What mindset are you creating in the dance studio?

Cultivating Happier Dancers

January 13, 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 |

What mindset are you creating in the dance studio?

Kristin’s three mindset-shaping life experiences in the dance studio

Kristin:

I’m going to share three little vignettes that kind take you through the way that I realized mindset was being created in a studio. One of the first, I’m a nine-year-old bunhead, and I won’t name any names. And I’m in a class with a very well-known and respected male dancer who was very, very, very talented in his day. And he’s teaching us and he says something that I don’t hear. I’m not going to tell you either because you’re on this journey with me and you didn’t hear it either. So we’re going across the floor. It’s waltz and I’m doing my pirouettes and I’m feeling good today. I take my Tombé pas de bourrée into fourth position and I go, and I wouldn’t, you know, just get around free times and it’s nice. And I stick the end and I’m a nine-year old, like really proud of myself, by the way. This is the first year I’m in a professional ballet studio.  I came from like a neighborhood studio. I auditioned, I got in. I’m very proud of myself. I landed in a big Balanchine fourth, and I’m just loving my life. I’m a like in it. I am performing my little heart out because I just so proud that I did that. And he stops the music and says, “Kristin, what was that?” And I honestly don’t even know. And I’m terrified. I’m like, “I don’t-“. He said, “I asked for a double.” and I honest to God didn’t hear him say that. And I’m like, okay. And I freeze. And he throws me out of class, throws me out of the room. I have to sit in the hallway, a nine-year-old little, little girl who was so proud of what she just did has to sit in the hallway. And I bawled my eyes out. And I had to sit there and wait for my mom.  I didn’t have a cell phone. This is a long time ago. And I just have to sit there. I’m embarrassed because people now see me outside of the studio. They don’t know why I’m out there. All my stuff is in the studio. I can’t even like put warmups on. I’m just sitting out there, cold, embarrassed, crying. So that’s story number one.

“I am performing my little heart out because I just so proud that I did that. And he stops the music and says, ‘Kristin, what was that?’ And I honestly don’t even know. And I’m terrified. I’m like, ‘I don’t-’. He said, ‘I asked for a double.’ and I honest to God didn’t hear him say that. And I’m like, ‘Okay.’ And I freeze. And he throws me out of class, throws me out of the room.”

-Kristin Deiss

 

Story number two, fast-forward to five years later, maybe six years later, I’m just having not so great of a time. My body is beginning to give out. I had been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I went into remission. I went back into training and just my body started falling apart. Torn this, broken that, this ligament stretched, this, that, everything is just falling apart. And I just stop getting attention from teachers, period, because they don’t know how to help me. They know that I’m in pain. They know that I’m injured. They know that I’m battling something they have no knowledge about. So they just stop, and I just don’t have any help.  And so now I’m like, okay, now I’m not getting attention right at all because nobody knows how to help me.

So those two things taught me in hindsight that attention, whether it was good or bad, my worth was tied to what other people were doing to me. Either they weren’t giving me what I needed or they gave me what I didn’t need. But either way I couldn’t find it within myself to be worthy of anything if somebody else wasn’t telling me I was.

Third story. I’m in college. I’ve already decided to stop dancing. My body can’t take it anymore. I realized, oh, there’s a musical theater dance class. I could do this for fun. And I just start dancing for fun. Unheard of. And I am dancing my heart and it’s fun again.  And my dance teacher after three years looks at me and says, “Kristin, why aren’t you dancing?” And I said, “I can’t.” And she said, “But you’re here every day dancing. What do you mean you can’t?” Because I was taught, “I couldn’t.”  Like somewhere along the way I was taught I couldn’t. And it wasn’t until she said to me, like, “What do you mean?” She didn’t understand why I answered that way. And it took me years and years and years to even understand why I answered that way.

So all I needed was somebody to flip the script on me and say, but look what you’re doing. Look at the amazing things you’re doing. Why don’t you want to do this anymore? Do you want to do this? Then why aren’t you doing this? And somebody for the first time was asking me questions about what was in here and what I thought and what was going on and the cobwebs of my mind, no one ever did that before. So all of this is to say my sense of success from the time that I was a young child was tied to the attention that I got from other people. And that is what I still to this day battle with. I also would like to note it just takes one person to show interest in a student and it can change their life. That teacher that I had changed the trajectory of my entire life, and I could not be more grateful.

“My sense of success from the time that I was a young child was tied to the attention that I got from other people. And that is what I still to this day battle with. I also would like to note it just takes one person to show interest in a student and… Click To Tweet

Fixed Mindset Versus Growth Mindset

Michelle:

That’s the power of a fantastic educator. It’s so interesting that even though you had so many struggles with your body, it was your mind that was holding you back. Speaking about mindset, dancers don’t pay as much to attention to their mindset. And there’s so many aspects of mindset, but looking at the difference between, officially it’s called a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. A fixed mindset says this is what it is. Like my success is based on my talent, my natural ability. I’m either destined to do this or I’m not. But the opposite of that, a growth mindset, it’s a belief that your success is gained through hard work, through things that you can control. The difference between that is that a fixed mindset is external. Like you can’t change it. There’s no power in that. But a growth mindset is completely internal that you have the power over your success, over your hard work, over how you create yourself into your future self. That’s thing about dance that’s difficult is that we rely so much on the external. Even in the dance studio, we look at a mirror, we look at ourselves in the mirror, and usually we base what we do on what we see externally as opposed to what we feel. We try so hard to get the approval of our teachers, to get the role, to get the platinum, to all of these things to the detriment of our personal and internal growth, and that’s not sustainable in the long term.

Yet – a powerful word

And so as educators, it’s so important to take away that external, this is how you are. This is a set thing to even using the word yet. Like I don’t see that your arabesque is as high as it could be yet. That is epicly different. That makes a huge difference in a student because it changes the focus from product, we want to have that perfect arabesque, to process, we’re going to get to an arabesque and we’re going to have fun doing it in the process.

“And so as educators, it's so important to take away that external, this is how you are. This is a set thing to even using the word yet. Like I don't see that your arabesque is as high as it could be yet. That is epicly different. That makes a huge… Click To Tweet

Kristin:

The first time I ever took a yoga class and had a face away from the mirror, I thought, “What kind of witchery is this. I’m not down with this. I can’t see what I’m looking at. How do I know if it’s right or not?” And my yoga was instructor was like, “Because you feel it.” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t trust what I feel.” So we need to turn around and face the mirror. You’re so right. It’s like the whole class setup is external.

Susanne:

Thank you for sharing that, because that was a really I could definitely feel how much, not only pain that had given to you back then, but how much that’s still part of you. It’s something that I struggled with for my entire life. In fact, I just uncovered yet another layer of unworthiness and not enoughness this morning when I was journaling. And knowing that the earlier we start doing this work, the earlier we will set ourselves free in terms of stop depending on somebody else’s opinion of yourself. And even if that’s the mirror, I still like to work out in front of the mirror and see, “Okay, there’s a new muscle strain. Ooh, yes, good. I did good where this, oh, this feels really good, but it looks terrible.” Who cares? We actually know what we’re great at and where our opportunities lie.

 

Takeaways

So when we’re talking about takeaways, there are so many that I could just give you right on the spot here, as educators, as dancers, as a human being, as a woman, as a man, whatever that is and wherever you are right now when you’re listening. But here is where I would personally start and advise you to start.

Make a list of what you’re great at. Make a list of your accomplishments that you have gained so far in your life. And I’m not talking about the PhD, and I’m not talking about the great contracts and the million dollar in your bank account. I’m talking about the little things. I’m talking about the loving words that you received from somebody. The care and the moments that you have provided for somebody else, the way you’re showing love for your family, the relationships that you established. I’m talking about that. I’m not disgracing the big accomplishments. However, we are chasing those because we think that’s the ultimate happiness and fulfillment, but what really fills our heart every single day is giving and receiving love. So when I’m to talking about making that list, give yourself that love because you deserve it. In order to give others love, in order to serve others, you need to serve yourself first. So make that list. Sit down again, take that time, 20 minutes. It can turn out in an hour. Who cares? You are worth that time.

“I'm not disgracing the big accomplishments. However, we are chasing those because we think that's the ultimate happiness and fulfillment, but what really fills our heart every single day is giving and receiving love.” -Susanne Puerschel Click To Tweet

Number two, feel more and do less. And that’s a hard one for dancers, particularly. Meaning check in with yourself. How are you feeling? And don’t do it once a year on New Year’s Eve when you are writing what you want to do in 2022. No. Do it on a weekly basis. Get into habit, do it on a daily basis. This is how we are making progress. I think, Michelle, you said it’s so beautiful when we’re looking at dancers, particularly, we’re working towards the goal all the time where we’re forgetting about how we get there. What’s the progress? What does progress look like? Pay attention to the progress that you make and do that every single day. So feel more and do less. Much easier on your body, too, by the way. I can attest to that.

Number three is when we’re talking about checking in, and I think we talked about that a little bit in the last episode, checking in with ourselves is so important. And that is a gift that I didn’t know is so important that we can give ourselves. Nobody else can give that to us. We can do that for us. We don’t need anybody else for that. We can do that to ourselves. What I’m doing on a weekly basis, and I’m going to step into the daily actually, is the stop-start continuum, meaning list three things that you want to start doing. For example, to get somewhere where you want to get, something that feels better for you. Write down three things that you want to stop. I want to stop eating ice cream every night. Okay. Do that. And then what are you going to continue? And this is how we analyze, this is where we are. This is where I want to be, and you’re going to build that bridge, the pathway, the progress, your every single step to reach whatever goal you may have in mind.

These are my takeaways for you. We are also going to attach a lead magnet for self-reflections for the students that you can actually implement in your studio. I’m just going to throw this out there, ladies, because I think it is such an important thing to do. Do you remember, we would get in a studio, it was ride alongs and then you just turn your back to the teacher and you start warming up as your first exercise. We never, ever had the possibility to actually communicate with each other. Meaning I remember teachers coming in a studio like with their hairs open, flaring, angry, didn’t want to be there. And everybody was just like, “oh my gosh, if I just survive the next hour and a half.” But when we are open with each other and start communicating and even saying, Hey, not a great day today. How is everybody else feeling? Or is there something I should know? Or just us giving the permission that we all are feeling individuals, that we’re not having to push down our feelings in order to be more. That’s where you can start. Start with yourself. Start with communicating. Start with opening up and showing that you are actually a human being and you allow your students to be human beings, too.

Susanne’s takeaways: Make a list of your accomplishments, feel more and do less, and check in with yourself

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

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  • 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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There is a better way to pursue ballet at the professional level. Instead of dancers pushing beyond their body’s limits, there is a healthier way to train your body, your mind and your spirit to soar. To become the best at your craft, you must be healthy. The mentality of surviving to make a performance perfect is an old paradigm that needs to change. As athletes, dancers must thrive in order to shine and connect with their audience. This new approach, leads to fulfillment, strength and longevity. It allows you to give more of your heart and soul on stage, creating an unforgettable experience that moves your audience. And that’s the whole pointe. 

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