Last week at the studio, I had a “Come to Jesus” talk (at least that’s what we call it in my family) with my oldest dancers. Normally, my teens are the best around. They are respectful, kind, compassionate, and dedicated to their art. But even the best teens are susceptible to what every dance teacher wants to avoid --- drama. This talk followed the typical teen trifecta ---negativity, whining, and gossip. I thought about letting it go, but as dance teachers, we have a unique gift. We gain the trust of our students through years of support, encouragement, and honest critiques. We can use this trust to steer the ship. And let’s be honest, all young people need a little direction. So here’s what I told my teens. Feel free to pass it along and claim it as your own. In fact you can cut and paste it right in to an email or read it verbatim. I’m pretty sure the kick in the butt my girls needed is well-deserved by teens nationwide.
First of all, you are blessed. You are incredibly fortunate to do something you love. You come to this place where you are supported, encouraged, and allowed to practice your art every day. How lucky are you? There are people in the word with REAL PROBLEMS. You are not homeless, you are not hungry, you are not neglected. You are blessed. So what if you had a bad day at school? Dance it out! Does reliving every moment of your bad day and repeating it to everyone around you help you feel better? Does it improve their day? No! It brings negativity in to a space that should be about healing, growing, and creating.
Some of you come in to the studio whining about being sore and tired. Are you kidding? You are a dancer! You will literally be sore and tired every day of your life. You are pushing your body to do things that it was never intended to do. You are trying to create art with your body – and it’s tired…and it’s sore. Teenagers whining about sore muscles is like preschoolers having to go potty. In my preschool class, one little dancer utters the dreaded “I have to go potty” and suddenly ten little girls lose all control of their bladders. Flash forward ten years and one of you mutters, “I’m sore” and instantly every girl is bemoaning her aches in pains. So you’re sore. So what? Embrace those sore muscles, they are a sign of your hard work. You are blessed to be sore.
You are surrounded by a group of people who love what you love – your job is to lift to them up. Win or lose, your commitment to each other outweighs any performance, any trophy, any prize. No mistake made on stage can possibly outweigh the memories you are creating together. Keep it in perspective. You are on stage in gorgeous costumes, with beautiful hair and make-up and you are dancing! This is not a tragic event. There are people in this world struggling to survive and you just fell out of your double turn. Come on now, life is not so bad.
I’ll admit, I rambled on a bit longer, but those were the main points. Come with a positive attitude, stop whining, and be nice to each other. Now you may wonder, would any of this penetrate the teenage shield and actually sink in? At least that's what I asked myself. I doubted whether my words would have any real impact. After all, teens are pretty good at tuning out adult lectures. But that night, I saw a tweet from one of my dancers. Her four simple words gave me a very clear answer “blessed to be sore.” I consider the ship steered.