If you know me at all you will know I have three sayings that I pretty much live by:
1) Life is a journey, take it one step at a time but keep stepping.
2) Do it for the little girl who looked at you and thought “I want to be like you someday”
3) I’ll stay until the wind changes.
For me, I find that these three quotes serve me well for pretty much every eventuality in my life and whilst I don’t always manage it, I try to apply them every day. It may not be your thing, and the mantras will be different for everyone but they work for me.
I have taken a little bit of time today to think about the first one. As I’ve made very clear I have a big birthday this year, I mention it not because I want other people to be aware but because I want to hold myself repeatedly accountable for where I am at this point in my life. A mental check point if you will and by making it public I hold myself accountable.
For me as a dancer, every year on my journey means essentially my vehicle is in need of more and more of an MOT. With the average age of a dancer being 35 I am aware that I’m in the classic car section now so to be able to still dance and be wanted to dance professionally is such a blessing. However I want to carry on for many, many more years to come and so now is the time to check in to the garage from time to time and look after the bodywork! It's really hard for dancers to do that but I am definitely trying!
For my students I’ve been contemplating the part a dance teacher plays in your journey. They say life is a train journey with people getting on and off at different stops. I’m definitely not the train, as that would imply it is me who will drive you towards your destination and I strongly believe that only the dancer can be held accountable for that. I like to think I’m somewhere between the driver and the conductor… I can provide you with the route and I can understand your destination but I cannot, no matter how hard I try, be responsible for the execution of the journey.
I’ve given a lot of thought to this analogy and realised that dancers and students can be likened to many types of journey:
1ST CLASS LONG HAUL: These dancers are in it for life. They ensure that all the tools are onboard for the slickest, smoothest, exhilarating journey. These are the dancers that live, eat and sleep dance. The ones who reach their destination at the time advertised. The ones who practice what they preach; they are reliable, punctual and perfectly prepared. But, just like the real thing this kind of luxury is unavailable and unattainable to all but the select few. For many it’s a pipe dream way to travel and one we all wish we could do but often is quite simply unachievable and that’s ok.
ECONOMY LONG HAUL: This is the category I like to think I would have belonged to. These dancers are dancers for life. But other factors have meant that first class wasn’t an option. We still jump on to the long haul train but there are bumps along the way. Delays, false starts and perhaps we don’t travel as fast and so don’t make the journey quite as far. But whatever happens the journey is just as scenic!
1ST CLASS EXPRESS: These are the dancers that want the quick fix in style, pro-am competitors. It's an expensive way to travel but these dancers mean business, perhaps they are short on time, want to get to the same destination as the long haul but in less time. This takes determination, commitment and definitely no delays.
STANDARD: I would think this is the majority of dancers, we choose where we get on and where we get off. Sometimes there will be other passengers on our train who we compare ourselves to, sometimes they will disrupt our journey but often they will offer words of advice and enhance it. I think the key for me here is if we are indeed the train in this analogy it is important to ensure that we set off at the expected time and take care of the journey, which all too often ends up being cancelled or delayed. Ultimately the journey is the same and if you don’t mind the odd bump or detour then this type of travel will almost always lead you to your required destination.
BUDGET: This is my least favourite way to travel and in my opinion should be avoided unless there is no other option. Fancy marketing and announcing often follows these dancers but the results are seldom there. It can all look good superficially but in reality is very different and in reality this kind of journey is never a long one, if indeed it even shows up at the station. Sadly I’ve seen many a wannabe dancer try to achieve results this way but ultimately it becomes unimpressive and more importantly unenjoyable.
Why am I writing about all this? Well because ultimately as a dance studio owner I want my dancers to decide what type of dancer they are going to be, what type of journey they want and how they want to get there.
All too often I get students wanting to be first class but not actually keeping up with the standards required and so slipping into budget and on the flip side I get budget students who work so hard they become 1st class without realising it. It's all about the application.
As for me? Tell me where you want to go and I will absolutely provide you with the map. I’ll even travel with you but I cannot control how you enjoy the journey or whether you step off the train. That bit is up to you!
As for the other two quotes. “Do it for the little girls who look up to you and want to be like you someday” – just remember there is always someone in the room admiring your dancing no matter what level you are – don’t disappoint them.
And finally “Stay until the wind changes” – dance is a drug, it becomes addictive but remember you as a person evolve. If you’re on a path that’s not right for you, don’t whether the storm. Talk to your coach and see if things can be changed. Nothing ever grows if it doesn’t love where it’s planted.
And now I’m all quoted up… so it's time for me to continue my journey “Leading by Example” 😊