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.

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.

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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The Room Where I Began

We all have specific places that we hold near and dear to our hearts…places that trigger a flood of memories and flashes of the momentous occasions of our lives.

Over my Christmas break I had the pleasure of returning to my home studio for a ballet class. I was eager to take class from the wonderful woman who laid the foundation that is my ballet technique. From age nine to eighteen, she taught me the steps that fortify ballet, as well as the heart and soul that beat and radiate from within the art form.

At my return (after about eight years!), I was well received. I shared my dance world experiences with students who were just beginning their journeys into ballet as I was venturing off to college. Everything felt perfectly the same at the studio, like I was just attending another weeknight ballet class after hours spent at school. Yet, the way I approached my class was so different…confident. The girl staring back at me in the mirror was someone I had dreamed I could possibly be, and I had become her. That reflection is now graceful and wise, and completely changed as a person.

In that room, I sprouted my roots as an artist. I learned, I was challenged, and I smiled and laughed. I built lasting friendships, learned the importance of community, and probably cried once or twice. Most importantly, it was there that I danced for the sake of dancing. In that room, my mother chose to continue pursuing her passion for dance. It is the room where she brought me at the age of three and a half, to introduce me to something that would become my life.…

Have you ever realized that if a singular event in your life did not occur you would not be the same person that you are today? There is a powerful understanding and appreciation that can be gained from this realization. I am grateful for that space in which I learned, and for the people that guided me within that space. I am proud of how far I have come, and I have not forgotten where I began.

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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The Joy Of..Teaching: Part Two

“…how I choose to communicate…determines if they will sink or swim…Sometimes the feeling is empowering. Sometimes, it’s downright overwhelming.”

Two full weeks of teaching have been completed. I’ve met new students, greeted familiar faces, and made beginning of the year announcements about dress code and “ballet buns”…but now the real work begins. I’ve seen what everyone can do, gauged the capabilities of my classes, and taken (mental) note of who needs what and why. There’s not much different about this year than any other year. I step into my sixth year of teaching fully ready to progress my young charges and take on any challenges they may present. As I crank out the class plans though, I know that despite the importance of the content, it’s how I choose to communicate that determines if they will sink or swim.

PC - Nina Staeben
PC – Nina Staeben

What I love about teaching (here it is…) is the difference I can make. Sometimes the feeling is empowering. Sometimes, it’s downright overwhelming. I could very well choose to play it safe each class. And not to jump on the defensive, but there are many out there who do not appreciate the work of ballet teachers. “What’s the big deal?” “Life goes on, right?” It’s true that the world does not desperately require teachers of dance. But whether I’m giving freedom to a child who needs to release excess energy, or prepping a professional dancer of tomorrow, I know that what I’m doing is important. And, furthermore, it is by no means easy. I could just be a glorified babysitter for my young students, but I would much rather take pride in the fact that I am able to control a room full of 4-year olds and hear them confidently shout out “plié!” and “relevé!” in reference to movement.

PC - Jen O'Keefe
PC – Jen O’Keefe

Some of my favorite teachers were the ones that demanded pristine technique, but also knew how to make class time an enjoyable experience. I truly believe that having a sense of humor is crucial. We’re all going to make mistakes, we may fall (heck, I do that quite often, sometimes tragically), but at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. This attitude is extra important in a studio full of young dancers. The more that children progress technically, the more information there is for them to digest, essentially. As the pressure to improve and expand their knowledge grows, I like to lighten the mood I guess. Just drilling away at tendus for thirty minutes isn’t necessarily helpful, but having a clear understanding of what we’re looking for and why and seeing a visual contrast between beautiful and just plain silly, helps make a difference the next time the students step into the studio. At younger ages, the contrast between “ballerina behavior” and just plain standin’ around pickin’ your nose cracks kids up. It’s a tool I can’t pass up, and I love a good laugh anyway, so everyone wins.

“I know that what I’m doing is important. And…by no means [is it] easy…I…take pride in the fact that I am able to control a room full of 4-year olds and hear them confidently shout out ‘plié!’ and ‘relevé!’ in reference to movement.”

Gifts from teacher-I take so much pride in making these-my most witty of gifts, shown here..
Gifts from teacher – I take so much pride in making these – my most witty of gifts, shown here..

Despite all the laughs though, I always want to set a standard of excellence for my students. With hands on corrections and visual demos, the goal is to help students understand the adjustments we are looking for, both visually and physically (or verbally-it depends on what kind of learner you are!). My Achilles heel of teaching, however, is talking too much and not wanting to let certain things go. The need to press on and cover certain ground always exists, but why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? There’s no time like the present-might as well fix that port de bras or take a deeper look into those pirouettes.

Birthday love <3
Birthday love ❤

Expectations and goals are fine and dandy, but what’s most important is actually dancing. Do I want to create the sharpest, quickest, and cleanest dancers? Yes!! (Please!) But I also just want them to enjoy themselves! They’re most likely there for a particular reason, and for a large percentage, it’s because they just love to move. They relate to dance and movement. It is a language that their bodies understand, and their time in the studio is precious to them. I can only hope that the advice I give, the jokes I make, and the encouragement I offer, are things they will remember and appreciate as they continue down their own life paths.

Searching For Words

“…words come when they are needed. And when there aren’t sufficient words, that’s okay too.”

A routine is difficult. Establishing and protecting the integrity of our habits and rituals is part of what defines our personalities. In the wake of current events (#prayforOrlando, #LoveisLove), any semblance of routine I find to be welcome. While we all grieve differently, it serves as a typical defense mechanism to bury ourselves in work, routine, laughter, and distraction. Some find this inappropriate, but there is no wrong way to heal.

A little over a year ago I took on a new weekly routine. I vowed to myself that on a weekly basis, every Tuesday evening I would prepare a blog post related to the world of dance and my exploration as a professional dancer and dance teacher, to be posted bright and early Wednesday A.M.. When considering the frequency, a daily post felt like too much of a commitment, whereas the bi-weekly option seemed like a cop-out. So I went with a weekly commitment.

I’ve skipped a week here and there (this being my 47th post) for various reasons-sickness, vacation/family time, lack of the appropriate words to describe my feelings…Although my routine is flexible and something that I personally control, I’ve done my best to develop this habit in a religious fashion. Two Sundays ago, I sat in the pew of the church I grew up in years ago, sandwiched between my mother and my childhood dance teacher. As our priest began the weekly homily, it occurred to me that his reflections on the word of God are a weekly responsibility-one that the entire congregation depends on. While the readings we study and the topics he chooses to explore vary each week, as the liturgical year passes, the moral lessons and insight generally remain the same. Now, I don’t mean to compare myself  to a pastor who delivers the word of God each week. Rather, I address the challenge of our rituals, even those we hold dear to our hearts.

With such a broad spectrum of possibilities, it can be difficult to corral one’s thoughts into a strong hypothesis each week. But nine times out of ten, we try to make it happen for ourselves. Because whether your ritual is a religion or a passion or a way of life, it is something you love and care deeply about. It can be difficult to cultivate new thoughts & ideas, but words come when they are needed. And when there aren’t sufficient words, that’s okay too.

I struggle…with this blog sometimes, and with a million other things, trivial and consequential. But I know I am not alone. I know that everything happens for a reason (happens for a reason blog link), and I cherish this time in my life because it is mine to mold as I wish. Thank you to all of you, who support me on my journey by visiting me here each week. You are the fuel that energizes me, and know that I am here for you too.

Look Back, But Don’t Linger…

“…remember that you cannot change anything. It is all there to stay. The good and the bad, the proud and the embarrassing…you cannot make any alterations.”

Looking back and reflecting on our past is a helpful tool for self-improvement, but potentially a route to regret as well. So how can we reflect in the most positive way possible without abusing ourselves mentally and emotionally? Every moment counts, especially for dancers. Every day that passes presents a class you could’ve taken, a stretch you could’ve held, a variation you could have perfected. Life is so fleeting, and when you start to consider it, the pressure to utilize every minute of every day can begin to heighten expectations furiously.

It is only human to question the decisions that got you here. However, self examination can be dangerous. So proceed with caution. When reflecting on the past, no matter how far back you stray, remember that you cannot change anything. It is all there to stay. The good and the bad, the proud and the embarrassing…whether you’re dwelling on a “Hallmark moment” you had or the worst thing that ever happened to you, you cannot make any alterations. It is helpful to draw from those situations, to learn about yourself, and to use your current knowledge to control the future. BUT don’t dare berate yourself with “what if?” Move on. Make new moments. If you’re stuck in the old, there will be no new.

Short and sweet, but in the spirit of this blog, that’s okay. I have taken a look back at my blog and my dancing recently, and where I stood a year ago, or years before, and I have nothing but pride. Pride for the decisions I made and the steps I took to get here. Sure some things could’ve turned out differently, but what is life, without lessons and bumps along the way? I have no complaints. The path that lies ahead is unknown and a little scary. But that’s okay. I have dealt with my past and am ready for the future. Who knows?-what’s ahead could be even better than what’s passed…

Sitting Down, Standing Tall

“There’s something about sitting out…that makes me feel…like I’ve done something wrong. I hate to miss out.”

I hate sitting. Sitting out of ballet to observe cultivates the same feelings I experience driving a long distance alone—I’m focused and observing my surroundings, but my brain wanders to a million different places. There’s too much time to think – it’s a blessing and a curse.

Sadly, after a few successful months back to fully dancing and back on pointe, the reason I found myself sitting for part of class, yet again, is another ankle sprain. Not as bad as the ligament tear that started this snowballing of unfortunate events, but not necessarily a minor setback either. As the days pass and separate me from the dreaded, PTSD-filled moment I experienced last Wednesday (fell off my pointe shoe with a crack and, needless to say, it traumatized me quite a bit), things are already improving. But I am again limited by my body.

There’s something about sitting out of such a big portion of ballet class that makes me feel like I’m being punished. Like I’ve done something wrong. I know this is not the case, but it always pushes to the forefront of my mind. I know I am making a safe decision for my body, but I hate to miss out.

“The absolute worst part of sitting is the regret…I’m aware of the delicate balance…I know how fast it can disappear.”

On a pedagogical note, observing class is interesting to say the least. As a teacher and with an eye for clean technique, there is so much to notice and evaluate when watching the execution of others. I find myself wanting to apply certain corrections to myself, and thinking of what I would do technically to approach certain combinations, which steps I would indulge in artistically.

The absolute worst part of sitting is the regret. And that isn’t a feeling I experienced the few other times I’ve sat down in a class before. It’s new. Because ever since the mental flash I had back in September, and the weeks that passed until I could participate fully again, I’m aware of the delicate balance. The balance between operating fully and gracefully one minute, and then having something go wrong and damaging your body the next. I know how fast it can disappear – how you can feel on top of the world one moment, thinking only of what you can do better or how to display yourself artistically. The next day you’re back to square one-maxed out on ibuprofen, taped, braced, legwarmer-ed, trying to do at least a decent barre as best as you can.

I’ve been in this spot before, and I’ve preached about this already. Be grateful for everything you have. Every moment is a blessing. So if you’re sitting, stand up… (metaphorically, that is). Do the work, and fight the pain and the fear in order to make it better. It’ll make you even stronger, and you’ll know yourself better than you ever did before.

IMG_1316
Don’t forget…

 

 

Embrace The Chaos

“…Embrace the chaos now. It might not be everything you thought it would be…but be proud of where you are and what you’re doing.”

How often in our lives do we become burdened by the fact that we’re so busy? The #1 conversation rapport always seems to be, “How are you?” — “I’m good…so busy right now though”, sometimes followed by a sigh and a smile of faux positivity. We crave time to relax and be at leisure, without the nagging worries of adulthood. As dancers/artists and as human beings in general though, I don’t believe that to be our true nature. However, allowing ourselves free time is key to our success.

The largest contributing factor to stress nowadays stems from the fact that as a society we never stop to breathe and enjoy life. Even when at rest, we are plugged into social media in some way and are constantly and painstakingly aware of what others are doing. The overload of knowledge and the stress of comparing our lives to one another can be exhausting. The more artists I encounter along my path, the more I realize just how unique of a brand we are. The understanding that every second counts is not lost on us. From the gym to the studio to teaching to second jobs, dancers are always on the move. Since there is such a lack of funding for the arts, we are driven to provide for ourselves and our art form. Survival in the arts requires that you never slow down. There is no room for fatigue, hesitancy, or frustration. So we’ll just think about our stresses and our less than practical workloads tomorrow (as Scarlett O’Hara would say).

Although I am a huge proponent of hyperactivity (I always have to be going or I feel like I’m doing something wrong), it can lead to some pretty deteriorating stress and anxiety-not exactly the ideal state of mind for artistry. The older I get the more I am able to understand and witness the reality that the body, holistically, is essential to success in dance. I’ve thought many times before that I could get away with overloading myself – maxing myself out with cross training, going above and beyond in the studio, teaching for hours on end, and attending to a second and third job. But giving 110% to every task doesn’t guarantee me instantaneous success. It doesn’t hurt to have work ethic and drive, but too much can lead to pulled muscles, fatigue, stress, and a lack of passion and self-purpose. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking care of your whole self. Your ENTIRE body and mind is key to your success as a dancer. That’s right I said entire. So just because you have on a happy face and are taking the world by storm one ballet class at a time, that doesn’t mean you’re well. Take the time to nourish the other aspects of your self. Take a yoga class, cook yourself a nice meal, meditate, read a book, do whatever you need to embrace the fact that you are a human being with needs, not just a balletic robot in a leotard.

“…I am a huge proponent of hyperactivity, [but] it can lead to some pretty deteriorating stress and anxiety-not exactly the ideal state of mind for artistry.”

Contrary to everything I’ve just said, it is an amazing feeling to be busy and to feel successful and accomplished. If I could take back many (but not all) of the days that I spent complaining about everything I had to do, when they were all perfectly good things, I would. Be grateful to be productive and thriving. Be grateful that you are able to be busy. Because some are not. There are so many worse things in the world that you could be experiencing and dealing with, but instead you are here, living this life that you chose. You can always take a different path in the future, but that requires you to embrace the chaos now. It might not be everything you thought it would be, and it’s human to have complaints, but be proud of where you are and what you’re doing. It is your here and now; do not resent it and let it pass you by.