Inside This Post: In an industry where the best extension, the extra tricks, the sexy outfit, or knowing the right people can get you seen, hired, and on stage– we do things a lot differently in my Kea Method dance studio compared to the rest of the dance world. If you want to know the truth on what my dance students really think about self-care and cultivating confidence, read on!
I sat down with a group of my dancers, varying from age 10 to 18, each with a different schedule load and different style focus. I asked them some questions to get to the heart of what’s important to them to feel healthy and strong in their dance practice, and in their daily lives.
Asking for feedback takes courage. As a teacher/business owner it means that I have to be ready to hear that something I’m doing needs improvement, or that something I’m doing with a good intention, might not have the desired effect on my students. After all, I’m only human.
However, it’s my responsibility to do the work and show up fully with an open heart. I’m very clear that ultimately my work and The Kea Method is about providing a safe space for my students to experiment, discover, fail, succeed, and grow as human beings and artists.
I was ready for some juicy convo that would help me improve (hearing my kids’ opinions always does even if not directed at the class itself), but this convo melted my heart!
It actually gave me what I didn’t realize I needed a little bit of – affirmation and encouragement that I was doing something right. That’s right! Us teachers need positive feedback too, and this unexpected deep conversation blew my mind.
Get ready! We got deep about how the pandemic has affected them, what coming to class consistently means for their life’s uncertain routine. And the inspiration and hope they feel from getting to share with other teens in class.
IMPORTANT: If you’re a dancer, somewhere in the world reading this, I hope you can take away from this post that you’re totally worth all of the love and support the world has to offer. Know that your hard work IS paying off and completely acknowledged and that pushing yourself to injury is NOT ok.
But don’t listen to me, hear it from the source…
Enter stage right, my dancers.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway from dancing this year?
Maya: “Learning to not be embarrassed in front of others when I’m just a beginner and I make mistakes…”
Paloma: “You don’t have to be perfect the first time, just keep trying and you’ll improve.”
Clara: “Dance has been so helpful in my life. Especially during covid, I look forward to it each day and it’s always a big relief when I know I have class.”
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced and overcame?
Paloma: “The hardest thing for me is that I do a lot of ballet at another studio, so dancing here [with Kea] is accepting that I’m not expected to be perfect in every move. But I’m not used to it. I’m used to feeling stiff and afraid of making a mistake. So, I think of each move as an expression of myself and a part of a story that I’m trying to tell instead of a pose, so it helped me to flow from one movement into the next instead of staying tight and rigid.”
Bella: “Transitioning into teen classes was really challenging. At first, I felt like I was behind the older dancers with not as much skill and technique as everyone else and that was really hard. But I just kept hearing, “you’re right where you’re supposed to be” which was in transition and that was uncomfortable because it was new and just to stay the course. Now, it’s been 5 months and I can’t believe how much better I feel. I am leading some classes, I know way more than I thought I did, and now I’m used to working with the older group!”
I asked Bella directly, what did you do to change that feeling of fear to determination?
Bella: “I just reminded myself I’m here to learn and I don’t have to be the best at everything. I worked really hard to get more training and technique, took more classes, stayed consistent, and practiced a lot at home.”
(Everyone giggles at this comment because I smiled at the ‘practicing at home’ – they ALLL know I remind them to practice and some of the faces started to blush because apparently they are not all doing it…laughter broke out when I read that aloud!)
Q: What are things you heard in class that kept you going:
Clara: “Almost every class, I hear some form of encouragement or story that reminds us not to give up and how to overcome challenges. Hearing the experience and strength my teacher went through gave me the courage to keep going.”
CeCe: “Every time I learn something new I hear you say “you might not get it the first time but that’s ok, just keep trying” and I repeat that to myself all the time in and out of the studio whenever I try something new.
Q: What was the most helpful aspect of keeping a consistent dance schedule?
Clara: “Being able to look forward to something each day was helpful. Like, when I know I’m finishing my dance tonight or excited to polish some newly learned moves… it gives me that thing I need to look forward to during the school day, and a sense of accomplishment. It’s also never stressful coming to dance, it’s amazing that I feel relaxed and like I achieved something instead of stressed out about an exam or sports or anything like that. I’m just excited and know it’s going to be a major stress release!”
Maya: “Having class each week gives me a consistent way to improve and makes learning new things easier.”
Q: What was the best thing you heard me say this year?
Paloma: “When you said, “look how far you’ve come, look how much you’ve improved!” I felt like I had arrived and it inspired me to keep working hard. I see my accomplishment and feel recognized for my hard work. I feel like you care when I’m trying hard.”
CeCe: “When you say “we’re having another show!” EVERYONE breaks out laughing and clapping – (I had just announced this week we are doing three shows instead of two in our upcoming performance.)
Clara: “When we are struggling to connect to the dance or not putting in our “all” and you tell a funny story, like when you were rushing for a train on a trip, and it helps get us to in the mood of the story we are dancing – but really it also breaks the ice and gets everyone laughing and relaxed, closer and connected. Then we are “in it” you know?
Maya: “When I joined classes, you compared dancing to painting and art, which is something I understood more than dance at the time, and it really helped me to relax and connect to what I knew well already….to feel less like dance is “move from this pose to this pose” in a rigid way – I found the flow from one movement to another like painting.”
Q: What was the best non-dance-specific topic we talked about?
Paloma: “We were finishing one of our dances and related it to how we felt coming through covid – this felt like such a safe space where I could feel vulnerable and share how the whole year felt and no one was judging me.
Coming to dance wasn’t just coming to dance – it was a place to come to feel all the feels that were happening out there in the world that there was no space to express. I have to hold it all in and here I can let it all out but then it sort of flows like a river and I’m swept up in it, and the bad floats away and the good lifts me up.”
Q: What would you say to teens out there who are struggling to feel confident?
Clara: “Find something that you love, do that and get into it – and of course, try dance! It makes you feel better to have an amazing dance teacher and mentor. It’s the best of both worlds because I get to have that in my life and someone who’s here for me AND I get to dance with my friends.”
(A few tears and hugs happened here)
Q: What do you want people to know about why taking care of your body as a teenager is so important?
Paloma: “I think it’s important because when I take care of my body, it helps me to feel healthy and stronger, and not just physically stronger but like I have the power to change things. I don’t like to say no to what doesn’t feel right, and like “I CAN do this”! Just keep working at it and you’ll achieve anything.
Bella: “It makes me feel more motivated to work harder knowing that I’ve reached a goal. Knowing that taking care of my body not only improves my dancing, but outside of dance, it also makes me feel better physically and mentally and pushes me to make healthier choices. I eat better, I sleep better, and though I’ve reached a goal, I know I need to maintain that goal.
Maya: “When I started dancing, the reason I came in was that I was having a difficult time mentally. Dancing and getting control of my body made my brain feel a lot better. I have multiple anxiety disorders and now I have the strength and the confidence that I can overcome that. It doesn’t define me or affect my life like before. Before I couldn’t even take group classes, just private lessons. And now I’m in every class I can attend that my schedule allows and I can’t believe it – I’m performing in the show! Something I NEVER thought I’d do!”
Clara: “Just because I love dancing so much, I would never want to give it up because I wasn’t physically capable because I pushed my body too hard or got injured and didn’t rest it and have good self-care. I don’t ever feel pressure to go to dance class if, say, my ankle hurts or my knee is sore. I’m encouraged to rest and it makes me more comfortable because I don’t feel pressure to push when I’m injured.”
The conversation broke out here about how surprisingly, for as many classes as they all take and how hard they work, the studio is practically injury-free! Usually, dancers get hurt from an out-of-studio activity like skiing, sports, or just being silly on a trampoline.
I remind them that that’s life, be kids and have fun, but make good choices. You don’t want to work for nine months towards a show then get in a stupid accident because you were fooling around and hurt yourself and then couldn’t perform.
Q: What are your FAVORITE self-care habits you’ve learned and used regularly?
Bella: “Foam rolling”
Paloma: “Core exercise”
Maya: After I started dancing here you always said after my privates, “now go take a warm bath, have a smoothie, and stretch” and I did.
I loved when dancers would come to class and share their favorite smoothie concoctions they’d experiment with!
Bella: “Meditation is something I never thought I’d learn or be into, let alone at the dance studio. It has brought so much calmness and self-awareness into my life. Like I know exactly how to get present when I need to and I use your go-to centering meditation before every test at school…and I usually do pretty well.” lol
Paloma: The “Three-Step Attitude Pivot” has helped me to clear my energy and feel safe inside of my self no matter what was going on around me. It’s been a pretty chaotic year and I can’t tell you how much I have done this before, after, and during school.
Well, there you have it – from the source. It was a full and loving conversation that led to enforcing some great things! Like not pushing your body to injury. Maintaining healthy habits like eating well and self-care. And, the joy and release that can come from dance.
My big takeaway was that we have built a community and family amongst our dancers. What excited me most was how much these girls want to share this with you out there reading this.
They want to enforce that dance training can be a healthy, grounded, supportive, and encouraging place to find yourself and find others.
“The industry mindset of punishment and drama, competition and exclusion, is really outdated and honestly needs to go.“
These ladies reinforced my own belief system that not only am I doing something right with my approach to dance teaching, but that energy is infectious. When you hang around positive and caring individuals, you will not only feel better but be able to pass that on. Plus – it shows in your dancing!
So take this advice from these dancing teens and apply it to your daily dance routine. I have some great Kea Method resources for you to join us from wherever you are right now!
- Download My Free Kea Method Morning Routine
- The Kea Method 5 Pillars
- The 3 Step Attitude Pivot – mentioned in this post