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 | Lead a life of your own design on your own terms
Lead a life of your own design, on your own terms, not one that others or the environment has scripted for you.
We want to talk to you today that you can make your own decisions, even though people and contracts or schools tell you what unitard or leotard you should be wearing, what pointe shoes are the best for you, and how to get your hair done, and how many bobby pins should be in your hair. Aside from that, you still have choices. You still can make choices that are not limiting to who you can become but actually supporting you to what you want to be and also give you the possibility to dream really big.
There’s a difference between following the rules and doing what we’re supposed to, wearing our hair the way we’re supposed to, dressing the way that we are supposed to, and how that can affect us on a personal level. It’s important to have a clear distinction between those two things. It’s in this distinction where we get totally got lost.
This topic gives me shivers because four or five years ago, my entire career was put into other people’s hands and I gave them the power to make decisions for me, not only in the studio, but outside of the studio as well.
I woke up four years ago when I was among 500 other women and realized, Wait a second, I have a choice. I’m in the driver’s seat of my car, of my life. I get to choose who my friends are, who I want to be with, what I want to do, and how I want to feel. I did not know that until March 2nd in 2018. I had no idea.
The empathy that was put in the training and in my early career as a professional dancer of always being available and always doing what I was asked to do led me to stepping into victimhood and not understanding that I am responsible for all of it. I believed that everything I was looking for was on the outside, and that entailed people making decisions for me. I still struggle to this day to make decisions. That was so hard for me stepping into entrepreneurship or even coming out of the studio. I had nobody telling me what to do. I was on my own. I didn’t know how to decide what I wanted. I think that’s the veil that is in between success and failure, where we believe that if we’re just writing our entire lives over to the company or the choreographer, and we believe that we have to give it everything we have, including ourselves entirely and our choices, that’s where we pivot in the wrong direction. That is not the direction an athlete would take.
I was the only one out of my class that made it to that State Opera. We all wanted it, and I was the only one who made it. It was like, how dare I give this up? So I suffered another five years through this not wanting to give up on my dream because I was never asking myself the question, okay, what else can I do? What else is there that would make me happy. I didn’t have the confidence in me that I can actually create that.
So I was constantly chasing and taking whatever is thrown at me just like leftover crumbs from cornbread given to the dogs outside to make them quiet. Sometimes I feel like that’s what I was chasing. I just wanted to get that last little crumb of a job or the role and I would do anything for it. It didn’t matter. That’s why I didn’t have boundaries so I didn’t have to really deal with negotiating with myself whether or not I can take those last little crumbs of cornbread or work for free or get $450 a week with no pointe shoes and health insurance. I was just grateful for the job.
Had I known and had I had the confidence in my own abilities, I would have made different choices. And I think I also would have danced longer. I think I would have not fallen prey to addiction. I think I would have not fallen prey to abusive relationships. I think I could have actually really truly tapped into my full potential because my body was capable. Boy, was it ever capable. The only thing that wasn’t capable was my self-esteem and the belief in myself that I am capable. It’s that really thin veil that if lifted up is the difference between success and failure.
I’m not saying my career is a failure. It is the biggest gift. Particularly, now like look at us. I would have never met Gina hadn’t I experienced anything like that. And that relationship that we have established so far is worth more than anything to me. What I’m saying is don’t sacrifice everything that you are for something that you believe is a success.
You don’t have to take whatever is thrown at you
As dancers we’re so thirsty for work that we take whatever is handed to us, even if it’s not what we really want, even if we’re unhappy, even if it’s not the repertoire we want to be doing, but because we need something that says we’re a dancer. We just hang on to those opportunities instead of realizing that we’re in the driver’s seat.
You deserve a whole cornbread muffin. Don’t settle for the crumbs. As dancers, I think it’s important to change our mindset to being worthy, to being deserving, not that we want to be handed a job. We know we’ve got to work for it, but just switching the mentality alone can make us so much more powerful and better artists because you’re really freed up to give from an authentic space rather than from a space of lack and fear and just wanting to make it through.
“I’m just gonna take whatever I can get” is a place of lack because you don’t believe that there is way more out there. And isn’t that what the industry is all about and made us believe? Let’s look at Chorus Line, the Broadway show, the movie that came out in the 80s. It all came from a place of lack because we believe that if we don’t get into the show, there is nothing else there for us. And here is where create your own opportunities, be the driver of your own life comes from. If you believe that is the only thing, then that is exactly what you’re going to only see and get.
When you change your belief around availability in the industry, you will all of a sudden completely expand your peripheral vision, your reticular activating system will be able to see, listen, and filter through opportunities and not the lack of it. And that’s where the veil is between success and failure. So we can flip the perspective. We can find new outlets. We can be the designer of our own careers.
When I think about the beginning of the quote, to lead a life of your own design, then I think about dancers, I think we oftentimes misprint ourselves into a box of what we think should be the career path. I think ultimately, that black and white thinking really ends up shortening our careers. For me personally, the end of my professional career was moving to the Washington DC area, auditioning for the company, and they said they loved me there, but I was too short. I was like, well, I can’t change my height. And so, I thought, well, that’s it. That’s the end. And it was because that was my black and white thinking. But had I been more creative in my approach and more I am the designer of my career, I can sing. What about what other options are there for me? What about musical theater? I think my career could have been longer having I not had this black and white thinking and been more in the driver’s seat of my car. I get to decide where I take this thing, and it doesn’t have to be someone else’s design.
Advice to lead your own life
You are your own dancer and you have your own special concoction of gifts to give. They don’t have to look like everybody else’s gift. And furthermore, your career doesn’t have to follow the same path that other dancers follow. It can bob and weave, and there’s room for that. There’s room for your uniqueness both as a dancer, and there’s room for your uniqueness in where your career path ends up going.
Everything you want is inside you. You need to give yourself permission to open up the floodgates to let it come out. The people that told you that you are too much, the people that told you you’re not capable are liars. That is not your truth. Remember why you started dancing.
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!