Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The little gifts a teacher receives

Had another "Smile" moment this week at class when a student gleefully pranced into my studio to give me a gift. She made it herself, a necklace of colorful beads made just for me - her Dance Teacher. She asked me if I'd wear it, so of course I did. She was proud as a peacock.

I love little moments like that -- the pretty drawings we get, the occassional wilted tulip or silk bouquet-- all are lovely just the same. Gifts from the heart. That's where dance comes from too, we've awakened a spot in thier hearts so bountiful they can't help but share it with us. That's truely something you and I can be proud of.

Enjoy the gifts my fellow teachers. The love always returns to us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Experiencing the "Flow" - Create Your Happiness

Have you ever just listened to a piece of music and the dance just appeared in your mind? Maybe it was just a combination that struck you to a particular part of the refrain? I love it when that happens! It's called being in the "flow."

Over the years I've learned to wait for it. I'll listen to music that I need to choreograph for my student recital over and over again until the movement appears to me. Now, please don't stop reading because you think I'm crazy. It really does work for me. When people ask "how do you choreograph all those dances" I tell them that after awhile the dance sort of just "appears" to me. I can start to see it happen on stage, feel it as I move around and then I write it down quick. Does this happen for you?

If it does, psychologists would tell you that you are IN THE FLOW. You are linked with the moment, the motivation and the talent to make it happen and you are totally in sync with yourself. I think we all need to find more "In the flow moments."

You've heard the term "go with the flow" well this is a new look at that idea. It's probably where that catch phrase came from, now that I think of it.

Here's an excerpt from the research...There is a state that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about called flow. The Experience of Flow:

"My own addition to this list is the concept of the autotelic experience, or flow, and of the autotelic personality. The concept describes a particular kind of experience that is so engrossing and enjoyable that it becomes autotelic, that is, worth doing for its own sake even though it may have no consequence outside itself. Creative activities, music, sports, games, and religious rituals are typical sources for this kind of experience. Autotelic persons are those who have such flow experiences relatively often, regardless of what they are doing.

Of course, we never do anything purely for its own sake. Our motives are always a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic considerations. For instance, composers may write music because they hope to sell it and pay the bills, because they want to become famous, because their self-images depends on writing songs—all of these being extrinsic motives. But if the composers are motivated only by these extrinsic rewards, they are missing an essential ingredient. In addition to these rewards, they could also enjoy writing music for its own sake—in which case, the activity would become autotelic. My studies (e.g., Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 1996, 1997) have suggested that happiness depends on whether a person is able to derive flow from whatever he or she does.

A brief selection from one of the more than 10,000 interviews collected from around the world might provide a sense of what the flow experience is like. Asked how it felt when writing music was going well, a composer responded,

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don't exist. I have experienced this time and time again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching in a state of awe and wonderment. And the music just flows out by itself. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, p. 44)

This response is quite typical of most descriptions of how people feel when they are thoroughly involved in something that is enjoyable and meaningful to the person. First of all, the experience is described as “ecstatic”: in other words, as being somehow separate from the routines of everyday life. This sense of having stepped into a different reality can be induced by environmental cues, such as walking into a sport event, a religious ceremony, or a musical performance, or the feeling can be produced internally, by focusing attention on a set of stimuli with their own rules, such as the composition of music.

If you are still reading, Congratulations! You made it through a college course on flow. It's a bit of a tough read, but its interesting and note how old the research is...this is not new stuff. I bet I was in pre-ballet class when this research was written.

So, go find your flow! I bet it's some place with music and an empty stage nearby...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Madison Ballet Board of Directors

I'm not sure how many of you have ever had the chance to be on the Board of Directors for any non-profit organizations, but I'm lucky enough to serve with Madison Ballet. Madison is about 45 min. from my dance studio and I work my day job in Madison as well so it's a good fit for me.

This year has been exceptionally challenging for all Arts organizations. With the economic downturn the non-profit world has seen the money from thier donors evaporate with the Wall Street and banking scandals. We've all seen direct impact to this with our own studios I'm sure, people cutting back on classes or maybe not buying as much new clothing or accessories.

Dance is an important cultural aspect that we must not let die in the downturn. Major dance organizations such as the San Francisco ballet, ABT, Ballet Chicago, Madison Ballet are great places for our students and future students to catch the "dance bug". If they never see a real ballet on stage or on TV how are they expected to emulate it in your studio or on your stage?

If you have a major non-profit group close by pick up the phone and talk to the local Executive or Artistic Director. Now, may be the time you can partner with them to help them fundraise and help you gain new students. Your affilliation with upper level dance organizations can only help your brand and your local credibility. Be creative. Hire them to be guest teachers or run a seminar for your summer program. Go jointly to a local school and share the love of dance together. Host a fundraiser with your ticket sales in exchange for back stage passes to thier next performance. There are millions of options, but you need to ask. Our young dancers are the next generation of ticket buyers for these arts groups. We often lose sight of the fact that we ALL need to collaborate to push the next generation of dance forward. Go ahead. Find the local groups near you- even if it's an hour away or more. It will be worth the call!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What's in a name? Taking Attendance a new way

After reading the most recent issue of Dance Studio Life from Rhee Gold I was inspired to find a more fun and interesting way to take attendance. We've always sat in circle in the youngest classes and I've called their names off. Mostly I do it so I can remember thier names... little do they know. But the article I read talked about how taking attendance is important so the dancer learns responsibility to come to class etc. and it encouraged teachers to make a big deal about taking attendance.

So, I began thinking on my drive to the studio, "What could I do to make it more fun?" When I arrived I pulled out a 99 cent princess wand out of my trusty, secret closet and wall-a instant fun... well almost. I decided to have the kids pass the wand around the circle and they could say "My name is ...." and it was fun! Not only did it get each childs voice heard during the class it gave them an additional public speaking opportunity! It really brought out thier personalities too, which in just a few short seconds is enlightening. Some look egar and take it really seriously, some say thier name in one big motion as they try to get rid of wand and limelight as quickly as possible. And I had 2 girls that night who gladly grabbed that wand and then FROZE! They couldn't say thier own name. Now, for me that's great to know. I will focus on getting those girls comfortable saying thier name in a few weeks. I'm always up for a challenge.

In tap class they stated thier name and gave me three shuffles. I guess we could add ballet turns or curtsies to ballet class. The options are endless.

If you have ideas that have worked for you please share them with us.

Releve' Dance Poster sample

Releve' Dance Poster sample
sample of poster