Category Archives: Community

To Date a Dancer

So you think you want to date an impassioned dancer? To date a dancer, you need to be a strong person – emotionally, mentally, and socially. It’s not easy dating a full-time dancer. Many fantasize and some fetishize dating a dancer. There are some things for which you have to prepare yourself.

You have to be emotionally strong to date a professional dancer. Why? Dancers are going to go through ups and downs and need someone grounded beside them who isn’t going to add flames to the fire. The ups and downs are part of the job. The ups may include excitement about new work, new partners, travel, artistic influence, the creation process. The down may include not getting the desired role, politics in the community, back-stabbing by other artists, artistic blockage. This realm is not a typical 9-5 job. Even if you are hired with one company full-time, you are likely to experience many ups and downs as you bump up against ego of directors, fellow dancers, financial influencers, politics, fatigue, etc. Being a freelance dancer is worse. There is constant seeking of work, constant artistic creation, and fighting for survival against emerging and existing artists.

You have to be mentally strong to date a professional dancer. Why? You are going to have any insecurity in the relationship easily flushed out especially if your partner performs professionally. Jealousy is usually the easiest way to identify the insecurity rearing its head. Watching your partner being lauded by audience members as they watch from afar then meet up close. Watching students who admire your partner interact in a friendly way with your partner can be threatening. Dance tends to be a professional where physical boundaries of other workplaces would be crossed. Because dancers interact physically in their work, they tend not to be as aware of physical touch being an issue as their bodies are often touched so often in a day, there can be desensitization to it.

You have to be socially strong to date a professional dancer. Why? You are likely going to be on their arm at events that are highly social. You are going to see people who get shy in your dancers presence because they have your dancer on a pedestal of admiration. You will have people coming up to find out who you are related to your dancer. If you are someone who is used to being in the spotlight, being on the arm of your dancer can be difficult as you are likely a nobody in their realm. You will also be curiosity in their realm. It can be hard to be the arm candy when you like having the arm candy admire you in your realm. You may have to set your ego aside and let your dancer be the star here, even if you are used to being the star yourself.

Dancers are amazing people. The amount of work they put in to teach, perform, and create is astounding. The artistic process doesn’t sleep so their mind will often drift to it. This can be hard to understand if you have a job that you either just like or don’t like at all. Dancers tend to be intertwined with their work so much so that to try to unwind the work from the artist is nearly impossible. This is a reality of the dancer that has to be understood. Are you tough enough?

 

Losing to Gain

Sometimes you lose something great to gain something greater. In the moment of loss, it seems that it will never be replaceable. That nothing will be right with the world again. It can be so painful that everything physically hurts and feels like we will never be whole again. Time always has a way of healing and showing the truth of the matter.

This was the situation for me just over a year ago. A beautiful dance partnership ended almost overnight. It was devastating and I was broken over it. Nearly simultaneously, a boyfriend spread a false rumour that effectively severed most ties I had built in the community. I was standing on the edge of my career alone.

The situations propelled me forward into the unknown. I was always good on my own – personally and professionally. However, these betrayals took be aback. It was a lesson in self-reliance. Only I can only control what I do, how I act, how I move forward. People silly enough to believe the absurdity of the rumour, well that was not on me. I could not let myself let this setback stop me. Looking back, I was being held back by these partnerships that I had been attached.

In going out on my own, I was forced to fully mature in my dancing, teaching, performing, and choreography. It was a move that was brave and terrifying. What if I was only half a dancer? What if stepping out solo exposed my weaknesses? What if I only was good with a partner? All this doubt crept into my mind and was intermittently paralyzing. I chose to persevere. I could no longer be half a dancer. I could not hang my hat on someone else’s talent or ambition. I needed to incubate myself and develop my skills and put my mark on this world.

In all this, there have been great people who stepped up to support me and there have been some who tried to plant doubt. Someone I had grown close to and trusted was especially devastating due to his own unhappiness with his dancing and life. He told me I was an ugly performer, that I was not good enough to do this, that I was going in the wrong direction and wasting my talent and time. We had severed ties about a month before the performance, however, the days before I stepped out on stage as a soloist at the most important event of my year, his unkind seeds sprouted. They grew around me and nearly stopped me from stepping on stage. I was fearful I would fail on stage, that he was right and the community would know it. It took a lot out of me to step onto that stage alone. It also took kind words of my ex, my colleagues, and students to smarten me up and to realize these were the words he believed about himself and was solely a reflection on him.

The important and respected people in my life stepped up to support me to put myself out there – alone. To be judged as a whole dancer. To be judged as I smeared my soul on the stage. I am thankful for those who propped me up and nudged me to do what they knew I could do. It has strengthened, energized, and motivated me to push even more. I am thankful for my loss for I have gained so much more.

Finding My Way

My journey in the dance community has been tumultuous. I entered with rose-coloured glasses that leaders were in it for the greater good of our art. Some are and a portion are in it for ego, control, and financial gain treating those under their tutelage as mere numbers and trying to be the biggest bully in the playground. This was a sad realization and I lost my innocence about the community.

When I entered, my goal was and continues to be to make a difference. I bring a large box of tools in a complex way that is unique to the rest. We all have a unique toolbox because we aren’t cloned when it comes to our historical training. My history comes from being deeply studied in multiples genres. I have never been a one-trick pony since I was a kid as it was not fulfilling. I still cannot just pick one genre that I love most. I need to study movement from many perspectives to gain clarity of what I want and need and how I want to approach movement no matter the genre.

This studying has given me tools I never would have if I studied extensively in only one genre. It’s allowed for holistic research and examination that goes beyond dance itself. It goes to understanding the long term ramifications of certain movements, of where our physical power comes from no matter the movement, and how to bend movement to a more interesting way.

What I bring to the community has been viewed as a threat by some leaders, which is something I still shake my head at in lack of understanding. I did not come in with the same package of information at all. I did not come in with mal-intent toward any other schools. I came in for the betterment of the community so that students could see dance from a different perspective. I want my students to understand concepts from other genres that strengthen their preferred genre. This cross genre training allows for new inputs to the brain and nervous system allowing more complex patterns to be achieved and developed in the body.

Being taken aside and scolded for growing my brand and school was not something for which I was prepared. I was dumbfounded. It made me question whether I wanted to be part of the community because it seems I would have larger, more deeply serrated knives to pull out of my back if I continued forward with my vision. For a month, I contemplated folding as the toxicity of these bullies did not seem like the effort to develop my programs would have enough fulfillment to be worth dealing with these people. It took soul searching to understand why I was doing this.

When I dug deep, I realized why I wanted to be here. It was about transference of information to those who were open to hearing it. A necessary transference due to a neurological illness that could take me down at any time. I want to make sure my students and succeeding teachers receive my information while I can still demonstrate and give it. It is important to me to pass on the information as quickly and clearly as possible so that it does not get lost with the the illness. I had to pick myself up, verify that I was going to be okay and that the other’s ignorance was not going to take me down.

Gang Mentality

For a team compilation, everything starts with the audition. We gather in a room, test out everyone to see where their level lies – or so it seems. There is so much more at play. I am monitoring the whole list at once – personality & ego, talent, and interpersonal relations. I am looking for those who will play well with others balanced with talent. If someone is seemingly off in one of the factors, it can be a deal breaker to allowing them on the team.

Personality and ego are one of the hardest things to judge. If an auditionee is someone that I have never met before, I can have one pulled over on me during that short audition. Luckily, many who audition are familiar so I can make a decision based on history. I want to know how corrections are taken, whether a person takes responsibility for their errors, whether they are good with learning new information in front of other people. These three things can be vetted quickly in an audition and are one of the greatest deciding factors.

Obviously talent is a deciding factor. Sometimes people come in with oodles of talent and they know it. They are well trained in what they have previously done. Then you throw something unexpected at them and they look like they are ready to run out the door. This isn’t always a nail in the coffin. Sometimes challenging someone’s confidence can be a great factor if they can come around to the idea by the end of the audition. Feedback after the audition is always a good place to look to see if they did recover. Sometimes there is raw talent in a group that has not been honed. Watching them learn and improve in a short audition can tell a lot about where they can end up.

Interpersonal relations is my most important determining factor. Why? If someone isn’t going to be a team player, they don’t belong on my team. There is a difference between the soloist and the group performer. Being able to put yourself out there as a soloist or in a single partnership is a great talent. It takes guts and courage to do this. Being part of a team is equally courageous – sometimes more courageous. As a team member, we have to hand over our control to the group. We have to dance within the parameters of the choreography, be synchronized with our team mates, and blend within the group. There is not a place to try to be the star. Everyone has to share that status.

Trying to pick the best mix of these things is tricky. Any director can attest to this. Sometimes we pick wrong as well if we become enamoured with an auditionee that seems to have it all while later finding out that they are not a great fit with the team atmosphere. Give your director credit for putting themselves out there to try to bring people together in a team atmosphere. It is a complicated maneuver.

 

Choose Your Associates Well

Judgement is a part of human nature. It is inherent in keeping ourselves safe – if we were in nature we would constantly be judging environment and other animals to protect our longevity. We have driven that judgement into some dysfunctional methods. We are judged on our hair, how nice we smell, how well our skin looks, how we are dressed, how our body looks esthetically. This is part of our societal culture and within dance culture it can be exponentially greater. Aside from the physical, there is often associative judgement of who is in your circle.

Sometimes life still feels like high school. There are the cool kids, the geeks, the nerds, the misfits, and those that either don’t care or are blissfully unaware that they are required to fit into a group.  There are leaders seemingly promoting this high school mentality within their following. Why? My guess is they are trying to have the popularity they had or maybe lacked in that era of life. Maybe this is the nature of small communities? But does it have to be so?

I think there are actions by leaders that breed and reinforce this divisive mentality. Leaders pressuring for exclusive studying with themselves is a contributory factor because if students feel they MUST be exclusive with their leader, they have to choose carefully who they are going to commit their time. My question is what right does a leader have to demand exclusivity? The leaders are not paying you – you are paying them. It would be the same as a store you buy from demanding exclusivity of your shopping. I think you would tell them to take a flying leap.

It hurts the community having this pressured exclusivity. I see students feeling squirrelly when they are even thinking of stepping outside of some of these leaders classes as they are afraid – actually afraid – of the repercussions. Should there be repercussions for a student trying to gain holistic education? If you are required to limit your learning through exclusivity, you are limiting your knowledge growth rate. Hearing information from various directions on the same topic, your brain will connect the dots quicker than if you are only getting a linear input. If you are studying various genres simultaneously, the various inputs will increase your coordination faster.

When students realize that they are in the drivers seat, it will create a stronger community. Eliminating having to choose the coolest leader to associate with will also create strength. After all, this is supposed to be a community not a group of cults. With less judgement of association and more cross-support of leaders, everyone wins – especially the students! Stand up for yourself and protect your right as a customer to protect your best interest in learning from every leader that aligns with your learning pathway. Be strong, brave, and allow yourself to spread your wings and grow.

I resolve to . . .

The season of new year’s resolutions is upon us! Winter has encircled us plummeting us into hibernation provoking reflection as the year closes.  We reset everything including the calendar to 01/01 seeming like we are able to erase our past and set on a new path to be better, do better, and want better for ourselves.

My resolution this year is to be get into better shape. My body aesthetic is not a concern and is not something I aim to change. However, the inner operations of my body is my concern. I have been laissez faire and taking my body’s capacity for granted. I have worked many hours in the studio and not thought about whether my body will keep up. It has withstood much punishment well, but there has been breakdown which alerts me that things are progressing in the wrong direction. So my resolution is to take better care of myself so that I can try to stave off breakdown as long as possible.

One big part of this better shape program is dedication to diet. With a busy day, I grab food unconsciously when I feel light headed rather than planning out my nutrition through the day. This demands attention as I will get busier as the businesses expand. My body needs not only enough food, but the right kind to stave off further disease in my body. I have never been a believer in false supplementation. Powdered or pre-packaged food is not something I can justify, so it will take some planning on cooking, packing, and getting everything on a schedule of preparation and intake.

Another component of the resolution is morning training to break me into new physical territory. Training consciously will tap into new aspects so that I may create new work for myself. The past quarter of a year has focused on my students and their choreography to bring them to a point of understanding body mechanics integrated with artistic movement. The new year will bring that to a shiny polish. Now it is my turn for development. I have not completely neglected my needs, but they have taken a back burner to the school and progress of those under my tutelage.

The third component is mental shape as well. I am a woman obsessed with progress. It is easy for me to justify working endlessly on projects, but it is not healthy. This has been the greatest disease of my existence. It is time for me to let that go. It is difficult as it is part of my normalcy. It makes me feel like I am contributing because I am sacrificing. But to what end? I need to contribute to myself. Find something other than work to do in my downtime from the studio. Find other things that feed my soul other than progress. This will be a large and complicated endeavour to deprogram my busy-ness, but it must be done.

So there you have my lofty list of new year’s resolve. What changes are you seeking in 2016?

Muzzle Me Not

I have been in partnerships  – personal and professional – where I have been identified as less than equal due to my gender. These partnerships  included situations where my qualifications, experience, and knowledge far outweighed my partner’s  yet I was expected to be smaller in input.

Unfortunately, this is frequent in dance partnerships of the male-female competitive type. Why? Men are in short supply, so they are treated with kid gloves to get them to stick around in the partnership. I recently had one of my students ask how much she may clarify with her partner regarding behaviour in the partnership, goals and their modification through time, and general needs from the relationship. Sadly, this was not a surprising question. However, my answer was not straight forward.

Both sides of the partnership should have equal input or at least maximize their input based on their knowledge injection to the partnership. If you have a 10 year dancer dancing with a 1 year dancer, obviously the balance of information contributed will be different. That balance is not synonymous with balance of power though. Many a male partner has quashed my power to the point of telling me should I continue to have an opinion, I am free to leave.

This is asinine behaviour and expectation.  Yet, I continues propagation as women are desperate to please and keep their dance partner. This passes acceptance of bad behaviour to the next generation if we do not stop it now. Humans are humans. I have no care for what gender you are identified as, being a good and respectful human should be protocol in dance partnerships.

How do we implement this rehabilitation of attitude? Stop putting up with bad behaviour. Stop putting the worst behaved men at the top of the pyramid. Start revering the ones who are respectful. One of the easiest ways to extinguish bad behaviour in a community is to oust those who do it. Don’t give them the time of day. Don’t reward their bad behaviour with accolades. Don’t support their projects. At the end of the day, those you invest your time and money in are the ones who will best survive. So invest in the good ones. Invest in the people who you respect as good humans. This is how we will see a change in our generation.

Trusting

Trust is a precarious thing. Often given before earned. Often broken before built. Trust is precious and we give it away with our power. Here is my heart, don’t hurt it. How can we ask that? It is our job to be good to ourselves, trust ourselves, protect our own hearts. Our hearts can only be broken if we give them away. If we keep them for ourselves, we will rarely break them.

I am not saying don’t trust anyone or keep cement fences around your heart so that no one ever gets in. That’s a sad existence and one witnessed in increasing amounts. We are becoming a community where trust is low and the cost of breaking it at a premium. I understand why we wall ourselves off and am tempted to do so myself as well. It is because we give our power away with trust, but they are not inextricably linked.

I recently broke up with someone after a relatively short but time-intensive bout together. I let him in like I had no one before. I was vulnerable, exposed, and trusting of him and the experience. I was ready to let someone in. However in letting him in, I also gave away my power and then he had the power to break me. How did I let that happen? I am known for being strong and resilient. The experience left me feeling weak and foolish.

I felt fooled because I had believed he was letting me in the same amount as I. This proved to be untrue. It was seemingly easy for him to walk away which left me feeling unvalued. Why did I need that validation from him? I know I am a strong contributor in my communities, I know I am good at lending myself to those who need me. I know I am a good friend and supporter. So what was it about him that left me feeling useless and unlovable? It was me needing to remember that the love in my life needed to come from myself, from keeping my own heart strong.

Others will have opinions that may tear us apart. It’s human nature. It’s whether we trust ourselves that will determine our strength and resilience in the end. Once we trust ourselves, we open ourselves to so many more possibilities because we become dependent on our own opinion rather than dependent or co-dependent on the opinion of others.

Trusting ourselves sets us free creatively, emotionally, and mentally to be our best selves whether it is in our art or relationships. Being set free to trust ourselves is the best gift we can bestow on our soul.

 

Love Me

Admittedly, self-love is not a skill at which I excel. When complimented, I shrink because I feel I have somehow deceived the person. I don’t feel deserving of praise. I’ve had a brutal awakening bringing my self-deprecating behaviour to my attention.

I have known many dancers who truly love themselves. They are confident in what they do even when they are far from perfection. They are confident to learn in front of others. They are confident to put their ideas out even if unsure how they will be received. Sometimes their confidence doesn’t match their ability, but it is truly admirable.

My family was devastatingly critical. This lead me to push to be more in everything as I observed so much lack. This was a benefit to my educational goals, business goals, and career fulfillment. It forced me onto the cutting edge of technology and knowledge, to the point it was addictive.

Achievement solely fuelled my self-fulfillment. Anything  measurable was useful  – how far could I run in how little time? How many certifications could I put on the wall? How many satisfied patients could I create? Quantifiable achievements were my route to temporary happiness. Those achievements never satisfied, akin to highs that quickly wore off and left me lower.

Because of my lack of self-love, human connection was craved and hardly achievable. I knew as a youngster moving around that connection was severable and unreliable.  I have hid from connection. I am trying to amend this.  The past few years have taught me much about choosing connections. Not everyone is who they seem, so fishing carefully for friends and only keep a few close is key.

My greatest failure in life has been relationship. I have easily cut ties when relationships went sideways. It’s recently I have realized I want to fight to maintain connection. I am seeing this is what life is about.

There are moments when I feel connection: when I tell a story through dance that moves my audience, when I spontaneously move with another body, when I teach my students. These are great moments of connection that satisfy my soul. My goal these days is to increase connection. Find common ground with more people and start to move forward with people by my side rather than checking in with them when struggling. I am ready for collaboration and it is terrifying as it’s a vulnerability that could go madly awry and devastate me. However, life is not worth living in safe-mode. So I am taking a chance and putting myself out there to receive connection. In doing so, I hope to find my ability to accept kindness increases, especially from myself.

Mirrors

Mirrors can be a deception. An object reflecting things as we see it, not as they are. Mirrors reflect warped perceptions and their surface is often warped distorting our view of self further. But mirrors are useful and lauded objects.

We love to spend hours before them, pondering our perfections and imperfections alike. They are used to decide whether a movement is good enough to present on stage. We use them to analyze our technical correctness. We use them to admire the beauty and ugliness in our bodies. The polarity of observation in the mirror can be mind-numbing.

Though the mirror can be used for observation, it can be used for avoidance as well. It can allow us to escape our lives. Have you been lost in your reflection? So much so the world around you disappears? Staring in the mirror can be a great time waster as we pick apart our flaws and dream of ways to fix them. Many a dancer has been lost in their reflection and lost touch with reality over time.

Too many hours before the mirror can become an addiction. An addiction to the search for perfection, an addiction to pulling ourselves apart. Too much time in the mirror can sink your soul into depression as perfection will never be achieved. Perfection is a reflection that we can chase forever and never reach. What is perfection anyway? A state of flawlessness? Is that realistic? Is that achievable? Is the mirror ever a true reflection of our reality anyway? Rarely. So why do we love this mirror so much?