerve-racking experience, ensuring that a class’ abilities are adequately showcased. The best teaching strategies and tools must all be used, different learning types attended to, attention paid to corrections and discipline, and, of course, a little humor to keep it light and get some laughs, can’t hurt.

When it comes right down to it though, all parties involved just have to act natural. But there is something about a formal presentation of one’s skills, that definitely ups the ante. It can affect a person in any career or stage of life. Our basic human instincts come into play-our desire to impress and succeed, and our fear of rejection and judgement.

It’s a wonderful thing to be motivated to give 110% percent and go above and beyond one’s normal expectations, but it’s also okay to experience nerves and anxiety in such a situation. Sometimes in tense, high pressure moments, we create and experience our best work. Under the watchful eyes of others, we may discover something about ourselves that we did not know before.

I've totally used this pic before, but what a great reminder...
I’ve totally used this pic before, but what a great reminder…

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The Joy Of..Teaching: The Brutal Honesty Of Children

“I have to appreciate the other 50% of ‘the moments’…I love to discover the love and the joy of dance…within someone else.”

I think I need to keep a more detailed notebook or journal of my memories and interactions with students and children. Some sort of a log guaranteed to provide for a “Kids Say The Darndest Things” excerpt. As a ballet teacher and a part time nanny/babysitter/childcare employee, I spend A LOT of time with kids. You’ve got to wonder if an excessive amount of time exposed to baby talk, mac and cheese, coloring, and children’s songs can somehow cancel out adulthood. However, when I’m not coloring with crayons or coming up with my best discreetly manipulative plan to convince a child to listen, I can’t help but realize how blessed I am to be guided by small humans from time to time.

Teaching young people is simple, yet highly complex. When I think about my job, I have very mixed feelings as to its difficulty-it’s a joy of course, but also not something that everyone is capable of. You have to be ready for a challenge. Just the sheer number of students you may encounter, depending on the situation, can be terrifying. They’re not all rainbows and sunshine. You’ll meet them all – the best of the best and the worst of the worst.

“…How blessed I am to be guided by small humans from time to time.”

"Plié Pumpkins" that my 6-8 year olds made in October. Instructions-draw a picture of yourself or a dancer in a costume..my student chose to draw me <3
“Plié Pumpkins” that my 6-8 year olds made in October. Instructions-draw a picture of yourself or a dancer in a costume..my student chose to draw me  ❤ (speech balloon-“I am Miss Liz and I like ballet”)

What I love the most, are the moments..the comments..the pressing and nonstop questions. I have heard it all – reasons for not being able to dance; excuses, excuses, and more excuses; detailed bathroom explanations; comments on my hair, clothing, makeup; detailed observations of whether or not I have a wedding ring; questions about stretching; and questions about pointe shoes. They also share their opinions on class material (critical eye brow raise) and give confirmations when something is indeed too difficult. I’ve been sweetly invited over to kids’ houses, and have heard musical observations and frighteningly accurate identifications of pop songs even in piano form…I really need to start writing it all down. Because it’s HILARIOUS. Pure, unadulterated life remarks. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Even when I hear too much information, or something completely unrelated to dance, I have to appreciate the other 50% of “the moments” – the appreciation, the wonder, the purity of excitement, and the effort. I love to discover the love and the joy of dance-the very same passion I have for this art form. Discovering it within someone else and watching them harness their passion and energy in order to progress, is absolutely wonderful. So if you’re a teacher (specifically a dance teacher, but the struggle applies to all teachers!) the next time no one wants to do an adagio or the baby ballerinas won’t listen to a word you say, remember that you are their hero. Even if just one continues to pursue dance, know that you have given them joy. In return they will give you the most brutally honest, refreshing view of life.

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