Gina & Susanne connecting this week over events in their lives as artists. 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.
Watch the episode here:
Rise 360 with Gina & Susanne | Joy in the Studio
Joy in the studio.
Oprah defines joy as a sustained sense of wellbeing and internal peace, a connection to what matters. Oftentimes as dancers, we see the work ahead of us and it’s so momentous. We’re working towards 32 flat days. We’re working towards finishing this variation and having it ready for a competition. We’re are working to get a certain role. And at some point along the line, we find a little bit of a disconnect with why we started dancing to begin with. We left our joy somewhere. And it becomes about not drudgery but the hard work of doing these things day in and day out. Showing up. Holding onto the bar. For a jazz dancer, it means showing up. Being in the studio, ready to work. It’s worth pausing and remembering why. Why it was we started and then trying to reconnect with that. Find the joy in the everyday work that we do as dancers.
Helping our dancers fall in love with what they do
We have to help our dancers fall in love with the work they do at the bar. Can we help our dancers fall in love with the work, with the routine of coming in day in and out, doing the work, and not have it feel like a Drudge, but have it be something that they love to do.
Finding joy in the journey
We were taught that it is really hard to become a dancer. There is no freedom. That we have to sacrifice everything to become a professional ballerina. It’s going to hurt all the time. We’re going to shed many tears. We are always going to be tired. We won’t be eating. And success is achieved through hard work. And it is in this story that we have received from our teachers, parents, caregivers, everybody that influenced us in our upbringing that we’ve taken that in as us. As ours. This is the only way to without even questioning it at any given point. Because we’re working towards the goal. We’re working towards the 32 foot test. We’re working towards the contract, the role. The ‘yes, good girl’. It’s always us chasing something and we are not finding any joy in the journey because the journey isn’t seen as recognizable, as high- fiveable, as sustainable, as instagramable. And the more we are focusing on reaching the goal, the emptier we will be because nothing ever will be good enough. And when we don’t feel good enough, we’re denying ourselves to feel joy as well.
There’s a connection between finding joy and the journey. If our goal is the end. If we’re looking at our goal at the end, sometimes that goal changes and so we’re setting ourselves up to be disappointed if our focus is all the way down there. But when our focus is on the journey and we have this curiosity and this joy of, ‘let’s see what today brings.’ And it’s like the unfolding of a present in front of us. That we don’t know what’s inside and what’s going to come out. Which is such a different mindset from ‘We have to get to that unattainable place. We’ve got to do the work today to get there. Finding joy in the journey.
We’re not teaching our students to find joy in a journey. Nobody just arrives. Polina did not arrive in ballet and was handed the principal contract to become a star. No, that’s a journey until today. That is a journey because we’re consistently changing. We’re growing. We’re becoming something else. The energy outside of us is different. The energy in us is different. We are not the same every single day. Our entire body, the cells in our body keeping. So there’s consistent change and we’re not encouraging that change to be something as a part of life but as something. ‘Oh no, resist the change, resist the joy because it’s not going to get us where we want to go. Dancers aged 14, 15, 16, 18 years old, we know what we hear every day. This is an invitation to look at things in a different way and see how that feels. Like the different pair point shoes. Maybe they’re more comfortable. Maybe they need a little bit to be broken into. Maybe we need a little bit more water or shellac to make them fit our foot? It feels so much better at the end. Find the right pair of point shoes and ensure that we love them when we put them on.
Let us talk about the stumbling blocks that can steal our joy, that can disconnect us from that. Comparison and people-pleasing. Teddy Roosevelt that said comparison is the thief of joy. And there’s no faster way to do that than to compare ourselves with the dancer next to us. That’s definitely a stumbling block.
When we start to try and please our teacher. Or try and please our parents. Or try and please our coach, then we’re no longer focused on pleasing ourselves, which creates a disconnect from our joy. From our why, why we are dancing, to begin with.
Not believing in ourselves.
If we don’t believe that we deserve joy, that would be a big stumbling block. This is not something that we have to earn or something that we deserve when we accomplish something. This is not a $10 bill that’s going to be given to us. No! We deserve to live a joyful life every single day while we’re on this earth. It’s our birthright. It’s not supposed to hurt. It’s not supposed to be painful. We learn from these experiences and we need them to evolve in our life. What will make the difference is how we react towards them. And if we’re reacting as, ‘this is what’s happening for me, not to you,’ The to me kind of attitude. Meaning what joy can we find in this very moment? Our whole world is going to change.
Remembering the joy
Dancers, let us go and find the most embarrassing picture of us with our two- two on. When we were four-five years old, or whenever we started and the bow in our hair. And the big red lips that our moms drew on us for the recital. Find that picture and see, print it out. If it’s digital, put it up somewhere where we see it regularly. Where we see that goofy costume and we remember the thrill it was to step into the classroom for the first time. Put on those shiny patent leather tap shoes, put on our ballet slippers. The first time we stepped on stage, have that picture ready so that we can remember why our joy was sparked by dance and reconnect with that.
Being unhappy where we are
What happens if we’re unhappy where we’re at. Because we still have the agency and we still have power even though we’re students. That type of lack of joy means having a conversation with our parents to see how they can help us find a better opportunity as a dancer to train. Even taking that agency for ourselves and having that level of awareness already at that age will set us up for such a joyful and extended career because we have our priorities in place. We know our values. We know what’s right for us. And we won’t let all of the other noise coming in. And that will set us up for much more.
Staying connected to our why
Oprah defined joy as a sustained sense of wellbeing and a feeling of internal peace, a connection to what matters. And what matters to us as dancers is keeping our bodies healthy and being the best artist we can be. And those two things are only achieved if we stay connected to our why if we stay tapped into joy and give from that place.
Okay, we’re sending you so much love. Thank you for being here. Thank you for always listening and till next time.
So much ❤ Susanne
Important Links to Gina McFadden:
I’m so glad you are here. With all that I have, my goal is to serve YOU – to inspire YOU to better health and wellness in an accessible, actionable way. My passion is to empower dancers like you in their pursuit of better health and peak performance. My work as a dance educator has focused around giving dancers the knowledge and tools to care for their bodies and minds.
Dance has been a part of my life since I was nine. I trained at ballet studios as well as competition studios – my heart knows and loves both worlds! (Did you know you were reading the bio of Teen Miss Dance of Michigan 1994?!) I went on to dance professionally The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Ballet Pacifica, State Street Ballet and The National Choreographers Initiative.
My students include ballet “bun heads,” competition dancers, concert and commercial dancers…I’ve even taught 3-year-olds (which, as it turns out, is a lot like herding kittens). Most recently, I have been on the faculties of Boston Ballet School, New Jersey School of Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet School and an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University and Hope College.
Want to sample some of my writing? I have a blog here and am a blog contributor at The Muse by Apolla. Want to take one of my virtual classes? I teach Apolla Insta Live Series twice a month!
My degrees in business and legal studies tell the tale of a young lady who once thought she wanted to be a lawyer…but this beautiful art form kept calling me back…
Wanting to learn more about anatomy and mind-body connection, I completed my RYT yoga teacher training in 2016. Oftentimes my students will end up in down dog in the middle of a ballet barre because…down dog. I am a Holistic Life, Career & Executive Coach and work with clients (dancers and non) around the globe.
I am married to a handsome Marine (oorah!) and mamma of two lovely daughters, ages 9 and 12. My other joys in life include cooking from scratch, working out, spending time with my family, hosting big dinner parties and reading.
Honored that you are here, Dancer! Please reach out to me via email if you would like to connect!