For over twenty years of teaching dance I’ve been telling my students to “use your core”, “find your balance”, “be strong”, “focus on your spot”, “move with purpose”. Years later I have discovered how to apply my own advice to the new changes in my life. This past March 2018, I became a mother (explanation for the drop off in blog content). A new balancing act took center stage, and I was not the star. “Her name was Lola. She was a show girl” (as sung in Copacabana by Barry Manilow).
The New Office
Instead of going to my funky dance studio office, I have set-up shop at home. Instead of bins of costume catalogs, there are bins of children’s books. No more conference table and chairs but rather an area rug and criss-cross applesauce seating arrangement. Items like my calculator and tape refills are now baby toys. No longer am I downloading the hottest tunes for class but rather baby apps with five star reviews. My self-help book now is What to Expect the First Year instead of The EMyth: Business Coaching. Quickly my own balancing act of personal and professional life is running neck-in-neck with the balancing act of the wobbly baby girl who is digging in my filing cabinet.
I knew the balance of stay-at-home mom, small business owner and dance teacher/choreographer would take creative multi-tasking. Not to mention a date with my husband and lunch with a good friend now and then.
The Birth of Balance
One day after breast feeding, while on a conference call and negotiating a teacher contract (all done in my nightie), I had a bit of focus. Because I hear so many dance moms comment how fast this time goes by, I took a moment, sat quietly and stared at the little joy on the pillow in my lap. I whispered to myself, “Don’t forget this Katie. Take this in. This is part of the balance I need.”
Months later, I had a similar moment of focus while teaching a late night advanced contemporary jazz class. I’ve been grooming these dancers for over a decade. Blood, sweat and tears. They are amazing artists now with so much energy and passion. As I gave my instruction for the exercise, I heard myself talking, as if I were the student listening to my teacher. I have said the same several phrases to students again and again, but this time it sounds brand new because new meanings emerged. I say to myself, “Don’t forget this Katie. Take this in. This is part of the balance I need.”
It’s easy to give advice to others- much harder to apply it to yourself.
Five Dance Teacher Phrases to Apply to Life
#1- Use your core
It’s the center of our being. The core in dance refers to a very strong center point within the abdominals, back and pelvis. When used properly and consistently, it can be targeted to a spot the size of a dime. A dancer’s core allows for movement to remain controlled even when the body is pushed “off-center”. My “core” in my life are my supporters (family, friends, colleagues) and my gut instinct. All working in harmony, each part of the core needs consistent exercise and self care. Don’t ignore your core- you will fall over!
#2- Find your balance
Too much or too little of anything makes us unstable. To find our equilibrium in dance it starts with the core and then expands into the torso, neck, limbs and feet. “No noise” as I say in class (referring to a stable, strong, “quiet” torso). Aligning the bones and muscles and planting the feet allows for superior performance of the dancer’s body. Equilibrium within the dancer’s mind also plays a large part with balance. Ignore the unnecessary criticism and focus on the useful critiques. Push out the annoying noise of life and find better balance in the silence.
#3- Be strong
Ninety percent of the time I’m hollering at dancers to “be strong” (generally referring to their arms and upper body). The upper body is one floor below the dancer’s face, (which is the best part) and focal point for most dance spectators. But “being strong” is not just referred to physical power. Strength comes in many shapes and sizes; physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Life kicks us around and tests our toughness. It’s not the falling down that requires bravery and strength, it’s the getting back up.
#4- Focus on your spot
Spotting in dance refers to a focal point that you fixate your eyes on while turning. Maintaining focus on your spot allows for dizzy-free, successful rotations. The amount of practice that goes into spotting starts at an early age and is refined at every level moving forward. Once the “spot” is found, it’s not forgotten. The idea of something to focus on that’s grounded and consistent while you spin in circles is comforting. Very true in life! We all need a “spot” (a happy place) where we can focus and let down. The park, the book store, a coffee shop, grandmother’s house, favorite hiking trail, the dance studio, your cozy chair in the sunroom. Focus on your “spot”… go there when you are dizzy.
#5- Move with purpose
In dance, I would use this phrase with my dancers when it comes to transition steps. As they connect their movements, I tell them not to shuffle their feet or add unnecessary riffraff. Command the space and make their movement purposeful; never an accident. This is one of my dearest pieces of life advice; one that I learned directly from my mistakes. Staying busy can be a good thing but not if it’s nonsense busy work like shuffling items around your kitchen in a panic. Or checking your phone just because you need to do something. Save your movements (even small ones) for stuff that matters. Moving calmly and with purpose will translate to moving confidently.
Balance for Life
All of the things we do and the roles we play are what makes us colorful. Integrating my family, my business, my art and my overall well-being works for me. The balance is sometimes comical and emotional but it’s the fabric of me… challenge accepted.