It Was a Cold Morning

I usually get up in the morning in a great mood. I feel like dancing about my apartment to get my circulation going and ready my mind for the day ahead. Sometimes when it is cold, I hesitate to leave the warm comfort of bed, but then…duty calls. I have obligations. One time, I recall that when the water heater failed to do its job, I couldn’t take a hot shower. I had been dancing the night...

I usually get up in the morning in a great mood. I feel like dancing about my apartment to get my circulation going and ready my mind for the day ahead. Sometimes when it is cold, I hesitate to leave the warm comfort of bed, but then…duty calls. I have obligations. One time, I recall that when the water heater failed to do its job, I couldn’t take a hot shower. I had been dancing the night away the evening before and went to bed exhausted, and a bit sweaty. No way could I leave the house in this state in the morning. I hit the darn tank hard hoping for a miracle.

Yes, I hate cold mornings. I trotted down a floor in fuzzy slippers and a robe to find the super to fix the naughty appliance. I couldn’t leave until he finished. I watched every step. Boy, did I learn a lot about hot water heaters. I can now name all the elements and recite all the functions of the valves, the thermostat, and the tank capacity. He mumbled all kinds of things as he worked about the more superior tankless models and why the building should get one. He didn’t have to convince me. I told him he could count on me to support his suggestion. It wasn’t just to make money on the installation; he truly knew the value of modern technology.

It is the same with dance shoes. New and better methods of construction have enabled dancers to glide around the floor with flexible soles and extra tight stitching. There is more support than ever before whether you do ballroom, tap, or ballet. Let’s hear it for technology.

Finding the Time to Dance

I really love to dance. I have since I was six years old. Now that I teach pretty much full-time, it can be a challenge to find the time to dance just for myself. I do enjoy teaching steps and routines to my students. I love watching them grow and learn, and I especially love seeing them perform once they have mastered the techniques and routines I teach them. But when I am teaching, I am not...

I really love to dance. I have since I was six years old. Now that I teach pretty much full-time, it can be a challenge to find the time to dance just for myself. I do enjoy teaching steps and routines to my students. I love watching them grow and learn, and I especially love seeing them perform once they have mastered the techniques and routines I teach them.

But when I am teaching, I am not dancing. I’m instructing. And when I am working on routines or performing moves for the class, I am not dancing for myself. I’m not dancing my steps, I am demonstrating a routine someone else thought up. While that is not a bad thing, and the routines are always fun and interesting to perform, it isn’t the same as dancing for myself.

That is all well and good for a while but eventually I can feel myself dragging. Work doesn’t quite become boring or monotonous like it would if I had a desk job, but I do feel heavy on my feet and in my heart. Like most creative people, I need to find time to practice my own art and do what lights me up. You know that expression, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”? That’s how I feel about it.

Lucky for me, I have two ways to deal with this. I joined a dance troupe about six weeks ago and we practice twice a week. I’m loving it so far. The other way I cope is that Janine gave me the keys to the dance studio three years ago and now I can come and go as I please without her being there. The best part of this arrangement is that I can go in before the day starts, before I’ve been on my feet and dancing for five hours straight, and I have the whole place to myself.

You can ask just about any member of my family and they will tell you the same thing: I have always been a morning person. When I have the place to myself like that, I can put on whatever crazy music I feel like listening to and I can dance however I want. I can do salsa or jazz or ballet. I can do a routine from Chicago or Zumba or make something up. It reminds me that I love to dance, that I love being in this studio. I get to fill my own cup so that I have the energy and the love to teach my own students and help them to fill their cups as well.

How do you incorporate time for the things you love into your daily life? I’d love to hear suggestions and tips if you have them!

Recital Night!

Tonight is dance recital night for the studio. Months of work have all been leading up to tonight for the students and now it is their time to shine. You’d be surprised at how many clichés I can throw into one sentence. I’ve got more but I’ll spare you and get back to the recital. This time around, I’ve got two classes performing. One hip-hop class and one salsa class. I liked teaching...

Tonight is dance recital night for the studio. Months of work have all been leading up to tonight for the students and now it is their time to shine. You’d be surprised at how many clichés I can throw into one sentence. I’ve got more but I’ll spare you and get back to the recital. This time around, I’ve got two classes performing. One hip-hop class and one salsa class. I liked teaching both classes, honestly. They have been two of the more talented groups I’ve worked with. They made my job easy. Everything should be fine, right?

Of course now I am wondering if maybe it was easy for a reason, like I wasn’t paying enough attention. Maybe they weren’t as good as I think and I was just being lazy or seeing what I wanted to see. Can that happen? Oh man! We’re going to be terrible! Wait a second, I have the dress rehearsals recorded on my phone. Let me go check those for a second.

Alright, I am back. The dress rehearsals looked fine. I watched each class through twice and I didn’t see anything that wasn’t supposed to happen. I don’t know why I am getting so worked up. I’m not the one performing. And even if I was, I survived plenty of them as a dancer without major incident. I I have also been teaching long enough that I have a few of these under my belt. Nothing terrible has ever happened before, so I don’t know what my problem is. Besides, if the choreography looks bad, I can always blame Janine – until I get my performing arts degree, she’s the one who develops the routines. I just teach them.

I am not being completely honest about that. I would actually feel really bad if my students did not do a good job and I would take a lot of the responsibility. There will be family in the audience with recording devices. And I would rather not have them walk away tonight thinking that they’ve been paying good money for lessons to have their loved one look ridiculous on stage. I also know that they tell everyone who teaches each class is in the program. That means if my students look terrible, people will look in the program and see my name. That means less people will sign up for my classes. That means less students and less money for me. Okay, so that is a reason to feel nervous, right? My livelihood is apparently at stake here and I didn’t even realize it until right at this very moment.

Wait a minute, I was writing this post to keep myself busy and help me avoid a freak-out, not talk myself into one. This has spiraled pretty quickly. I had better quit before I make things any worse. Talk to you soon.

A New Assignment

So Zumba is still a thing that people do and now they’re not content to just take classes at the gym like any other fitness craze. People have been asking for them at the studio too. It also means my boss Janine decided we are going to start offering it. And by “we,” she meant me, because her classically-trained body doesn’t need any Zumba. Those are her words, not mine. I am used to...

So Zumba is still a thing that people do and now they’re not content to just take classes at the gym like any other fitness craze. People have been asking for them at the studio too. It also means my boss Janine decided we are going to start offering it. And by “we,” she meant me, because her classically-trained body doesn’t need any Zumba. Those are her words, not mine.

I am used to Janine by now so I didn’t take any offense. Instead, I made her buy me some Zumba dvds and pay for me to take the official class required for me to get the teaching license. I’m sure I could have just watched some videos online and come up with a similar style of class that wasn’t official and it would have been much cheaper. However, when someone else is bankrolling you and it is their name over the door, there is some integrity that you want to maintain and some advantage that you need to take.

It turns out that it was a lot of fun! If you’ve been living under a rock like Janine and don’t know what Zumba is, it is a Latin-inspired dance workout. It’s aerobics but with a much better music track. It is supposed to be fun and fast-paced, burning calories but feeling more like a party than a workout.

I took to it pretty well and I am excited to bring it to the studio. The first four classes went up on the calendar for next month and two have already sold out. I am pretty excited about that – both in terms of the challenge and the improvement to my bank account! And, since I am the only official instructor at the studio, that means if the classes do well, there will be more on the schedule and they’ll be mine too.

It is going to be a little different than a normal class, I think. One of the big Zumba selling points is that you don’t have to be a good dancer to do it, because the whole point really is burning calories. So you can just sort of flail around and you’re technically getting a workout, which means it’s all good. However, this is a dance studio. Most people coming here consider themselves good dancers or they have taken some salsa or merengue classes already. They’re not going to be satisfied just flailing around. I can’t tell if that is going to make my life easier or harder, to be honest. But the plan is to teach the easier steps, move to the harder steps, break down a routine and then perform it at the end of class. Basically what I do every time. Why mess with something that’s working for you, right? The steps and music will be different but everything else will feel the same.

Well, I am off to watch some youtube and get some step ideas and music options for my first class. Wish me luck!

Teaching Different Age Groups

At the place I work, we teach a variety of different classes and age groups. I haven’t really decided whether teaching the younger kids or the older kids works out better for me. The older kids are usually thinking about colleges and boys and dance companies while little kids are more interested in having fun. So some days, teaching the little kids is a blast and I walk out of the studio at...

At the place I work, we teach a variety of different classes and age groups. I haven’t really decided whether teaching the younger kids or the older kids works out better for me. The older kids are usually thinking about colleges and boys and dance companies while little kids are more interested in having fun. So some days, teaching the little kids is a blast and I walk out of the studio at the end of the day thinking I have the best job ever. Then there are days when I work with the older kids and they are so serious and passionate that I fall in love with dancing all over again.

My older students are more likely to lie about injuries or pain, which means I have to watch everyone much more closely during class, especially when I am teaching something new. The little kids are so dramatic that if one of them gets hurt the whole class might start crying. No matter how many times I tell the bigger kids that they need to tell me if something is hurting and we can decide together what the best way to proceed is, they are often afraid or embarrassed when they hurt themselves. They keep their mouths shut. They don’t want to lose a scholarship, upset their parents by running up huge medical bills, or be replaced by an understudy in the recital. They dance on injuries for a million stupid reasons and if I catch them I want to scream.

The recitals for the little kids are more challenging. It can feel like herding cats sometimes. But they’re also more fun. A little kid isn’t going to care if they have to be a rock in their recital, they’re going to stand there and shake their butt and be the best rock they can while smiling and waving at their parents. You ask an older kid to do anything other than the lead they all think they deserve and they give you the stink eye for the rest of the year. But once the older kids learn their parts and get over themselves, and most of them do get over themselves at some point, they are amazing. Recitals don’t involve me chasing people around with various bits of costume trying to get them dressed and on the stage at the same time.

It also doesn’t bother me as much when the younger kids don’t come back the next year as it does when the older kids do. I don’t know why that is. I guess I can imagine pretty easily that a seven-year-old might decide that they would rather play basketball than do jazz for another year, but a fourteen year old that I’ve invested some years in and know how talented they are feels like a slap in the face when their name isn’t on the class list the next year. I take those so personally, especially when I see how good they are and how much they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Maybe when I have been doing this as long as Janine has, I will prefer teaching students at a certain age. But right now I am trying to enjoy the variety!

Dancing Changed My Life

My mom signed me up for my first dance class – the Littlest Ballerinas – when I was six. According to my Nonna, Mom wanted to take ballet classes and it was too expensive, so she didn’t get to. Which meant my dancing career started so she could live vicariously through me. My older brother, charmer that he is, tells me that the reason Mom signed me up was because I was the chubbiest...

My mom signed me up for my first dance class – the Littlest Ballerinas – when I was six. According to my Nonna, Mom wanted to take ballet classes and it was too expensive, so she didn’t get to. Which meant my dancing career started so she could live vicariously through me. My older brother, charmer that he is, tells me that the reason Mom signed me up was because I was the chubbiest six-year-old in the history of the neighborhood. According to my Nonna, that might not be an exaggeration. Judging by my baby pictures, I have no reason not to believe this. What can I say, I had a thing for black and white cookies and cannoli.

From the minute I walked waddled through the doors of the studio and saw the mirror and the barre and the poofy pink skirts, I was in heaven. Suddenly I wasn’t the roundest kid in the neighborhood anymore. Instead I was graceful and lean. I kept dancing and I stuck with it for a long time. I remember the day Mom got me my first pointe shoes. She had tears in her eyes. I did it for a couple more years but by the time I got halfway through high school, I decided I wanted to do more “cool” dancing and switched to hip hop. My mom is too classy to show disappointment, and she let me make the change without much fuss at all.

The studio I took lessons at was so fun. Eventually I graduated high school but I kept going to dance. One of the instructors went on maternity leave and they asked me to fill in on her classes. Seemed like easy money and as a broke college student, easy money was not something I could turn down. It turned out that college wasn’t really my thing but teaching dance was. I quit school, much to my parents’ disappointment, and started teaching full-time. I do take classes now and then when I can. My goal is to graduate with a performing arts degree (instead of the business degree my dad was pulling – and partially paying – for) at some point.

I’ve been teaching for a few years now and I actually don’t mind getting up in the morning and going to work. I open the studio four days a week, much to the delight of my colleagues. I like to get there before everyone and warm up while it is quiet and dark. Then students start arriving, the volume increases dramatically, and the day flies by. At the end of the day, I am exhausted but I am also pinching myself because I cannot believe my luck. I get to teach something I love to do, and someone pays me to do it. You can’t ask for much more than that out of life.