Raising Artists

I'm back! Fresh off the train from New York City!

Classes were challenging and inspiring. Some of my students felt, for the first time, their Super Hero Dancer inside of them; they were doing things they've never done before. This glimpse of how freeing dance can be has instilled within them a new confidence, and fanned a flame inside of them.

Now my muscles are sore, my feet are bruised, and I miss peeking outside of glass windows at the hectic world below while I danced in the skies. But I'm home, and that feels good too.

This trip reminded me of my dancing childhood. On my break between classes, as I massaged sore muscles and refueled with small snacks and water, I watched the parents of the children in the classrooms. Their children were younger, their muscles not yet developed leaving their dancing a little on the floppy side. But the dancers were fighting for it. I remember these days. I remember being very young and negotiating with myself to hold the splits "for just 8 more counts." I remember grabbing my foot and placing it in a correct position, adjusting my shoulders and hips over and over again.

This took me back...

I remembered when my mother first taught me the very large concept of embracing my own inner creativity in a disciplined manner (not just scribbling lines when I was 2). She'd wrap my school books up in a brown paper bag from the grocery store, plop it on the table and hand me markers.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Caldwell

This assignment, though it may sound silly, came with responsibility for me. I knew books were important, and I knew I'd have to carry around my books out in public for all to see. My picture had to be interesting, and it needed to be something to catch the eye; I wanted something that I would be proud of. I'd spend hours sketching, erasing, correcting, changing.

This is exactly what those students were doing in the classroom: sketching, erasing, correcting, changing, and repeat.

Their parents watched with pride, doodling with their cell phones occasionally and then sipping their coffee. They'd talk about their child's dance resume: "Mary took ballet with so-and-so when she was 6, and now we're here."

Parents play such a vital role in the development of an artist. My mother was always near by with a water bottle, snack, encouragement and support. Raising an artist isn't easy. Especially in the dance world. The trick is capturing the good.

Teach your children to be creative. Encourage reading books, asking questions, drawing, finding the interesting in the world.

Teach your children to embrace the difficult. Dance isn't easy. Our bodies aren't easy to understand (especially in a classroom full of other bodies, where comparison runs rampant). Encourage them to not give up, and to stop focusing on others.

Teach your children the "etiquette of creativity." Some readers may disagree with me saying there is no etiquette (definition: code of behavior) to creativity. I believe there is. I believe to become a complete, properly trained artist, one must understand and follow the etiquette of the art. Self-discipline is equally as important as creativity.

Teach your children to adopt working hard and keep that with them always. I hate watching students give up, not follow through. If you give up, there's nothing more a teacher can do for you. Keep trying. Mentally make yourself.

Parents: Stay strong. Students: Stay strong.

One day you'll see: No matter how hard it is, you can do it, too.

Photographs from class at Broadway Dance Center. Thank you to the moms who took the photos!

Thank you to my mom who is still always supporting me in dance, and who told me to never give up even when people told me I should.

Dance for happy. Dance for always. Dance on.



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Design & Development by Shane Jeffers