This is the year.

You’ve come home from the Oireachtas with your mind full of possibilities. You’ve seen new steps that have blown your mind and excited you. You’ve not made that placement goal, or you have (congratulations!) and are ready to set your sights on a new tier of achievement.

You’re ready.

But don’t run for that practice room yet. Sit down. Pull out a notebook or sheet of paper. Time to think this through. Make it count. You know how New Year’s resolutions usually work, right? You tell yourself in your mind that you’re going to win your last first in prelim by the end of the year, and by the end of January, you’ve forgotten it for the most part. Mother does it too… remember that “pesky 9 kilos” she’s wanted to lose for the past 15 years? We have a hard time staying focused on our goals, and so find them unachieved at the end of the year.

But you can. You can do it now.

1. Write down what you want. This can be anything. Don’t worry how it’s worded, just get it all out. What do you really and honestly want? Feel free to ask your teacher what their top five list of things you could improve on are as well, if you’re wondering the best way to get where you want to go.

2. Once your brain is empty and your paper is full (I know there is not just one thing you want in dance), sort it out into the following categories:

Technical Progress (this is where “more turnout”, “get my toestands strong”, “do the Wang-jiggity two-and-a-half spin” should be written)
Mental Improvement (This is where “not make ‘ I messed up’ faces at the judge”, “do that visualizing stuff”, and “remember my steps” all go)
Outward Manifestation of Achievement (This is where you put those more capricious goals that rely on others for completion such as “recall at Nationals”, “Move up to the Novice class”, “get into Lord of the Dance”)

3. From there, hone or consolidate your list. If everyone everywhere tried to fix everything wrong all at once… well, you can guess what would happen. Pick the items in your Technical and Mental lists that would predictably lead to achieving your most important Outward Manifestation goal. Just pick a few.

4. Now take these honed goals and make them more specific. This can be in percentage improvement, in time frame, or in to-do list style. For instance “Get the new Champ steps” is fairly ambiguous. Perhaps reword to say “Break down and perfect each move in the new Champ steps by February, then rehearse and have ready to compete by April.”

5. Unless your list is really simple, you’ll probably have to plan out how you’re going to get there. “Get first in prelim” is a massive goal, so give yourself rungs to the top of that ladder. Observe:
” 1. Learn Prelim Steps
2. Ask teacher what technique will be the most important to win Prelim
3. I will practice from 4-5pm every day in my garage
4. Work each element of technique
5. Mentally and physically practice steps
6. Try a Yoga class
7. Book some shows at Care homes to work out stage fright bugs
8. Polish with teacher at private lesson”

Please note item 3. You have a definite physical location and time to achieve this goal. Plan where and when each of these items are happening.

6. Now that you’ve gotten each goal categorised, honed and planned out, you need to write it down again.
The best way to do this is to put it either on a large poster where you will see it every day, or in a dedicated practice log or notebook. Be sure to make a copy and give it to both your parents and your dance teacher. They are your best allies and surest defense against wimping out. Your parents will push you just like they do for homework, and your teacher will be better apprised of what you’re trying to work on so they can personalize their approach to you to help you achieve it.

7. Make some sort of chart or log. I’ve advised TCRG candidates to make checklists for study that have to be done every week, then every day leading up to the exam. The list would look something like:

Week____________________________M _____T______W_____ Th_____F_____S_____Su
Review Flash Cards (memorization)
Write one Dance out Completely
Listen to Ceili book
(prerecorded or read aloud)
Practice softshoe solos
Practice Hardshoe solos
Practice Traditional Sets
Practice Contemporary Sets
Correctly Identify 10 set dances ♫

Check-off systems are great. If the thought of going back to your nursery school days and rewarding yourself with cute stickers on a chart gets you excited, go for it. If you have a fun app that you’d love to justify downloading that allows you to log your progress on your iphone, be my guest. But remember you’re the one sticking with the recording method too.

Make sure you write down things in a practice journal. Notes about the steps you took to achieve a new move, recording instances of pain to discuss with your teacher and a physio, patting yourself on the back for a job well done when you’ve accomplished something. You’ll use and treasure this later, I guarantee it.

8. You can do this. You need to tell yourself that. It’s going to get boring, it’s going to get hard. Sometimes it will feel like it’s just not working. Be mentally connected to what you’re doing. Realize no mountain was moved in a day, no relationship was forged in an instant, and no dancer made it from novice to world champ in a year. Keep pushing. Mental affirmations are important. Vocal ones too. Say “I can do this” at the beginning of each session. Say “I can do this” before you walk onstage. Say “I can do this” when you’re out of breath and out of faith. You can do this.

Final notes:

You HAVE to schedule time for your goals. And you have to defend that scheduled time like it is a work commitment or a class you can’t miss. If it’s something you’re really dedicated to achieving, you will have the focus to give other things up. If you give yourself excuses for why you missed a practice session, you had better start getting excuses ready for why you didn’t achieve your goals this year.

Keep connected to your support system. Ask them to nag you, and appreciate it when they do.

Celebrate the small victories. Any progress is wonderful, no matter how small.

Be realistic. I can’t lay out your personal limitations. They are personal and unique. I can’t tell you that you can win when really, you need a few years for those legs to stop growing. I can’t tell you that you can get those two prelim wins when you can only afford to travel to two feis this year. Take a good hard look at what you can do, and do it. Read these stories of Perserverance!

Please send me questions and comments about how to achieve your goals. I’d love to be a sounding board as you work to be the best dancer you can be in 2011. Good luck, and I’ll be cheering for you.

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Great Expectations

November 17, 2010

You’re ready. All of you. After months of learning, fixing, repeating and polishing, there’s not a lot more we can do to give you a good run at this year’s Oireachtas. Next year we will have more to do, but some things cannot be altered in the space of a few weeks. You’re as ready as you’re going to be, and I thank you for the work you’ve put in. I hope you know that you deserve to be there- maybe not because you’re our next regional champions, but because you have focused your efforts on these few days for many months.

You have high hopes. That is a blessing and a curse at the same time. You want the recall. You want the podium. You want it all. I’m glad you have set the bar high- it saves a lot of frustration when I’m trying to push you to achieve. The childlike attitude that you can do anything is something so precious, because sometimes it’s lost in the harsh realities of life. Keep whatever spark of that you have left.

But please remember, you can only control one-third of your competition. Here is what I mean. There are three elements of your competition that affect the outcome of this year’s Oireachtas:

1. The Judges. We discussed them last year, but please remember, that human side I revealed also has it’s well, Human side. These judges will do their best to be fair and observant and kind. But they also each have their preferences, which may or may not favor you. They each have a backlog of experience about the dancers that should go to Worlds. And they’re not omniscient. You know I wish they could see how hard you worked to get here, how good you looked at our last rehearsal. Today we both know there will be errors that we couldn’t have predicted, ones that don’t show you at your best. But today is all the judges have to go on.

2. The Competition. I’d love to say that you’re the dancers that have worked the hardest this year, have done the most improving. But we all have a very limited view of what has gone on behind closed doors in other dance schools. Remember for every dancer with a heart full of love and passion for this at our studio, there is at least another one in the studio of our competition. All the dancers who came here to compete are here having a very similar growing experience to you. They all worked hard, they all deserve to be here, and just like there is always someone smarter, prettier, more accomplished or richer than you, there is always a dancer who will be better than you. Maybe not at this Oireachtas, but somewhere in the world there is.

3. You. Don’t discount yourself. You are doing well. I’m proud of who you are and what you have done to get here. You are amazing dancers, good people and kind friends. I will be bursting with pride when you enter the stage, and I want to be the first to give you your pat on the back when you leave the stage. Nothing you do while you are onstage would make me change that.

We may be disappointed, but that’s okay. A point was made recently that a win at the Oireachtas doesn’t get you on the cover of a Wheaties box. You may laugh, but stop for a second. For every dancer I have, there are at least 500 musicians, 2000 actors and millions of athletes, all trying to get that amazing break in their field. The opportunity to try and be the best at what you do is an amazing human trait shared the world over. We should be proud that we have something to be passionate about, and take each little victory into our “big picture”. You may not recall, but you moved up one spot in the rankings. You may have not stood on the podium, but you recovered from that sprain and were brave enough to dance again. You may have not danced the way that you wanted to… but you danced.

Be grateful for the small moments. Treasure the journey and savor the excitement. Have a wonderful Oireachtas.

I came across this new post at The Main Irish Dance Board That I thought was a wonderful contribution. I am working on my own O post, but in the meantime, enjoy the wise words of this parent!

Top 10 things for Parents to Remember:

1) Don’t upset your daughter or son by telling them they didn’t dance well or won’t place well.

2) Don’t scream at or pull your children, trying to get them to practice before they go on stage.

3) Remember your child’s results doesn’t change who they are as a person, nor will it get them into the college of their choice.

4) Remember the dance teacher is just as disappointed at a bad result as the child they teach, or maybe more disappointed when they can’t explain what happened.

5) Try not to gloat to other parents if their dd or ds does exceptionally well and the person they are talking to has had the opposite sort of day.

6) Don’t go to the bar and stay out late. It just doesn’t look right and sets a bad example and typically puts you in a bad mood when dealing with children the next day.

7) Take a lot of pictures and try to remember that your child is only a child once and life is short. Don’t miss these moments with your child.

8 ) Try to remember what it was like at your dd or ds’s first Oireachtas and help the new parents in your school through the event.

9) Remember it’s the friends your child will ultimately treasure from Irish dancing (just ask any dance teacher) , not the medals and trophies.

10) The Today Show is doing a series on how common courtesy lacking in our society. Set an example by saying please and thank you to everyone around you. It feels good.

The Whole Dancer

September 11, 2010

Injuries. Stress. Frustration.

I feel like I need to write to help those who are feeling some of the above.

Those who feel these keenly are often those who work the hardest. You practice hard, dance full-out every time, and rarely give yourself a break. The first few steps in the morning hurt. By the end of class, there’s fire in your shins. You know exactly how you want to do your steps, but are limited by your frame.

What do you do? I know you, you’re like my student. You push harder. Or you’re like a few of my other students, and you let the blame fall on what you think you can’t help.

You can help yourself. And you don’t have to kill yourself to do it.

Take a look with me at Yoga and Pilates, and what they can do for you.

YOGA

What is it? Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back more than 500 years ago. The word “Yoga” came from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to unite or integrate.” Yoga then is about the union of a person’s own consciousness and the universal consciousness. In Yoga, the body is treated with care and respect for it is the primary instrument in man’s work and growth. Yoga Exercises improve circulation, stimulate the abdominal organs, and put pressure on the glandular system of the body, which can generally result to better health.

Why should Irish Dancers do it? Because the series of postures can do the following:
1. Increase Balance (have you ever been injured by falling?)
2. Equalize strength on both sides of the body (Is a movement harder to do on the Left foot than the right?)
3. Stretch whole muscle groups (longer muscles are less prone to injury)
4. Tone whole muscle groups (increases strength and power in jumps)
5. It increases mental focus (useful for learning steps or altering incorrect technique)

Give it a Try!

PILATES

What is Pilates? Pilates is a series of whole-body exercises developed by Joseph Pilates. Pilates’ emphasis on posture, strength and flexibility have made it a popular workout choice for athletes and dancers alike. It’s an excellent exercise routine encompassing a strong focus on upper body strength for better balance, alignment, posture, turns and other points of work. It is also very effective at strengthening body parts – especially ankles and feet, which are essential to dance.

Why should Irish Dancers do it? Because consistent training in Pilates will:
1. Build core strength (essential for everything from maintaining balance to more lift in jumps)
2. Tones supporting muscles (more muscles working together=more power)
3. Increases balance
4. Lengthens muscles (aids in leg-straightening so many Irish Dancers struggle with)
5. Increases Mental Focus (useful for learning steps or altering incorrect technique)

But here’s the kicker:
Irish Dance injuries are mostly impact and overuse injuries resulting from repeatedly slamming our legs into the ground, correct? Yoga and Pilates are minimum impact, thus increasing their value to Irish Dancers who want to increase their potential without increasing wear and tear.
Increasing training in either of these will also train muscles that you don’t typically think you use as a dancer, but will find that if you can utilise them, your dancing will be more powerful and effective.

If you’re looking for Aerobic exercise, here are a few short suggestions:
1. Cycling- when done in a structured Class environment, Cycling increases leg and core strength, and is very easy on the knees. And you’re covered in sweat afterwards!
2. Choosing the Elliptical over the Treadmill- on an elliptical exercise machine, the feet remain in contact with the foot pedals, reducing impact on the knees and ankles.
3. Swimming/Water Aerobics- when in the water, there is zero impact on the body. Pool Laps are great for cardio and general toning, and Water Aerobics classes also get your heart rate up and target specific muscles.

Slán abhaile

July 1, 2010

Here you are at a new crossroads in your life. You’re going to a University, ready for all that lies beyond childhood. You’re going to do amazing things with your life.

You kick yourself for not making it all the way to the top. Time ran out in the headlong rush of teenagerhood, and you had so many other wonderful experiences- I’m glad Irish Dance was not the only thing you did with your time. You’re a more complete person, and you touched lives in your being a friend to so many.

I’ve seen you grow and develop and change since you walked in my doors as a child. My heart swells when I watch you on stage and remember that I taught you your first steps. There is no better indication that as a teacher, I’m doing alright than to see one of my dancers dance so well and so confidently.

Thank you for all you’ve done for my school. I can’t think of a better example to the rest of your classmates and the school as a whole. You showed them that making it to Championships takes work and a good attitude. You showed them that champions are humble, focused and positive. You set the tone for an entire generation of my school. As they work to be the best they can, they have you as a benchmark.

I know that in my dual role as mentor and business operator, I should not get attached. I am selling a service that you purchased, and now you have no need of my services. There, doesn’t that sound a cold and clinical analysis? I have a hard time believing any teacher ascribes to that philosophy. Because how could I not miss you when you leave?

I will.

It will seem empty in class for awhile. You are kind of the center of a whole orbit of activities, classes and friendships. The kids will be at sea for awhile until a new leader comes to the fore. I’m glad they have the opportunity to try to be you. You’ll visit and feel a little like an outsider in the coming months, wanting to come “home”, but seeing that everyone has moved on, working on their goals and sharing victories that you weren’t here to experience. It will be hard, as we all drift further apart.

I hope the memories you’ve created, the friendships you’ve made, the experiences that have made you grow will stay with you. That’s why we learn to dance, in class and in life.

Slán abhaile, dear friend.

This post dedicated to all of my dancers who have gone on to the next big adventure. Thank you.

1. Be on time. This actually means be early- to class, to competitions, to shows and to meetings. If your dancer needs time to eat, change, fix hair, etc., you need take that into account and show up a bit earlier. People who are punctual often rise on my trust list, which translates to more opportunities for your and your dancer. A word to my fellow TC’s- Chewing out a dancer for being late, especially a young dancer, is not fair- most of the time it is the Parent who has challenges with punctuality.

2. Learn how to communicate with me. I’d love to answer your questions, especially if I can do it after class, by email or on the phone. It’s very frustrating for me and for other dancers when my attention is taken up by your chatting for the first 20 minutes of class.
Teach your child how to communicate with me. I don’t think I’m generally a scary person, and it’s good for children to learn how to talk to adults. It is very hard to work through a misunderstanding or problem if you let her make you a go-between, because she’s “shy” and can’t talk to me directly.
Oh, and if you have a question, ask me, not the parent sitting next to you in the lobby.

3. Be supportive of your dancer. It’s heartbreaking to see a child at a feis dance their best, walk back to their “stage mom” in the audience and hear that they danced badly. These kids in tears, gripping second place medals next to a parent fuming because if they had just danced better they could have won first- it’s horrible!
Great parents don’t compare their dancer with anyone else. They discourage negative self talk and negative talk about other dancers. Don’t participate in this behavior with your child, and if you overhear others, please tell them to stop.

4. Ask what you can do to help. Running a dance school is more than coming up with new dance steps. I had no idea that my passion for turned out feet would necessarily include finances, fundraising, paperwork, hours on the phone, tracking down softshoes, dressmakers and tardy teammates. There are so many wonderful things you can do to help your child have a great experience at a well-run, parent-supported school. My parents are amazingly talented people who give so much time, and it makes all the difference.

5. Be on top of your tuition and fees. If it’s easier for you to pay in longer spans than a month, we can work it out. If you can only go month-to-month, I understand. If you know you have a tendency to leave that check on the fridge door, feel free to mail it in. If your child has a stack of cash in their bag that they forgot to give me, we need to work another way out. It would be wonderful if my landlord were as forgiving about my paying studio rental as I am about your paying late or not at all. Don’t make me do awful things like charge late fees.

6. Don’t indulge in gossip with other parents. I know, it’s so easy. You have so much time there together while your dancers are in class. It’s so fun to speculate why Jane left for that other school, or what’s going on in Mike’s home life that his socks don’t match today. You may feel you NEED to know why Melva got moved up to the next level and your daughter didn’t. I’ve actually seen schools torn apart by the machinations of bored mothers in lobbies.
Instead, be part of a solution. Help recruit for our feis committee, brainstorm new ways of fundraising, always find something nice to say about the dancer all the other moms love to tear down.

7. Be aware of important dates. I do my best to give you as many points of access to my calendar as possible. Please check your email, ask your dancer for notes and calendars from class, and check the website. The worst excuse in the book is “I didn’t know”, and the Parent who uses it quickly loses favor.

8. Respect my judgement and rules, as well as the rules of my organization. I’ve been in this business for long enough to know my way around. I try my hardest to follow the rules my organization has set forth. I also have a set of personal school rules that help keep not only you, but myself in check. I want to be fair but merciful.
One big one here is class placement. The prime example of this is when two kids start dance together, and one has either more innate talent, or practices enough that they progress faster than the other. The parent of the dancer left back just can’t understand why they don’t get to move up together. Most think it’s because I don’t care about the lower student… it’s quite the opposite. I realize that the kids are friends and would love to be together, but it would be more detrimental to move a dancer up who is not ready. I want to make sure that each child is in a place where they can learn without being frustrated, and progress without pressure. Please help them understand this, and encourage them to set goals and plans for achieving them.

9. Help your child prioritize. It seems like today the more we do, the better our chances are in being considered a success. I’d love to take whoever invented the term “Supermom” out and whip them. Doing too much is not good for anyone, least of all our kids. Childhood is not about college applications. It’s about growing, playing, being loved and discovering what is out there. Kids who come to my dance class straight out of soccer practice, then have to leave five minutes early for their piano lesson that they couldn’t fit in later because of their church group… (you get the idea) are not learning effectively in my class. Help your child discover how to manage their time, but make sure they’re including unstructured play time.
If your child really can’t wait to get up in the morning to practice that trombone, well, I’ll miss them a lot, but I’ll understand that they’ve found something they truly adore, something that is worth simplifying life for.

10. Lead by example. Realize that your kids are not perfect and it’s that’s okay. Be the type of parent that you want them to become. It’s incredible how children pick up on everything you do and say. The children who are polite, honest and happy invariably come from parents who exude the same qualities. The poor kids who whine, don’t try and are irresponsible come from similar stock.
I am their dance teacher, and as such have mentored many young people, but I am no substitute for a mom or dad who listens, provides emotional stability and physical security, and loves their kid in more than words.

As a final note, I want to thank the many parents who have made my school possible. They have been selfless and patient. They were all older than me when I started teaching their children! To place their faith in a young, inexperienced and slightly batty dance teacher, to place their precious children in my hands, was a priceless gift. And as the school has grown, we have grown together. They have forgiven me, let me forgive them, and worked together to give great experiences to not only their own children, but to everyone else that happened into our happy little studio. Thank you, wonderful mothers and fathers. Here’s to many more years together.

Pride and Prejudice

April 6, 2010

After a very eventful March into April, I come back a little reluctant at what I’m about to write. Oddly enough, while this affects students more than you know, my remarks are directed at your teachers- at the overarching personality canopy and political structure that Competitive Irish Dance functions in. That, unfortunately, I must work within.

As I have attended meetings for the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a growing trend of teachers asking why their peers don’t obey local and general rulings. The subjects can vary from recent rulings in skirt length to classic “white lies” involving ratios on teams or dancers entered for competition in the wrong age category. Others express frustration on issues not covered by rules, including “feis boycotting” and other gestures of support for feiseanna and Oireachtasi. When a rule is passed that is clearly unenforceable, it’s open season for sneaky behaviour.

This extends to adjudicators. Some judges are sticklers for rules, and will mark you down if you went out-of-bounds during your figure dance, or your skirt is too short- you’ve all heard stories. Others seem to let things slide, much to some parents and teachers frustration. The scores of people who have observed unethical judging could be marked up to many cases of sour grapes. But why would such extreme opinions and experiences be so widespread?

If you stand and say “why can’t everyone just be ethical?”, you’re not alone.

Pride wields her mighty fist in this Irish Dancing world. Each teacher is fighting desperately for his or her school to be the best, to have the most advantages and make sure that anyone in their way is set down. The “my way or the highway” attitude is taken by mighty figures, as well as the political power to grind into the dust anyone who might have another opinion or need. Just like one dance move will work for one student and not another, one ruling may help one school while tying the hands of another.

Apathy also takes a leading role in this melodrama. “Because that’s just the way it’s done” is the rallying cry of those who don’t know the reasons why we do things, just that it’s “traditional”. (for a humorous story about why we do things, visit http://www.wattbusters.com/news/article17.html) People with new-fangled ideas are laughed at or shunned. New blood (with it’s new ideas, technology or philosophy) in the organization is congealed by the tourniquet of the “old crowd”. It’s easier for these disenfranchised new teachers to just say “why should I bother trying to help? No one listens.” Then they become part of the apathetic herd.

Others are scared. I’d count myself in this group. We are so afraid to step a toe out of line, for fear the vitriol of the region will be directed our way. We are the silent ones, the “abstain from voting” crowd. Better to not make a splash then to be cannonballed. (Now you are recalling how my blog is anonymous… scaredy cat me.)

Then the only option left is to decide whether to obey the rules that others will not, or find your own way around them. Of the host of consequences resulting from this, perhaps the vicious cycle of teachers and learners is the worst. Dancers who emerge from the schools of dispassionate teachers have less respect for rulings and guidelines as well. It becomes a game, entitled “what can I get away with?” Those who win, get away with it with flying colors.

Reading the above is enough to work anyone into a rage. But as I started pondering this major flaw in my organization, I had to look to myself first. I had to ask:

“Have I always followed every rule exactly?”

“Do I speak of my colleagues with respect, even in my own mind?”

“Do I make excuses for my behaviour by saying ‘But they do this and this to get ahead- I’m only making things fair.’?”

“Do I always consider myself right, not considering the situation or experience of others?”

I found unsavory creatures inside my own head. Hubris, Hypocrisy, Hate. I’d love to pretend they aren’t there, but they’ve grown up alongside my humbling experiences, tests of integrity and genuine love for my students. No one is free of them completely. I’ve met many a wonderful person and teacher who will regretfully admit that behind their pleasant facade they are battling these monsters themselves.

These problems are not going to go away until we do two things:

1. Someone must come forward, risking political pull, respect and power to say that what we are doing is wrong, and that we need to do better.

2. There will always be a struggle until moral discipline is nurtured personally in each member of the organization, from the president of An Coimisiun to the newest teacher. Because no one wants to listen to a hypocrite call us back to dignity.

For this, a couple months late, I resolve to try to do what is right, not just what is legal. Maybe if I work from that higher law, I won’t worry about the trends in regional and organizational rules. Maybe Hate, Hypocrisy and Hubris can take a backseat, and freedom to be the best teacher I am capable of can come to the fore.

When You Grow Up

February 20, 2010

I loved dancing.

I would get my steps stuck in my head, just like you’d get that annoying top-40’s song. I would doodle dress designs on my school notebooks. I would ponder at length which touring show I wanted to be on. I would live for the day of class each week. I loved announcing to my schoolmates on the first day of school “I’m an Irish Dancer!” I loved going to feiseanna, waiting around sidestage and chatting about how late the feis was going with my fellow competitors. I loved doing dance-outs, performing for audiences who loved to see “that riverdancing stuff”.

Then I started teaching. Helping out with beginners really. And my life changed. I didn’t know that helping a child learn how to do something new could be so fulfilling. I didn’t know that I would eagerly comb results for the dancers I helped before finding my own. I didn’t know I would jump up and down with joy when trophies were announced and they won their special and I didn’t win my championship. I didn’t know I would start loving to go to class because I loved helping others find their dreams.

I’m not sure when it happened. People used to ask me “Are you sad you took the test so you can’t compete anymore?” Every once in awhile, I am. I remember the adrenaline rush, the lights, the way my costume felt. But mostly, I would rather be here, where I am more than anything else.

So long Jean. So Long Mr. Flatley. I’ve got my own troupe now.

Being a Grown Up never felt so good.

Welcome to My School

January 18, 2010

Thanks for coming in and watching class. It was good to see you, recognize you and hear what you have to say. I’ll go ahead and send that transfer in after a couple criteria are met.

I’ll need to call your teacher first. You see, you’ll be in my classes for a little while. 6 years, maybe more if you keep dancing beyond high school, maybe less if you move on to greener pastures. But I’ll be working in the same area as your teacher for decades. It’s important to me to preserve that relationship. Sometimes he’ll tell me what a great student you are and how they’re sorry you have to leave. Sometimes she’ll tell me “good luck, sister” and give me a laundry list of the issues I’ll face in taking you on. Sometimes they won’t care either way.

I hope you have already talked to them about this, because the worst feeling in the world is when a student transfers “Out of the Blue”. Please show enough respect to your teacher to make sure they know your concerns, what needs are not being met or what feelings have been hurt or that you can’t afford them anymore. They taught you. They deserve the chance to grow and make things right. They deserve this face-to-face, not in an awkward break-up letter or phone message timed when you know they can’t answer the phone. Those are tactics for cowardly ex-boyfriends, not for someone honest. Like I am sure you are. Someone who lurks behind the backs of those who trust them is not someone I am interested in having join my school.

Here is what you need to know about transferring to me.

I am not your old teacher. Being certified does not automatically turn us all into teachers who have the same experience, methods and philosophy. I run my classes differently. This is what works for me, and has worked for my students. My schedules, fees, and policies are a part of how I work best, both as a teacher and also as a parent and support to my family and personal life. Give me a chance if you like, but please do not try to change me.

You are a talented dancer. I can see that plainly. I am already thinking of the steps you will learn first, the moves you will do nicely. I know you have choreography from your old teacher that you love, that you feel comfortable with and have won with before. I know you’re eager to show them to me, hoping they will have a new home within my steps. But part of the restyling period mandated by my organization is for the purpose of giving you time to assimilate my steps and styling. Please don’t hang on to the old you. Give me a clean slate to work with. Learn my movements and my sequences. You’ll look nice doing these too.

Change takes time, sweat and committment. While you are doing well now picking things up, some things will take time. Changing the way you move, how your muscles have learned one movement in favor of doing it a new way. Becoming the dancer I’d like to see. Some moves will be hard. Some will be “too easy”. Trust me. Trust yourself. This is not like a new costume, that instantly transforms you with no more work than doing up the zipper or tying the tie. This may take months. This may take a year, or two. Expecting better results out of the starting gate is like expecting to lose 50 pounds the day after starting a new diet. This kind of patience will serve you your entire life, long after you stop dancing. It’s the principle of delayed gratification.

I know you have a lot to share. I know that your teacher does a lot of great things. And that they do a lot of things that made you angry or sad or frustrated. These experiences are private, and between you and your teacher. I’d rather not hear your insider info, for better or for worse. I’d rather my students not hear it either. We don’t gossip. We’d rather you didn’t either. It spreads quickly and everyone’s hands get dirty. Irish dance as a community doesn’t need that. Your teacher is a person and a professional and deserves respect, no matter what they have done. I’d like to think that I’ve been given chances to change and grow and mend my ways, even if my former students move on in the end.

Oh My, I’ve given you a lot of info. I hope you are not on overload. If you go ahead and make the decision to do this, you are welcome. I’ll teach you with no preconcieved expectations. We’ll start at square one together, and make you the best dancer you are capable of being. Let me know what you need, and I’ll let you know what I need from you. This will be an exciting new chapter for you. Let’s make it count.

New Year Means New Posts

December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas to everyone!

I want to say thank you to everyone who has read and commented on my blog. It has been really fulfilling for me to express my feelings and ideas here and get such honest and positive feedback. I love to write, so this has been a great outlet for me.

In a dance form so intense, full of passion, emotion and relationships, there are a lot of situations to be canvassed. I’d love to address questions that you may have about how to succeed, both personally, with friends or with your mentors.

So, for Christmas, may I ask a favor?

Please reply with questions that you would like answered or blogged about this coming year. I won’t publish the responses, but hole them up for use as inspiration this coming year.

Thanks for your help to make the Irish Dance Teacher’s Blog more meaningful for all our visitors!