Integrity- Do the Right Thing

One of our values here at Lonestar Dance Center is Integrity. We strive, and encourage our kids to strive, to always do the right thing. Even when no one is watching. Sometimes we fail at knowing what the right thing is, and in that case we try to learn from our mistakes and do it the right way the next time. To anyone who has ever felt we didn’t do the right thing, we apologize and hope to have learned something from it. It’s a part of our core mission and is one of the value-based lessons we believe dance teaches again and again. meghan class 3

One of the simple examples that always comes up during our value-teaching time is the notion of what happens when the teacher leaves the room. For example, a teacher of a group of 9-10 year olds starts class and gets called outside the door for a quick conversation with a parent. As she is leaving the room she says, “please keep stretching in straddle until I return.” We expect the kids to keep doing what they are asked by an authority figure, even if no one is watching to be sure they do it. It’s an easy lesson for the kids to understand mentally, and one we use in practice frequently.

We also teach Integrity as “making good choices.” I always pose a question to my kiddos. Which is the better choice when you arrive early: making sure the right shoes are on your feet and that your hair is out of your face or talking and laughing with your friends? There is definitely a time and place for socializing (and it isn’t in the classroom), but the better choice is to first make sure you are prepared for class. Come trial a class for free, and see these value lessons in play first-hand!

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An Opportunity for Social Responsibility

I love that most businesses and organizations these days have some kind of philanthropic activities, whether that is donating to a cause or volunteering their time. I believe that we all have some kind of social responsibility, regardless of what cause you serve. It is important that we teach this to our young people.

 

Here at Lonestar Dance Center we aim to do at least 1 philanthropic thing per month with our dance community. nami walk 3For September it was attending and volunteering for the NAMIWalks Austin event (National Alliance on Mental Illness) as well as a donation drive for the Easterseals of Central Texas. For October we are having Pink Out Week and a t-shirt design contest to bring awareness to the fight against Breast Cancer, and the t-shirt sales will benefit the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Austin. In November we will offer a chance for all our kids to publicly display what they are thankful for and highlight the goodness that each of us has in our lives. December brings our 11th Annual Holiday Benefit Performance, raising money for Austin Children’s Services and canned goods for local food pantries.

If you are looking for a fun place to bring your child for an after school activity, to keep them active, and to engage in a community that teaches and highlights social responsibility please come try LDC! We only have 1.5 weeks left of our Fall Enrollment, but we will open up again for January registration. We hope you’ll join us. Trial a free class by clicking here! 

Reflections from a Band Director

My brother-in-law is the Head Band Director for the Graham High School Rompin’ Stompin’ Big Blue Band. He is a great teacher and a great coach, and he shared something on Facebook last week that really struck me. What follows is his post after a bad rehearsal, and I wanted to share it with all of you. The word “band” could so very easily be changed to “dance”, and it’s spot on for how your dancer’s teachers feel after a bad or unfocused rehearsal.

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All credits due to Josh Kidd 🙂

“This morning, we were not at our best. Believe it or not, for many programs, this morning would have been considered a very good rehearsal. In our program, we value the pursuit of excellence in the smallest details, the tenacity to push through challenging moments, the ability to hold our heads high while recognizing the way we approach our craft, and the realization that the group is bigger than the individual while maintaining a sense of community and togetherness. As you might expect…we didn’t necessarily live up to our ideals. And it’s ok.

 

Some thoughts as I think about tomorrow’s rehearsal:

 

1. Band is fun because we are continually provided the opportunity to perform, entertain, and inspire those around us.

 

2. Band is fun because it is hard. Challenges grow the individual, and we come out stronger in the end because we can look back and admire the journey from the mountaintop.

 

3. Success as a group is founded upon an individual’s ability to contribute to the whole in our weakest moments. Bands are not judged by the contributions of the most talented individuals, but the success of the weakest.

 

4. Each one of us is a valuable part of the greater goal of fashioning a group of individuals into a production that is larger than anything we could create on our own. Each of us have specific jobs.

 

5. Band is home when home isn’t. In our most difficult moments, we are granted the ability to come together and lose ourselves in performance, pushing away all of the struggles outside the sidelines.

 

6. Rough rehearsals, whatever they might look like, happen and only we get to decide what we do with them. We can retreat and let them define our path or refuse to surrender and come back with even more tenacity and resolve. (You know what I choose…I don’t know the meaning of surrender.)

 

7. I have the greatest job in the world because I get to hang out with awesome people like you every morning.”

 

Finding Passion

I love dance. I love to dance, I love watching dance, I love teaching dance. I love the way it makes me feel and the way the body marries the music in meaningful ways. I believe strongly in the values it teaches and in the hard work and the skill-building required to carry it out, but at the end of the day it is my passion. It makes me emotional. I will be moved to tears equally by pieces that are sad and pieces that are happy, if the dancer is living their life during the time they are performing. My husband (lovingly) teases me when we go to a live performance and I cry, even if it is a wildly happy musical. selma tapNothing else stirs emotions like that for me like a live dance or musical theater performance.

Not everyone who comes through our doors will find this same all-consuming passion with dance that many of their teachers have. Some find that passion with music, art, sports, math, etc. We dance teachers have chosen dance as our vocation and our life’s work, but lots of dancers who come to the studio do it because a parent has encouraged them to or because their friends are there. There is no bad reason to be there, and whether a dancer joins a recreational class for just one year or falls madly in love with the art of dance I am happy to be a part of their journey. But if even ONE student of mine finds the real passion that I have found in dance, I succeeded.

Want to see if dance is your passion? Or your child’s? Click here to try a class for free.

Extreme Focus

We received the best feedback this week from a new adult student trying Tap for the first time. In a social media selfie where she was beaming from ear to ear she spoke about how much focus it took to take a tap class. That for 45 minutes her brain was nowhere but that classroom. You may imagine that kind of focus to be constricting and potentially frustrating, but I absolutely loved that she described it as “freeing.” lex pic 3Speaking of a clear mind and a consuming amount of presence, she reminded me of something I take for granted a lot. That no matter how stressful your day is or what is going on personally or professionally, dance requires your full attention and gives your brain and soul renewal.

As a teacher I don’t always feel this in the classroom, as I am providing this experience for others. And I’m proud and happy to do so! But it’s true; when I get to take a class and be completely consumed and focused it is the best refresh of my mind and spirit. It makes me so happy to be the facilitator of a place that is a refuge for the brain, body and soul! Interested in seeing for yourself? Trial a class for free! 

Dedication and Commitment

One thing that dance teaches is unwavering commitment. Many a dancer has missed a party or a play date because of rehearsal. There are exceptions, but generally the dancers who show up consistently, on time, and ready to work are the ones who get cast most often or move up levels faster. When you sign up for a dance class you are dedicating yourself not only to your own growth, but to a teacher and to classmates that are affected when you miss classes.

 

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This is such an important lesson to learn early in life. Dedication to your job, your education, or your extracurriculars matters. Once you get into college it is “optional” to attend class, but if you don’t attend you likely won’t pass. Once you start a job it may be easy to get shifts covered or use personal days, but you probably won’t get the promotion. And showing up is only half the work. Dancers learn to be hard workers and self motivators, and we would love to help teach that life lesson to your child. Interested in a free trial class? Click here.

Inspiring Confidence

Dance started back this week, and I am SO EXCITED. Not only do I crave a routine (summer is all over the place!), but seeing dancers return to the studio who took the summer off is so special! The new dancers that get to experience dance for the first time come in somewhat nervous, and just after 1 class you see them leave feeling accomplished at trying something new. It’s a special time 🙂IMG_8582

Since it’s a new year, I wanted to come back to the mission and zero in on what we are all about at Lonestar. Our official mission statement is “inspiring kids to express themselves confidently through dance.” This means confidence in their bodies, their minds, and their creativity. I want dancers who pass through our studio to leave as self-assured human beings who can speak out for what is right and be a leader in their environments. We use dance as medium to teach this idea.

Staff members at Lonestar all agree: at the end of the day we want to inspire confidence. This does not always mean happy feelings. Sometimes building confidence means failing a few times and learning how to persevere through it. Sometimes building confidence means being taught respect for instructors, your craft and others. We see dance as a perfect outlet for these lessons, and we’d love to show you. Join us for our 14th season of dancing! For a free trial coupon click here. 

Love.

One of our value words is “love.” Love for what you do, love for yourself, love for your team mates. We teach the definition to our kids as, “the feeling you have about the people or things you care about,” but the kids always have better answers.  With our Tiny, Mini and EDC teams we take each day during their summer intensive lunch hours to go through all our studio values, discuss them, come up with examples, etc. Love is one of my favorites to talk about with them.

For example: this time of year is about the time that our dancers who are together almost every single day are starting to get a little sick of each other. They start to be a little bit snippy, a little bit agitated, and a little bit critical of each other. BUT, mess with one of their friends, and you’ll have 13 other pre-teen and teenage girls chomping at the bit to protect and defend her. IMG_5892.JPGThey have built a lot of trust, seen a lot of good, seen a lot of bad, and learned about each other in a way that few other after-school activities facilitate.

They also start to exhibit such a healthy, strong love for themselves. Not in a conceited way (at least not always…), but in a self-confident way. They feel stronger after a year of dancing together; they can do tricks and perform skills they were not able to a year ago. They love the way dance makes them feel and the way their teachers pour their energy into their passion.

As all of us, teachers, dancers, parents, siblings, start to get a little worn down this time of year, I’m happy we all have love to fall back on.  Interested in starting your dance journey with us? Our summer session starts June 19th! Click here for a free trial coupon. 

The Possibilities are Endless

With recital coming up, we dance teachers are doing lots… and lots… and LOTS of choreography. Sometimes, creatively, we just aren’t ready. Sometimes, we look up and realize that all 15 of our dances kind of look the same. Sometimes, we get stuck and just can’t seem to finish a piece, even though the deadline is, well, now.

In those moments, I, as a choreographer and teacher, have to remind myself that the possibilities are endless. Let’s take a look at it from a mathematical perspective. Even for pre-school ballet choreography, they should at least have 4 ballet skills they can use. Let’s say they have learned a tendu, a plié, a passé and a ron de jambe.  The mathematical concept of permutations tells us that 4x3x2x1= 24 options for just those 4 movements. That’s 24 different ways we, as instructors, can use movement formulaically to create choreography. lex pic 4

Now, for the days I am not feeling creative, formulaic is fine. It’s bread and butter, it’s easy, it still works and still teaches movement. Let’s imagine a day where I AM feeling the music, feeling creative, loving levels, floor-work, and moving in a way that may not be a straightforward skill the dancers already know. Can you imagine the infinite possibilities to make the choreography look unique? Unique to that moment, that song, those dancers?

This is a lesson that dance teaches me over and over as a choreographer. In life, in relationships in your career: When you are feeling stuck, search for the pattern. There is a list, a structure, that you can follow, if you think it through. When you are feeling bold and creative, go for it. The possibilities are endless.

Practice Makes Perfect… Right?

Our 13th annual recital is coming up on June 10th; preparations are in full swing! Costumes and recital notes are all set to go out the first 2 weeks of May, and choreography is wrapping up to give dancers plenty of time to clean and perfect their dances. I’m not going to lie… my brain might explode soon from all the admin work! But, it’s all worth it to see our dancers, from little bitties up to graduating seniors, take the stage with confidence, grace and personality.

With performance art like dance, I find it especially important to set proper expectations for parents regarding what is “perfect,” or “successful,” at recital. If your 3 year old can get up on stage, without you or without a teacher holding their hand, in a foreign place, in a weird outfit, with bright lights on their face, and simply not cry… that’s success. Even if they cry? It’s still upward growth towards confidence and independence. If they do a few tendus and smile at the audience, even if they don’t remember their whole dance? That is amazing! I see our dance parents want so badly for their children to be successful that sometimes they miss the small moments in-between that notate growthrecital 2016 1

If you have an older dancer who is in multiple numbers, think through their day. Before the recitals even start they are learning responsibility by having to pack numerous costume pieces, tights, make up, hair accessories, shoes, etc. Once the show begins they must run onto stage, remember choreography and perform with personality, run off stage, change costumes, and maybe hair, and run back on stage to remember a whole different set of moves with a whole different performance story or quality, and repeat. It is possible that mistakes will be made, but what if we measure success by how quickly they can move past a memory glitch or fall and set their intention forward towards the next routine?

We say that “practice makes perfect,” or “you will perform how you rehearse,” and that can be true. It can also be a load of crock. All dancers would tell you stories of doing a dance for MONTHS, perfecting it, cleaning it, doing it full out, even practicing entries and exits and doing it without the mirror, all to mess it up on stage. It’s a live performance. As we move into recital season, take a moment and appreciate all the things your dancer has learned, is learning, and the growth you’ve seen from last year to this year. Consider all the small moments that have been “perfect” or considered a “success,” and your pride in watching them on stage will multiply ten-fold, regardless of that specific performance on that specific day.

Interested in joining our dance family and being a part of our next performance? Click here for a free trial coupon! We are registering now for Summer camps and classes!