It has been so fun watching you two find friendship in my classes.  You both walked into your first Irish dance class, and met each other.  Your personalities matched you together perfectly.  Soon you were one inseparable unit.  Practicing steps together at your homes, making silly t-shirts commemorating your mutual wierdness, making everyone in class smile with your inside jokes.  You helped each other through learning the tough steps, surviving your first feis together, facing the little challenges along the way.

 

You’ve both come a long way, zipping through the beginner levels and working quickly through the novice and prizewinner bottlenecks.  Here is where the tough part starts.  

For being so alike, you’re actually very different dancewise.  One a natural dancer with beautiful legs, the other a hard worker who won’t quit till it’s right.  You’re watching each other intently, figuring out why the other is so much better at (fill in the blank here).  Little bits of jealousy start to flit back and forth.  Secretiveness when needing help on a movement.  Tracking each other’s placements as much as your own. I worry.  The lightness leaves your friendship in the heat of the classes.  More short comments and sitting across the room from each other.

 

Please don’t give up on each other.  Yes, one will probably progress faster in hardshoe, the other in softshoe.   One may even qualify for Preliminary, leaving her best friend to struggle in Prizewinner just a bit longer… just a year, or two.  It will all even out.

 

Your friendship can’t be based on dancing equality.  You’re both working hard, both giving it all you’ve got.  Let your mutual drive be your friendship protector.  Help each other, support each other.  Laugh off the differences, especially in competitive level.  Don’t let the competition break what is so special to all of us.

 

Friendship is more important. Without it, the joy will leave.  Fight for it. Please.

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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.

How the World Works…

July 15, 2009

You’re fabulous.  You’ve been a natural since you stepped in my studio.  You have this grace of movement, perfect timing and lovely carriage.   You’re everything a teacher could wish for.   Except dedicated.  It might be that you’re just taking it for granted.  It might be your ultra-perfectionism getting in the way of letting yourself fly.  I’m not sure.

But it kills me when you dance next to her.  Watch her.  See what dedication is.  It’s the sweat rolling down the back, the hands clenched in fists, the limping back to the back of the room to go at it again.  She wants it so bad, and has the issues most Irish Dancers do… not high enough, sharp enough or fast enough.  If you work like she works, you’d be on a worlds podium in two years… and you just barely started prelim.

She is my favorite.  I know the parents all say that you’re my favorite, because you got into championships. But little do they know that I like the kids best, who want it most.