As the ingenious choreographer George Balanchine once asked, “What are you waiting for? What are you saving for? Now is all there is.”
Truthfully, I reflect on this quote and struggle with the idea of not waiting for the so-called “right time” to act more often than I would like to admit. We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we start letting life just happen to us, so to say. We become bystanders to our own life. We forget to live. We forget to put in just a little more effort and seek out the new and exciting. We put off anything and everything because a) we don’t think we’re qualified/good enough, b) don’t have time right now, or c) it’s easier just to keep coasting along doing the minimum. Honestly, this list could go on and on.
Personally, I’m the world’s worst at balancing my work life with my personal life. I absolutely love teaching dance; don’t get me wrong. However, a lot of times I use it as an excuse or a crutch. I don’t pursue other things for my own personal fulfillment because I’m “too tired after work,” “don’t have time,” or “would get too stressed.” Like I said, the list goes on and on. If you guys are anything like me, I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with this dark hole too. I graduated college about a year and a half ago with several goals. I wanted to pursue teaching as my career and perform with some small, local companies and perhaps delve more into journalism on the side, yet here I am, with a career but not the other two. I’ve talked myself out of so many opportunities just because I teach six out of seven days a week. Worse than that, there really wasn’t any talking; I just flat out let these opportunities go because I “couldn’t take on anything else right now.” In a sense, I was forgetting to live. In the words of famous author Oscar Wilde, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Oh, how true that is.
Just take a second and think about how lucky we even are that as artists (studio owners, dance instructors, performers, etc.) that we don’t have to go to some 9-to-5 job that means nothing to us, where our value comes from performing meaningless, robotic tasks. We have chosen to pursue our passions and seek out something that mattered to us. Something that we thought could make a difference. That’s already a step in the right direction. We haven’t given in to the world’s battering cry that “art doesn’t matter.” We haven’t listened to the voices that tried to steer us into more stable career paths. We’re choosing to live, not just exist.
Even still, though, like I said artists aren’t immune to getting stuck inside this rut. I’m a dance instructor, but I’m also more than that. I love adventures and hiking, reading novels, and trying out local coffee shops. I’m still Ashley as a person before I’m Ms. Ashley as a dance instructor. Especially in a profession such as teaching where you give, give, give so much, you have to remember to re-fuel your own fire too. So you teach a lot? So what. Make time for yourself. Do whatever it takes to live and not just exist in this world because life’s really beautiful when you aren’t just rushing from the required point A to point B in your day.
Recently, I’ve been doing a better job of holding myself accountable to this. I’ve read countless books over the last couple of months to give myself some “me” time, one of which was Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you need an inspiring book to refresh your outlook on art or just for some fun, light reading, I highly recommend this one. Also, guess what? I’ve been dancing again. A new friend asked me to be part of a piece she was choreographing, and instead of saying no and making excuses, I said yes… for the simple fact that I knew it would make my heart happy. So maybe I’ll be a little extra tired, but who cares? Also, guess what? I’m looking into pursuing some writing opportunities. All because I put in a little extra effort and seized opportunities when they came up instead of thinking that “now isn’t a good time.”
I’ve been trying to focus on not letting life slip by, and I think you should too. Make everyday count. Make time for the things that matter to you. Don’t put it off either. Take it one day at a time. All you have to do is make one decision: one decision that moves you in the right direction. Be your own captain; no one is going to make the decisions for you. So whatever you’ve been waiting to do, go do it. Start a business, take up a side hobby, go on a road trip with a friend. Life isn’t going to wait for you so don’t wait for it.
As the author Robert Kiyosaki said, “If you are the kind of person who is waiting for the ‘right’ thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It’s like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip.”
For the month of October, our character development theme is “Fall Into Dance: Learning Perseverance and Determination.” We are teaching our dancers that when we fall, we get right back up. We remind them that practicing will help us get better. When in doubt, we tell ourselves that “I can do it!”
A great book to supplement this learning is Michael Jordan’s “Salt in His Shoes.” It teaches readers that in order to become successful, one must put in hard work, perseverance, and determination!
In professional dance classes, we sometimes clap when someone falls because that means they are trying without fear of failure. Class is the perfect place to keep persevering and practicing, because the results of remaining determined will show itself. It’s rare to perfect something on the first, second, or even tenth try. Multiple pirouettes on pointe are results of hours of practicing in dance class. That’s why this month we are instilling these important principles of perseverance and determination in your little ones.
If you’re wanting to find a new read with your dancer, check out “Salt in His Shoes.” Reinforcement out of the classroom will remind your dancers what we are learning in the classroom.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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!