Change the Station - a message from the director
As we head into summer intensive, and shortly thereafter, fall semester, it felt like a good time to touch base with everyone. When so many uncertainties and changes abound, it can be easy to get wrapped up in hoping for the best while planning for the worst... all while forgetting to appreciate the present. I recently stumbled upon some old footage of classes I’d taught. In reviewing these old iPhone videos of bodies packed into classes, sweating, bending, working, and launching, I couldn’t help but feel the deepest of melancholy for how things used to be. Shockingly, I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the choreography I’d crafted... as well as my own dancing. (GASP!)
This is not a letter to applaud my class plans.
This is an honest commentary on a perspective shift resulting from the passage of time - wrung out by a global pandemic reminding us of our own mortality - that incentivized me to address all of my students directly. This is about how you view yourself in the world, and how you must choose to love yourself right now. You’re probably doing way better than you think. As an artist and dancer, my own satisfaction with my place in the larger, international world of dance never felt “enough.” The only times I felt truly inspired and physically and artistically challenged, was when training at Peridance and Gibney in New York City, or Tanzfabrik in Berlin. I continue dancing there and in similar studios annually/whenever possible, and model my own teaching methodology after many years of those experiences. However, regardless of how many books on dance I read, or how many classes or certifications I took, or how many seminars I attended, I was still unsatisfactory. Let’s take a moment to break that sentence down. “I was still unsatisfactory.” Oh my. What an unloving self narrative. Unfortunately, this kind of narrative exists within many dancers, developed in part by a bombardment of the most stunning and accomplished professionals in our field accessible at all times via social media. While this kind of content can be inspiring eye candy, it can also be poison.
Dancers have a very special life experience, a way of seeing the world through a unique perspective that changes us deeply and forever. Many times, that lens inspires empathy and ignites creativity. Sometimes, that lense gets turned back onto ourselves and becomes a microscope.
To assume that no one has insecurities, or at no point feels like they aren’t good enough in some way - is absurd. We are humans working to improve our skills, and there will be ups and downs. As dancers, we also understand whatever “the ideal” is for various styles of dance. Many of us are aware of our own shortcomings and work tirelessly to improve in every way. This is commendable. However, we must dissociate whatever skills we’re currently working on - or what others have or haven’t accomplished - from our own self worth.
In light of Covid-19 and all of the superfluousness removed by it, I urge you to take a moment to be grateful for the unique, capable, beautiful, skilled creature you already are. You are a human doing your very best. That is enough.
Years from now, when you look back on photos, videos, and memories, I don’t want you to think “Oh, I was way better than I thought - wish I would have realized it at the time!” Or “I wish I’d appreciated what my body could do then, instead of berating myself for it not doing more.” Instead, I want you to think, “Wow. I worked so hard and reached such great heights for myself. I can’t believe I could move like that!” Switch from being your own worst critic to your most loving supporter and watch in amazement as your dancing improves and your life becomes more joyful.
Every day that you show up and do the work, you change. Every time you focus on a new trick or skill or flexibility goal - even if you don’t nail it that day - you change. Your body, brain, nervous system, and overall richness of character change. Take a moment to relish in your own hearty efforts without judgment. Find deep satisfaction in accomplishments along the way. Give 100% percent - because you’re lucky enough to be able to.
The road to “perfection” is long, and… there’s no end. You can’t change your car. BUT you can care for it, inside and out. Every choice along the way is yours. And when it feels like there’s no progress being made - trust that there is. Sometimes you just won’t see it until you look in the rearview mirror.
Importantly, what the radio in your "car" tells you every minute of every day becomes your
truth. Keep the feed healthy. If ever the radio becomes negative - change. the. station.
As a dance educator, I feel so blessed to be a part of so many students’ lives and training. Witnessing my students grow into physically and mentally strong dancers and leaders is my fuel. But as we all embark on our various and interweaving roads, please remember:
The destination is the journey. Don’t forget to enjoy it. With much love and endless support,