Letter to my 15-year-old-dancer self

Dear 15-year-old Jorie

First of all, it’s me or rather you from 10 years in the future. As I write this it’s 11:08 Chicago time, which means it’s just after midnight in Miami (not factoring in any futuristic travel time changes) so you’ve probably finally drifted off to sleep after coming home from dance (hip hop tonight, right?) eating dinner and finishing your homework. Algebra II is rough, I know.

Anyway, I’m writing because last month we celebrated our 25th birthday and our unofficial 20th anniversary as dancers! A lot has happened in the last decade. Most of it is good, a tiny bit of it isn’t so good. But rejoice, you made it to 25 and you’re still dancing!

Right now I’m at home not feeling great after a less than stellar heels class (that ended up turning into a hip hop class because I left my heels at home). Writing this letter to you is my way of temporarily turning my aggravation into gratitude. So, in case you’re curious and want a sneak peek into what your future looks like, here are a few things you need to know about your life as a dancer, from yourself, 10 years in the future.

You WILL have a professional dance career.

And it will be cooler than you could even imagine. You’ll dance on some of Chicago’s most famous stages – The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, The Reva and David Logan Center, even the House of Blues. You’ll do so many genres from contemporary to jazz, you’ll even get to do hip hop. Last December you shot a music video right before Christmas. The best part? You’re still taking class and people still want to work with you. Your knees occasionally hurt, but they still work so as far as I’m concerned, it’s far from over!

You’ll get to teach…Tap.

Right about now, you’re pretty ambivalent about tap – and it’ll only be worse by the time you finish high school (sorry). I get it, contemporary and hip hop are cool and you want to be good at what’s cool. It makes sense, in that teenager-y way. But tap will give you the chance to pour into so many people. You won’t just teach technique. You’ll help people, young AND old, learn confidence, openness and compassion, and you’ll get to set some cool pieces in the process. Tap will also become a way of exploring your Blackness and increasing your wokeness as a dancer and as a person. I’m sorry to tell you this, hon, but right about now you’re pretty self-hating and problematic. But, again, don’t worry. We’re going to fix it in college and beyond!

You’ll never get out of your head.

I literally just got this correction last Saturday. To get out of my head. And I still don’t know what it means or how to do it. We’ve gotten used to thinking through everything because in some situations it was the only way to get through a class, routine, life,etc. But it may be starting to hinder you – so watch out for that.

You’ll experience racism/racially insensitive behavior in the dance world.

A bit of a buzzkill I know – but it’s coming. Actually, you’ll start noticing some of it in the next year (No, it’s not okay for her to be loudly calling one of the only other Black girls [not you, folks know better thankfully] in the studio a n*gger. It’s not funny, and it’s even less funny that no one in a position of authority said anything to her. That pit in your stomach is there for a reason). You’ll be othered, slightly fetishized and witness instances of cultural appropriation and white people centering themselves in Black experiences. Take it in stride because…

You’re more proud than ever to be an #unapologeticallyblackdancer.

Hell, it’s your blog’s slogan. Chicago was the best thing to ever happen to us because we learned about so many new ways to dance and create art. We also got to see more melanated trinas, hip hop dancers and contemporary dancers than we ever thought possible. And we get to call ourselves one of them. I know, cool right? I’d come over and pinch you but they still haven’t quite worked out time travel yet.


Now that I’ve given you a glimpse into the future, there are a couple of things I want you to work on right now. Well, once you wake up, go to school and are back in dance again.

Stop worrying about what your teachers think.

Learn as much as you can, apply corrections and take notes. But don’t hang onto every word your teachers say and don’t treat them like deities. This goes for your regular teachers and the master teachers you take from at conventions. You’ll find out some less than flattering things about a couple of folks, but for the most part, the journey you take as a dancer will show you that everyone wasn’t right to count you out.

In the name of all that is holy, STOP worrying about what all of those other kids think.

Seriously, you barely remember most of them, and a lot of the ones that were the cruelest to you haven’t done HALF of the things you’ve done. I know it’s hard to be the underdog, to know that nobody thinks you’re good or deserve to be there – but keep going and ignore them. They won’t be begging you for jobs or auditioning for you (at least not yet), but you’ll be better off on the other side of their meanness and bullying.

Don’t give up in class

You already got chased around a dance room this summer for stopping an across the floor combination halfway across the floor. This one is still a work in progress, but just push through – without failure there is no growth. It doesn’t feel good to not get a combo, you’ll never be okay with not winning scholarships.  Again, I’m writing this as I’m sulking in my room after a class that didn’t go well. But keep going – it gets better, I promise. And we still have plenty of growth left in us.

Remember the people who loved you

There are a few. Remember the teachers who never gave up, who showed you how, who wanted you to succeed.  Remember them more than you remember the people who doubted and ignored you. I’m still holding out for an Emmy, Tony or some other cool award for our artistic pursuits. You’re already friends with most of these fantastic teachers on Facebook but just keep their names stored away in your mind so we can shout them out in our acceptance speech.

And last but not least…

Enjoy this time

Enjoy where you are right now. A high school student with no responsibilities who can take class, go to conventions and learn without any pressure. You don’t have bills, you don’t have a full-time job and you don’t have any injuries.

You’ll never be this young again. So once in a while just breathe, take stock of where you are and be thankful, and use that moment of gratitude to help you dance like no one is watching and leave your heart on the stage.

Love,

Jorie from the future

Dancing with Myself: My First Video Ballet Class

To avoid falling off like I did last season, I’ve been trying to stay in class consistently.

Most of the time I’m able to make it to class at least 3 times a week for a blend of technique (ballet, modern, jazz, tap) and what I call “performance quality” classes (hip hop, contemporary, jazz funk, etc.). This way I get a diverse blend of classes and my body doesn’t get bored.

But the devil and some major life changes (a new job, searching for a new apartment) have worked tirelessly to keep me out of class and off my leg. In an effort to keep myself accountable, I bit the bullet and decided to try a video dance class courtesy of Dancio.

I feel like now’s probably a good time to say this post isn’t sponsored. I’m just sharing.

Dancio lets you rent a ballet or modern class that you can play on the video platform Vimeo for as little as $3.99. The classes range from 46 minutes to just over an hour with dance greats like Craig Hall, Wendy Whelan and Carlos Lopez.

For my first try with Dancio, I chose Craig Hall’s 46-minute ballet class. NOT because it was the shortest but because, frankly, I’m rooting for everybody Black. 🤷🏾‍♀️ Here are a few takeaways from my experience.

Space was definitely an issue

I live in a studio apartment and decided to set up my makeshift studio in the area between my door and my bed (which takes up about 1/3-1/2 of the actual space in my apartment) and used a barstool as a barre (so I guess it was a barre-stool? I know, I’m not funny). But I’m 5’9.5″ and to get anything out of ballet you have to lengthen. Most of the time I was fine, but I definitely felt a bit smushed during battements (kicks) and adagio (slow developpes, extensions). Even when I had space, I definitely didn’t reach for my full length out of fear of kicking a piece of furniture. Grand allegro (big jumps) was simply a no-go so that part of the class just got skipped altogether.

But the good news was this really taught me how to be efficient about my space and to stick with my angles. Both of those things give you as much space as possible in a crowded room.

A barstool (or barre-stool, I’m not letting this go) is not a barre

Especially when it rotates.

Having your one piece of support come from under you before you’ve found your balance is terrifying. But usually, when the chair spun around under me or started to tip over, it meant I was probably bearing down on it too much, which likely means that’s an area where I lean on the barre too much when I’m in a real studio. It also gave me more of an excuse to test my balance during exercises when I normally hold the barre (rond de jambes, frappés, dégagés).

No one saw me, not even me

There are no mirrors in my apartment and, of course, there was no real teacher walking around doling out notes. This forced me to feel where I was on my own and to really think about what my body was doing, whether it was standing up on my supporting leg (something I’ve been working on recently), working through my foot during téndus or pressing into the floor during pirouettes. The downside is since there’s no expert teacher, no one can me when I’m doing something completely wrong or when I’m on the right track but need to make adjustments.

Despite the hiccups, I actually enjoyed giving myself a class and could see myself doing this when I’m too busy to actually get into a studio, or if Chicago decides to bless us with another one of her famous polar vortices next winter. The classes are inexpensive (my class was $3.99) so if money is tight it’s a good alternative to spending $10-$15 three or more times a week.

When it comes to the quality of the class, again, despite the issues I listed above, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Dancio has been around for a while but I avoided it because I thought, even though professionals were the ones teaching, since I wasn’t in a studio with other dancers I wouldn’t get anything out of the class. Happily, I was wrong. Even though the class was only 46 minutes, between rewinding to see the demonstration of a few exercises and taking it upon myself to re-do frappés, tendus at the center and petite allegro (along with a double pirouette tangent I went on), I actually ended up spending about an hour and 10 minutes total “in class.”

Just to be clear, video classes are not and will never be a replacement for actually getting to a studio and they won’t keep me in shape on their own. But all in all, they’re definitely a suitable alternative when life, money or the weather keeps me off the marley.

Blast from the Past: My Interview with Bruno Mars’ Choreographer Phil Tayag

It’s Monday and it’s been a while since I shared a blog post so I thought I’d go into the archives and share one of my favorite interviews from my time as a freelancer with TheCelebrityCafe.com (Now known as Stars and Celebs).

In February 2016, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phil ‘Swaggerboy’ Tayag, a founding member of the JabbaWockeeZ and Bruno Mars’ choreographer (he choreographed Bruno’s Superbowl XLI performance with Coldplay and Queen Bey, his video for “Uptown Funk”  as well as the “Finesse” video with Cardi B). Back when I spoke with Phil, the JabbaWockeeZ had just launched their Vegas residency JREAMZ at the MGM Grand hotel.

I got the chance to hear more about the concept for the show, how the JabbaWockeeZ create movement, and what it was like for Phil to work with Bruno Mars. We even had a slight bonding moment when he realized I was a dancer after I mentioned tutting. This was one of my first experiences combining dance with journalism and I’m excited to (re)share it here!

To check out the full interview on Stars and Celebs click here. And read one of my favorite quotes from Phil below:

Obviously, if we’re having fun then the people have fun watching us, because ultimately we’re having fun and that’s what it’s about.

When not being front and center gets you centered

So a few things happened in the last couple of months.

I finished one of the most physically and emotionally challenging professional dance performances I’ve ever done.

I shot a music video with a gospel artist as a backup dancer – but in the final cut, you can’t see me at all.

I agreed to do a gig at an upcoming expo as a backup dancer for an up and coming singer, only for the gig to be canceled due to the artist’s scheduling conflicts.

and,

All the while, to make sure I had the mental and physical energy for the show I just wrapped, I passed over a few other gigs that would have been amazing.

What do all of these things have in common? They all relate to me learning to step back and sit things out. And they all taught me a very important lesson.

A couple of weeks before my show went up, I had a pretty uncomfortable realization. In the last year or so, I’d become really selfish about my dancing. As I started getting cast more and booking more jobs, I started focusing on being seen, on being in the front, on taking any and every gig that might get me a little extra money or exposure. But in trying to be front and center, I lost sight of why I dance.

I like to say that I dance because it’s a creative outlet, it brings me joy and it’s my way of giving glory to God. But if I’d said that to you in the fall of last year, those words would have been little more than hollow lip service.

When I found myself suddenly not in the spots I’d grown accustomed to occupying, not cast or in the back, I had to dig deep to determine what was driving me. I was forced to find a new endgame other than keeping my position or leading the group. Had I not been able to find that drive, I might have decided to take a break from dancing – or I might have gone into the next phase of my career with a chip on my shoulder.

Instead, I learned that I have way more to give as a dancer than smiles, turns or legs. I channeled all the soul I had to offer and found myself feeling every step I took.

I found out that dancing really is a way for me to give glory to God. I’m Christian (more spiritual than religious) and dancing helps me give thanks, not just for the artistic gift He blessed me with, but also to express joy at the life I have, no matter what’s going on.

I started to connect and enjoy my time with the creatives and professionals I have the pleasure of knowing through dance. Even though the gig I started rehearsing for looks like it won’t happen, I truly enjoyed creating and practicing movement for a few hours during the evening with no pressure.

And, over time, I did find myself getting cast, moving to the front and getting my old spots back. More importantly, though, I rediscovered the joy in my dancing. As I mentioned in the very first episode of my podcast, I’d reached a point where I was getting so nervous about performing, it started to make performing a drag. I think this was an extension of my desire to be flawless so I’d get cast more. But, you know what they say, perfect is boring and getting steps right can only get me so far.

Rather than being flawless, I’m going to work toward my new challenge to be more honest, to be freer and to have more fun. I want to see how far I can go just for me and for no one else. And I’m going to have faith, that whatever comes from this phase in my dance journey is exactly what I need.

It was another off day… :/

So I know I’ve said this before, but this time I’m serious…I’m going to commit to writing a blog every day starting today. I feel like I might do better at sticking with a resolution if I start it before New Year.

So yesterday I had another wonky rehearsal. I’m sure I can partially blame it on the cold I’m nursing and the fact that I haven’t been in an actual dance class since Saturday (thanks holiday break) and the fact that I did an hour long work out shortly before rehearsal. But part of me feels like my brain just isn’t on sometimes. I hate those days, even more than the rough days I have when I know I haven’t been in class and I’m cold, or the days when I know I didn’t rehearse (those are few and far between anyway). The days where I’m not on simply because my brain shorts out are the worst, because I can’t put my finger on what happened. It just gets weird and then I start to wonder if it’s just me. If I’m not cut out for this world because my brain just doesn’t stay “on” enough.

I’ve gotten affirmations, and I want to believe that if I keep doing the work I’ll get it back but those moments of uncertainty are always unnerving. Luckily, there’s less than a week until the studios open back up, and until then I’m working out and rehearsing at home.

So I guess I just have to keep working.

BEDS 18: Thoughts on an “off” day

This post was actually tabled over a year ago but since I’m behind and need to find a way to make up the days, I finished it and it’s going to be my BEDS post for today. Enjoy!

 

Today was not a good class day…

 

I did what I normally do. I got up. Got dressed and went to 1 p.m. ballet class. But unlike other times where I left with a “hurts so good” mentality, this class, which again, I always take had me feeling small. Except actually, it wasn’t the class, it was me.  I never felt centered, I felt fat and overheated (and I trained in Florida). I couldn’t focus and I just didn’t feel good about myself that day. And it’s funny because this week I’ve gotten more than one compliment on my growth and work, from teachers and colleagues. But I just didn’t feel good about me and I think it is because I’m struggling internally with things not related to dance. I went to class not feeling great and thought I would feel better but my mind wasn’t right.

On off days, I’m usually madder at myself than I should be. Kind of like falling on stage, off days probably usually feel worse than they look. But because I juggle so many things in addition to dance and I’m almost never able (whether it’s because of time or my own physical limitations) to train as hard as I’d like, I always feel like it’s a sign that I don’t work as hard as other dancers and am less deserving of the right to call myself a professional dancer.

Whether it’s a rough rehearsal or a bad class, I usually ream into myself afterwards and drown in video study or obsessively watching old videos and critiquing myself. But despite my tendency to do this, I recognize that it isn’t healthy and I want to find better ways to hold myself accountable as a dancer. So I’m starting to try to find positive things that demonstrate my growth, even in the midst of a rough day. Whether it’s improved turns, my feet getting better, or simply getting through a class, I’m trying to look at the positives. Because there’s so much good in my life and my career as a dancer, and to castigate myself the way I do is silly and counterproductive.

BEDS Day 10: Brief thoughts on dancing while natural

As I write this, I’m sitting in my bed, bantu knotting my hair. Typing out this blog is my way of giving my arms and wrists a break.

A lot has been written about natural hair in the professional dance world, from the three Alvin Ailey dancers who shared their natural hair routines with Essence in February, to the viral images of dancers rocking their curly tresses. I, myself, have been fortunate to find companies and opportunities that embrace my Blackness and my hair. During one of my most recent shows, I proudly rocked a curly frohawk, and got so many compliments on it.

But there have been other incidents, too. Times where I’ve been othered and made to feel as though my hair isn’t appropriate. Times where I’ve heard stories about my peers’ hair struggles regaled to me as we reapply lipstick and jam bobby pins into our already throbbing scalps.

The dance world has made slow, incremental strides toward embracing Black hair. But days like the night before a show, when I was told to make my puff look like more of a ponytail to match the non-Black girls in the company. Or the times I felt obligated to straighten my hair or wear extensions to achieve a long ponytail or bun. Or worse still, when I hear and see incidents of non-Black women wearing cornrows and bantu knots as a way to “look crazy” or “stand out,”  when hair styles that would get me a side-eye or reprimand from so many directors are helping other people get jobs.

These are the things that let me know that the struggle isn’t over. That Black dancers still have a lot of fighting to do before we are seen, the way our white counterparts are.

And to that I say, let’s get ready to rumble.

BEDS Day 9: Starting over yet again

Yesterday marked my first day at a new teaching gig for a performing arts program for children. It’s the first time in over a year that I’ve taught kids and even though the first day went pretty much without incident, I’m still nervous.

As I mentioned in my “What I’ve Been Up To” blog post a couple months back, teaching children has never been my forté, for a few reasons:

  1. I have no patience–I get frazzled and I either get anxious and cry or get angry and yell.
  2. I’m not great at relating to kids–I noticed when I was teaching at the first school that some of what I was asking the kids to do was going  a tad over their heads or boring them. There’s no quicker way to lose control of a classroom than to bore kids. I’m hoping that this time around I’ve learned enough to not have that problem.
  3. I have difficulty differentiating between age-appropriateness and pandering to children. Contrary to what a lot of the world seems to think, children are smarter and capable of more than people think. Making things excessively simple and squeaky clean does them a disservice. That said, I do still want my students to feel like kids and not have to embody or learn anything they’re not ready for. This type of push pull can be confusing, but I’m hoping this new gig will be a chance to work through it and really become a great teacher that challenges her students while still recognizing their youth.

These hurdles aside, I’m hoping that my year of experience teaching at a studio and my (admittedly brief) previous experience teaching children will come in handy. By teaching at a studio, I’ve learned how to plan out a class and how to develop a class with a consistent student base over a period of time.  My experience teaching kids has taught me a little bit about what engages them and a lot about what not to do when you’re charged with the care and artistic enrichment of kids (yelling, getting anxious, letting the kids get over on you–all really terrible ideas).

 

Hopefully, this time I’m successful.

BEDS Day 8: quick blogs

Hi everyone–

I’ve been planning to do BEDS (Blog Every Day of September) this month. Traveling and getting back into the swing of things at work placed me behind, so to make up for my delay I wanted to do 8 quick “blog-lets” to get me caught up. These will be mainly updates/commentary on my dance life so, let’s get started.

Day 1: Gigs
Ever since I got back from traveling to a conference for work, I’ve been working on a string of gigs. They were all fun but also draining, this is because 1) many of the rehearsals take place after work, and anyone who’s taken class or gone to a rehearsal after a full day of work knows that getting yourself in the frame of mind to dance isn’t always easy and 2) many of the rehearsals were super far away from either work, my house, or both and commuting can be just as draining as the dancing itself.


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In honor of #laborday, here’s a photo of me werqing!!!💃🏾💃🏾💃🏾

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Nonetheless, gigging like this was a test of my abilities as a learner and exposed me to a lot of new people and experiences. In the last two months, I’ve performed at an end of the year fashion show for a mentorship program for young women, The House of Blues and I’m currently rehearsing for a city-wide arts festival. All of this while teaching, holding down a full-time job and trying to drink enough water!

Day 2: All Hail Queen Bey
For Labor Day Weekend I got to do something that’s been on my bucket list for a while. I saw Beyoncé live and in color!

I’ve wanted to see Beyoncé ever since I saw clips from the On The Run Tour and The Formation Tour. Her stamina and showmanship are second to none and she is undoubtedly Tina Turner’s replacement as the hardest working woman in show business. Something tells me Beyoncé’s tours are winding down (she’s earned it) and I wanted to make sure I saw her live while I had the chance.

I’m so glad I did. Queen Bey is everything people say she is and more. Her show looked flawless, I saw her change costumes no fewer than 10 times and she sang perfectly without even a hint of being out of breath. I was blown away by her work ethic and the athleticism of her dancers, and I also enjoyed Jay Z’s part of the show, too. While I don’t think I’ve risen to the level of being a full member of the Beyhive, I do have a new appreciation for Mrs. Knowles-Carter, and, if I ever have another chance to see her perform, I will absolutely take it. The concert was worth it, even though the rain destroyed my shoes and I spent most of the evening barefoot. Like you do.

Day 3: New Tap Shoes

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I have GOT to get new shoes!!!! New taps #comingsoon! #bustedtapshoes #marleydestroyer

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This one is going to be short and sweet. After breaking my second pair of tap shoes in under a year, I finally caved and bought myself a brand spanking new pair of Capezio Tapsonic tap shoes.

I just got them Friday (yay UPS Choice expedited shipping!) and I wore them for the first day of my new teaching gig. So far, no complaints, the sound is loud and clear. Aesthetically, the shoes are nice and they fit pretty well, despite being half a size too big. Hopefully these bad boys last me.

Day 4: The Continuing Journey to Snatched-ness
I’m technically in the off-season, meaning I don’t have any big shows coming up. As such, I’ve been a little bit more relaxed with my diet. But, since autumn is nigh and dance season will be back before you can say “5,6,7,8” I’m trying to get back to sticking to my diet. That includes faithfully adhering to meatless Mondays, minimizing sweets, dairy refined starches and fried foods and making sure I drink plenty of water.

Once production season starts, I’ll eliminate dairy, sweets, fried foods, alcohol and refined starch. I’m also toying with the idea of going vegan for a month after New Year (just to see if I can). This is less about losing weight for me this time (last year it was about losing weight), but more about making sure I have enough energy to get through super packed days of work, rehearsal and classes. It’s about being at my absolute best both physically and mentally for any shows I do. Most importantly, it’s about challenging myself to live my best and healthiest life as a dancer and as a human being. I’m trying to be better at treating my body like the physical temple/powerhouse that has carried me through a nearly 20 year career as a dancer.

Day 5: How Many Hours a Week do You Dance?

The below answer won’t include rehearsals.

This is a rough question to answer because work, gigs and life can have an impact on how much I dance. On a good day I dance during the last few days of the week and on the weekends. If I count my teaching, I spend about 6.5 hours a week dancing, which translates to approximately 5 classes a week. Not counting my teaching, it’s closer to 3-4 hours a week.

This sounds shameful, I know, but because I also work full time, I try to keep the earlier half of the week clear so I’m not burning out. Sometimes if I really feel like I need a class, I’ll cheat and dance earlier in the week, but, generally, my dance schedule is relegated to evenings and weekends.

Day 6: How’s Teaching Going?

So far so good. I’ve been at the studio teaching adults for nearly a year and I just started a new gig teaching kids, which I’m incredibly excited about. I love that I’ve gotten to share my gift for dance in this way and I’m up for the challenge of being the best teacher I can be.

Day 7: Have You Been Keeping up with World of Dance?

Not as well as I should have. A binge watching sesh is definitely in order.

Day 8: Any Blog/Podcast Spoilers???
Wait and see….😏

Thoughts After My First Heels Class

So if you pay any attention to my Instagram (@dancetopiablog, follow me!), you know that Tuesday night, I finally endeavored to take my first heels class.

Here’s some video evidence:

And now for some main takeaways from my first time twirling in heels:

 

Muscle Memory is REAL And Getting the Steps Wasn’t that Hard

I have danced in heels a couple of time before. The first time was in character tap shoes for a 42nd Street production when I was 12 and 13 (they brought it back for the studio’s 10th anniversary). Another time was for a can-can piece (I even did fouettés in them), and once for a latin jazz piece. Even though I had experience, I didn’t think it would serve me in this class. I was wrong. The amount of times I kept reminding myself to keep my “weight over the big toe,” as my dance teacher would say, was enough to make your head spin.

On the whole, getting the steps in the class wasn’t difficult. I’m now at a place in my dance journey where I have enough experience and versatility to be able to manage in most classes and at least get the steps reasonably well. Everything I remembered from dancing and balancing in those heels came back full force, and it helped but…

Being fierce (and walking) is hard

I’d like to think that I’m the type of person who’s more than capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. But remembering the steps and remembering to be sexy and fierce at the same time was easier said than done. I also understand what people say when they say Beyoncé was a master at walking. Walking, is hard, being sexy without being too extra is hard, and I definitely have a lot of learning to do.

Confidence isn’t Innate

I tried not to feel ridiculous in that class. This was partly because I’ve always been of the mindset that dancing in heels is one of those things where if you feel like you look ridiculous doing it, chances are, you look ridiculous. But I’m not comfortable being sexy. I’ve arguably never been comfortable, and having to embrace sexiness and an attitude felt ridiculous coming from me. I either did too much (see above) or not enough, and my sweet spot of “fierce but subtle” was frustratingly elusive the entire hour and change that I was in class.

In general, I feel good about where I started. I didn’t do too much too soon (see the IG video above where  my work boots doubled as heels for class).  I actually felt comfortable enough to try a higher, slightly slimmer heel next time around and, most importantly, I didn’t fall.

 

None of this happened, thank goodness!

But feeling totally good about myself and taking myself seriously is another story. I’m not giving up on myself just yet,  I’ll be back in heels class next week. Right now it feels strange and a little awkward, but hopefully this will be another area of growth I’ll be able to celebrate a few months from now.

What I’ve Been Up to – Vol. 1: Teacher Teacher

One of the main things I’ve been doing dance-wise on my blogging sabbatical is teaching tap at a local dance studio. I got the job in September through what I can only call a series of fortunate events and am now in the middle of my second session teaching two adult intermediate and beginner tap classes.

This isn’t my first teaching gig, but it is my longest running one and it’s, frankly, the first one where I’ve really felt like I knew what I was doing. My first “teaching” jobs were as a camp counselor at my dance studio’s summer camp when I was 14 and 15 , teaching barre fit at a neighborhood studio and finally most recently teaching dance to K-2nd grade students at an elementary school last fall/winter. And they went, well there’s no sense in sugarcoating, pretty poorly—with the exception of the barre class…that one was okay.

^^^This it was not

It was more like this^^^

Yeah, I like to say that teaching kids just isn’t in my ministry. I have the patience of a gnat and too much energy is overwhelming for me (#introvertprobs).

So being able to work with people who are capable of higher order thinking and reasoning,  listening and following directions–and also don’t need to go to the bathroom every few minutes–has been a welcome change, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had to make adjustments.

 

Relax and Take Notes….

The biggest thing I’ve learned from teaching adults is to always come prepared. I know lots of teachers come to classes not having thought about what they were going to teach and are fine but for me it just causes anxiety. This is mainly because classes with adults move much more slowly than kids’ classes. You’re not spending any time wrangling little people, so it’s easier to cycle through exercises and combinations quickly and run out of things to do earlier in the class.

Because of this I now have a notebook….

And in this notebook I write out everything I plan to do for class. More often than not, I don’t get to everything but I’d rather run out of time than run out of  things to do.

 

Repetition is Good. Repetition is Good.

This is something that’s been said a lot recently by a tap teacher I take class with and it’s SO TRUE! I’m still adjusting to the fact that I’m not dealing with people who get bored easily so it’s okay for me to keep exercises and repeat things (to a point). That said, I don’t want to teach the exact same class every week, so I do try to introduce at least one new element per class that we can build on for the next few weeks. Once I see everybody getting the hang of it, I can retire it and move on to something else.

So far, I’m having fun. I’m making extra money (always nice $$$$$$$$), my friends have come to take my class a few times, and I’m actually getting to know some of my students, one even invited me to have drinks on their birthday! I’m glad things fell into place so I could take this job and I can’t wait to see how my students grow and how they help me grow!