I was teaching Wednesday night at the dance studio when spotted this inspirational and oh-so-true quote posted up on the white board in one of the classrooms:
“If you ever feel like giving up, just remember there’s a little girl watching who wants to be just like you. Don’t disappoint her.”
When the “big girls” stood up to perform their contemporary pointe piece the pre-ballet girls, who are around seven-years-old, sat up a little taller, crossed their ankles and looked on wide-eyed. These “big girls” are their role models. It was true when I was growing up at the studio and it was true when I was a “big girl” and it still holds true today even as a dance teacher. And heck(!!) this quote is even true in the professional world. There is always someone looking on, admiring you from a far for numerous reasons. (that sounded creepy, but you know what I mean.)
The annual recitals are this weekend and I’ve been reflecting back on what the studio taught me growing up that prepared me for success in the Real World*. I am now a part-time teacher (in addition to my full-time gig) at my “second home,” where a lot of my teachers are now my co-workers and role models.
Here are the Top 5 life lessons from my time at the dance studio from age 3-18 that I hope to pass on to my dance kiddos:
- Be prompt—I am always on time for everything (actually most of the time I’m early) because in dance, time is of the essence and if you’re late for rehearsals or miss your cue on stage people that are counting on you are not happy with you. Same goes for Real World interviews, meetings and deadlines. Your time is valuable and so is everyone else’s, honor that.
- Be respectful—Three Forms:
a. To Teachers: Teachers are there to educate dancers on the discipline and tenacity needed to accomplish the art form. Teachers are there to inform dancers on the rules of the dance class and how to reach their goals. Sure, there will be challenges, maybe you don’t like the choreography, but you have to respect the teacher/choreographer’s passion for the work, because guess what? reality states you’re going to do things that you don’t want to do and you’re going to have to do it with a beaming smile.
b. To Peers: The always challenging peer-to-peer relationships, which as you can imagine is often fueled through competition (more so than ever in recent years). This competitive spirit trains dancers for multiple real world scenarios: setting goals, disappointments, pain, failure, triumph, and confidence. However, it’s important that through these challenges that mutual respect for one another is created. This is not to say, “Hey let’s be BFFs and ever,” but realizing that if you do decide to dance professionally, it’s a small industry, you may be standing next to that person during a piece where they may have to lift you up over their head…they could drop you. Just sayin’. Be kind to each other people!
c. To Yourself : You (proper noun, big Y-o-u) is often the hardest person to respect, but at the end of the day You are all you have. So what the heck, be nice would ya!?! At the studio, just like the real world, we are afraid of failure but the truth is you have to fail in order to improve. Can’t get your leg in a 6:00 tilt, no problem. Stretch more. Figuring out how the heck you’re going to give up sugar for 5 days during this detox? Breathe, it’s just an experiment just plan your meals ahead of time and you’ll be good! It’s all about self-love.
- Be organized—When you’re shimmying off your sequins in the dark on the side of the stage and have two minutes to change tights, hair, costumes and shoes knowing that the show waits for no one, you tend to be organized. Just like in life, juggling multiple things at one time and on a tight deadline you are expected to execute the project(s) on time and with the highest quality.
- Be hard working—OK, OK this is cliché, I know. Shouldn’t everyone be hard working? Well technically yes, but dancers don’t have a choice. They have to be dedicated to their craft in order to be successful and to avoid injury. For dancers, working hard is a normal thing, why? Because if you don’t straighten your standing leg in every single pirouette you’re going to bust your arse. Because science and gravity. More importantly they don’t just have to work tirelessly on their skills but they must to make those supernatural Gumby-like shapes and patterns look effortless while smiling AND transmitting a wordless message from their bodies to your brain and hopefully heart. Because dance is magic and if done right you feel that passion and magic. ::Chills:: So learning discipline and practicing dedication for a craft early on in life has definitely proven valuable in my current career.
- Be a team player—Let me first have a mini rant about how I hate when parents pull their kids out of the dance recitals a mere two weeks before dress rehearsals. PET PEEVE. Stop doing that to your kids and the other kids in the class that have worked so hard the entire year(see above) to make their routine stage ready. It’s just not fair. This is not soccer when you can place someone in the forward position and they know exactly what their job is and where to go on the field. (Not hating on soccer players, p.s.) Dance routines are team efforts, everyone has a spot to perform the choreography while at the same time often having to rely on each other when changing formations throughout the dance. OK done rant. BUT seriously: This may sound silly when dance looks like a solo event, but it’s not. It’s collective. Dancers feed off the energy of those around them via other dancers on the stage with them or the audience’s feedback. Oh! And dancers always like feedback and advice, they thrive off it and work harder to achieve success.
Though I didn’t end up being a professional dancer or even to the caliber of those youngsters on SYTYCD, I have learned a lot through my dance training that has lead me down a successful path so far in life. All my gratitude goes to Buffa’s Dance Studio for molding and shaping me into the young woman I have become. Also a HUGE thank you to my parents who encourage me to strive for success everyday and provided the financing to explore my passion and the investment in my future.
*Real World= post-college career life.