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Jack in the Box

Almost everyone has wound the handle of a jack-in-the-box at some point in their life, wondering when the clown would pop out. Some of us played with it once, got scared, and that was it. Some of us played with it over and over again, laughing at the clown. But eventually, we all tired of the toy, and put it down, and never picked it back up.

 

Someone recently told me, “People are tired of hearing about how bad GMO’s are for you, and how corrupt the government is, and how rigged the system is. People know by now. Stop complaining and offer a solution”. I took that to heart, and realized that in my rush to try and solve the problem, I lost sight of what it will really take to fix all this. I know that people are not very eager to hear about how screwed we all are. It’s a very heavy weight to bear. I know quite a few people that have told me flat out, “I don’t want to know” for one reason for another. But as they started explaining, the underlying constant I heard was, “I know, but I’m not ready to accept it and burst the bubble I’m living in. I have my necessities to live, my family and the people I care about are happy, and I have a lot to lose. I’m not ready to sacrifice the familiarity and comfort blanket I have”. When so many of us are trying to create a call to action, we’re presenting information in a way that makes it hard to digest. And I’m not saying we should be spoon feeding people and catering to them and all that. I’m saying, when I’m teaching my students something, I need to explain it in a way that makes them not only understand, but feel confident enough to do it on their own. If I scream it at them, they’ll be nervous and intimidated, and that will hold them back from focusing on what they should be doing.

 

Now, we’re faced with a harder problem. Most people know, or have an idea that something bigger is going on here. But their day-to-day lives are going on as planned, so it doesn’t seem that important to go and disrupt the system that’s allowing them to work, eat, socialize, and they even ‘have a say’ in what happens to them through ‘voting’. And their day-to-day lives aren’t easy. A lot of people in my area have to get up and leave for work by 5 am so they can avoid rush hour and only sit in traffic for 2 hours instead of 3 to drive 40 miles to work. Then work all day, sit in rush hour traffic for a good 3 hours only to make it home tired and stressed and having to put food on the table and make sure their kids do their homework and get dog food and on and on. There’s no time to sit down and figure out a way to win an impossible battle.

 

And that’s what we’re facing. An impossible battle. We’re fighting a family running the largest empire ever. For over 200 years this family has been taking over the world, all from behind a curtain. Well, more like behind curtain after curtain after curtain after curtain… They dictate our money, economy, government officials, elections, wars, coups, terrorism, national security, military, nuclear bombs, corporations, stock market, housing market, news and media, all of television, the education system, the entire entertainment industry, crops, drinking water, natural resources, electricity, garbage/waste, water and gas, clothes, trends, pop-culture, the list goes on. And on top of deciding all of those things for us, they’re injecting us with chemicals and diseases they manufactured, they’re spraying us with medications, more chemicals, and according to some, nano-technology. They’re using subliminal messaging (legally mind you, I told you, they own everything) in our movies, tv, music, etc to influence our choices, they’re teaching generations of peoples twisted and warped versions of not only history, but the world, society, and how to live in it. They’ve taught generations across the world what to think, not how to think. Not how to question.

 

And believe me, I’m not ready for all of it either. I’m still fighting with myself trying to convince myself I can find a balance and fight the system while still living within it.

 

But, participating in it is like winding a jack in the box because you like the sound, and you’re just hoping the clown doesn’t pop out before you’re finished with the song. The same song you’ve heard over and over again, with the same result every time.

 

But when you keep winding the Rothschild’s jack-in-the-box, instead of a clown popping out, you get The Great Depression, or the housing market collapse of ’07. You get countless people losing their jobs, homes, cars, and ability to support their family. People die. Families are destroyed.

Then, just as everyone is freaking out, scared, and ready for a change, they come in, ‘bailout’ their doomed system, stuff the bad stuff back in the box, and put it back in front of you to try again.

And what’s worse, while we’re all picked that stupid fucking toy back up, and winding that stupid handle around again, listen to the same bullshit song all over again, they’re in the background doing more sneaky shit. Building more power for them. Expanding their domain, until they are running the entire world. And all the while we’re over here, winding that handle. “Voting”. “Investing”. “Serving our country”. Paying off our student loans. Paying taxes. Paying mortgages.

 

I don’t know about everyone else, but I got tired of jack-in-the-box a very long time ago. I’m not interested in playing their sick game anymore. And I’m not interested in picking up someone else’s twisted version either.

 

I was always the run and play with everyone outside type of kid…

 

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Hits blunt…

This body is not mine, it was loaned to me by Mother Nature, and one day Father Time will take it away. But who I truly am isn’t made of flesh and bones…
I am made of the same healing water than gives life to the earth
the same wise wind that has seen every corner of the world
the same stardust that created the Galaxy,
and just like everything else that exists, one day my energy will be recycled to experience life in a new way, and to contribute in a new way. With the time I have in this body, I want to live the best life I can, to create a better future.

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Drowning On Dry Land

As kids, we used to play a game every summer. We would grab all the sinker toys we had, and throw them in the pool, one at a time. The first one we’d throw way down in the deep end, the next would be dropped right next to the edge of the wall at the shallow end, the third would be somewhere in the middle, the fourth would be back towards the shallow end, the fifth would be back in the deep end, and on and on it went. We were trying to drop them in the most difficult order we could, for the other person to try and jump in and pick them all up in one breath. We were so competitive, we’d swim and swim and hold our breath until our chests ached, risking drowning at times, too stubborn to come up for air and lose the game.

 

I remember that ache in my chest. My lungs felt like they were collapsing in on themselves. I’d start exhaling a little at a time, so that all my breath would be gone by the time I reached the surface of the water, all the sinker toys in my hands, and I could gasp for air; my lungs would immediately fill with air, and without missing a beat, I’d start throwing the sinker toys to opposite ends of the pool for the next person to try.

 

I remember that ache in my chest. I felt it from the moment I woke up for work this morning. But I wasn’t under water, I wasn’t holding my breath, I wasn’t playing a game.

 

I’ve only had the wind knocked out of me once. I was walking down the stairs holding an overflowing basket of laundry. I couldn’t see where I was going, missed a step, slid down on my back, and landed hard on the tile floor. As I hit the floor, all of the air in my lungs left my body in the form of a yell. My parents came running at the sound. I tried to tell them what happened, but I had no breath in me to push out any words. I tried to fill them again, but it was like my lungs forgot how to work. I inhaled, and inhaled, and somehow my lungs never felt full. It felt like the air reached the top part of my lungs, but couldn’t reach deeper into the rest of them; it was like they were blocked off, airtight. Slowly, that barricade felt like it was being pushed back, and slowly I was able to fill my lungs again.

 

I still have that barricade in my lungs.

 

I woke up today with an ache in my chest, with a barricade in my lungs.

 

I’ve become somewhat used to that barricade. It’s an unwanted visitor that overstays their welcome and disrupts the normal flow of my life. If I take a deep breath, that barricade stops the air from reaching the bottom corners of my lungs; stops me from feeling like I can take a deep breath. But I don’t have to take a deep breath all the time, so for the most part I can ignore it.

 

The ache in my chest is harder to ignore. It pulls my focus, and says, “Hey, don’t forget about that barricade in your lungs. Don’t forget you can’t breathe all the way”. That ache doesn’t care if I’m driving my car, in the middle of a project at work, laughing at a joke, teaching a class, watching a great movie, trying to meet a deadline, trying to sleep, trying to eat… it doesn’t care.

It’s very, very easy to give into the fear that comes with that: with feeling like you can’t breathe. It’s so incredibly easy to start freaking out, and to start trying over and over again to fill my lungs. Experience has taught me that freaking out about it won’t make it go away. Freaking out about it turns it from manageable anxiety, to an anxiety attack.

 

Most days, I accept the barricade in my lungs. Instead of being upset that it’s there and making it worse, I assign a number to it. On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is it today? I focus on that number. I tell myself that I can manage that, and I don’t let the number get any higher. Instead of paying attention to the ache in my chest, I write that number down, then I draw it, then I write it over and over in a pattern. I focus on that number. For the most part, it helps. But sometimes, that ache in my chest decides it’s tired of being ignored.

 

I’ll be in the middle of a task at work, or have my eyes glued to the tv screen stuck on a show or movie, or talking to someone in the elevator on my way up from break at work, perfectly content, not even noticing that ache in my chest, and out of nowhere with no warning, I start having an anxiety attack.

 

For me, the start of an anxiety attack is like having the wind knocked out of me without warning. Fear takes over, the barricade jumps back to the top of my lungs. Then my hands shake and tingle like they fell asleep, my heart pounds so hard in my chest I can see it moving, my body temperature switches back and forth between rising and I feel too hot to chills where feel like I’m freezing, my legs feel empty and weak, I get dizzy, the ache in my chest gets worse and worse, my stomach knots up, and I start sweating.

 

Occasionally, when I reach this point, I can stop it before I have a full on attack. I can focus on my number, exhale all my breath and hold it like that, like I did as a kid playing that game in the pool. I just have to hold it like that, and be uncomfortable for a little bit, and then take a huge breath and let the air fill all the way to the bottom of my lungs. Sometimes I have to do that over and over again, until it works. When it does, I can go back to my normal annoying ache in my chest.

 

But most of the time, it happens too suddenly for me to hold it off. All of a sudden I’m gasping for air, thinking over and over again, “I can’t breathe”. I get scared. Even though by now I know exactly what is happening, and that I’ll be okay, I get terrified. On top of everything my body is already going through, my muscles in my neck and shoulders tense up, and tears start pouring from my eyes uncontrollably, and the pain in my chest gets worse and worse. I know I can breathe. I am breathing in, and out, and I have enough air to say the words, “I can’t breathe”. I know air is getting into my lungs, but I can’t catch my breath. Sometimes I get nauseous, and sometimes my vision blurs. I’ve had attacks that last a few minutes, and I’ve had attacks that go on for hours, literally hours. My brother once told me that sometimes people pass out from their anxiety attacks, and it’s like a reset button. I’ve wished over and over again my body would reset itself, but I’ve never been that lucky. I’ve always had to ride my attacks out until they were done.

 

Sometimes different things can help calm me down, but nothing works every time. Taking as deep a breath as I can, holding it a few seconds and blowing it out fast over and over again sometimes helps. Putting ice or something cold on the back of my neck can sometimes stop the attack immediately. Pushing out all my air and holding it like that as long as I can sometimes helps..

 

After an anxiety attack, I feel empty. Like all of my insides, and all of my energy, and all of my emotions, and all of my thoughts have been drained out of me. I usually need to lie down and rest, or to sleep. Sometimes I’m able to breathe normally after, but other times that barricade is still in the bottom of my lungs.

 

I woke up today with an ache in my chest, with a barricade in my lungs.

 

I didn’t assign a number to my anxiety today. It wasn’t bad enough that I felt I needed to, looking back now, it was at like a 3. Compared to the 5 I had yesterday, and the 8 I had Friday, a 3 was no big deal. I had a pretty good day. I got a lot of work done, I joked around, I didn’t have to be the mean bitchy supervisor to anyone at the office, and I wasn’t worried about that ache in my chest. And then, the workday was almost over. I started to get really warm, but the office is usually warm at the end of the day so I ignored it. My stomach was cramping, but I had some high number days recently, I’m used to my stomach being in knots. And then that ache in my chest got bad, and that barricade in my lungs jumped to the top of my lungs. I got nauseous, and too hot, and my hands were shaking.

 

I tried so hard to just keep working. I tried to slow everything down, and relax, but it wasn’t working. I tried to go outside and get some fresh air, but I was so dizzy that I just sat down on the top step in the stairwell instead. Then I got the chills and felt like I was freezing cold. I started crying and trying to breathe, but I couldn’t.

 

I was going to be off work in 15 minutes, and was going to have to rush to the studio because I said I would sub classes today. So I told myself to be done with the attack by the time I had to leave. I told myself that if I let it happen, and quickly, that I could just move on and go on with my day like I’ve done so many times before. But it didn’t work. I thought I got myself together and went back to my desk, but it came right back.

 

So there I was, at work, in the middle of an anxiety attack, having someone else call my boss at the studio to let them know (last minute, ugh) that I couldn’t come in because I couldn’t talk enough to get out more than a few syllables at a time. It was the worst attack I’ve had in a while, and as usual, I have no idea where it came from.

 

I wasn’t sulking, or thinking about stressful things, or feeling lonely, or feeling sorry for myself, I wasn’t working myself up; I was actually having a pretty good day. That’s probably one of the most frustrating parts. People don’t understand. They want a reason. They want to know what I’m anxious about, or what triggered it. It gets dismissed as me being too emotional, or as something that’s not a big deal.

 

During an attack, people try to help. They tell me to breathe, or try to remind me that I am breathing. And I appreciate them trying to help, just having someone there with me saying it’ll be okay does help (not enough to stop it, but it’s less scary than when I’m alone). But telling me to breathe, just reminds me that you have no idea what I’m going through. I am breathing, it’s not enough, it’s not working, it’s not filling my lungs. If it were that simple, I wouldn’t be here freaking out.

 

But it always stops eventually. The barricade in my lungs is back down to the bottom corners, and the ache in my chest is barely noticeable. I’m tired, and my eyes are raw from crying. I’m tired. I feel embarrassed that I had an attack at work again, and I feel ashamed that I wasn’t able to go into the studio to teach. And I feel like a time bomb, just waiting for the next attack.

 

It’s almost like a terrifying version of that game I used to play as a kid. Like I’m waiting for the time when the sinker toys are just too many and too spread out for me be able to get them all in one breath; waiting for the time when I can’t go without air long enough to break the surface of the water and fill my lungs. It’s like I’m drowning on dry land.

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I’ll either see you at the top, or from the top

Yesterday, I stepped out of my comfort zone.

 

I’ve done professional photo-shoots before. I’ve been doing them since I was probably 8 or 9 years old.

 

But this was different.

 

This shoot wasn’t something I was working for other people. I wasn’t representing a company, an artist, or a show. I wasn’t restricted to behave any type of way. I didn’t have guidelines, spoken or unspoken, about how I should or shouldn’t look or pose. Mostly, I worked with people that either personally wanted, or professionally needed, me to keep things PG rated.

 

Not to say that this has ever been an issue for me, but now there wasn’t going to be someone drawing the line for me about what was acceptable. I’ve never had the opportunity to draw that line for myself before. I’ve always had a slightly rebellious personality; so subconsciously, it was all of a sudden time to decide how far I wanted to push this freedom. I didn’t have a problem with my PG rated box I was living in. It was comfortable, easy, and familiar. But now there are new places to go, and I have no gauge of what’s comfortable for me there.

 

There are a lot of people that I’ve worked with, that can tell you how uncomfortable I am with very sexual dances, or attracting that type of attention in a public way. Yes, I can be super sexual, but only on my terms. Putting that out there for people I’ll never even meet to see, is hard for me. Putting myself out there like that for people I’m not intimate with, but work with and see a lot, is hard for me. I’ve done my best when I’ve been in those situations to come out of my shell because I don’t see anything morally or ethically wrong with it, it’s just not something I’ve been comfortable with personally.

 

Yesterday, the photo-shoot I did became pretty sexy. It fit the theme, and I was fully clothed the entire time, and if I saw anyone else’s photos looking like mine did, I would have said how great they looked. But from the second I saw them, and maybe a little bit during taking them, I questioned them. How do I really feel about putting pictures of me out there for criticism? How do I feel about the potential unwanted sexual attention that could result from them?

 

And then, I decided to post them, even though I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I think I was truly curious to see the outcome. If this is something I’m considering doing, I need to firmly decide where my line is. Because since I don’t see anything wrong with sexy, or even nude, photos, I can easily be swept up in the moment and cross the line of what I’m comfortable putting out there. So, these are borderline for me. I decided to test the waters.

 

As expected, comments were left by guys I didn’t know, but nothing gross or crossing a line. I wasn’t DMed at all, let alone by guys trying to flirt. I got all encouraging feedback from family and friends.

 

But a few people made passive-aggressive negative comments, and there was hesitation in the voice of one or two people’s whose opinion I respect. One or two of the poses were borderline for them too.

 

And even though it’s irrational, I felt a tiny bit of offense at that hesitation in their voices. I was asking for their honest opinion, because I wanted it. I value their thoughts, and beliefs, and even though we don’t always see eye-to-eye, there’s always a respect between us. And I did respect what they were saying. It was constructive-criticism: a compliment. But secretly I was hoping for them to say I was still within the line. I wanted them to draw that line for me, because it’s easier that way. But they can’t do that. There isn’t a line anymore. There are only opinions and comfort levels.

 

My opinion is that there’s nothing wrong with the pictures I took. My comfort level right now is this. These photos are my line. They’re borderline, so anything more would be too much for me. I decided to proudly share my work from yesterday. Maybe in the future that line will move for me, in one direction or the other, but as of now, this is it.

 

So people can make comments, they can call me names, and they can act like these photos lower my value. They can pick the photos apart, and make fun of my flaws. They can act like I need attention to think something of myself, or that people are misplacing their compliments and I don’t actually look good.

 

But all that means is you’re noticing me. You feel a need to ‘put me in my place’ because you think I’m rising above it. You can act like I’m deluding myself into thinking higher of me than I actually am.

 

But I noticed that all my life, people want to push and pull me back down any time I start making moves to something more… that just means I’m growing, and it threatens you. Experience has taught me time and again that those threatened by my growth are those that feel like my competition. Well, I love competition; I’ll either see you at the top, or from the top – the decision is yours, but either way, I’ll be up there.

 

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An Open Letter To My Fellow Dance Instructors…

Before reading my open letter, please understand the background of where it is coming from. I’ve been wanting to get back to teaching, and I’ve been contacting studios, and seeing such a loss of culture, that I’m getting disheartened. Maybe the world that I fell in love with is gone. Maybe all that is left of dance is just the steps…

I remembered an incident today from a few years ago. I was working at a studio, and one of the students there disrespected a teacher in front of the entire company. Talking back, disregarding her corrections and advice, and rolling their eyes when the teacher pointed out that ‘this is not how a rehearsal works in this industry, and this is not how you interact with me’.

I then remembered another incident where one of my students in a class I was subbing decided I was spending too much time on barre, and stood there leaning on the barre while the rest of the class worked on the fondue combination I gave. I was shocked. Never in a million years would I have chosen to stand by while my classmates worked. Never in a million years would I have disrespected someone that was pushing me and working with me to help me develop into a better dancer. Never in a million years would I have said ‘oh well, I have homework to do anyways’ to a teacher asking me to leave class for being so disrespectful. But that is what happened.

I have too many memories of students that claim to love dance, that are so disrespectful of it. I’ve always felt that part of the reason I’ve seen it so often, is because I started teaching young. Maybe there wasn’t enough age gap, or maybe I didn’t have enough professional experience to have that respect from the students at the studios I worked with. But then, I noticed these experiences were not just happening with me. They were happening to instructors with degrees, with years of professional experience, with none of the reasons I could come up with as reasons I was receiving so little respect. And then I looked at the older dancers I worked with. People that were once my peers, people that were older than me, people with more experience than me. These people respected what I said and did. They listened to my instruction, and worked hard. They pushed themselves in my classes because they wanted to improve; because class meant something to them, and they recognized that I could help them.

I am young. But I consider myself an older dancer. I was raised in the older style of teaching. As a student, I was poked and pushed and stretched by my instructors, I was yelled at and scolded by my instructors, I was pushed and pushed and pushed by them. But not a single day of my training was merely about dance. They never went a day without explaining why it mattered so much to do it their way. From when I was a child, I was taught there was more to dance than dance.

Any person walking down the street can come into the studio, put their heels together and point their toes out in a V shape, and bend their knees. But any one of the older dancers that I consider myself to be a part of understand that it takes a dancer with awareness of their body, with respect for the history of the step, with respect for the fact that without this simple step they could not leap, or fouette, or function in dance, and with an understanding that its not as easy as it looks, to truly do a plié, and make someone pay money to come and watch them do it. We also understand that at the end of class, you clap, and you thank your teacher. You thank them because in class, they guided you through training your body to do something unnatural without hurting yourself. You thank them because they passed on wisdom that comes from an art that goes back farther than anyone alive can remember. You thank them because without them, maybe you wouldn’t have pushed that extra inch in your extension and hit that gorgeous line. You thank them for investing themselves in your future as a dancer. And you wouldn’t dare disrespect someone that you have so much to thank for.

In dance, we were taught that the right way is always harder at first, but that it’s actually easier after you work on it.

In dance, we were taught that you can’t slack off, because even if you’re the best that you have ever seen, there will always be someone better in the next town over.

We were taught that our bodies are our instruments, and that we need to respect and take care of our instruments in order to continue doing what we love.

We were taught that anything worth having, is worth working your ass, and feet, off for.

We were taught that when things get too difficult, instead of getting frustrated, go back to your basics, and your foundation; that is what helps you through the advanced stuff.

We were taught that someone can be your very best friend in the entire world, but in class, they are your competition. And the best of us were taught that our competition is not someone we sabotage, but someone we want to encourage so that we grow together. Because once you reach the top, you grow slower, and no one wants to grow slower, not when there is someone in the next town better than you.

We were taught that there is a magic in the history of our choreography, and we keep the classics alive for a reason. We want to grow, and break new ground, but not at the loss of our foundations.

We were taught to smile through the pain. Never let anyone, especially the audience, know how hard you’re working.

The list goes on. Through dance, I learned to work in a group, and well as on my own. I learned to be a leader, and a follower. I learned to push myself, but also to know my limits. I learned to encourage those around me. I learned confidence, pride, awareness. I learned about working towards a goal. I learned about sacrifice. I learned about pain, and beauty, and art, and using that art as a therapy and an outlet. I learned wisdom, and I learned respect.

I remember that girl often, she was the only person I have ever asked to leave one of my classes. I was so upset. At her age, I was twice the dancer she was. My technique was better, I was more advanced, I was stronger, cleaner, hungrier. I wanted a career in dance more than anything in the world. And I worked every day towards that goal. I worked so hard, that my body couldn’t keep up. I worked so hard, that my body couldn’t develop muscle fast enough for how much I was growing. I worked so hard that I developed a chronic inflammatory problem. And then I worked so hard, that I could barely walk. I was a freshman in High School, and I woke up in shooting pain. I couldn’t walk up the 3 steps from my garage into my house without grimacing. I had to start sitting out of parts of dance class because the pain was just too much. I had to sit and watch my friends, my competition, growing right in front of me. And then, I had to tell my instructor that all of the time and work we put in together to develop my abilities, was for nothing, and I had no choice but to walk away. I had to hear her tell me how sad she was, and ask if I was sure because they had a plan and a path for me to get everything I ever wanted out of life. And then here this girl was, with the strength and talent to really make it, and she was standing there being lazy…

I have been wondering for a while what it is about today’s dancers. Why don’t they work as hard? Why don’t they respect as much? Why don’t they want it as bad as we did?

And I figured it out…

Dear instructors,

We are failing our students. We know we are. We talk about it all the time. We sit down, and try to decide what classes to teach, and how to fit them into the schedule. We talk about how great it would be to set up the classes so that the students get the training they need to really push like we did. And then we talk about how unrealistic it is, because the kids wont show up. We can’t support that schedule because the kids today don’t commit like we did. And then we cater the schedule to that, know that we need to keep the studio open, and this is the only way to do that.

We are failing our students. That conversation isn’t over. Yes, we need to keep the studio open, so we need to set the schedule to get the kids in. But we need to do more. In the classes we do have, lets push. Let’s start imparting more knowledge and wisdom. Lets raise our expectations. Let’s teach them more, and then they’ll slowly understand that they need to push more to really make it.

The moment a student expresses interest in dance as something they want to pursue with their lives, we have a responsibility. We need to teach them the industry just as much as we need to teach them the technique.

Today, we have to be careful. Our teachers berated us. It wasn’t that uncommon for us, or a classmate to cry because of our teachers being so hard on us. We can’t speak to our students like that, and we don’t really want to. But there is still a way to impart that knowledge on them without traumatizing them.

Instead of keeping a dancer in a beginner class when they’re ready for intermediate just because of their age, move them up! Instead of putting a teenager that’s never danced before in an intermediate class just because they’d be way older than those in a beginning class, put them with the younger kids! Don’t move up a dancer that’s not technically ready just because all their friends are moving up. Don’t make apologizes for being truthful about a student’s ability.

Teachers lose their ability to truly train dancers when we’re not realistic about student’s level. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working with a group of dancers, we get to the next session, and we’re ready to progress to the next level of steps, but instead the entire class has to go back and re-do the previous stuff because now we have a new student that has never danced before, and needs the basics. No wonder we have a problem with class retention. These kids get bored after 3 sessions of beginner jazz with the exact same steps because the new kids have to catch up when they’re ready to move on. No wonder teachers get stuck in ruts when they’re trying to keep students interested while repeating everything.

Stop letting kids take a class with their pointe shoes on when they haven’t taken a class on flat first to warm up. Stop letting kids take class with their pointe shoes on when it’s the only ballet class they take in a week. Stop letting kids and parents that don’t understand the risks, make the rules. If that means there’s no one in the studio taking a pointe class, then fine. They’ll eventually want it badly enough that they’ll cave, and follow your rules.

Stop allowing students that say they want to become dancers take only a few classes per week. Let them know that if they want it, they have to put in the hours, no matter how naturally gifted they may be. Prepare them for the industry they want to be in. there’s more to this world than movement, and if they want to make a career out of it, they deserve to know all aspects of the industry, the good and the bad. They deserve to know that they’re getting into, and they deserve to be given the knowledge so they can make an educated decision while planning their future.

As students, it was not uncommon for us to hear from our teachers to lose weight. That we needed longer necks, or bigger arches in our feet, or smaller breasts, smaller bottoms, longer legs, the list goes on. Instead of telling a single dancer that they need to lose weight, or that their body or feet aren’t right for the industry, like we heard growing up, let’s introduce them to interviews of Misty Copeland. Lets show them that our world is wonderful, but it’s still behind the times in some aspects. That if their body doesn’t fit the traditional mold, they’re going to have to work harder to make it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with their bodies. They are gorgeous, and strong, and beautiful/handsome, but they are going to have to be technically and expressively wonderful to force people to pay attention to them. That the industry is wrong, not their bodies, and motivate them to prove the stereotype wrong. But lets also not ignore the fact that some of our students truly don’t have an industry body. Don’t fill them with false hope. Let them know that as wrong as it is, there is a reality to this industry they’ll have to overcome, and it will be hard. Many of our students are teenagers going through puberty. They see ads, and hear comments on a daily basis about what is and isn’t ‘beautiful’. They are fragile, and need to see how wonderful their body is, exactly how it is. But they also need to see that if dance is what they love, they have a steeper hill to climb to make it than some of their competition.

Let’s inspire our beginner and intermediate students by having them see the advanced dancers work sometimes. The younger ones will work harder when they see the advanced dancers. The older ones will work harder to not be embarrassed in front of the younger dancers. As the younger ones progress faster with the added motivation, the older ones will work harder to maintain on top.

Let’s invite professional dancers to the studio to teach master classes, and give demonstrations to inspire our students, and show them what it really takes.

Let’s expect more from our students. Make them do 64 changements instead of 32. Make them hold their extension for 4 counts instead of 2. Call them out when they drop their leg out of passe’ and put the foot on the floor when they’re supposed to be balancing at the end of a combination. But also explain to them that we can see they’re trying, but here is a more effective way of trying, and here is a more effective way of re-finding your center.

Have students demonstrate the combination for the class before everyone tries it. Have a student go across the floor again, alone, and point out what they’re doing right. Have a student go across the floor again, alone, and work with them on something that needs fixing.

There are so many things that we’ve lost in our classes because we’re scared to lose students, or hurt someone’s feelings, or the studio owner we work for is scared to lose students, or hurt someone’s feelings. As teachers, we’ve forgotten about part of the responsibility we have to our students. Let’s bring that back.

Respectfully,

Your fellow teacher

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Uncategorized

Slowly, it gets easier…

Painful memories can haunt us if we’re not careful.

I barely ever remember my dreams. If I remember that I dreamed at all, I can usually just recall fragments, or emotions, and then they fade away. This morning was no different. I woke up, and remembered I was dreaming that I was a mother again. I couldn’t remember anything else about it. I was still half asleep, not entirely back to the real world, and still partially in my subconscious where my mind forces me to see the things that haunt me. I heard little footsteps. Anyone that’s lived with a kid knows what I heard. The sound of little feet running to your room in the morning to hoist their little leg up onto the mattress, and pull themselves up to crawl over to you… maybe to say ‘I’m hungry’, or ‘can I play videogames’, or to have an epic war of pillow fights, and slow motion upper-cuts, and saving whoever fell off the bed until we were too tired to continue.

I knew as soon as I heard the sound that it wasn’t real, but that didn’t stop a million memories from rushing back to me.

I know what triggered the dream, and the memories. I also know that I made the right choice three years ago (is it possible that three years have already passed?) , but the guilt of leaving behind a little boy, and destroying one of the most constant things in his little life, stays with me.

It’s getting easier. It used to be every single day that I thought about it, and felt like I was hit with a pillowcase full of bricks in the chest. Now, it’s not so bad. It’s maybe once a week that I think of him, and its maybe once every few months that I feel my heart sink in sadness and guilt at the memory of him.

This morning, instead of a pillowcase full of bricks, I felt like I was suffocating. Like I was in a glass case that was running out of air, and all I could do was look out of it at the memories of seeing tears streaming down the face of a little boy that was too young to understand why me and his daddy weren’t going to be living together anymore.

He was too young to understand that his daddy was in more pain than he knew how to handle. He didn’t understand that when his daddy said and did these things that hurt his feelings and confused him, that he was actually trying to hurt me. To make me feel his pain, and using him was the way to rip out my heart.

He didn’t understand that I put myself, and his dad, in more pain by trying to still be around for him… because even in a decision to do what was best for me, I was still trying to sacrifice myself to do what was best for him.

He was too young to understand that I wasn’t around anymore because his dad was still hurting, and unable to let go of me. And years later, I still can’t see him because his dad is still not able to separate his pain from the situation.

If I’m not careful, my mind will still wander to him. I wonder how he’s doing in school, and if he’s making friends; if his laugh is still the same, or if he’s grown out of that deep, uncontrollable, belly-laugh when you’re play-fighting and start tickling him. I wonder if he still idolized the good guys in super hero movies, and wants to help them when he gets bigger; and if he still shuts down and closes all his doors when he thinks he’s in trouble.

But it’s not my place to worry about him understanding his homework anymore, or learning to be patient when he’s frustrated; or learning to say sorry when he accidentally does something wrong, or if the kids at school are nice to him, and he’s nice to them. I’m not supposed to worry about if he’s eating his vegetables, and playing outside enough. I don’t get to teach him things anymore. I don’t get to wake up in the morning, and know that I’m going to work to take care of someone who’s life means more to me than my own. I don’t have that calm sense of purpose anymore that comes with raising a child.

He taught me to not be scared. He taught me that I’m stronger than my fears. He taught me to open my heart up, and let someone in without worrying that they’ll hurt you. I feel selfish for missing him, because I know loving, and capable parents and family that keep him safe, and happy, and nurtured surround him, and he doesn’t need me.

I wonder if he misses me, or even remembers the happy times together. I worry he only remembers the breakup, and that his dad and me hurt him with our actions. I wish I could still be there for his firsts, and for picking him up from school and asking about his day. I wish I could still be there for his meltdowns, and jokes, and games, and setbacks, and life. I wish I were going to be there for his first date, for his high school graduation, for his first heartbreak…

But slowly, it gets easier.

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church, gender equality, growth, human rights, lgbtq, relationships, religion, sexual orientation, thoughts

We Are ALL Members of the Human Race

I came across this Ted Talk video; and while it’s a little long, I feel it’s worth the watch. iO Tillett Wright discusses what I’ve been considering, and the thought that I’ve been developing within myself for a long time. I have grown to a state of mind where I do not believe in sexual orientation. Now, that is not the main point of her talk; she discusses human rights. But, she points out how lucky she is to have parents she never had to ‘come out’ to, and how they didn’t bat an eye when she loved both men and women.

One of the first things I considered when looking into sexual orientation is this quote:

“I do not have a soul. I am a soul; I have a body” – unknown

I believe that statement to be true. I believe that who I am is not dependent on the body I am in. I believe there was/is/will be more than the short life I live on this Earth. What more there is, I have no idea; I just believe it’s arrogant to think that this is all that exists. A person’s personality is dependent on many things. Environment and experiences are huge factors. Genetics is a factor. But, I believe, my soul is the most important part of my personality. How else can you explain how and why people think and act the way they do? Look at identical twins. Exact same DNA. Basically same environment and experiences. Same household. But how many identical twins have you met, that have the same personalities, and interests, and passions? I feel I’m safe to assume few to none. So, what makes these two people that have the same influences in developing their mentality and personality so different? Their souls. My soul chooses my preferences, my style, my way of thinking, whatever makes me, me.

One of the next things I considered is physical attraction. Obviously, physical attraction is important. How someone looks is often the first thing to pull our attention. We wear certain clothes, and cut our hair certain ways, to try and express how we think and feel in the attempts that someone else will see that, connect to it and be attracted to us, and reach out. But haven’t you ever met someone, thought they were gorgeous, and then gotten to know them – and you find out that they’re annoying, or arrogant, or just not compatible with you at all… and they no longer are so gorgeous to you? Or, there’s the opposite also. I met a guy, and wasn’t very physically attracted to him. Then, I got to know him, and I fell in love with him, and then found him to be one of the sexiest men I knew. How we rank someone’s beauty is often dependent of our connection to them on a personal level. My best friend is a beautiful woman.. anyone can see that… But because I know her soul, she is more than beautiful to me, she’s radiant. Physical attraction does not define sexual orientation. It’s fluid and ever changing. People go through ‘phases’ where they are attracted to people that look one way or another, or have those ‘exceptions’ where they are attracted to someone that’s not their ‘type’. And I’ve never met a woman that cannot appreciate the beauty or sexiness of another woman. I don’t care if they identify and gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever. Every woman in the world has been caught up in another woman’s beauty at some point. I’ve found that it’s much more difficult to find men that identify as straight to admit experiencing the same phenomenon. A lot of guys feel too uncomfortable or judged to talk about another man’s attractiveness. Society has taught them that it makes them less of a man to be gay. It’s sexy for a woman to kiss another woman, but it’s typically comical or disgusting for a man to kiss another man. I can’t count the number of times I have asked a guy if his friend or someone he is talking about is cute, and they are immediately uncomfortable. I get the ‘I don’t know if he’s cute, I’m a guy’. You’ll never hear that same response from a woman…

social construct – noun – a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’ through cultural or social practice

Sexual orientation is a socially constructed idea used to categorize people. Society tells my guy friends that if they appreciate their buddy’s looks, it makes them gay, and that make them less masculine and, in turn, less of a person. Society tells people that the genitals of the person you like, defines who you are. It tells people that you are valued and categorized by the body parts someone else was born with if you’re attracted to them. It says that your partner’s reproductive organs matters more than their character does. It says that what my partner was born with and has no control over, is more important than how they treat people, how they live their life, their beliefs, their career, their contributions to the world, their personality, their love, who they really are. I am not in a relationship only to procreate; therefore my ability to procreate with my partner is not a deciding factor.

Another thing that must obviously be considered is religion. Because truly, the debate about right and wrong when it comes to sexuality boils down to just that.

Recently, during a discussion with some LDS elders, I brought up the topic of homosexuality. Their church preaches that it’s wrong. That God made man and woman, and that is how it should be. To me, this seems outdated. It’s said in the Old Testament not to eat pork. Now, that is not an issue anymore. The response I received to that was, people didn’t know how to properly cook it back then, it was for their safety, but we’ve learned and it’s okay now. So, who’s to say that sexuality is not the same thing? God made man and woman to procreate. There were only 2 people in the entire world (Adam and Eve). If they couldn’t have kids, the human race would die out as quickly as it came. Man and woman had to be together to have children, to populate the world. Now, if we fast-forward to the 1830’s when Josiah Smith allowed his followers multiple wives, we see a different necessity. It wasn’t enough for one man-one woman to keep their population up, so polygamy allowed them to survive. Multiple-wives is no longer taught in the LDS church. It was a temporary necessity. So, who’s to say that now, homosexuality isn’t part of God’s plan for population control? The earth seems pretty well populated to me. Maybe God wants the gays to take in the orphans and foster kids and keep the population from getting too bad. Who knows? Until someone, from any religion, sits down with god and hears him/her/it say outright that in this time the only types of people that are allowed to be attracted to each other are men and woman, no one can tell me that god says it’s wrong.

To say that sexual orientation is real, says that one of a relationship’s founding attributes is gender. Consider every adult person in the world as a potential mate. Now, according to society’s standards, we should eliminate every person that is the same gender as us right off the bat. It’s odd that the first thing we are told to consider when choosing a mate is gender, not honesty, not empathy, not independence, intelligence, sense of humor, motivation, goals, morals, kindness, values, compatibility, or even if they are single or not. If I were narrowing down every person in the world, to find someone to be with, his or her gender would be the last thing on my mind. I would want a person that’s learned happiness is something you decide, not something you find; a person that finds beauty in the serenity of nature, as well as in the energy of the city; a person that creates goals and works towards them; a person that is kind to everyone, not just those that can give them something in return; a person that connects with me and grows with me. I could name a million things that are more important about a person than their genitalia. I believe that my soul is attracted to another person’s soul; that the person’s gender has as much importance as the color of their skin (meaning none). I believe that there is no way love is unnatural, or immoral, or wrong.

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