Start today. Don’t start tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. Start now but start small.
Be a student. Always be a student. Those of us who educate dancers do our best work when we take class too. The classes we take will inform the classes we teach, what will move and motivate our students. Work on your tendus. Work on your shuffles. I still am.
And when I get a compliment from my teacher, it still feels really good.
Getting yourself to step into that first class or lesson isn’t quite as easy. Fear can start to kick in, combined with inhibition and vulnerability with a side of nervousness. But still, let’s say getting to the first class isn’t so difficult.
You get to the first class and what you imagined yourself doing might not be what comes out of you. Well, you say to yourself, this is much harder than it looks.
There’s the rub. What do you do?
Fun fact: it’s ok to not be good at something. You might be terrible at it. Let’s think ahead though.
What happens if you keep going back? You become less terrible. And the next time even less terrible. One day, low and behold, you will be good at it! The rewards are much greater than the frustration and stumbles along the way.
Many have bailed before they got a chance to see what they are able to accomplish. If that inner voice is saying it’s too hard, find that stronger voice that tells you to enjoy the journey. Enjoy being terrible. I’m not here typing this because I’m great. I’m here because I was terrible and I kept going.
We see it often. A colleague opens a new space and it’s immediately packed with people (these days, in a limited capacity). What?! How are they open for a week and packed like that?
What if you’re not one of those immediately popular businesses, artists or entities? You start with one client or supporter, then two, a few more… Some stick with you, some disappear.
The ones who stay come for you. They like what you’re about, what your process is, how you designed your program or your work. Little by little, more of those people walk in your door. You’re not afraid to try things because they are there for you and your realness. It’s ok to say, “Hmm that didn’t work. Let’s try this.” And your true fans are there for it.
You might not get that rush of 100 people at your door on the day you open in your shiny newness. The ones that are meant for you will find you, one by one.
Anyone who is a leader of any kind, whether they teach classes, conduct seminars or coordinate a team, has the responsibility of preparing and showing up ready to connect and extend themselves, fostering an environment of progress and positive, focused energy.
Those attending classes as students have the same level of responsibility to show up and be open and receptive to the energy, to make the corrections given and accept critiques with a “thank you”, “got it” or nod.
Sometimes the universe hands us a bad day (or recently, year). What we do have control over is how we choose to improve our mood, whether it’s by reading or listening to something positive, or just reaching out to a friend with with an “ugh” and and eye roll emoji to get it off our chest.
Being a student is a skill. Giving back energy to those we take class from and with is a high priority skill. The mood we bring into the room is a skill. If we practice at it, we become great at being present no matter what the universe has handed us that day.
Any change will make someone in your audience unhappy. Not changing at all makes you “stuck in your ways”, and maybe they seek out something new and shiny.
There’s an integrity to holding on to tradition. There’s a reason it is done this way and it works.
There are also things that can make us reluctant to moving forward and making changes: reluctance, stubbornness, fear, laziness, feeling overwhelmed.
We need to find ourselves in that middle place, where we don’t listen to every piece of advice thrown out there, but we don’t want to throw walls up the instant somebody is offering new options and directions to move in. It takes more time and critical thinking to find a path that feels right.
A tendu will always be a tendu and a shuffle is a shuffle. It’s right or it’s not. The possible platforms and modes of delivery, though, are constantly changing, and the question of whether to move with them or not does not have a binary, yes/no answer.
Well, we are definitely happy to say goodbye to 2020. With all the tragedy, heartbreak and loss, we had to find solutions to keep working and stay connected in healthy ways as all of our lives were upended.
Here are some takeaways from my challenging year:
When ‘business as usual’ isn’t possible, nimbly pivot, keep moving forward and whenever something’s not working, readjust and keep going.
Paying attention to all of the noise on social media is a choice. Shutting it down, turning away and unfollowing those who prove toxic is a better choice.
What’s right for others isn’t and doesn’t have to be right for you or me, even if it seems everyone is flocking to them and not us.
Routine is especially essential, even when it all seems upside down. Wake up. Make breakfast. Read. Start on the to-do list. Practice. Lunch. Work. Dinner. TV. Sleep. Repeat.
Here’s to a new year of new opportunities and possibilities.
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.