Hi all,

It’s been awhile since we did one of our Cover-to-Cover book features, and I found a good one to come back with!

As many of you know, each month Studio Go features a character development theme. The month of February is “For the Love of Dance: Teaching Compassion and Friendship”. We teach our dancers what it means to be a good friend. Words that come to mind are compassion, kindness, and acceptance.

I stumbled upon this book in a mom’s entrepreneur group. The author is in the group, and I immediately thought, “What a great concept!” This is a perfect book to teach that while we may be different from one another, we’re all capable of great things. Girls come in different colors, shapes, and sizes, but in the end, we’re the same. We certainly have differences, but those are to be celebrated!

If you’re looking for a sweet book to read to your little one, “I Love Your Brown” is just right.

Happy reading-Leah

 

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I started my dance training at the age of five after experiencing dance for the first time through a show at my library. I immediately fell in love with everything about this art form and begged my parents to sign me up for classes. Growing up, dance was always an important part of my life, but it wasn’t until after I graduated high school that it really began to shape me as a person.

People always knew me as the smart, quiet, little dancer girl. I graduated from high school, and like most 18 year olds I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do in life. Anytime people asked me about my plans or what I wanted to pursue, I always said I didn’t know and that the only hobby/interest in my life that I’d never gotten burnt out on was dance. They would look at me as if to say, “Well, that’s cute that you danced, but it’s time to do something real now.” After I had some core classes under my belt, I transferred to Kennesaw State University to become a business major because that was considered a “normal” career choice. I heard that KSU had a dance department so I went to tour it on the day of my orientation and thought I might declare a dance minor. The moment that I stepped inside that studio during my tour changed everything. As I stared around at their beautiful dance space in awe, suddenly something clicked deep within me; it just felt right. Without even meaning to, I had found my place. I continued that semester still with full intentions of getting my business degree, but I slowly became more and more miserable. I realized I just didn’t have a passion for what I was doing there. It meant nothing to me and felt pointless.

Fast forward a couple of semesters later, and sure enough, I finally auditioned and declared a dance major instead. My three years at KSU changed my life. While people thought I was twirling through college and wasting my life away, I was actually learning how to hang/focus stage lights in a theatre, how to intellectually analyze/write about dance in a scholarly manner, how to skillfully teach dance through various pedagogical approaches, and how to write grant proposals. KSU’s program was incredibly well-rounded, and I was constantly surrounded with seemingly misfit artists just like me who were going against the norm for their career paths. Talk about an inspiring, nurturing environment! I discovered a lot about myself both as a person and an artist during my college years. It was actually during my time at KSU that I discovered my passion for teaching. If you’d told anyone back in high school that that painfully shy, awkward girl would one day stand with authority in front of a crowd of kids and parents as a dance instructor, no one would’ve believed you.
Dancing feet

So for all the rest of you twenty-somethings out there who’ve chosen to make dance your profession and are just finding your place in the world, here’s some things I want you to know:

1. Follow your arrow.
Put yourself first. Don’t put your dreams on the backburner because of other people’s opinions. Do what sets your soul on fire, not theirs. We’re all uniquely beautiful human beings each with different talents and skillsets. You can’t make yourself fit in a box just because that’s where other people think you belong. You don’t have to choose a career path solely based on what makes the most money. That’s great, but is money always going to make you happy?

2. It’s okay to not have everything figured out.
Try a little of everything until you find your niche. Just because your life isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that you aren’t taking steps in the right direction. Be patient with yourself. You’ll get there. You have the rest of your life to get where you’re going. I know people put a lot of pressure on us millennials to know exactly what career path we want from the moment we step foot in a school. Guess what? You’re going to change your mind a million times, and that’s okay so just be open to whatever comes along.

3. Exercise professionalism in all that you do.
Meet deadlines. Proofread your emails before you send them. Show up on time and be dependable. Go beyond what’s expected of you. Practice good communication skills. I can assure you that, as much as it seems like it might be, professionalism is not dead. Millennials are often cast in a terrible light as being entitled, lazy, and incapable of professionalism. Prove them wrong. Be the different one. I promise people will remember you for it.

4. Don’t measure your success off other people.
Life isn’t a race so stop comparing yourself to everyone else around you. I know that’s easier said than done, especially in the dance world. We spend hours upon hours just staring into a mirror at ourselves and others doing the exact same steps. Ballet gives us very clear-cut, objective standards. This is correct, and that is incorrect. In ballet that achieves its purpose, but don’t let that kind of mindset carry over into how you view your life as a whole. Just because you’re not dancing professionally, working your dream job, starting a family, etc. doesn’t mean you’re not accomplishing anything. It’s not all or nothing. We all hit different milestones at different times so don’t let that cloud your vision. Keep on chasing those dreams; you’ll get where you need to be.

5. Don’t sell yourself short. Know your value.
This one took me until my senior year of college to figure out, and honestly I still struggle with it a lot. Maybe you see a job posting and don’t apply for it because you don’t feel like you’re good enough or ready for it, but let me tell you… you’re never going to feel ready. Go for it. You’re capable of so much more than you even know. Don’t just tie yourself down somewhere where the people you work with stifle that fire within you and don’t treat you well or respect your input. You’re worth more than that so please don’t ever give up on your dreams.

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It’s that time of year again! The time of year where everyone slows down and thinks about all they have to be thankful for.

At Studio Go, our monthly theme is “Happy Feet, Thankful Hearts” and our character development word is gratitude. Through our dances, songs, and activities, we focus on being thankful.

Turkey Tails
We usually take some time to ask each dancer what they’re thankful for. Sure, we get candy, toys, etc., but what we hear the most is (overwhelming so) family. Whether it’s mom, dad, big brothers, or their friends, these little ones know what is most important in life. Kudos to you parents for instilling that in them! We love that and this is such a huge part of what we do.

At Studio Go we have a lot to be thankful for. Personally, my family always makes the top of my list as well. I have a supportive husband, an adorable and happy 1 year-old, and 2 crazy boxers that keep life interesting. There’s never a dull moment in my house, to say the least. I’m thankful for my friends, the comforts I’ve been afforded, and that I get to do something I love.

I’m so appreciative of my wonderful staff. I’m also so thankful to each and every one of you. Everyone mentioned has made my lifelong dream of having a job as a dancer a reality. So, thank YOU!

I hope that everyone enjoys this time with their family and friends. From our family to yours, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Cheers,
Leah

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The dance bag is packed with brand new ballet shoes. My favorite “beginning of the year” teaching tools are primed, and my brain is spinning with fun, new music that has just been released. Y’all, I think I am ready, even if my alarm clock is not! 😉 Back to school we go!
New beginnings are always a fantastic time to reflect on the journey thus far. So, I am excited to share my love story with dance, specifically how it has shaped my life. In the hustle bustle of busy scheduling, I rarely take the time to consider exactly how I have become a dance professional. I am sure a walk down memory lane will provide a renewed sense of gratitude for my craft, making the start of the 2017-2018 season even more special!

I am from a small town called Americus in Southwest Georgia. Even though my older, twin sisters took dance until 5th grade, the performing arts were not paramount to my family because Courtney and Whitney were definitely softball girls. We like to joke that I was born and raised playing in Georgia red clay on a softball field. I naturally followed suit by playing in our local softball league for many years; however, when my coaches and parents had to begin disciplining me for performing cartwheels in right field and for constantly perfecting my pigtail braids in the dugout, we learned that this was not for me. (Hey, I thought I was pretty ingenious turning a cartwheel with one hand in a glove! The adults were not so easily impressed…) A solid mixture of my fear for that hurtling ball, my disdain for red dirt stains on beautiful white socks, the endless hours of direct sunlight, and the inevitable shift into fast-pitch was the eventual tipping point for me. A past ball coach has since said to me, “Lauren, aren’t you glad that whole dance and pageant thing worked out for you?” Yes sir. Yes I am!

At four years old, while ambling through the mall with my parents, I saw a pair of glorious, satin pointe shoes in a store window. My sweet folks humored me, and let me pop inside to get a closer look at those ethereal, other-worldly beauties. The store clerk, for some strange reason, allowed me to try on a pair. *Note. As a dance educator, I feel it is my job to insert here: do not try this at home, kids.* As my dad held me up in those pointe shoes, I fell in love. Not long after, I took my first dance class. There were a few years of overlap between several of my afterschool activities including ballet, softball, and piano. Alas, dance won out!

My elementary, middle school and high school years were all marked by countless hours at the studio, annual performances, summer workshops, talent shows, and school dance opportunities like cheerleading. I have always been known for my height, and I spent a ton of time as a child learning to harness these long limbs. Growing up, I felt huge and lanky compared to my petit friends at school, but my height was a plus in the dance world. There, I gained so much self-confidence and I eventually grew to embrace my tall body, stand up straighter, and drop the ever-present shoulder-hunch that I used to mask my insecurities. Dance became my language, and the stage became my home.

My parents were wonderful at providing as many diversified dance experiences to me as possible. Thanks to their sacrifices, I get to say that I danced with the Moscow Ballet of Russia for 2 seasons in a row in their production of The Nutcracker in Columbus, GA. I also danced in The Nutcracker with Dance Alive! of Gainseville, FL as a child. Exposure to the grueling world of auditioning set me up for success in the next phase of my performance background…

The directors of our local Miss America preliminary pageant asked me to compete when I was 15 years old. Since part of the draw towards dance was not having to speak, I was hesitant. I was never comfortable with a microphone. After much persuading on their part, I finally entered and won Teen Miss Historic Southern Plains, which went on to Teen Miss Georgia. Even though I did not win the state title that summer, I was hooked with jazz en pointe as my talent performance. The philanthropic aspect of Miss America requires that each contestant is involved with a personal platform that she agrees to champion for her year of service. At that time, my mother was a recent breast cancer survivor, so my choice of Breast Cancer Awareness was easy. I was exposed to learning interview skills, acquiring fundraising knowledge, studying marketing techniques, having new performance experiences, observing some of our country’s brightest young female role models up close, and gaining healthy lifestyle fitness habits. Thanks to my amazing supporters and coaches, my competition the next summer landed me in the position of Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen 2006. I went on to compete at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, the little sister to Miss America. After traveling the entire state and several parts of the country that year, I knew that I wanted to be Miss America one day. While that specific dream was never realized, I did spend the next 6 consecutive years of my life competing for the title of Miss Georgia. I am proud to have been named the first-runner up twice: in 2008 and 2013. In 2008, holding hands with Chasity Hardman while we waited to hear who would be Miss Georgia, I had no idea that I was standing with the next 1st runner-up to Miss America. Throughout the entire decade that I worked towards becoming Miss America, I slowly became my best self, especially as a dancer. Did I deliver stunning, “perfect 10” dances each and every time I competed? No way. However, I did learn to be a professional. I did learn how to work hard. I did learn how to retain difficult choreography quickly. I did learn how to adapt pieces to different stages. I did travel to New York twice to learn choreography. I did learn about theatre and production. I did learn about show business. I did learn about custom costuming. I did learn how to harness and control my fear and nerves. I did learn how to channel frustrations. I did learn how to accept constructive criticism. I did learn about artistic direction. And, I did learn a whole lot about Lauren.

I owe many performance experiences to my years with the Miss America Organization. I have performed with Joey Fatone of N’SYNC and Dancing with the Stars, along with Miss America 2006 Jennifer Berry. I danced and sang for the US Army in a USO-styled show called A Salute to Our Troops. I have entertained on the Miss Georgia stage countless times, and on many other stages across the country too. I have even enjoyed modeling for Sherri Hill, Heather French Henry Miss America 2000, and Mac Duggal in New York, Atlanta and Chicago. I have been a spokesperson for various businesses and charities including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, The American Cancer Society, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. It truly has been a wild ride. Y’all. I come from a farm, way off the interstate in Smalltown, USA. It is my mentors, teachers, parents, family, friends, bosses and yes, even my critics that have gotten me here- to the best job on the planet!

What role do the performing arts play in my life now? Well, for starters I am a dance teacher, but you know that already! I teach on-site in many different schools for Studio Go all around Atlanta. In addition to instructing for Studio Go, I am the Artistic Director, which means I am responsible for constantly creating dance content, ensuring that our dancers are receiving the most top-notch dance education that we can provide, and coordinating our teachers all over the Southeast. I also teach ballet at several dance studios as well. I am a Production Consultant for various events. I love judging both dance competitions and Miss America local preliminary pageants in several states. I was an emcee at the Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen Finals this past summer, and I do hope to continue emceeing for Miss Georgia in the future!
I love the theatre. It is my happy place. That is why I am so extremely appreciative to share the art of dance with tomorrow’s performers every day that I go to work. If you have made it this far in this post, thank you for sticking it out with me as I have looked back and remembered to be grateful. Now, let’s DANCE!

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