What My Hardest Day Teaching Taught Me About Dance

Teachers gonna teach, but that shizz is hard (can I get an Amen?). If you ask any teacher to tell you about a memorable day in their classroom, you'd likely get an array of different responses; some hilarious, some cringe worthy, and some super heartfelt.

I've had all of those experiences, but today I wanted to share one of the heartfelt variety. This is a story about an experience I had late last year during my annual Nutcracker Dance Camp. Typically, holiday camps are short, sweet, and full of sugar plums and tutus. And this camp was, but it also gave me a super hard day (and important lesson) about why teachers do the work we do.

A particular student of mine, who I'd had in classes and camps for a few years, was having a really rough week. She had some family things going on at home, some of which I was aware of, and so I was aware of the fact that she was feeling a little extra raw.

Right before one of our craft times, towards the end of a rehearsal of our choreography, I noticed this student becoming withdrawn and emotional. I quietly asked her if she would like to either be my helper, or sit down and rest, and she chose to sit down and rest. Over the next 10 minutes or so, she cried and cried, inconsolable by friends and myself.

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While the rest of my students headed in to do their craft, I talked with my student, and while she was too upset to really talk, I knew that she just needed someone next to her. We hugged for a long time, and I encouraged her to breathe and told her she was safe and loved.

Her mom came a little while later and my student took the rest of the day to rest and soak up the love from her family, but for the good 5 minutes that this little one needed a hug (and my heart was breaking wondering how I could help, and what on Earth could be causing her so much pain), I realized that while dance is the medium through which I reach people, THIS, this hugging, connecting, and loving, was really the work I was doing.

I completely believe we're put on this Earth to connect with others. To reach out and dance, talk, laugh, and communicate with others. Creating connections and shared experiences through dance is what I love doing, and hope to do within my work. While I felt mostly helpless in this particular situation, and initially frustrated that my lesson plans and schedule was being thrown off track, I was quick to see this situation for what it really was: a reminder that my work isn't about keeping kids on a schedule, making sure they perform, or that they report back to their parents that they had a good time at dance camp, my work is about connecting to my students and being there when they need me.

It was a rough and emotional day. I left the studio feeling empty and tired, but I'm so grateful for the lesson, the experience, and the reminder that my work is good work, and I'm in a powerful position to help each and every person who comes into my classroom.

The Book Report: Legendary Ladies

Ooooh I'm super excited to be doing a Book Report blog today, #1 because it's been too long, and #2, because this month's featured book is just SO GOOD!

Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to exhibit A, Ann Shen's amazing Legendary Ladies: 50 Goddesses To Inspire And Empower You. One glance at this book and I was in love! I'd seen Shen's other works, like Bad Girls Throughout History, but Legendary Ladies swept me off my feet just a little more, maybe because the first page I flipped to was Laka, a Hawaiian goddess, and hula dancer.

These pages are filled with goddesses from all over the world, from all cultures and walks of life, and are just so.... badass! I've always been a nut for mythology, and it was wonderful to see a book dedicated to all the ladies of mythology, and hear all the tales of the amazing things they have on their resumes.

How fun would it be to do a recital, performance, or camp based on Shen's book? Or use some of these ladies to guide lesson plans, or introduce dancers to new cultures through dance? I just get so excited at the possibilities!

Please, do me a favor and GO GET THIS BOOK. It'll make you happy and excited, and you probably won't want to share it with your kids (that's totally ok, too). Happy Reading!

Disclosure: some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through my links and make a purchase.

3 Lessons Learned From My Business's Trip Around The Sun

You know that moment when you're scrolling through your phone and you find a long lost photo and you do the math of how long it's been since that day, or when Facebook pops up with one of those 'One year ago today...' memories and your brain goes into a tailspin of contemplating the physics of time and how it can possibly go by so quickly?

Yeah, I had one of those moments earlier this month. As I was getting ready to get married, I realized that my soon-to-be hubby and I were getting married just a little over a year from when he proposed, which reminded me that I moved to upstate NY just a little after that, which meant that holy cow it's been an entire trip around the sun since I uprooted my whole life and business and moved it to a new place.

Mind. Blown. And I always feel like with anniversaries like these there's supposed to be some big revelation, some heavens parting, angels singing AHA moment.... Nope, didn't have one of those.

But what I have had are lots of little lessons about what exactly, I'm doing, both with my life, and with my purpose in life. 365 days is a short amount of time in the big picture of things, but also plenty of time to figure a few things out. Here are the top 3 things I've learned:

 3 of my first students at my Speculator studio!

3 of my first students at my Speculator studio!

1. 365 Days = 365 Ways To Make Your Move

Being in a town of just over 300 will teach you real quick that word gets around fast, and while the days can become a blur of to-do lists, hopes, wins, and losses, every day is still a chance to make a new decision about what you want to do with yourself, your life, and your livelihood. One day might be about introducing yourself to 3 new people, while another day might just be about taking a nap so you can remember those 3 people's names the next time you see them. There's no move too small, no choice or decision too tiny.

2. Sometimes It's Just Hard

Self-help books and motivational posters on Pinterest will be full of rah-rah's for when the going gets tough. But sometimes, the simple truth is leading a creative life and/or running a creative business is just hard. There's no need to sugar coat the fact that some days you'll feel like quitting, and flopping down on your bed in a mess of tears. Accepting that it's hard is part of the job. Realizing that you can do hard things is the antidote.

3. Gratitude is EVERYTHING

So after you accept #2, getting real grateful is key. This may be the most important thing I learned all year. When everything was in a tangle and felt too big to handle, zooming out and focusing on how great it was to have a cup of coffee, or a roof over my head, or someone to give me a hug was what let me off of the struggle bus.

Which of these resonated with you? Let me know in the comments on on social media, and if you're out there just getting started, or still going after many years, here's to you!

Two Words From A Dance Teacher I Remember Ten Years Later

As someone who writes a blog and contributes articles to various online dance communities, I fancy myself a pretty talented wordsmith, and try to be as aware as I can in my dance classroom of the words I use, because I know words have staying power that rivals glitter. 

When I was working on my Body Positivity online class, the importance of words and what we say to our students hit me all over again as I broke down affirmations, growth mindset statements and responses that teachers could arm themselves with to encourage and support their dancers. Thinking about the impact that words have on us got me thinking about some of the words that have had the most profound impact on me; positive and negative.

I'm gonna skip over the negative, because both you and I can remember the hurtful comments of life as a young kid. The teasing, the whispered comments accompanied by a giggle on the playground or during a water break in dance class. Isn't it funny how in our school days one of the worst treatments was the silent treatment? Because that silence carried a million different words of hurt that weren't spoken but were amplified by not being said aloud? Yeah. We've all been there.

So let me focus on the positive. 10 years later, these are 2 words that I remember from one of my teachers, and mentors, Summer Lee Rhatigan: "Not yet".

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These words rocked my world and changed my life. Not only for my dancing, and the pursuit of the elusive technique of ballet, but they've informed my teaching so, so much.

For a long time when I was a new teacher, I'd call out 'good job!', and 'great!' so often the phrases lost their meaning. For me and for my students. It wasn't until I was an older and wiser teacher that I realized not giving accurate feedback and giving false praise was doing a disservice to my teaching.

But the words 'not yet' are so powerful because they tell dancers 'I see you. I see your work and your effort. You may not have it yet, but you will.' THAT is what students need to hear from teachers. Students won't get better or learn faster or more if we always tell them 'good job'. When we create an honest, supportive, and loving classroom where learning is seen as a journey and not a destination, we give our dancers the best chance to be their best.

So teachers: try using these 2 words for yourself. See how they change your teaching, how they change your students, and let me know what you find. Even though we're dance teachers, we spend a lot of our time with words, and figuring out how to communicate with our students. 2 words is all it might take to affirm your students and keep them coming back to the barre with fresh effort and inspired determination.

5 Ballet Myths Busted (In My Studio)

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Myths can be a great thing when we're talking about Marvel movies (specifically I'd like to talk about Thor... anyone else? Thor? Here's looking at YOU, Chris Hemsworth), but not so great when we're talking about other things, like ballet, or dance, or whatever business or art you're in or pursue.

Today I'm busting 5 myths about ballet that just don't apply to my studio. This isn't a one-size-fits-all fact checker; some of the things I'll be talking about may have their place in other dance studios, but these are things I've based my business and teaching philosophy on, so if you're into dance as a way to teach confident, healthy and generous souls, read on my friend!

 

1. You're Born With It, Or Not

Yes, some of us are gifted with wonderful turnout, natural flexibility, and the high arches that make dance a wee less challenging than for your average Joe, but average Joe has just as much of a right to boogie as anyone else. I believe that anybody who has a body can (and should) find joy in music and movement, and can experience all the joys (and challenges) that learning this art form can bring.

2. You Have To Have 'The Body'

Fabulously talented dancers like Lizzy Howell and Erik Cavanaugh are helping to bust this myth, and I'm doing my part with my class about incorporating body positivity in to dance classrooms, and this is a tough one to break since there's such a strong stereotype associated with ballerinas and being thin, but my philosophy is more 'come as you are' as opposed to 'come only if you're a size 2'.

3. No Pain, No Gain

Every once in awhile a picture will surface on the internet with some severe, cane toting ballet mistress holding a young dancer down in the splits while her face contorts with pain. And when this happens, I die a little inside. Pain does not = gain. Yes, ballet technique is difficult and takes a lot of practice and hard work, but I'll never push a student to the point of pain, or suggest that she's not making progress if she's not hurting. Let's borrow Thor's hammer to obliterate this one.

4. Ballet Is For Girls

I'm just gonna leave this here. 'Nough said.

5. You'll Do Everything With Grace

If there was a Tripping Over Your Own Feet Anonymous club I'd be in it. I'm super graceful on the dance floor, and I do have great posture, but having a ballet background isn't a shield against never slipping up, tripping up, or making a goof of yourself. But I do firmly believe that dance is a great teacher of inner grace - of teaching respect, gratitude, and kindness, and I'd take that shade of grace over looking poised on the outside any day.

Backstage With Melody Pourmoradi of GirlLife Evolutions

You know when you meet a fellow #GirlBoss online, or in person, and you're struck by a wave of 'this girl is SO cool!!' Well that was pretty much my impression of Melody Pourmoradi, who is a life and wellness coach who has some super important messages for girls and women surrounding self-esteem and confidence, body love and acceptance, and supporting each other in a world that's so often trying to tear us down.

I connected with Melody on social media few months back and fell in love with her work, and was so thrilled when she agreed to sit down for an interview with me! My current momentum in bringing body positivity into the dance classroom feels like it jives well with her It’s actually GiRLIFE Empowerment & Life Evolutions work (a program that's dedicated to empowering young girls with tools to nourish their minds, bodies and souls), so I was super excited to hear more from Melody about her amazing work! Read on for a major dose of Girl Power (and a special offer for YOU from Melody)!

KC: Tell me a bit about how you got started in life and wellness coaching.

MP: As a young girl I was always very fascinated by human potential and finding ways to support others to move forward in their lives. As I started studying psychology however, I realized that the nature of the field required a great deal of healing old wounds and working on the past in order to create positive change. My gift as I learned a little later on was to work with people on the strengths that they have today to help them grow into the best versions of themselves. When I learned about coaching, the job description so resonated with me that I immediately went to coaching school, received my certification and started taking on clients. It has truly been one of the most significant decisions of my life. 

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KC: What was it that sparked your interest in coaching specifically for women, and young girls?

MP" As I reflect on all of the transitions that I myself experienced as a young girl and as I watched my twin daughters move through their own set of ups and downs, I was very inspired to create a girls empowerment program. There are so many layers of fear placed on young girls from the outside. Unconsciously, we all accept those fears and allow them to shape our reality. The goal of my program is to instill a strong foundation within our young girls from the youngest possible age, so that they can move through every phase of their lives with as much ease, grace and peace as possible. 

KC: What's your favorite thing about working with women and girls?

MP: My favorite thing about working with girls and women is to watch their grit and grace as they move towards their goals. I believe that female energy, talent and intelligence are one of our planet’s most valuable untapped resources. I love playing a role in bringing light to this positive female movement. The sooner we can all be introduced to our own personal power, the sooner we can step up and claim a life that truly serves us and those around us. 

KC: Do you have any lady heroes, and why?

MP: My biggest lady hero is the incredible Oprah Winfrey. The way that she has used her platform to create a positive shift on our planet is beyond inspiring. I attribute so much of what I have created to date to her and other female role models whose fierce and fabulous energy I call on in my own life each day. 

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KC: How do you describe what you do for a living to people you're just meeting for the first time?

MP: I am a life coach and the creator of The GiRLiFE Empowerment Series: A mind and body training designed for passionate women who want to bring girls empowerment to their own communities {while earning for the good work that they do}. 

KC: What's it been like doing the GirlLife work and curriculum with your own daughters?

MP: It has been so gratifying. I love watching them immerse themselves in the workshops. My favorite is when we are running workshops for younger girls and they help me with everything from set up to registration to actually speaking with the girls who attend our workshops in a one in one setting. It’s also very comforting to see them use the GiRLiFE principles of self-love, gratitude and intuition in their own daily lives.  

KC: Do you have any new or special projects on the horizon you're excited about?

MP: I do. I am actually putting the finishing touches on my first book called: xoxo, from a girl who gets it: life notes for the young girl within. I love sharing all of the messages from my workshops in a fun and inspiring way. The target ages for the book are 5-105. I believe that there is wisdom in this book that the young girl in all of us needs to hear to heal and to grow. I’m super excited to be publishing it soon!

And now.... just for funsies....

KC: Burritos or Tacos?

MP: Tacos all the way!

KC: Flashdance or Footloose?

MP: Flashdance

KC: Legwarmers or Headbands?

MP: Legwarmers always

KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

MP: Rainbows

KC: One word to describe yourself?

MP: Resilient

Thank you so much Melody for sharing your time and wisdom with us, and for creating this special offer for Different Drummer Dance readers!

Melody has generously offered up an entire module from her GiRLiFE Empowerment Training. This training will guide you through one of the themes from her workshop so you can give it a test run in your community, and it's also a great way of getting acquainted with the GiRLiFE mission and our movement. Make sure you claim your offer below, and then let me know once you did so I can give you a virtual high five! 

You can also get more of Melody and empowerment for women and girls over on her Facebook group page. Hop to it and get empowering! 

The Book Report: How to Catch a Leprechaun

It's time for your Elf On The Shelf to move over, because it's Leprechaun season! St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner, and it's the perfect opportunity to put on some green, do a little jig, and party it up, Irish style!

This month's Book Report is brought to you by the fun and mischief of leprechauns.  How To Catch A Leprechaun is the perfect rhyming, silly, and celebratory story to kick off the holiday, and I especially love this book for my creative movement classes since it's full of action words, directions, and prompts to explore all kinds of dance elements.

My students love the fun rhythm and rhyme of Adam Wallace's book, and the story lends itself perfectly to obstacle courses, quiet, creeping movements, surprise twists and jumps, snapping and tapping rhythms (like the Leprechaun does), and is just a whole lot of fun!

Will you be trying to catch any leprechauns this St. Patty's Day? I'd love to know your favorite books and traditions! Be sure and check out March's Brain Dance as well, for spring time dance moves to keep the fun going!

Disclosure: some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through my links and make a purchase.

March Brain Dance - Spring + Scarves!

Are you craving Spring as much as I am? Here in upstate NY it's still mostly cold, but there are days when the snow is melting and the sun is shining bright, and it's pumping me up for longer days and all that vitamin E!

With that in mind, I bring you March's Brain Dance! I decided to bring in a prop this month, since I haven't used one in a Brain Dance for awhile, and these new scarves I got are so light and airy and colorful, they seemed to match the upcoming spring spirit. So grab your scarf and let's go!

Disclosure: some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through my links and make a purchase.