I often say that I consider my dancers to be family. They each feel like my own children in a way, and although I’m happy to send them home to their real moms at the end of the night, a piece of them stays with me. I think every teacher can relate to the bond that is created with a student. The unique part of being a dance teacher is that rather than lasting one school year, our bonds are developed over years and years of training, often from preschool through high school. No other teacher will invest as much time in your child as their dance teacher. So what is the return on that investment? To some teachers, it may be watching the dancer develop, the awards or accolades they receive, or perhaps moving them on to a dance career. For me, the return has always been the joy of having these amazing, smart, witty, loving kids as a part of my life. And believe me, my investments have yielded extremely high returns.
Recently, I was reminded of the ties that bind these dancers to home in very concrete ways. I have many students who have since graduated and have been out of the studio for years living their own lives. Some have continued to dance, some have not, but they all find a way to stay connected.
The buzz in my pocket called my attention to a bright screen filled with a picture of jet black pointe shoes. I didn’t even need to check to see who the sender was. Hayley finished her degree in dance at UNLV this past term and was sending me a photo of her final performance where she was wearing the black pointe shoes that she had coveted since she was a little girl twirling across my dance floor.
From across the Atlantic came another message, “Tonight I got to see the Dutch National Ballet Company perform Giselle. It was truly amazing, and I was the hit of the night because I could explain to everyone who was who, and what was going on.” This one was from Courtney, a long-time dancer who grew up in the studio and attended Bunhead Bootcamp each summer, where we studied this exact ballet. She was studying abroad in Amsterdam, bravely going on an exchange program where she knew no one and diving in to Dutch culture. Her study of ballet was a lifeline that connected her to a foreign country, a teacher who supported her back home, and a legacy of art and culture that has spanned centuries.
A photo pops up of a dark night, with a few people in what looks like a giant red wagon…..the message is “I found it!” On closer inspection, it is Holley – one of my grads who was at that moment in Spokane, Washington at a conference. She convinced several of her school friends to go out that night in search of the giant Red Flyer wagon that is located in River Front Park -- the same Red Flyer Wagon where we took a team photo when our dance company visited Spokane nearly a decade earlier. Not only did she remember the wagon, but went in search of it, found it, and sent the photo to prove it!
I could fill pages with the texts, calls, and messages that I receive from my “former” dancers. Which only goes to show, there’s nothing “former” about being one of my students. They don’t need to be in the studio in order for those connections to hold because it was never just about the dance training. It was about respect, communication, support, and love. These are the ties that bind.