Giving Constructive Feedback

It’s no secret that a lot of people have a really hard time with criticism. Not just receiving it, but knowing how to give it. I have blogged before about the importance of being “coachable,” but today I take it from another side. How does one learn how to coach? Eventually some may make it a focus or track at school or major in education in college, but those are some of the rare people who are taught, from a course, how to “teach.” The truth is, many others in many industries need to learn the skill of how to coach, teach or manage. That is a hard task for someone who is uncomfortable giving honest feedback.

IMG_9461At Lonestar Dance we start this process early by watching each other perform in groups and giving feedback. The rules may change for different age groups, but starting as early as ages 7-9 we ask children to give constructive feedback to their peers. We encourage them to communicate both compliments as well as areas that need work and try to help them articulate the specific ways in which a peer may improve. We always remind them to speak with love and kindness, and we moderate the comments as needed, but it is an important skill to start building.

This is just one of the many lessons learned in the dance classroom. Are you ready for your child to start their dance journey? Click here for a free trial coupon.

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Lifelong Learning

I come from a family of educators, and I have always been encouraged to be a lifelong learner. My favorite days of each vacation we take are often the ones where I learn something new. I believe it is important to set this example to our young people and show them that adults don’t know everything; adults can still learn new things and push themselves to new limits daily.

IMG_6420This is just one of the reasons why I encourage our instructors to continue to take class, whether that is at a convention or hopping into the studio when we have someone come from outside to teach a master class. Even if there is no “teacher room” and it means taking class with some of our older students, taking class as an adult sets such an amazing example.

There is a moment in a lot of teenagers’ lives where they start to think they know better, or know more, than their instructors. I have found that when I admit openly to not knowing something, or hop into a classroom and take class alongside them and bare my flaws and hang ups, they respect me more. It encourages me to find ways to do this in other areas of my life as well, and I’m grateful to this experience as a mentor and instructor for giving me motivation to continue to learn.

Interested in starting your child’s lifelong learning with dance? Click here for a free trial coupon.

What if I’m Not Ready?

Our Energy Dance Company competes for the first time this weekend, and I’m pumped! Even though I’m not performing, it’s a similar wave of nerves and excitement to watch these dancers take pieces to the stage that they have been learning and cleaning for months. Monday evening we did our annual “Here’s What We Expect from You” speech with the girls, and many of them were a tizzy with questions and clarifications to make sure they were mentally and physically prepared.

edc 2018One of the questions we get every year, from both dancers and parents, is, “What if the dance isn’t ready?” I have hard time with that question as a teacher and director. It is my job to teach and clean the choreography and to ensure the dancers are properly motivated to put in the hard work required to succeed, but how do you define “ready?” Does ready mean perfect? Because, in that case, the dance may never be “ready.”  Does ready mean they will win? Well, that is always an unknown due to the nature of different competitors at each event, and dance judging is very subjective, so that can’t be the meter for “ready.” Does ready mean memorized and [mostly] clean? In that case, they are “ready!”

We attend competitions as both a means for feedback and an opportunity to perform. If you are constantly waiting for a routine to be “ready,” you may never perform it. Sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet and be willing to fail in order to gain the feedback and perspective needed to continue to grow and learn. It’s the same with life, no? What if I’m not ready to start a new job? What if I’m not ready to have kids? What if I’m not ready to start my fitness journey? Trust yourself, trust the journey, and jump in.

Interested in starting your dance journey? Click here for a free trial coupon. Spring enrollment is open now!

Taking it One Step at a Time

I can be a somewhat anxious person; mostly it stems from a type-A personality and the desire to have a sense of control. The best tool I’ve discovered when I’m feeling overwhelmed is the idea of taking things “one step at a time.” I just focus on the task I am doing currently, mark it off the list, and move on to the next task. Dance teaches this lesson, pretty literally, and I think it helped shape a lot of the way I look at tackling large projects today. IMG_9554

When you see a dance on stage, with the complicated formations, parts and steps, it is the culmination of hours of progressive learning. You learn 4 counts, then you practice that a few times, then you learn 4 more counts, then you go back and review the first 4 counts, then you put it all together. But if you try to learn too much choreography at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s when you go back and review again, add on slowly, and then eventually add formations, complications, staging, etc. If you let your brain think about what the finished project is supposed to look like, when you are struggling with the current step you are learning, it can seem like an impossible task.

I am grateful to my dance teachers for helping me learn this skill of breaking things down into palpable chunks. I’m eager and happy to pass along this lesson! Interested in joining us? Spring classes start January 8th! Click here for a free trial coupon.

Different Kinds of Coaching

One of the best things about really getting into dance as an extracurricular activity is that you rarely just have one teacher (unless you are in combination classes or are enrolled in just one style). I’m mainly speaking about dancers like our Energy Dance Company members, who are required to take dance in multiple styles throughout the week. Not only is this exposing them to the many facets of the World of Dance, but it is exposing them to many different kinds of teachers and coaches. lex pic 1

While we make it a priority to hire teachers who care deeply for our mission of building confidence, our teachers range in levels of strictness, style of communication, behavior modification tactics, etc. A dancer may LOVE one teacher, but be scared of disappointing another. That’s ok. A dancer may click with an instructor’s personality, but have a hard time picking up her choreography. That’s ok too.

Throughout a person’s lifetime he or she will be exposed to different kinds of “coaches.” This could be teachers, professors or bosses. Team leads, project managers, etc. It is an important lesson to learn how to work well with and flourish under different types of personalities. We are all human, and we are all different. That’s what makes each of us special.

Interested in joining our studio? Spring classes start January 8th. Click here for a free trial coupon.

Dancing Can Improve Mental Health

It’s a crazy, upsetting time in our country, and around the world. We can’t seem to go just a few days without stories of useless violence, and, the politics of gun control or mental health services aside, most would agree that it takes someone of an unstable mental health to perform such heinous acts.  I wanted to highlight excerpts from an article put together by the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard University regarding dance and mental health. brain-dance

“Millions of Americans dance, either recreationally or professionally. How many of those who are ballroom dancing, doing the foxtrot, break dancing, or line dancing, realize that they are doing something positive for their bodies—and their brains? Dance, in fact, has such beneficial effects on the brain that it is now being used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological movement disorder.”

“In a 2008 article in Scientific American magazine, a Columbia University neuroscientist posited that synchronizing music and movement—dance, essentially—constitutes a “pleasure double play.” Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits.”

“There’s no question, anecdotally at least, that music has a very stimulating effect on physical activity,” says Daniel Tarsy, MD, an HMS professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). “And I think that applies to dance, as well.”

Interested in reading the full article? Check it out here!

Teaching gratefulness.

All of the sudden it’s November, and through all the craziness of Costume Week and the Halloween frenzy we have emerged into the holiday season. Today I will put up our Thankful Turkey, which is a fun tradition each year at Lonestar. We encourage dancers to take a feather and write things for which they are grateful, and then we help the turkey tail grow. It’s a fun, culture-building, community craft, and it’s always entertaining to see the things that a 4 year old appreciates! thankful turkey

More than a craft just once a year, though, we try to always inspire a thankful spirit at our studio. It’s built into our mission of inspiring confidence. A confident person is grateful for the talents she has instead of envious of the talents she doesn’t. A grateful person can appreciate his unique abilities and showcase them in ways that make him stand out. Grateful people are happier with the outcomes of auditions or formation placements instead of whining about what they thought they deserved.

I want my dancers to be grateful they have working limbs, thankful they have parents that pay for their extracurricular activities, happy to have teachers who care about their growth, and to appreciate the rare gift that is finding your passion.

Interested in joining our studio? Spring classes start January 8th. Click here for a free trial coupon.

Building Community

It takes a village, and we love our village dearly! The more involved you get here at the studio, the more the studio will give back to you. The more relationships you and your child will develop with teachers, students and other parents. The more comfortable you will be leaving your child in class to go run and errand or two.

superhero costumes

Your dancer will be even more excited to come to class each week.

This week is a fun week: Halloween Costume Week! Be sure to come dressed up to join in the fun. We are always doing fun-tivities here at the studio, whether it is a Princess Party, spirit contest, social media challenge, or volunteer opportunity. Have you gotten involved yet? We’d love for you to get to know some of the other amazing dance families that are part of our community!

Not enrolled yet? Click here to trial a class for free!

A Good Kind of Tired

You know that good kind of tired you are when it’s been a really productive, but rewarding day? The kind of tired you feel after you work out or finish a big project? I love that dance makes you that kind of tired. It consumes your mind and your body, and, even if there are frustrating moments, you are a good kind of exhausted when you are finished with a rehearsal. moh 2017 4

Dance also teaches you how to push through your exhaustion to discover new sources of energy you didn’t know you had before. Competition weekends are a great example of early mornings, late nights, constant physical activity and emotional hardships. You have to persevere through that feeling of exhaustion and slap on a smile and point your feet for the good of the team. Performing produces a special kind of adrenaline, and even the most tired dancer can convince you from stage that they have boundless amounts of energy.

This is just another reason dance is so special. Interested in seeing for yourself? Click here for a free trial coupon.

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!