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.

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/

versatile-blogger-award

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)

Joy – PASS IT ON.

“If I can’t partake, I at least am grateful to be able to help…Thank you to my students for…help[ing] me feel the joy.”

My second Nutcracker season as “just a teacher” (I use that term very loosely because organizing and rehearsing Nutcracker magic is not an easy feat!) is well underway. I speak frankly when I tell you that it is a hard time for me. As a classical dancer and a die-hard fan of the Christmas season, the Nutcracker has always brought me such joy. Combining the bright and joyous sounds of Tchaikovsky, with familiar classical ballet, and excited audiences..it’s right up my alley. Despite the exhaustion that this time of year brings, I always have found it to be exhilarating. It’s a time to feel alive and strong and like a true professional (and knowing that each run of snow you burn just that many more cals).

Standing on the sidelines honestly tears at my soul sometimes, but helping my students to fully commit to and honor their roles within the Nutcracker is a pretty good substitute. I love to hear young Nut participants explain their role and the challenges of rehearsal when conversing with their peers, always brimming with pride and plenty of details. The cheerful “Thank you’s” I have heard after being commended on a job well done are pure and enthusiastic. The earnestness with which they approach their roles makes me such a proud dance mama. If I can’t partake, I at least am grateful to be able to help my ‘pride and joys’ put on a great show.

And isn’t the passing of joy (dance related or not), what the holidays are all about? Regardless of the impending holiday season, this is a time of change, a time in which civility and love matters more than ever.

I hope there are more dances to come. But for now, thank you to my students for working so hard for me. Your laughter and smiles are contagious and help me feel the joy. #thankful #blessed

Happy Thanksgiving from The J.O.D. Blog  ❤

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I Have A B.F.A….And I’m Not Afraid To Use It

“…I always feel prepared. I have a million and one experiences I can pull from that help me every day that I continue to dance.”

Last night I was sitting in my kitchen handwriting ballet class plans. It reminded me of the plethora of class plans I wrote over the course of my college career and how I had vowed many times to never write another. But I still do. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree in Ballet Pedagogy from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. This ever-expanding program helped me learn about every aspect of the dance world-ballet technique, modern technique, Graham technique (oh lord, those hip flexors), anatomy, pedagogy, marketing, backstage work, stage management (the power of the headset), choreography, improvisation, grant writing, studio ownership-tools for any dance career imaginable. But dancers and non-dancers alike should understand that receiving an arts education in a conservatory-style environment is not a piece of cake. It’s not all “let’s dance today!” and “how does this piece make you feel?…” It’s work. I believe it to be work that can refine our talents, molding us into ideal candidates for the dance professions of the world.

Paquita, The Hartt School, 2010
Paquita, The Hartt School, 2010

B.F.A. programs are not for everyone. We all have different needs. But I believe it is an excellent path if you are looking to continue your education and prepare yourself for a career in dance. This was a step I needed. And the amount of information and experience I gained in four years, honestly went above and beyond my expectations.

What’s also fantastic about the B.F.A. path is the preparation you receive for company life. I was in awe when I began my college dance training because to me it was like a summer program that never ended. And isn’t that what being a company dancer is like? Although our lives are also filled with second jobs and teaching, it’s really all dance all the time in a company. And that can be a transition. Not only mentally, but physically. You have to know what you can handle. You must constantly push yourself to your absolute best and beyond, but in a healthy and safe way. If you give just a little too much, it can be your downfall.

Hartt School Graduation Day, Class of 2011
Hartt School Graduation Day, Class of 2011

Now obviously I have a bias towards B.F.A. programs. But, honestly, at The Hartt School I experienced some of my proudest and most challenging moments. As a dance educator, I find myself constantly referencing stories I heard or things I experienced (stories from Hilda Morales of ABT and filming The Turning Pointe; improv-ing on the streets of downtown Hartford with my classmates; stage managing an entire show for the first time; teaching class and cuing a live pianist…). Now I always feel prepared. I have a million and one experiences I can pull from that help me every day that I continue to dance. And as a teacher, I am essentially certified to teach ballet. I have meticulously studied every level, and I have a slew of lesson plans, Richard Glasstone articles, and technique books to prove it.

I’m proud of what I accomplished in those four years. Some believe that by going to college you take time away from your dance career. I believe it is a stepping stone to it and a time to gather every possible tool you can to help you succeed (when you are ready). B.F.A. dancers can dance, teach, choreograph, and successfully operate their own studios. We are an asset to our art form, and we are making long-lasting contributions as performers and educators. I decided to get a B.F.A., and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.

2015, Photo Credit-Keith Alan Sprouse
2015, Photo Credit-Keith Alan Sprouse