Artists motivation Training for success

What if it’s too easy

Advanced dancers know how to work in any level class. If the material is simpler, they will work on emotional texture, refining their lines, sustaining movements a little longer. They’ll change a shuffle to riffle, a heel to a toe, try different stylizations with each repetition of the combination. They will make the class their own.

Less advanced dancers in the same situation will say the class is too easy, that they already know this, then proceed to not give their full effort because the class is below their ability level.

Smart dancers will ask for ways they can challenge themselves more if they need some guidance. They may respectfully ask if they can try the class that is a level higher in addition to the class they are placed in. Maybe the teacher isn’t seeing all they are capable of, or maybe the dancer takes the extra classes and works up to the level they desire to be dancing at.

Dancers who get it will show up, be present, ask specific questions and enjoy the process.

Artists creating motivation

Says who

We very often tell ourselves things to make us feel better. It can help us cope with being content in the moment, or it can stifle our ambition to achieve new heights or try something new.

I’m too old to become a director.

I’m starting too late. I’ll never be an actor.

I should have pursued this 20 years ago.

You have to ask yourself who is telling you these things. Mostly, it’s you. Others don’t get to decide whether you’re too old or too late.

Make art, whether it’s in your living room or at a Nederlander theatre. Seek out the best sources and guidance. Don’t stop.

Past regrets and bumps in the road do a great job of getting in our way. Use the good stuff as fuel and ignore the rest.

Artists creating motivation

I’ll be there

Many of us are fortunate to have people in our lives, outside of the obligatory immediate family members, that show up to everything we do as performers.

Whether it’s a class show for an improv comedy course, a dance concert in a crowded church basement or an outdoor performance at a large, well-known venue, they will be there. They always show up. It’s impossible to express in words the gratitude felt for my personal super fans who, no matter what, will be in the audience.

The only way I can think to possibly express it is to become that same super fan for others that I would want sitting in the front row at my show, to clear out some space in daily life and make time so I can be the one that shows up. Someday we will buy tickets to shows again. Our friends will have gigs. If I can make others feel a fraction of what I feel when my friends show up for me, I will be there.

Artists Careers

More than you think and not enough

Everyone knew better than me. What do I know, after all. How do I know this is the right way to go if I don’t ask people first. The people that know better.

It’s so great that we can now ask anybody what we should do. What song should I use? Which costume do you like better? What school should I go to? But wait. Does the rest of the world really know so much more than me?

Artists are, by nature, often second-guessing, hard on themselves, never quite satisfied with their work, contemplating what they haven’t accomplished. Does this sound familiar?

The truth is that we know more than we will give ourselves credit for. Trust your choices and trust your knowledge, and if you’re down to the final stretch of your endeavor mulling over a small detail, ask a trusted person who knows you a singular, specific question.

We will never have all the answers, but we have many more than we think.

Artists creating motivation

What is it for?

Why am I taking voice lessons if I’m not a singer?

Why am I taking ballet classes every week if I’m not a ballet dancer?

Why did I study high level math if I’m not an engineer, physicist or astronaut?

If it gives fulfillment, is time well spent, connects me with others or more deeply with myself, gives a needed outlet or a needed place to hide, feels right or enhances other areas of life, that’s all that matters.

Likes, shares and comments are temporarily satisfying. The joy derived from doing things ‘just because’ stays with us so much longer.

Artists motivation Technology

Pivot, step, walk, walk, walk

One very easy thing to do right now is to worry and ask ‘what if’.

What if I lose my business? What if my job, as I know it, is no longer? What if I have to change my life around completely? Now what?

Worrying takes a lot of energy and accomplishes nothing (we all will still spend some time worrying). We could also wait for things to get back to normal. Waiting is also not a good use of time.

As unideal as it is, it’s important to continue doing the work.

Not everything needs to change.

  • I’m still teaching my classes but they are pre-recorded.
  • I’m still teaching my classes but they are live-streamed.
  • I’m still planning classes for each level I teach, but now I’ve taken the time to separate the levels into different notebooks.

What’s next for me? An online monthly membership for people who want to continue tap dancing at home, or learn from the beginning. Stay tuned!

With slogs come new ideas, or time to develop the unrealized ideas and goals buried inside us collecting dust.

We can worry and wait and rant and let the challenge swallow us, or if we’re talking business-speak, we can nimbly pivot. As dancers, we’re slightly more talented and we can “Pivot, step, walk, walk, walk.

Artists Dance and Social Media motivation Training for success

For example

It is no longer a select few in charge who get to be heard shouting at others for not doing things the right way or for the right reasons. (Side note: I’m going to narrow this down to the realm of dance, but it’s applicable to any industry or topic.)

Each and every one of us has our own public soapbox to argue about split sole tap shoes, rant about tap dancers not listening to jazz music, bemoan the hypersexualization of competition dance and overall, shame others for not representing the art form in a way that we find acceptable.

This doesn’t work.

Humans don’t want to be antagonized into doing things “the right way”. We learn by following the examples around us. We teach what we’ve learned from our mentors and what we feel is true to the integrity of the art form, while making it engaging. That’s all that matters.

Follow the example I set. Or don’t.

Artists Careers Educators Training for success

When to stay and when to walk away

Part of achieving success as an artist is having the right training. Having the right training means you have mentors. The best mentors will help you achieve your maximum potential in a way that is demanding without being condescending.

In vulnerable states, artists may rely on their mentors to get them through the roughest patches. If this vulnerability becomes manipulated, it crosses the line into unhealthy.

Your teachers helped you reach great heights under their tutelage and may have believed in you when it seemed nobody else did.

It’s all great until it isn’t. Fifty great things your mentor has done for you cannot outweigh one very bad thing they have done to you.

The effect teachers have on students lasts a lifetime, the good and the bad. If it doesn’t feel healthy, walk away, and cherish the ones that push you to your best and catch you when you fall.

Artists motivation

That’s the truth

The truth can be quite elusive, especially when it is uncomfortable and feels unsafe, even more especially right now.

Past all of the arguments over minutiae and people bending the truth to their liking, past all the opinions and noise, there’s ballet. It’s right or it’s not. You’re in 5th position, or you’re not. Your leg is behind you, or it’s not. There’s weight on your tendu foot, or there’s not.

In a hyperconnected world of bickering, quarreling, unfounded theories and distress, there’s pliĆ© and breath.

Careers Dance Educators Training for success

Value isn’t cheap

On tour in 2005 in the town of Somewhere, USA, my cast mates and I went to a dingy gym in a hotel basement so I could teach them the audition material for the upcoming Radio City Rockettes audition. I’d been doing the job for many years at this point, so I knew what the open call would entail.

These women are fabulous dancers. I just needed to fine tune some tiny details. Two of the three that auditioned ended up getting hired that season, after being cut from previous years of auditions. Words can’t express how special that was to me. They of course didn’t pay me a dime.

Other times in my career I’ve been hired to guest teach at studios or as a faculty member of a convention or festival where students don’t know foundational tap steps, and I’m paid very well to teach them some basics that they could learn from anybody with some knowledge.

How much I was paid in any case doesn’t matter.

The value of a teacher’s work isn’t measured by how much money they make. It’s measured by what those they teach get out of it.