New Season, New Beginning

The new dance season is upon us and this one is more exciting for me than any in the past. I have joined two new studios for their fall season and will be teaching about 20 hours a week- more than I ever have before!

I am so excited to be dropping hours at my day job, the cause of a lot of the stress and anxiety I wrote about in my last post. I will also be going from working about 50+ hour weeks to about 40, making approximately the same I was before. Following my passion + working less + same money = a win-win-win situation!

The last week or so has been stressful as I coordinate 4 different work schedules – 3 studios and then what used to be my full time job- but fortunately the details are almost ironed out and once they are, it will be a standard schedule for the whole school year. The only thing that may change a bit is what shift I am working at the non-dance job, but there’s not even a lot of options with that either.

I spent my day off today prepping for the new dance season to start next week. One studio started this past week, but I hadn’t gotten myself fully organized for that before now either. Check out the pictures of my crazy color coding- the only way I could even dream about keeping all my schedules straight.

 

While I still have a bit of work to do next Monday, I feel excited, optimistic, and ready to teach 5 days a week!

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Feeling Down…

Admittedly it has been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’d like to blame it on being busy and working too much, but frankly, its been no different from the last few months. Its partly out of laziness, but that laziness is fueled by discouragement and a bit of burn out.

I’m not giving up, I can’t give up. But no one ever said that entrepreneurship was always sunshine and roses, its not. Lately, I have been feeling like I’ll never make it. Obviously, a defeatist attitude will ensure that prediction comes true, but its more so feeling in a slump.

I feel like I am working too hard, giving too much energy, to things that stress me out and drain my joy, leaving me with no motivation to work towards my goals. And I feel like I’m working too hard at too many things, only have the quality of all of them suffer. I am feeling self doubt in a time that I need to believe in myself more than ever. I feel like the only way to find happiness to continue pursuing my dream, yet I don’t have it in me at the end of the day to research, brainstorm, study, or blog about dance, something that has always rejuvenated my spirit.

In a time where everything I do feels like work, beyond the everyday world of being a responsible adult, I am taking some pressure off myself for the time being. I am going to take the pressure off myself to post weekly, or even bi-weekly, and merely post when I have something worth sharing. Take some time to rediscover dance as a stress reliever and my dream as something to motivate me in a positive way and not just as another chore (although one that will help my current stress levels). I will be back to posting when it feels less like a responsibility, and more like something to look forward to.

“Make it Work”

My community dance classes have been going well since I last updated you on day one. I consistently have about 6 kids in my younger class and I have had a least one person in my Thursday class (these kids are a little older) every week. Attendance is down this week, likely due to the holiday. Unfortunately, my adult fitness class has yet to have any students, but I knew that one was a bit iffy from the beginning.

The place mats that I used the first class to mark kids’ spots have continued to be of great help each week. Everyone gets a green dot in our warm up circle, everyone knows where to sit and wait their turn when we go across the floor, and spaced out in a line they make great props to leap over or stop and practice poses. Those green dots are like a teacher’s aid really.

Unfortunately, they have one major flaw. They slide all over the place. I didn’t notice it the first class because we danced on a wooden deck outside, but once we got on the laminate floor the next week, these pace mats would not stay still. While out running errands today, I looked for a replacement spot for each child in the way of a rubber bottom mat, but was not able to find any.

So, I got creative.  I decided that as I had already re-purposed the place mats for dance class, I would no longer use them on a table as intended.  They were leftover from our wedding decorations, so it was something I had on hand already. Today, I spent a few bucks on non slip shelf liner and glued a square of it to the back of each place mat. Voila. A non slip mat that will continue to be useful for as long as I teach classes in this setting.

The Before and After.

While I was unable to fully test them tonight- no attendance today, sadly- I did try them out on my kitchen floor and briefly in the neighborhood clubhouse where I teach. They stayed put!

It was such a small little project to complete, but I feel like it represents the entrepreneurial spirit of finding a solution to a problem with limited resources. I know that in the future as my studio comes together, there will be many more of these moments. As Tim Gunn from Project Runway would say about most problems, “Make it work”.

 

A New Adventure

This evening started a new teaching opportunity for me. I wrote a few weeks ago about taking a brave step and reaching out to my community and offering dance classes and today was the first one.

As there was no sign up and no commitment, I was unsure of how many preschool aged dancers I would have for my Creative Movement class this evening. I was pleasantly surprised to see 6 or 7 young kids -including two boys!- come to dance with me. There was a small hiccup with the doors to the neighborhood clubhouse not being open, but we embraced the summer evening and danced on the deck.

I was hesitant to invest much money in my own preschool dance supplies- floor markers, props, stickers, etc until I knew the interest level and grabbed a few things around the house before headed off for a short walk to the clubhouse. The round outdoor place mats that I had grabbed just minutes before class ended up being a stroke of genius- everyone had a place to dance, a place to sit while they waited to dance across the floor, and two of them together made a perfect “puddle” for leaps. I will definitely be using them moving forward, and will probably hang on to them for as long as they last into my future studio.

I am excited and optimistic about this new adventure. I am set up to teach three classes a week at the clubhouse on top of my regular studio hours. This means I get more teaching time, an opportunity to be a part of the neighborhood, and some extra cash to start putting away money in a savings account for my studio.

My dream studio is beginning to seem very reachable!

Spring Recital 2017

Last Saturday, during Memorial Day weekend, our studio had our annual spring recital. We actually do two performances, one with mostly younger girls, and one with just the older students. I had seven numbers that I had choreographed spread across both shows, including the one where my mom made the skirts (see “Costume Woe’s” and “Costume Woes Update”). Overall, my students performed well and both shows ran pretty flawlessly for a studio production.

While my younger students did a great job with their dances, my older students, for the most part, got out of it what they put it. I struggled for much of the year, and certainly when rehearsals started in earnest, to get the kids in one of my classes to commit fully to their technique and to class in general. Rehearsals were rough and only once or twice did I feel like the piece would look good on stage. My fears were real when the ended looked like what we in the dance world refer to as popcorn- every dancing at a different time much like popcorn popping at its own speed. Those dancers that gave it their all in rehearsals looked great on stage, those that didn’t give 100%, threw much of the dance off.

Another class, of younger students, had a rough time in several of their rehearsals, but worked really hard and it paid off. For all their troubles dancing together or remembering choreography in rehearsals, their hard work and persistence gave way to a great performance that the students, the parents, and myself were all proud of. While I didn’t speak to the kids in the above class afterwards, I’m not so sure they felt the pride that the younger kids did.

Other than these two classes on different ends of the performance spectrum, my other dances went as expected. They went on stage, gave it their all, and danced well. I was proud of their performances, but it their rehearsal and performance stories weren’t as dramatic as the others.

Backstage is a crazy, chaotic place, but I did manage to snap a few pictures of the handmade skirts and pieced together costume in action. I also managed to grab a selfie with the class that had struggled but triumphed in the end.

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Performance Memories Part IV: My favorite choreography

For the final part of my month long performance memory series, I want to talk about some of my favorite choreography from working with my current studio. Our spring recital is tomorrow and its always fun to look back at past recitals.

– “Chinese Warrior”- My second year at my studio I had a private lesson in which I worked with my student to improve her technique in all styles, her favorite being tap. Our recital theme that year was “Around the World” and when I asked her for thoughts on country and dance style, she replied with “a Chinese tap dance”. Definitely a struggle to figure that one out. What ended up was a tap dance with a sword to Chinese drumming. This piece sticks out to me because it certainly made me stretch my choreographic comfort zone and because I was so proud of the progress that my student had made come recital.

Savannah recital

-“Circle of Life”- During the same year as the Chinese Warrior dance, I choreographed a modern dance to “Circle of Life” in which the dancers were paired off as different animals. I loved finding ways to incorporate ways to include characteristics for each animal in a large group piece and it allowed me to really highlight each dancer’s strengths.

– ” Sleeping Beauty Waltz”- This was one the first classical pieces that I put my own spin on. I combined my pre-pointe and pointe classes for a larger production to the iconic “Garland dance” as its commonly known. The pre-pointe class made up my corps de ballet and the pointe girls the demi-soloists. I felt as if I was really exposing my students to an important part of ballet history and culture, they had fun dancing with the garlands, and I was quite proud of their performance.

Sleeping Beauty walt

– “Uptown Funk”- Last year, I worked with a small group of beginner pointe girls and we seemed to always find a great balance between hard work and fun in class, so I decided to choreograph something a little more fun than a classical piece for our reality TV themed recital and picked a string quartet version of the popular song. Although I struggled with the choreography (see the post titled “Choreographer’s Block” from last spring), I was very happy with how it turned out. And to top it off, my dancers danced their hearts out on stage. While I am always proud of my dancers’ performances, I was particularly so with this piece because I honestly felt like they had given it their all and could not have danced it any better than they had. All around, a super fun piece that was a huge hit on stage.

I enjoy looking back and seeing not only how my students have grown technically and artistically each year, but also how my own choreographic skills have improved year after year. I look forward to watching this year’s “God Bless America” recital tomorrow and will certainly post about that within the week or so.

Performance Memories Part III: A few of my favorites

In continuation of my month long series of performance memories, I am excited to write about some of my favorite routines and productions through my formative years as a dancer. Of course, I gave (most) every performance my heart and soul and enjoyed (most) every minute of every dance, but a few stick out in my mind.

– “Dance, Dance, Dance”: When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I started taking tap lessons. One of the first tap routines I performed was to the Beach Boy’s song “Dance, Dance, Dance”. There were only about 3 or 4 of us in the class and we really had a lot of fun on stage, including a bit of choreography that including us mimicking strumming a guitar along our leg as we hopped across the stage. It was also around this time that I was realizing how passionate I was about dancing in general and this was the first dance that I remember really feeling inspired while dancing.

– Mouse King in The Nutcracker: As I mentioned in my last post, I performed in The Nutcracker for many years. My favorite role and performance was also my first solo opportunity as the Mouse King. Our studio did not have any male dancers that would be able to fill the roles of the Nutcracker prince or the Mouse King and I had gotten in my head that I really wanted to fill the role of Mouse King, especially when I found out that one of my closest friends was playing the Nutcracker. We had so much fun in rehearsals together despite learning to battle each other through dance. We finally managed to stay in character during dress rehearsal, but managed to speed through our choreography during the performance. But despite having to think fast on stage and improvise about 32 counts of battle with my friend- and being on the loosing end- I have nothing but fond memories of my time as the Mouse King

– “Your Song”: This was a lyrical duet that I performed in early high school and enjoyed the choreography so much I ended up adapting it (with my teacher’s permission) into a solo that I competed with at a church convention. Unlike some of my other favorites, I don’t remember why the I connected so much with the choreography, but it holds a dear place in my heart nonetheless.

-11 grade modern dance: While I have always enjoyed the movements of modern dance, many pieces that I have performed or watched have been a little too abstract or too out there for my taste. One of the exceptions to this was the piece that I performed as part of my 11 grade fall dance concert. We had structured our piece to represent the evolution of modern dance and the different technical styles of different modern dance pioneers that we had studied. We wore brightly colored, but practical, costumes and performed high energy movements that included a number of West African inspired steps and didn’t try to portray this deep, abstract concept that audience members would struggle to understand.

Peter and the Wolf: I switched dance studios in the middle of high school to a school that had just opened. Their inaugural spring performance was a production of  Peter and the Wolf at the local street fair in which the music was interlaced with a verbal narrative of the story. I was honored to be chosen as the lead and felt like my commitment to rehearsals and my hard work in technique class had been recognized. The advanced ballet class split the main roles of Peter, the Wolf, Grandpapa, the bird, and the cat, and the younger classes played supporting characters. Despite the “postage stamp” stage on which we danced, the opportunity to dance a silly story and improve my miming and storytelling through movement skills in a relaxed atmosphere really stuck with me. On speaking with some of my classmates from that time, they regard this performance as one of their favorites as well as it was so much fun.

-“Prayer”: This was a variation from the 3rd act of Coppelia that I learned for our spring production my junior year of high school. I went on to perform this solo many times throughout the community until I went off to college, including at the libraries and grocery store that I spoke of in my last performance memories post. Its not just memorable for the number of times I danced this variation though- my instructor became a coach during rehearsals and helped me prepare the piece for college auditions. I enjoyed the one on one time with my favorite instructor and gained so much invaluable knowledge and insight into ballet technique and performance. I consider these rehearsals and performances to be the height of my ballet studies.

-“Time”: By the time my senior year of high school rolled around, the advanced ballet class was a tight- knit group of girls that had been taking classes and rehearsals together every day for about 3 years (when the studio had opened). We had a guest choreographer come in and set a lyrical piece on us as a culmination of our time together- 3 of us were graduating seniors, one girl was moving away, and the 5 was staying at the studio- and this was the last time that we would all dance together. The song “Time” was about always remembering each other fondly, no matter what life throws our way. The 5 of us poured our hearts and souls into this dance, understanding that our time together was over, and ending up crying in a large group hug onstage at the end of the piece. The 5 of us spent so much time together training and cared deeply about each other and life was about to separate us. It was a moment I will never forget.

I very much enjoyed performing during my years of training, but now I find myself caring more about being behind the scenes cheering on a new generation of dancers. The final part of my performance series will be my favorite choreography projects on my students.

Also: It’s recital week! Gearing up for tech rehearsal on Wednesday and two shows on Saturday!