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.

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Asking for Help

I’m really not good at asking for help. Ask my husband, my staff, my parents, and my collegiate dance coach. Part of it is wanting to stay in control (if you want it done right, do it yourself… right?) and part of it is being a people pleaser. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. But what happens when I don’t ask for help? I get overwhelmed, of course. I take on 12 jobs when I only have time for 10. I hear myself saying, “I can do it myself, thank you,” when what I need to say is, “Yes, help with this project would be so great!”

Another pitfall is that I don’t always end up with the best solution or decision if I’m the only one with the information. Collaborating with others almost always ends with a better project or result than if I do it alone. 2 brains are better than one from troubleshooting to creative thinking to work sharing. IMG_7023This week we officially named Alexis Parmentier as our Energy Dance Company Co-Director, and I already feel like a weight has been lifted. She is already turning things over in her brain and asking questions I wouldn’t have thought to ask. Being a business owner is hard enough; directing a competitive team made up of pre-teen and teenage girls and their parents can sometimes be too much. I’m excited to have help!

Besides my own journey with asking for help, I see dance experiences teach my clients (both moms and dancers) the same lesson. Sometimes you have to ask a friend to help you change backstage. Sometimes you have to ask another mom to help take your kiddo to the competition. Sometimes you have to ask another mom or teacher to help with hair and make up to ensure it is done correctly. Sometimes you have to ask another dancer to meet you over the weekend to review choreography. We are a team. We are a dance family. I am blessed and lucky to have so many eager teachers, moms and family members ready to help. Ready to join our dance family? Click here for a free trial coupon.

A little PSA for myself: if you see a need during studio hours or performances don’t be afraid to just jump in and do what needs doing… I may not ask you directly for the help (I might even say I’m good or don’t need it), but I will ALWAYS appreciate it!

 

Open Mind, Open Heart

I never actually got to sit down and write about how it went with this year’s show, Matters of the Heart: Connections. I wrote about it getting rained out (lol), but the actual show was a beautiful evening of dancing in a beautiful park in a beautiful city. This was our 4th annual event celebrating self-worth, anti-hate, and dance as an art form that can tell intimate stories and communicate more than just movement.

It all started in 2014 with Sarabeth (then-owner), Brooklyn (then-instructor) and I sitting around a table at competition. Sarabeth mentioned that we could rent out the Zilker Hillside Theatre for a relatively low amount, and remarked how cool it would be to do some kind of anti-bullying awareness show. That conversation turned into the three of us commiserating about how petty and frustrating the attitudes that develop during competition season can be, and maybe this show, at this time of the year, would be a great reminder that dance is art, we are all humans, and how important it is to love and respect others. We figured we were just crazy enough to pull it off, and in our first year pulled together around 25 dancers to do about 15 numbers telling stories about the negative and positive things we experience (ie: gossip vs. acceptance, hate vs. love, etc). We knew the show couldn’t just be a one-time thing. We’ve since added 2 other studios to our show and told stories about being the light in the dark and the diamonds in the rough.Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

This year’s theme for the show, Connections, focused on how we, as humanity, are fundamentally the same. In a time when our country is so very divided, we wanted our students to find our commonalities. Things like the fear of losing someone, the joy we find in making others smile, and the independence we must all find to be successful. Sarabeth, Alexis and I set an opening number on some of our Lonestar dancers that was a simple, spoken word piece that talked through some of these ideas. It was a great opportunity for us to sit down with the girls and ask them their thoughts on the theme. How are we all connected? How are we all different? What are some of the things you have in common with people you don’t even like? What are the most dividing things you can think of, and what are the most uniting? The number turned into a beautiful introduction into the theme of our show, and I hope it’s something the dancers remember for years to come.

What a privilege it is to be able to teach these dancers more than just dance. Interested in joining us? Click here for a free trial coupon. 

Compassionate Teamwork

I took a sick day this week for the first time in a long, long time. And by sick day I mean I answered a few e-mails and that was it. Didn’t even do admin work from the couch; just slept most of the day. I may get subs here and there for conflicts, overscheduling, or just plain needing an evening off, but it’s been a while since I’ve had to have my classes covered because I couldn’t peel myself off the couch. It was a crappy day (I feel better now!). IMG_6882

The best part, though, is the compassion I felt from my coworkers who filled in the gaps. A couple of teachers worked together to cover my classes and made sure I didn’t worry about a thing while they taught for me. I know that a couple of other teachers stepped up and dealt with parents and the oversight of the studio while I was out. I’m sure there were questions and concerns that needed to be addressed,  but, for the most part, they let me sleep.

While there are many other jobs in many other industries where the compassion and teamwork would be the same, I have the distinct pleasure of knowing that this staff was raised knowing the same kind of teamwork I knew. The kind of teamwork where you hurry to fix formations and cover the missing piece when someone gets hurt . The kind of teamwork where someone will meet with you on a weekend to review what you missed the day you were out sick. The studio is a place that holds you up, and the dance classroom is a place where we creatively fill in the gaps when necessary. Because of dance we can think quickly on our feet and improvise our roles when required. I’m grateful to be supported and surrounded by that kind of staff and community.

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Not Everything Goes as Planned

As dancers we are in a constant state of improvisation. Even if the routine is perfectly cleaned and practiced it’s inevitable that on the day of the performance someone is sick, someone is hurt, or the floor is too dang slippery to do that aerial in jazz shoes. What else can you do but forge on and figure it out? Improvise, fix the problem. Don’t fall apart. You cannot quit or give up just because it isn’t going exactly how you thought it might go.

Case in point: we were all set to go for our annual anti-bullying show last Saturday, Matters of the Heart. The show is out at the Zilker Hillside Theatre, and, guess what? It was RAINING. I held off and held off to make the rain cancelation call, because moving the show to the rain date meant new schedules, new rehearsals, new plans, and possibly having dancers who could no longer perform in the show. It also meant my parents and sister, who had driven in from North West Texas, would not be able to experience it. I even had my husband, Cole, drive all the way down to Zilker from Pflugerville, where we were waiting patiently with everything packed into trucks and cars, to confirm that the conditions would be much too soggy to do the show.rise up

When it came time, it was clear that my plan had no bearing on how this was going to go down. The rain not only continued, it got worse. Lucky for me, I was in the presence of 4 other dance teachers and directors who were able to help quickly amend the plan. 4 other strong women who were able to identify the possible pitfalls and problems of a new plan and help put it into action quickly and efficiently. New rehearsal schedules and call times were drawn up for the rain date, and everything is back on track for what we hope is a beautiful evening.

So whether it’s as simple as changing a lesson plan because you are missing too many dancers to set more choreography that day or having to reschedule an entire show, I’m grateful that dance continues to teach me how to persevere and keep my head up. Slap that smile on girl, because the audience doesn’t know you aren’t doing what you planned all along.

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Passing Along Teamwork

**Today’s Blog Post written by instructor Alexis Parmentier.

I heard a lot of “there is no I in TEAM” growing up.

Dance taught me about teamwork. Whether that meant trying to get along with girls I didn’t see eye to eye with, or collaborating with my peers; teamwork was a key element of being a dancer. I had many teenage girl moments where I wasn’t always feeling my best, or wasn’t always in the mood to be in the studio, but I was a team player. There was never a class that I took growing up that didn’t involve some sort of teamwork. FullSizeRender (6)

It was a choice I personally had to make. I had to choose to love and care for the girls I was on a team with. I had to choose to understand them, or try to, We were all on one company and we were all equal. We were all there because we had a passion for dancing.

This also applied to the classes I took that didn’t involve all of my company friends. I had to make the choice to love on them and be a team in each and every class.

Promptness, Respect, Responsibility, and Teamwork are just the tip of the iceberg of what dance has taught me. Dance is not only about expressing who you are, it is about learning traits and qualities that will help you bloom into a lovely young adult!

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Passing Along Responsibility

**Today’s blog post written by instructor Alexis Parmentier.

Dance taught me a lot about responsibility. Whether I was making sure I knew what my dance schedule was week to week, or knowing what I needed to wear and bring to dance, I was in charge of being responsible. Being responsible meant I needed to practice choreography at home, & also take responsibility of myself. That meant that I needed to take responsibility of making sure I was taking care of ME.

I needed to make sure I was stretching at home. I needed to make sure I was icing my feet when necessary or doing certain stretches when my body was sore. I had to make sure I was giving my body the nutrition it needed or drinking plenty of water. I needed to make sure I was taking a break from time to time, enjoying my youth. I was responsible for myself. fullsizerender-5

As time passed and I got older, responsibility grew into making sure I was at dance on time. I had to make sure I was remembering and practicing choreography even more. I needed to be responsible of time management. I had to allow time for homework and dance. I wanted to be a dancer who applied what I was learning in one of my classes, to all of my classes. I had the key to my responsibility now. Once I learned that lesson, I knew that I wanted to see responsible dancers in my classes.

“The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.” -Hal Elrod

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Passing Along Respect

*Today’s blog post written by Lonestar instructor Alexis Parmentier.

Aretha Franklin said it pretty well.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T”

The second thing that is expected of my students is respect. Having respect for your teacher but also the other peers in your dance class. Walking in as a first time dance student, dance is brand new to you. You could know a few others in the class OR you could feel completely alone. Regardless, you have to build a new relationship with the others you are in the class with and your teacher. You don’t know if the friends you are about to meet are introverts or extroverts. You don’t know what their home life is.

All you should know is that you need to have respect for them.

With that said, respect flows both ways in a classroom. As a teacher, I know that if I am respectful to my dancers, I expect the same from them. fullsizerender-4Respect is the most important quality to have as a teacher. Having respect for other dancers skill level and their experience is also key to being a dancer. One dancer may have more skills than the others, but being respectful and patient is so important. It is a healthy quality to have as a teacher!

As a dancer, you also have to have respect for yourself. Respect to take care of your body in and out of the studio. Respectful to what you are feeding your body before & after dancing. Respecting the advice your dance teacher is giving to you. You are in charge of you and you have to take care of your muscles in and out of the studio.

Respect is one of the core values here at Lonestar, and is another one of the traits we want our dancers to walk away with after taking classes with us. Ready to join us? Click here for a free trial class.