The Dancer Teacher's 2019 Manifesto

Happy New Year!!

Like many of you, I’ve spent the last few weeks not only enjoy the holiday, but gearing up for a new year; clearing out the old and making room for the new. One of my practices for gearing up for a new year involves journaling and goal setting, and while I was doing these things, I had the idea to make a manifesto for myself - specifically for my teaching.

I started playing around with words - affirmations, positive statements, kick in the butt reminders, and then got to thinking, ‘well, if I need/want this, I wonder if other dance teachers do?’ So I asked around, and sure enough, you dance educators out there hollered back that you were into a manifesto too!

So here it is my fellow dance friends! Here’s a snippet of my 2019 Dance Teacher Manifesto. It reminds me of all the things I want for myself and my students and my teaching practice in the coming year, and I hope it gives you some inspiration and motivation as well!

To download the full manifesto, just pop your email below and I’ll send it your way. Print it out and put it next to your desk, teaching table, speaker or nightstand, and get ready to rock 2019 with me!

December Book Report: Plum by Sean Hays + Scott Icenogle

There’s no shortage of adorable and beautiful holiday books this time of year. I always love meandering the kid’s section at bookstores, and it’s especially fun around the holidays, but there’s always a couple that seem extra special. Plum, by Sean Hays (of Will and Grace fame), and Scott Icenogle, with gorgeously fun illustrations by Robin Thompson, is one of those books.

Plum is a little girl who lives at an orphanage, and, as all likely heroines, has felt a bit of an outcast. But when a big storm arrives and threatens to ruin Christmas, Plum takes things into her own hands to save the holiday. Her pluck and kindness are rewarded by a mysterious magician, and Plum is transported to the Kingdom of Sweets, where she continues to help save the day, and find the family she’s always wanted.

This is a super sweet twist on the classic Nutcracker tale, it’s charming and heart-warming; perfect for any young dancer who can’t get enough of Sugar Plum Fairies, Clara, and the Mouse King!

What are your favorite reads this time of year? Share below, or forward this recommendation on to a friend who you know would enjoy it! Happy Reading!

Winter Wonderland BrainDance!

Happy December! ‘Tis the season for all things winter: snowflakes, snowmen, hotchocolate… the list of wonders goes on and on! This is also an especially fun time of year to explore winter themes with your dance classes and young movers, which is where this month’s BrainDance comes in! Make sure you stay tuned for next week’s blog as well, where I’ll be reviewing my favorite holiday pick in kid’s lit! Happy Dancing!

Why Dancers Hate Dance Movies

Well I bet that title got your attention didn’t it? ;) Now before you get all ‘that’s not true, I LOVE dance movies and I’m a dancer!’ on me, let me put out the disclaimer that I know not all dancers hate dance movies, but the vast majority of fellow dancers and educators I’ve known and talked to are iffy at best about most dance movies, and underwhelmed is the adjective I’d use to describe most dancer’s reactions when a new dance movie comes out.

Personally I know that when I see a new commercial or ad for a dance movie, I internally cringe and roll my eyes at the same time. And then I thought ‘well that’s an odd reaction considering I am a dancer’, and got curious about why that’s always my reaction.

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So, like any legitimate investigator, I got on Instagram and Facebook to poll the other dance masses, and it turns out, most of you had the same reaction as I did. Most of you feel that the majority of dance movies are superficial, topical, and lack breadth. Personally, I feel like most dance movies end up bastardizing the art form and reducing it to a few very tired stereotypes. I’ve yet to see a dance movie that correctly captures the dance community, life, and art. To be fair, to do so would be a tall order, but isn’t that kind of the job description of film directors?

I think it’s safe to say that the dance community is tired of seeing dance on the silver screen as psycho Swans (you can read more about my opinion of Black Swan in this article), starving, poor artists, or backstabbing divas. And that’s not even mentioning using non dancers as actors or actresses in dance films. All of these elements combine to make me feel undervalued and misunderstood as a dancer, so it’s no surprise the buzz of a new dance film leaves me feeling meh and somewhat resentful.

Now on the flip side, the thing that got these thoughts flowing was seeing the newest trailer for Disney’s Nutcracker, which I was fully expecting to hate, but was actually pleasantly surprised to see looks somewhat fresh and fun. We’ll see how I feel after it hits the big screen, but hope springs eternal, and I hope Disney will get it right.

I’d love to hear from you! Are you a dance movie lover, or hater, and how do you feel about the new Nutcracker coming to theaters this fall? Leave me a comment and let me know!

The Book Report - Click, Clack, Moo, I Love You!

If Valentine's Day (or ValenTIMES, as my students call it) isn't the perfect time to grab the sweet people in your life and do a little happy dance, I don't know when is. This month's book report is sure to have you clicking and clacking your toes; it's Click, Clack, Moo, I Love You! by Doreen Cronin. If you're kiddo is a fan of her other books in the Click, Clack, Moo series, they definitely will love this tale as well.

Little Duck is in a festive sprit for Valentine's, and goes about planning the best party, ever. But when a not-so-usual visitor shows up as a guest, Little Duck and the farm animals aren't quite sure what to do. (Spoiler alert - all ends well, and with a dance party!) I love using this book for the rhythmic quality (it's great to explore fast and slow movements with that correspond to the click and clack), and any book with animals in it is sure to get kids moving in all the different ways animals can move. Pair this book and your dance lesson with this playlist for a sweet and fun Valentine's Day lesson. Happy Dancing!

New Year's Brain Dance!

Happy New Year all! I'm still reeling from the craziness of the holidays and getting over a little bug, so instead of scrambling to makeallthethingshappen for Jan 1, I'm letting my past hard work do some of the working and revisiting an oldie (but a goodie) of a Brain Dance from a few years back. It's a nod towards repurposing my content (which I'll be talking more about later this month!); if that sounds like something you're into, sign up here so you'll be the first to hear about it when that blog goes live. Word on the street is that when you sign up you'll get some awesome free goodies as well!

Until then, we dance! You can see all of my other Brain Dances here, and learn more about why I do these monthly and why I incorporate them into my teaching practice here. Happy dancing!

5 Things I'm Doing Differently in 2018

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WHEW. Guys, the holidays are no joke, am I right? Now that my hustle and bustle of Nutcracker dance camps are over, I've had a little time to get thoughtful about the new year that's fast approaching. 2017 was a great year for me; I moved across the country, opened a studio in upstate New York, launched a Creative Dance Curriculum... just to name a few. I figured out many things that were working for me this year and was able to harness that into some awesome progress for my business. I also saw glimpses of things that didn't work for me (personally and professionally) this year, so what better time than the start of a new year to pinpoint exactly WHAT things I'm being led to do differently in 2018. I hope these spark your own thoughts and maybe provide some inspiration for your own 2018 goals!

1. Not Be Responsible For Other's Feelings

This sounds a little harsh, but let me explain: there's a fine line when your business provides a service of taking responsibility for your clients/students and giving them a fantastic experience, and being responsible for their reaction, or feelings to it. I've learned that it's my job to prepare and carry out the best dance experience for my classes, parties, and coaching that I can, however; I CAN DO NOTHING about how those clients receive my work. After you're upfront about what services you provide, how you go about doing it, and use your mission to guide your work, the rest is out of your hands. If others don't like your teaching style, classes, etc. that's their problem, not yours. You won't be able to please everyone - those aren't your people. The people you do please are YOUR PEOPLE! I've got more important things to do than dwell on why that parent didn't like me, or why this kid refuses to participate in class. I'm not responsible for their feelings. I think women especially have a difficult time with this because we're taught to be sensitive and empathetic. We can still be those things and retain boundaries that preserve our own sanity. Easy? No. Worth the effort? YES.

2. Spend Time/Money/Energy On What Makes Me Happy

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I've got to thank Sarah Von Bargen for this one. Enrolling in her Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is program has really made me get thoughtful and specific about the things that do make me happy. I realized that many of the things I do/spend money on are on autopilot: society says I should be happy spending/getting a $200 haircut? Ok! But then why do I feel so bad after that, yet so content with a $4 latte in a pretty mug?What if 'different strokes for different folks' was a verb, and we all let go of the things that didn't make us truly happy? Don't love teaching that one dance class and it has poor attendance anyways? Buh-bye. That weekly phone date with the friend who always complains your ear off? Ditch it! Again, my time is too valuable to be spending it doing things I'm not in love with.

 

3. Finding (And Doing) The Things That Fit

This ties into #2, and this decision was prompted by a pair of pants. You know, the ones that you still have but don't fit right? In my case, said pants were too tight, but I insisted on wearing them even though doing so put me in a bad mood, triggered negative self talk, and put angry red marks on my midsection. One day I just had had enough and realized that I needed a different pair of pants that fit. Then I was curious what would happen if I applied that filter to my life. Stay tuned to find out, but I have a feeling it may cause some interesting shifts.

4. Accepting Where I'm At 

Aaaand this ties into #3! So the pants don't fit. Option #1 - have an adult hissy fit, beat myself up about why they don't fit, get in a bad mood and take it out on my friends and family, let it affect my work, and whole week, etc. etc. OR... Option #2 - say OK and move on. As my wise Mama says: "you won't always feel this way". Hard to hear and even harder to believe, but it's pretty darn true. Finding a balance between pushing for my goals and accepting each day as it happens might just be the ticket to Happyville (see #2).

5. Dance More

I wrote a bit on Instagram about this, and I'm sure my fellow dance teachers will feel me on this one. Teaching for others is not the same as dancing to your own beat. This year I ignored my own beat and the call to dance for myself because I was so damn busy, but that changes this year.

I'd love to hear how you keep your personal dance practice alive teachers, and I'd love to hear from all of you about what things you want to do differently in 2018. Hit me up and let's brainstorm together to start 2018 off on an awesome foot!

The Book Report - All The Nutcrackers!

If you've been over to my Instagram feed, you know that I'm a liiiiitle obsessed with Nutcracker. I mean, considering that it has been a part of my life for over 20 years (yikes!) that's no surprise, but what DID surprise me was the plethora of Nutcracker books that are out this year! I took a little outing to my local Barnes & Noble last month and was so tickled at all the Nutcracker books there were - for young readers, for teens, and for adults! #Blessed. So, with that in mind, it makes total sense for this month's Book Report to be a Nutcracker round up! Let's dive on in!

Nutcracked

I'd like to think that had I ever been Clara when I was in The Nutcracker (I never was... wah wah) that something like Susan Adrian's story would've happened to me. Heroine Georgie has always dreamed of being Clara in her school's production, but when it actually happens, she realizes it's not all it's cracked up to be (cracked...Nutcracker, get it?!). This is a great read for intermediate readers and is full of whimsy, fun and friendship.

The Nutcracker Mice

Another great option for intermediate readers is Kristin Kladstrup's Nutcracker Mice. Most of us know that mice play a pretty central role in the story of The Nutcracker, but in this tale, the mice take the stage as the dancer and performers of Tchaikovsky's classic. The story has lots of plot twists and turns, and honestly, how great is it that the ballet gets to be performed by the famous mice dancers who live in the Mariinsky Theater? I love any book that shines a new perspective on an old tradition, and Nutcracker Mice most certainly does that!

Nutcracker in Harlem

It's about time we saw some diversity in where The Nutcracker takes place, and T. McMorrow's version does just that. On Christmas Eve, there's a snazzy and jazzy party happening in Harlem, and it's the music, dancing, and support of friends and family that helps one girl find her voice and her niche. Pick this book up for a breath of fresh air and good dose of warm and fuzzies. 

Waltz of the Snowflakes

Sometimes stories don't need words. When I first got Elly MacKay's Waltz of the Snowflakes, I was expecting words, but her gorgeous illustrations speak for themselves. A holiday evening is lit up by the dancing, music, and magic onstage seeing The Nutcracker as a little girl is transported into a colorful world. I can't wait to share this book with my students, I know they're going to love it as much as I do.

Hiddensee

Gregory Maguire fans have new cause to rejoice with his release of Hiddensee. Maguire tells the backstory of the Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer, and how the wooden toy came to help Clara on a dark winter night. This book is definitely for adults, and reads like an old fairy tale. I'm in the middle of it myself and find it interesting and mysterious. It's a great choice for a cold night by the fire.

Which of these will you be reading this Nutcracker season? Comment below, or hit me up on social media to let me know! Happy Reading! 

4 Things Your Dance Teacher REALLY Wants For The Holidays

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Jingle bells are jingling, long shopping lines are forming, holiday cookies are a baking, and dance teachers everywhere are collectively freaking the heck out. With the holidays officially here, the dance world is in full swing of Nutcracker and holiday performance season. It's a magical, wonderful thing. It's also crazy stressful.

In the spirit of humor and a good giggle, I bring you this holiday gift guide. Here are 5 things your dance teacher really wants for the holidays. Don't worry, hardly any of these will cost you any dough and are pretty easy peasy for you to implement. Happy gift giving! :)

1. For Students To STOP Asking For Water Breaks

What are you, a camel? Do your teach a favor and hydrate before class and during designated break time. We want you to be healthy and drink your water, but not in the middle of plies. And again during tendus. Aaaaand yet again during rond de jambes.

2. For Parents To ACTUALLY Read E-mails

This one kind of says it all, and I'm sorrynotsorry to point it out. Dance teachers/studio owners are not only teachers, but administrators, and usually their own PR/Communications team. We would be a lot richer if we were paid every time someone asked us a question THAT WE ANSWERED IN THE EMAIL.

3. For Activewear Companies to Actually Use/Hire Professional Dancers

Soapbox warning: Kendall Jenner IS NOT A BALLET DANCER. Jockey and Under Armor have gotten it right by hiring Misty Copeland and Michaela DePrince (#thankyoujesus) but all dancers and dance teachers everywhere literally lose their shit every time we see a picture like this. Stop the madness and hire qualified professionals for this work!

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4. A Thank You Card

Yes, we do what we do because we love it and it's our passion, but a handwritten thank you note never gets old. We love hearing those two little words, especially at this time of the year. 

Will you be giving your dance teacher any of these gifts this year? Dance teachers, which of these would you like the most? Let me know!

November Book Report - Windows

As soon as I saw Julia Denos' book Windows, I knew it had to be this month's Book Report, because the view out of my own windows has dramatically changed over the past few weeks.

For those of you who don't know, I moved myself and my budding business to upstate New York earlier this year (you can read more about that adventure here), and within just the past few weeks the season has definitely changed from fall to winter.

A similar thing happens in Windows; through the gorgeous illustrations by E.B. Goodale, readers take a twilight walk through a city and see some beautiful things changing. Day into night, playtime into dinnertime, and all the while we get a glimpse into our neighbor's lives and homes, full of love, tradition, and a sense that no matter where we come from, we've been there with them before.

I think one of the things that my adult self loves about children's books is the sense of nostalgia I get from them. They remind me of such wonderful story times as a child, and give me new insight to life lessons as a grown up. Windows pulls at my nostalgic childhood heart strings of warm lights, cozy winter nights, and the love of family. It's the perfect addition to your November reading list, and I'd love to know what you think! What's on your bookshelves that you love to share with your kids and friends during this month? Let me know! Happy Reading!