Pushing Yourself vs. Listening to Yourself

Dance teaches us something about finding the physical, mental and emotional balance of pushing yourself vs. listening to yourself. In dance, your body is your tool. In order to grow, you often have to push your body right up to the limit of injury, without going over. When we are doing something like stretching, we have to help dancers understand the difference between “uncomfortable” and “painful.”

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When we are doing cardio to improve endurance, we have to teach dancers how to find their breath and keep going without passing out. We find ourselves equally saying “push yourself” as well as “listen to your body,” and have to start helping dancers identify (very early on) when it is acceptable to sit down and rest because your body or brain needs a break vs. when sitting down is giving up on yourself or being lazy.

We continue to struggle with this concept as adults, and I see and hear others talk about it all the time. We often push ourselves to the point of being physically sick or mentally drained, and then have to step back and recognize our limitations. It is a hard challenge to learn to recalibrate and find that balance before we wear ourselves too thin again. In the smallest way, I hope that the lessons our dancers are learning in the classroom are helping them to find this balance early in life, so that they can be well-adjusted, productive, balanced adults.

Interested in joining us? Summer classes start June 18th! 

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Teaching Loyalty

Up on our wall in our studio hallway we have our values in block letters to remind parents, teachers and dancers of the concepts and lessons we hold most dear. Loyalty made the wall, but what is it? Why does it matter? What can we do, as a business and as teachers and mentors, to earn trust and loyalty from our dancers and families as well as pass along the lesson? princesstea6

Definitions found on loyalty include words like “support,” “devotion,” and “faithfulness.” It is often used in the context of patriotism, and can conjure mixed emotions when referencing a nation or a leader. But, let’s take it down much smaller than that and discuss how we can teach young people to be loyal to their friends. Boiled down, loyalty is showing a high level of respect by showing up, time and again, for those who invest in you.

Loyalty is relational. There are some words on our wall such as “Integrity” and “Responsibility” that deal much more with the individual, but, much like “Respect” and “Teamwork,” I consider loyalty part of a relationship. It requires a trust that, if I am loyal to you, you will be loyal to me, and the relationship will be mutually positive or beneficial. As with any relational concept, loyalty can be severely damaged when trust in the other is questioned, or when the relationship no longer seems positive. The key lesson we want our young dancers to walk away with, however, is how to define those moments and see the world with a little more clarity. Just because someone has made you mad it does not mean you end the relationship (try telling this to a group of teenagers… it’s a work in progress). A loyal friend comes back to the table, with humility, and is eager to resolve the issue. It isn’t always easy, but it is usually worth it.

Interested in joining us? Summer classes start June 18th! 

Just Keep Going

This is the time of the year that the lesson of perseverance really comes into play. Not only are everyone’s (my) allergies wreaking havoc on our bodies, but STAAR tests are happening, school events are ramping up, and everyone starts to get the end-of-year wiggles. I have blogged here about perseverance multiple times, and good examples of how it is taught in the dance world, but I am inspired to touch on the subject yet again as we soldier on into our last competition for EDC, plan for summer, gather information and materials for our spring recital, etc. meghan-class-1

When we discuss perseverance at the studio we say, “Keep going, no matter what.” If you fall down? Get up and keep going. If you are frustrated with a new step or a piece of choreography? Keep going. If you are tired? Keep going. The only way to get there is to go. The journey may not be as picturesque as you had hoped, but when you accomplish your goals you can look back and appreciate all the times you got back up.

The Path to Artistry

We have a lot of discussions on this blog about how dance teaches life-long lessons and starts a journey to confidence and self esteem. It’s one thing in the classroom to accomplish a technical skill or to push yourself to pick up choreography faster and more cleanly. It’s a whole different conversation when we approach the idea of pushing past the technical skills and into the artistry of dance. What makes a dancer a performing artist? It isn’t perfect technique, yet the technique becomes the toolbox for a dancer to pull from as they start to tell stories with their bodies and emotions.

After an interesting conversation with my mom, who is a music teacher, about this topic she suggested I do some research into how learning in the dance studio can relate to a hierarchy of needs. I did a search, and I pulled up this article about reframing the classroom to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which I remember learning about in college. While the article is geared towards teachers and the goal of getting more people dancing, I did love this excerpt that is more applicable to everyone.

“Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs to explain basic motivations behind human behavior. The idea is simple: You start at the bottom with the basic needs of food, water and air to survive. Once one level of needs is satisfied you become more concerned with the next, and you move up.

Physiological – the basic human needs of food water and air
Safety – of yourself, your family, your employment
Love and Belonging – the need for family, friends, intimacy
Esteem – the need to feel recognized and master skills
Self actualization – the desire to reach your full potential

So how does this help us understand how we learn to dance?

All it needs is a new lens:

Physical – Get people moving. It’s the golden rule of dance. People learn best through connecting with music and their bodies, not listening to your voice.

Safety – assuming your physical safety is not at risk, this is about emotional safety. Judgement from yourself and others is the death of dance.

Social – people want to interact and feel connected to each other and their teacher. The stronger these bonds, the more safe and supported people feel.

Learning – consuming movement and information about dance to progress and master skills. At this point, what looks good to others and feels good to you are usually quite far off.

Artistry – you are a creator, not just a consumer of dance, working towards unrestrained self-expression. You start performing, teaching or choreographing. What looks good to others and feels good to you starts becoming one and the same.”

Interested in joining us? Our Summer Camp and Class schedules are up online.

Worth It.

We had such a beautiful show at our 5th annual Matters of the Heart this past Monday evening! The weather was lovely (albeit windy), the costuming came together nicely, the dancers were prepared and all 4 studios managed to seamlessly work together to produce a show we had not even rehearsed once with everyone in the same space at the same time. I am always amazed at what we, as human beings, are capable of!

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From a logistical perspective, Matters of the Heart is a labor-intensive show. While Zilker Hillside Theater is a wonderful performance space, and the liaisons are very professional and accommodating, we bring our own marley flooring, our own speaker systems, our own curtains and our own backdrop to this event each year. It is a lot of heavy lifting and taking things apart to put them back together. We get sweaty, we struggle to wire together all the sound equipment, we clean and re-clean the marley, and then it’s show time.

The park is always so magical as the introduction starts and the crowd begins to hush. These young, beautiful dancers wait professionally in the wings, focused and ready to tell their stories and inspire their audience. Throughout the show parents laugh and cry, friends yell for their peers from the audience, relationships are formed between dancers from different studios, and we come together for 1 hour for no other reason than to share the art of dancing together. No scoring, no ticket sales, no elaborate costumes or staging. It is my favorite event of every year.

The work is worth it.

Ready to join our studio? Summer camp and class registration is open now! See our schedules here.

Those that Do

My husband and I are both entrepreneurial spirits. We have both started our own businesses and generally have a “yes, we can” kind of attitude. Our parents are huge factors in this confidence, but we also both grew up very active in sports and activities where we had coaches and mentors who enabled our success.

IMG_9078We have recently had a lot of discussions as we have matured in our careers and entered our 30’s about those that do versus those that don’t. It seems to us that people who are the happiest and most successful are simply those that have chosen to do. It doesn’t always mean do well, and it doesn’t always mean success. BUT, if you don’t move forward and DO things that take steps toward your larger goals, you don’t even have the opportunity to succeed (or to learn from the failure!).

While this is definitely a broad thought, and while I have had many influences in my life outside of dance that have brought about this attitude, I can’t help but think about how dance teaches this lesson. In the studio it can be scary to try something new, for fear or failure or fear of looking silly. But, I encourage every student to “just try it,” or “just do it,” so we have a jumping off point to improve and perfect whatever the skill is. It’s ok to fail, if it was a step towards succeeding, but ACTION is the only way forward. I’m hopeful that I’m contributing, even in the smallest way, towards young men and women that are eager to be people that do, not people that don’t.

Interested in starting your dance journey? Summer registration is open now!

Dancing as a Group

There is some interesting research done on dancing in synchrony with others and the health benefits it may have. This is an excerpt from an interview with Shankar Vedantam, a social science correspondent for NPR: Mini lyrical

“…here’s what the researchers think is going on. When experiences feel good, that’s usually a signal that they have served some kind of evolutionary purpose. So the brain evolved to find certain kinds of food tasty because it eating those foods had survival value for our ancestors.

As a social species, being part of a group has survival value. Evolution also may have adapted the brain to experience a sense of reward when we did things with and for other people. Dancing together, especially in the synchrony, can signal that you are actually simpatico with lots of other people. The researchers think this is why so many cultures have synchronized dancing and why it might have health benefits.”

Interested in reading the whole article? Click here!

Dancing Improves Memory

We’ve written many blog posts about the mental, physical and emotional benefits of dance, but one very specific way that dancing makes you smarter is by improving memory. todd class 1

The way that dance encourages progressive learning and memory influences both the long term and short term memory capacities. Dancers will learn a few counts, go back and repeat those counts, then go on and add a few more counts, go back and review all the counts, then be expected to remember those counts the next time they are in class in order to add on. Even at a very young age (our 3-4 year olds learn routines this way!) dancers are expected to commit movement to memory.

Beyond building those cognitive blocks in children, dance has been proven to improve memory in adults and the elderly. Research has been done comparing dancing to other aerobic exercises, and mental decline is not nearly as aggressive for those who dance (see research here!). Interested in starting your dance journey? Click here for a free trial coupon!

No Equipment Necessary

Dance is a marriage of the body and the soul. It is cathartic and moving as an organic method of self expression. Also? It’s great exercise! Dancing can be done anywhere without any equipment. It’s a fun, accessible method of increasing your heart rate and burning some calories. You don’t need any sports or workout equipment; you only need a song that makes you want to move your body. lex pic 4

The kind of workout you get depends on the kind of dance you do. Lyrical or Ballet will undoubtedly stretch your muscles and strengthen small muscle groups you didn’t even know you had, but a night out on the dance floor with your friends will raise your heart rate for a long period of time. Dance is great for all ages, and encourages longevity of joints and muscles.

In my social life I feel like I hear all the time, “I can’t dance.” Wrong! ANYONE can dance, and its accessibility is one of my favorite things about it. You don’t have to dance for anyone else but you; just lock yourself in a room with your favorite song and get to it!

5 Tips for your Collegiate Audition

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So this blog is normally an insightful look into what I feel dance has taught me, and not an opportunity for tips or advice, but today I wanted to share some tips that we give each spring during our University of Texas Pom Prep course. Do you have a dancer in high school or college who is interested in joining a collegiate team? Share these tips with them!

#1 Do Your Homework

Visit the squad’s website, watch YouTube videos, Google them! At what events do they appear or perform? What is the time commitment? Know as much as possible.

#2 Look the Part

If the team wears their hair teased and half up, half down, then wear yours the same way at auditions. Pay attention to if they look tan (get a spray!), what colors they wear in their make up, and if they wear any consistent jewelry.

#3 Practice Learning Quickly

Whether it’s taking a dance class or learning from your favorite choreographers on YouTube, practice learning choreography quickly. Auditions move at a fast pace; be sure you can learn, retain, and perform a piece of choreography over a short amount of time.

#4 Be Prepared to Interview

Know a little bit about which sports (if any) the team supports or what competitions (if any) they attend. Be prepared to answer questions about your strengths, weaknesses and why you are the best person to add to their team.

#5 Have Fun!

Keep in mind WHY you dance. Don’t let this audition define you; they are likely looking for something specific in each new member. If you go in, have fun, and show them your personality you can walk away feeling confident, no matter the results!
Interested in joining our pom prep class? It isn’t too late! Check out the details here!

Interested in joining our pom prep class? It isn’t too late! Check out the details here!