Today I have two stories for you really, which makes this a long post, the first section is about where I’ve been and the 2nd is about where I’m going. Feel free to scroll down to the Present Day section to read about When It’s Time to Teach.
BACK STORY: I’ve been studying dance since 1982, I was 9, although it was casual that first year, my second year brought on a whole new level of dedication and more classes. By the time I became a teenager my life was dance. Everyday after school I was dancing until it was time to go home and sleep. Several weekends a year I was in competition and each summer from mid-junior-high until I graduated from high-school I was either in LA or New York studying dance. During my childhood years I challenged myself a lot and accomplished a lot too. I collected a lot of trophies in my day, not only on the state level, but on the national level too, but in the end I kept doing it, because I loved to dance. I loved the discipline of dance, I loved the movement, I loved the way my body felt filled up with rhythms from the music. Dance to me was magic.
By the time I needed to start thinking about what I’d do after high school I became highly conflicted. I desperately wanted to dance professionally, but my heart had this other need that I could not ignore. I wanted to go to college, I wanted that normal life that most teenagers had that I felt I missed. I also have this overly realistic side to myself, I call it my truth and it was going to stop me from making the grand gesture of committing to dance. I knew I was only 5′ 2″ and in the dance world that can get you cut from an audition before you can even step on the stage. Of course I know now that I could have made a living somehow, but I wont look back. I went to college, only one semester went by before I missed dance so much that my heart ached. By my 2nd semester I was a double major and living high on dance and business classes. The following year brought on sorority life. I had it all, college was the time of my life!!! By the time graduation hit I had met the man I wanted to marry (spoiler here: I married that prince and we have two beautiful boys), I had my business degree and I had a scholarship with Gus Giordano, a very famous dance company in Chicago. Off to Chicago I went, I used my degree to get a good job and lucky for my they flexed my hours so I could dance at Gus’. Dancing on scholarship has a lot of plus sides, including learning from amazing teachers, dancing along side company dancers and even getting pulled in at the last-minute to substitute teach.
Long story short, 5-months into the scholarship my knees started to hurt. The pain was so bad I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs. I was tearing the underside of my knee cap, not good. Decision time. I loved dancing at Gus’ and I loved Chicago and still do, but I had a prince waiting for me back in Michigan. I had a degree I could lean on and I still had some dance connections back in Michigan. I believed I could make it work, just on a smaller scale than I had intended. By this point I’d also gotten a taste of getting a good salary, which was something even my scholarship buddies could understand.
Much longer story short, once back in Michigan, it was 1997 now, I was dancing a little and working a lot. It was not long before I was no longer dancing because my career was taking off. Dance was forgotten, how to take care of my body was forgotten, everyone elses needs became my focus…my mom took a Nia class and immediately tells me it’s something I must try. Why? Because you love to dance. I do? I had forgotten and I didn’t give Nia a chance. Two years later around the time I turned 38 I had enough of forgetting about me. Starting slowly I pushed movement back into my life. I started to blog and not long after a beautiful person stopped by my blog and started to comment and it didn’t take her long to say…Nia…hmmm
Nia and me = instant love connection, my body came back to life, movement, joy, rhythm, heart, choices…I chose me. When I started Nia my BMI was 30.2, 5-months later when I took the White Belt Intensive (the training that would allow me to teach Nia to others) my BMI was 26.4. Change was in full force and catapulting my life forward.
Present day, well lets start with last week: Now I was going to tell you all about my week leading up to the day, yesterday, in which I taught my first Nia song. Lets just say it was a week filled with stress, sinus troubles, tons of work (paid kind and un-paid mommy/home maker kind), broken coat and a broken laptop, it was horrible. On top of all that mess I was trying to finish learning several songs in the first Nia routine I was learning. By the time my laptop blinked off in its last breath Friday afternoon I thought I was going to lose it…it was a blessing. Last week I stated I wasn’t stressed about leading my first Nia song in front of my mentor, my mother and several new friends, but I was stressed about not giving Nia what it deserved and it deserved my full attention. Life can be crazy and hectic if you let it, sometimes you have to shut out the noise and be quiet. My now dead laptop apparently knew I needed quiet, yes that is the cup half full version. With work forced to be done for the day I was able to get back to Nia and I found my center.
The process of preparing to teach began with first listening to the music and listening again and again and again. Next I diagrammed the music, in Nia we call it doing your bars. With my bars done I could see a pattern in the music, I could see where the music changes from the intro to the vocal, to the chorus and patterns inside each section. Once the music was understood I turned back to the movement. I’ve been doing the movement for this song for many months, but now I had to get to know it in a whole new light. I learned how to prepare the students for the movement, how to start the movement, what to say when, all while remembering to listen to the music and pay attention to the movement. I decided when I wanted to give the students choices in movement and movement change queues. A lot goes into preparing one for teaching, a lot of learning, a lot of practicing, do, repeat, do again…by the time it came time to drive to the class I was stressed so tight I was about to snap. A big part of my drive was trying not to think about what I was about to do and who I was about to do it in front of. I could not however help the thoughts like, why, why are you doing this, couldn’t you have just stayed in your basement, do you really need to be putting yourself through all this? I didn’t answer that question, I new my truth and in that moment I would not be answering in truth. I kept moving forward.
Walking into the room and seeing my mentor Winalee was part of what I needed. Seeing her open her arms to me and hugging me tightly was what I needed. As friends, my mom and brand new friends entered the room, about 12 in all, I was reminded why I’ve climbed out of my basement. Sharing movement and the joy of dance with others is magic.
Winalee brought us all together and explained the focus for the routine, she also stated that we’d be having a guest artist. She was talking about me!!! I knew my song was 3 songs into the routine and during Winalee’s first two songs I tried to relax and enjoy her instructions. Before I knew what was happening she was helping me put on her cordless mic that wrapped around the back of me head and my song had started. Unfortunately for me by the time I was done with the mic the song was past the point where I had planned to get things started. I took a deep breath and remembered no one would die if I started a little off. Then I heard it, I heard the beat I needed and the song really begun. I shut out everyone in the room, although I could sense Winalee just to my left silently supporting. My concentration was strong, I didn’t get lost in the music or in any of the patterns. I did forget a couple of the things I had wanted to say, but I got the movement right and no one fell down!!
The rest of the class was a lot of fun, mostly because the stress was leaving me in waves and Winalee is awesome. Looking back at how I got here is important, but now is the time to look forward to what I CAN do, I can do this. I can learn a full routine. I will learn a full routine. Now that I have this first test behind me I can look forward to relaxing into my new role. Now that dance and Nia is fully into my life I’m going to continue to make magic in my basement but I will also but one foot in front of the other, because I want to, I need to share this magic with others. It’s time to teach!
Not until you let yourself be free will you be free to be yourself. Until you let yourself fly will you know what you can really do.