Cultivating Happier Dancers | The Impact of Dance Studio Dynamics

Cultivating Happier Dancers

January 6, 2022

 

Michelle, Susanne & Kristin connect this week over events in their lives as artists and the science behind the art. Creating space with the intention to shine a light on dark corners with the hope to support you. Come join us with no judgment. We are holding space to learn, laugh, and downright pointe at ourselves.

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Cultivating Happier Dancers with Michelle, Susanne & Kristin | The Impact of Dance Studio Dynamics

The impact of dance studio dynamics

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Cultivating Happier Dancers podcast.

My name is Susanne, and with me is Michelle and Kristin. We’re going to talk about the impact of dance studio dynamics. We start off with a story from Michelle; taking us back to those experiences in the studio and the learn up with science. We dive deep into how to make a dance studio really supportive for both the students and the teachers so as to make the next generation a better and happier place.

 Michelle:

I may not have the best dance studio dynamic story. One of the dance studios I grew up in was a ballet studio, where we did performances every few months. It was not a mentally and emotionally safe space. And this was created largely by the director of the dance company. It was a small dance company attached to the studio. And we were all so scared of our teacher. She would walk around and she would throw insults. And she called me, Tutu butt, all of these really terrible things that didn’t seem terrible at the time because it was kind of a joke, but as I speak to some of those dancers now, those little-small things got stuck in our minds, but more than anything, because we were afraid of our teacher and because she set up this world where we needed to please her and a compliment from her was everything, all you wanted to do was get the attention of our teacher that it took our minds away from learning and it took my mind away from trying to focus on my turnout or trying to focus on my placement or whatever. And instead I was focused on Ms. Such and Such mad because she’s not going to cast you as Mirlitons in Nutcracker. If you don’t get her attention today, then you’re not worth anything and you’re a terrible person. And in creating a not-so-safe space, it changed our mindset in the dance studio from being a learning mindset like, Hey, fail, try somethin, and be silly, to a little bit more of a ‘fight, flight or freeze, like a scared mindset. And because of that, I lost a lot of time where I could have been learning, improving, experimenting, and failing. It made me sad because I think more than anything, my teacher probably just didn’t know how to make a dance studio really supportive. So I think that’s why we’re here. We’re here to talk about that.

“And because she set up this world where we needed to please her and compliment from her was everything, all you wanted to do was get the attention of our teacher that it took our minds away from learning and it took my mind away from trying to focus… Click To Tweet

Attention flows where energy goes

Susanne:

We go into dance because we want to be happy and we want to express ourselves and we want to connect with everything that’s beautiful. And it’s about beauty. And it’s being pulled out of us through fear, disgrace, and disrespect. So I’m sorry you had to go through that.

Attention flows where energy goes.  Meaning that if we’re putting our attention into helping people to rise up and to get better, that’s exactly what we’re going to see. If we are putting our attention into pleasing somebody else in order to be seen, that’s what we’re going to see. As you said, we are going to lose time, we are going to lose energy, we’re going to be tired all the time, we’re not going to be our very best. We’re not going to show up as our very best version. I actually did a little bit of research. When we’re talking about dynamics because it has everything to do with physics. I’m going to read something to you.

“Attention flows where energy goes. Meaning that if we're putting our attention into helping people to rise up and to get better, that's exactly what we're going to see. If we are putting our attention into pleasing somebody else in order to be seen,… Click To Tweet

 

Dynamics Analysis in Dance and Music

So a dynamics analysis is what allows one to predict the motion of an object or objects under the influence of different forces such as gravity or a spring. It can be used to predict the motion of planets in a solar system or the time it takes for a car to break to a full stop. Dynamics is a very important element in music. For example, without it, all of our music will be flat and boring.

Dynamics in dance is how dancers move. They help to accentuate the music you’re dancing to match the ebb and flow of the temple and add a performance aspect to dance. Now, if we’re translating that into the way we’re actually talking to our dancers, our own dynamics, our own energy will always be flowing out and be moving into whoever and whatever we are touching or associating with. And this is why it is so important that we as human beings, as teachers, as individuals, as people that are standing in a spotlight are aware of what kind of energy we’re putting out because we are setting things into motion.

So when we’re talking about the dynamics in our dance studios, we don’t want our people that we’re teaching and helping to become dancers to be sad, tired, and exhausted. We want to help them to be the best that they can be without judgment. Meaning we’re here to serve and not to come because this is what we’ve been taught. And that is where awareness and the awareness of our own energy come in and the awareness of the dynamics that are really flowing through the studio comes in so importantly.  It’s so imperative. We’re not just showing up to teach. We’re here to assess, to always learn to be better.

“When we're talking about the dynamics in our dance studios, we don't want our people that we're teaching and helping to become dancers to be sad, tired, and exhausted. We want to help them to be the best that they can be without judgment” -Susanne… Click To Tweet

 

The value of educators

Michelle:

We are smart humans and we pick up much more than what people say. In fact, up to 70% of our communication is nonverbal. When you’re walking into a dance studio and you have a leader, a dance teacher, a dance educator who is potentially not putting out that energy, dancers feel it. And as artists, we realize that it is subjective. It’s not the fastest time wins the race. There are many different factors. So it’s so important that our educators understand that they’re important.  They create their space by being both okay with themselves and doing the work, but also being aware.

“We are smart humans and we pick up much more than what people say. In fact, up to 70% of our communication is nonverbal. When you're walking into a dance studio and you have a leader, a dance teacher, a dance educator who is potentially not putting… Click To Tweet

 

Kristin: 

I think it’s hard to feel important and feel like you really make a difference when you were trained to be a cog in the machine. And that’s where we come into the consistent repetitive cycle of, this is how I was taught so that’s how I’m going to teach. It’s not always a conscious decision. That’s the way a lot of people’s relationship is with dance and ballet, I think, probably more often than other styles. But you find your place in that, and when you become an educator, you still feel a little bit stuck in that. And you don’t have a lot of urgency. We’re here to tell you, you do! You have a ton of it. And you can break out of that wheel and break your students out of it too and uplift the entire community. And that takes a lot of work. And it takes a lot of self-reflection on everybody’s part, especially the educator. Because you not only have to teach yourself how to do that work, but then you have to turn around and teach your students. That is a lot.

But I think that for the majority of educators, the reason they’re doing what they do is because deep down, they really do care about making a difference. And so if you can tap into that and remember that you also are on your own journey to figure out who you want to be in this system, it could make it a little bit easier and it could give you that fire that maybe you’re like, please don’t put something else on my plate. I have enough to do already. Please don’t tell me now I’ve got to work more on myself. I give everything to my dancers as it is. And this will not only make you a better educator, but it will just make you a better human. Like we’re talking about cultivating happier dancers. You’re a dancer. You are always a dancer, even if you’re no longer performing. You as a dance educator are a dancer, and you are happier as a person, period if you start doing this stuff too.

“I think that for the majority of educators, the reason they're doing what they do is because deep down, they really do care about making a difference. And so if you can tap into that and remember that you also are on your own journey to figure out who… Click To Tweet

Michelle:

When we know how to dance and we teach someone how to dance, there’s a skill to teaching too. We learn as dancers from our teachers how to do a tendu. But there is a skill. There’s a lot to teaching that tendu other than just the tendu. I think dance educators don’t realize that and don’t learn how to teach. They just teach what they learned. And I think it’s important to continue the education for dance educators to make the next generation a better and happier place.

 

The power of the subconscious mind

 

Susanne:

We as human beings, 95% of how we do everything every single day, how we think feel, touch, experience is 95% shown or put into action by our subconscious mind. It’s basically our hardware, like how we have been, these are all the stories, all the beliefs that have come in that have made us who we are. And 95% of that is really subconsciously directing us how we react, how we teach, how we show up, how we speak, talk, think. And I think when I learned that, it made such a big difference to me in how I showed up because all the work that we’re doing is on the conscious meaning on how dancers look, how they eat, everything on the outside. And we’re not digging into what their belief system is.

We cannot outwork our limiting beliefs. We cannot muscle through what is in here, and for dance educators, the way you show up in the studio is a reflection of what is actually in your soul and in your belief system. And when we dig a little in there, holding up the mirror and we’re looking at what we really want to create, when we are coming from a place of service and not from a place of fear, that is when we make that difference. That is when we’re really giving this new generation something that they can give back to their audiences and to the next generation that’s coming in.

For dance educators, the way you show up in the studio is a reflection of what is actually in your soul and in your belief system. And when we dig a little in there, holding up the mirror and we're looking at what we really want to create, when we are… Click To Tweet

Today’s Takeaways

Kristin:

So how can we make sure that our dance studio dynamics are in the best in interest of ourselves as educators and in the best interest of our dancers? I’ve got three things for you to keep in mind as you move forward.

 

Takeaway #1 Performance

One. Michelle and I recently talked with a former ballerina who got her PhD in sports psychology, Dr. Chelsea Pierotti. And she brought up a really great point that I think can be really helpful to us in this discussion. You have to teach your students to be self-reflective. Sometimes this doesn’t happen naturally. The majority of dancers have that kind of personality where they can dig in, but you want to make sure that you’re also helping them improve that skill because that’s going to help them on their journey moving forward to always reflect and check in with themselves and see what’s going on. A great way to do this, is to talk about performance in your classes, because what is performance, by digging in and bringing something forward.

So remember that when you are teaching your dancers how to perform, how to emote, how to find the storyline, how to connect with the story, how to bring that out, you’re also teaching them how to look within, and that’s so powerful. So if you’re doing it already, great, keep going. And then just know that that’s what’s happening. So maybe bring it in more and talk to your dancers about it in that way so they understand that that’s what’s going on too.

“You have to teach your students to be self-reflective. Sometimes this doesn't happen naturally. The majority of dancers have that kind of personality where they can dig in, but you want to make sure that you're also helping them improve that… Click To Tweet

Takeaway #2 Check-in

The other thing that is number two, that can be helpful is to get them into a routine of checking in with themselves. One easy way to do this, you start every class with going around the room in one word, how are you feeling right now? No judgment. We’re just getting it out. We’re just checking in. Tired, hungry, sad, lazy, happy, whatever it is. Any one of those words. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just get them to check in, and then finish class the same way. Great. Class has ended. Before you leave the room, let’s check in again. So you’re getting them in that habit of connecting the physicality with what’s going on in here.  And that’s the first thing. You can’t change what’s happening if you don’t know what’s happening. So you want to get your dancers into a routine of really checking in and being able to name what they’re feeling. And sometimes, it takes a little bit for them to do, but keep at it and they’ll get better at it.

 

You can't change what's happening if you don't know what's happening. So you want to get your dancers into a routine of really checking in and being able to name what they're feeling. And sometimes, it takes a little bit for them to do, but keep at it… Click To Tweet

Takeaway #3 Self-care

And the third thing, and I think this is so important and so often overlooked, as educators, you need to set boundaries for yourself. You need to care for yourself. If you are leading by example, which we know you are, you need to care for yourself first. You need to put your mask on on the plane before you help your neighbor. So please set boundaries for your time. Please make sure that you are getting alone time to decompress and connect with other educators. Talk about the stresses, share your victories. It’s so very important that you are caring for yourself so that when you step into the studio, you really are arriving as your best self. So those are the three takeaways, performance, check-ins, and self-care.

Kristin’s takeaways; performance, check-ins, and self-care.

Susanne:

We also have in the show notes a downloadable PDF. You can have access to a few questions. These are journal prompts basically that will help you to see where you’re at right now that gives you a little bit of a bigger picture. Take that time, set like 15 minutes aside, have a cup of coffee, tea, green juice, whatever is your jam. Take that time, light a candle, and make that for yourself, and see where you’re at, determine where you want to go. And that will be your first step in really cultivating happier dancers in your studio.

Okay, we’re sending you so much love. Thank you for being here. Thank you for always listening and till next time.

So much ❤,

Michelle, Susanne & Kristin

  • Important Links to Danscend:

  • About Danscend

    Hi. We’re Kristin & Michelle.

    Kristin Deiss and Michelle Loucadoux have a shared sixty years in the dance industry. Both have worked extensively as professional dancers and are well-versed and experienced in the realm of dance education.

    After working together in the education field for seven years, the idea of Danscend was born because of an overwhelming need that Deiss and Loucadoux observed in their students. No stranger to the need for mental health awareness, both creators wrestled with various issues in their professional dance careers as well.

    In Danscend, Deiss and Loucadoux have created a resource that they wish was available when they were beginning their dance careers, a resource that will benefit not only their students but also the dance industry as a whole.

 

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