The End of my One Year Commitment

At the start of the year I made a one year commitment to train towards my dream of being a professional dancer. One of the reasons why I started this blog was to document the ups and downs I went through and to keep myself accountable. While I didn’t exactly blog once a week like I originally intended to, I am able to write today that I kept up with the New Years resolution I gave myself in 2014.

Reflecting back, I’ve pushed through the doubt and gotten back up when I didn’t want to. There were days I almost quit, but I knew that wasn’t the answer. I suppose when you are seriously reaching for your dream you’ll find a way to make it happen.

Despite not having an immense amount of proper training I have seen a great improvement in myself as a dancer. No, I did not take as many classes as I might have wanted to, or trained as much as I could have, but I accomplished exactly what I wanted to. Actually, I’ve accomplished more than I thought possible! I never would have thought I would have the opportunity to dance with an amazing and inspiring professional company in NYC. I have also been blessed with talented and amazing mentors and friends. The whole process has taught me so much about how I want to live my life and what direction I want to take it in.

Now that 2015 is here I had to make a decision on whether or not to continue working towards my dream of dancing. I believe that I’ve come too far to quit now, so I’ve decided to continue dancing. Not only will I continue to work towards my dream of dancing professionally, but I’m expanding it further and I’m dedicating 2015 to working towards the life I really want to live.

I believe that 2015 will be the year I will accomplish my goal of being a professional dancer. I also believe that dancing will only be a snippet of what 2015 will have in store for me. I want to start acting and finish writing my book. I want to connect and inspire people through creativity and emotion. That is the life I want to live. And most importantly, I want to thank God because none of this would have been possible otherwise.

Positive Thinking

It has been a while since I have written a blog post, but as today was a substantial mark in my journey in dance I wanted to make sure that I FORCED myself to write one and update everybody on what has been happening. The thing is that I have no clue what is happening! I am completely in awe of the opportunities I have been given.

In my previous blog post I mentioned that I had auditioned for Kaleidoscope Dance Theater, an opportunity I have been blessed to be given. It’s funny because I always daydreamed of what it would be like to nail my first audition in NYC, and here I am able to say that happened to me. I have been with the company for a little over a month now. There are times I stand in rehearsal in absolute disbelief of what I am a part of. To think that it was only months ago that I had wished to be a part of a professional company, thinking my chances would be slim and telling myself that I would not try to audition for one until next year. I believe the craziest part though is how KDT fits into a pattern I’ve found myself in for the past year since starting this journey. Every SINGLE person in the company is so supportive, believing in me more than I believe in myself. To me it is no coincidence that this opportunity has been given to me and every rehearsal I am reminded how much of a blessing it is to be a part of the KDT family.

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I find myself continuing to struggle with negative thoughts, something I was battling throughout the week while I participated in a workshop and audition for another dance company. Feeling inadequate during the first day of the workshop, I was very close to giving up and not attending the audition. However, I made the decision to refocus (I “flipped the light switch” in the words of Sean McLeod).

I know that I have weaknesses as a dancer, but over the past year I’ve also learned what my strengths are. Before the audition I sat down and meditated on those strengths and made a vow to myself that I was going to use exactly what I had in my hand in that moment, knowing that it will eventually lead to fulfilling what is in my heart. I might not have great control when I dance (yet!), or have a beautiful extension (yet!), but I know that I have the vulnerability to let my emotions and intention show through my movement. I have understanding of what my weaknesses are, but I also have the understanding that I am working on them and that I will not reach my potential as a dancer over night.

After I changed my focus, I really enjoyed the experience and started to appreciate where I was at. I was sharing the studio with people who have been dancing their whole lives, many who have been dancing professionally for many years, and I was not that far behind them. The amazing thing is that for the first time ever I made it through not one, but two rounds of cuts, the goal that I gave myself at the beginning of the audition. That to me is proof that thoughts are very powerful. I may not have gotten the job, but the experience was definitely worthwhile. I am glad I went through with it to the end as I learned a lot about positive thoughts and was able to put that into practice.

Also, on a side note, I’ve made the decision not to audition for the rest of the year and I want to really focus on improving my weaknesses, because if my dance journey continues to go the way it is going I have a lot of work to do!

XO- Becky

My First Week Dancing in NYC

When I made the move back home to NY I couldn’t help but feel super intimidated by the dance industry here. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in, or if I could even fit in. I knew that I would be a small fish in a huge, vast ocean.  However, my experience thus far has been nothing but positive. In this week alone, the classes I have taken have inspired, motivated, and lifted me up. They’ve propelled me forward and have proved to me that I am not as deep as I thought I was.

After taking a few days to get over my jet lag, where I hung out with my family whom I haven’t seen in 9 months, I took my first ballet class. I haven’t taken ballet for that long, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I walked into the studio I found people stretching way beyond my limits, but instead of feeling inadequate I found myself content with where I was technically at that moment. I decided ahead of time that I wouldn’t compare myself to anyone else. Regardless, I was still nervous because I had no idea what to expect as I knew that dance in NYC was at a whole other level. But, when the teacher walked in she had a smile on her face. Throughout the class she noticed me and gave me corrections. I instantly felt at ease because I originally assumed I would be ignored. At the end she asked my name and told me I should come back to her next class, which I did a couple of days later.

I wasn’t planning on going to any auditions or workshops, but I decided to look at some audition postings to get an a general idea on what dance companies are looking for. That’s when I came across a posting for the Kaleidoscope Dance Theater/Sean McLeod Dance Experience. They were holding an audition for their dance company and offering pre-audition workshops. I decided that it would be a good first experience, especially the workshops, as it would only help me improve.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the experience I did have was the last thing I had in mind. Sean McLeod and his team are some of the most inspiring and uplifting people I have ever met in the dance world. The workshops consisted of hugs, camaraderie, and positive words. Not only were the workshops so informational, they were freeing and fun. They reminded me of the joy and passion I have for dance. When Mr. McLeod presented the rules, specifically rule number 3, “Do not do or say anything that would hurt another person’s feelings” , it gave me permission to be myself. It opened the doors for me to actually DANCE for the pure joy of dancing. That is something I haven’t been able to do in the dance industry because the environment is very tense, but the environment at the KDT workshops, and even the audition, took the tense feeling away so dancers could just be themselves.

I believe the most profound occurrence during my first week dancing in NYC was when Sean McLeod looked me in the eye and told me something I will never lose hold of, something I never in a million years expected I hear from an owner of a dance company. “You have the potential to go to places you’ve never imagined in dance and you have no idea the things you possess. You have everything.” When those words were spoken to me I was in shock. The crazy thing was that the amazing feedback I received didn’t end there. Members of the company, fellow dancers who were auditioning for the same dance company, and members of the staff were all saying kind things, life changing things, not only to me, but to all of the dancers. I found myself doing the same, encouraging fellow dancers and lifting them up. Who would’ve thought that in one week I would have such an experience.

I am so grateful that my first experience dancing in NYC was so positive. Instead of chewing me up and pushing me down, I was treated with respect and seen through a lens of positivity where my strengths were celebrated instead of my weaknesses. Mr. McLeod was correct when he said I had no idea of the places I could go in dance. I didn’t even think I would stand a chance in NYC. I thought it would eat me up, leaving me doubting and ready to give up. Instead, I am beginning my journey here confident in who I am as a dancer, seeing potential in myself, and actually believing that maybe I will actually achieve the dream of dancing professionally one day.

I’m Moving Back Home to NY!

I have stopped going to many of my dance classes because I’ve started getting burned out. It has been hard to stay motivated with the stresses at work and stresses at home always on my mind. To make sure I am still staying productive towards my dream, I’ve instead put extra emphasis on my flexibility work, overall fitness level, and still have been taking my private lesson.  I’ve been focussing on basic things, such as turnout, toe pointing, and hip alignment. The extra flexibility work has been paying off as I see a difference in my dancing.

Because I want to be home with my family I have decided to move back to NY. In terms of dancing, this is really exciting to me because NY offers a lot of opportunity and resources. I have already received a job teaching dance, connected with my previous dance teacher, enquired about acting classes, and learned about work-study opportunities at major dance schools in NYC. Additionally, I will get to be a part of Dance For Change, a great organization using dance to bring awareness to different causes. There is also great opportunity for dance ministry through my church as well.

NY is a whole different world when it comes to dance. I will 100% be a small fish in a big pond with people who are wayyyy out of my league. But there’s just something telling me to not give up, no matter what. There is no use in giving up due to fear or failure. At least if nothing happens I know that I tried. I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to put a lot more focus on dance and have access to a lot more training. I have seen a great improvement in the past 8 months, even with sporadic and interrupted training, so I’m super excited to see what happens in NY when I can put time and energy more into dance. 

 

 

A Dancer in the Mirror

In my living room, right outside my bedroom, is a full length mirror with white, wooden trim. Out of the dozen or so times I pass it I take a glance at it 99% of the time. About twice a day I stop in front of it for a long period of time and analyze what I see. This is not a new practice of mine. For as long as I can remember I’ve been glancing at myself in the mirror whenever there has been a mirror around.

Mirrors are powerful things. I used to think that mirrors were something that showed a true representation of yourself, but recently I’ve been learning that mirrors actually reflect back a true representation of how you see yourself. They are powerful because we give them the power to dictate our self-image. When you look into the mirror and the first thing you look for are all of the flaws you have, you will see a flawed person staring back at you. If you see yourself as fat, then the person staring back at you will scream in your face, “Fatty!”. For years that’s what my reflection was screaming at me. I hated mirrors mostly because I associated them with negative feelings of myself and they exaggerated my poor self-image. I was obsessed at looking at myself in mirrors desperate to see if I was more beautiful or if I magically lost five pounds. 

My obsession with looking in the mirror hasn’t ceased, but recently it’s for a different reason. I can’t stop glancing at myself in the mirror because the girl I see staring back at me is a dancer who is graceful and fit. I stand in front of the mirror and I dance only to be filled with joy and satisfaction. The full length mirror outside of my bedroom has become a tool of reassurance instead of distress. I’ll might feel gross about myself throughout my day until I look in the mirror, when I see a true representation of how I see myself. I don’t think this obsession is necessarily healthy to continue on forever, but for now I use it to my advantage to keep my spirits high and my self-esteem in check. I am more of a dancer than I think I am and the mirror is reflecting that back to me. I would be lying if I said when I look in the mirror I never see myself as ugly or fat, but my old, negative reflection is slowly moving on to bigger and better things. 

A Good Reminder

A few weeks ago one of my favorite dance teachers announced he was leaving. The first day I started in his class I was intimidated and unconfident, but it evolved into the class I looked forward to every week. In a nutshell, he kept my dream alive and didn’t even know it.  On his last day I decided to write him a note to tell him about how his class kept me going on days I almost gave up. To my surprise he contacted me and said these words, Rebecca, your gorgeous, talented little thing…we don’t tend to choose dance, it chooses us!” It’s funny because those exact words were said to my back in December and are the words that gave me to courage to chase after my dream. I forgot them. 

It’s been about six months since I started chasing after my dream of dancing professionally and it has been a journey of ups and downs. One of the biggest downs has been the fact that I lost hold of the reason why I started in the first place. Dance is a calling and I feel as though I have been called to dance. I whine all the time about how I feel inadequate to be in this industry, but instead I should feel lucky that I have the honor to have been chosen to dance. As the next six months rolls outs I realized that I needed to make some changes if I want to make this journey as successful as possible. 

1) I rejoined the dance ministry team at my church. Dancing at church is where my dream of dancing professionally was born. Putting that aside, God is the one who has given me this talent and I want to be able to give it back to Him and express to people the overflow of joy dance gives me in order to impact their lives. Dance as a ministry has to go back to being my number one priority. 

2) It has come to a point where the dance classes I am taking are not benefitting as much as I need them to. I have decided to cut down the number of classes I take a week and instead take the time and money to take more advanced classes. Right now I only travel into the city once per week, but that will be changing to 2-3 times a week. This also allows me to attend dance ministry. 

3) I am increasing my cardio and strength training workouts and started monitoring my calories. 

4) I am starting to prepare for dance competitions that are happening in August and October. I will also be going to the Australian Dance Festival in September where representatives from full time dance programs will be in attendance. 

5) And on a side note! I started writing my novel 🙂

I was watching a dance documentary on Netflix and the same words were spoken “Dance chooses us”. The more hear this phrase the more I believe that it is true. I have chosen to accept the fact that I did not choose dance, but instead I chose to follow the path that was set out for me. As long as I remember that I have been chosen to dance, in whatever capacity it turns out to be, I will keep going. 

Update!

I haven’t had much to write about, hence why I haven’t written. I suppose I’ve found a routine that I’ve slipped into, and for the first time I feel like I am not in this alone. One of the major reasons is that I’ve finally started private lessons. My teacher is everything I’ve wanted in a mentor. One of the things she has me do is keep a dance journal where I keep track of all the things I work on at home. It’s great not only because it keeps my accountable, but because it gives me direction. It’s also great to have one-on-one attention when it comes to fixing my technique and how to improve it. In addition, I’ve found a class solely on kick, turns, and all that stuff. It’s good to have one class where I can just work on that and it’s fun. 

I have mixed feelings about my dancing right now. On one hand I’m finally noticing improvement in my dancing. I am able to dance with more ease and I’m starting to break some of my bad habits. I see my increased flexibility while I’m dancing and I’ve noticed that I am stronger. At the same time I still have feelings of inadequacy as I feel like my dream of dancing professionally is impossible. I try not to look at youtube videos or research dance companies that often because I know it leads to negative feelings, but every once in a while I do. It’s discouraging to see how basically every single one of those dancers have a degree in dance and have extensively studied dance at reputable schools. I watch dancers on youtube and they’re younger, stronger, more flexible, and more technically advanced than I am. I’ve been working so hard, but I just don’t know if it is possible for me to ever reach a level that I would even be considered. There are so many people who are vying for their dream to come true and I’m at the bottom, no matter how hard I work. It’s disheartening. Regardless, I’ll keep trying for a little while…

The SELFLESS Dancer

One of the vibes I’ve picked up since submersing myself in dance is how self-absorbed people can be. The first time I picked up on this was at a masterclass I attended with a highly regarded choreographer. A lot of the dancers were trying to get the attention of the choreographer by pushing themselves to the front, presenting themselves as over confident. Now, I believe in order to succeed in the dance industry a dancer does have to exude confidence in their abilities and what they can bring to enhance the industry; however, there are people I have come across that have gone too far by putting others down to keep themselves afloat.  

I have witnessed this first-hand at an audition I attended. I was a part of a group that was cut during the first round. After receiving feedback from the choreographer I overheard others dancers wondering why they were cut. They said things like “I was so much better than the other girl.” or “Why does she always get chosen? She’s not even that good.”

The time this self-centeredness really stood out to me was at a recent ballet class I was invited to participate in. Not only was this class the most advanced ballet class I’ve ever attended, but I was with girls who were a part of a full-time ballet program. They have been dancing as long as I’ve been involved in gymnastics. I knew I was in over my head, but I decided to give it a try. The moment I walked in the director of the program looked directly to my thighs and made a face. I shook it off, knowing that I am not the typical “ballerina” type, but when I walked into the room with the other dancers the first thing they did was look me up and down. I immediately became very aware of myself in a negative way. It was one of the worst days I’ve had dancing thus far, not because I was in a class WAY too advanced for me, but because the entire class I was being stared at by the other girls and being told upfront from the director that I was too big for contemporary dance. 

I believe that the self-centeredness of dance is unfortunate because dance was never fully intended to be self-fulfilling. Don’t get me wrong, I think dance, like music, is something that makes the artist feel something they cannot feel otherwise. If dance is truly a calling, then there is some self-fulfillment that would come from pursuing it. However, when self-fulfillment is the only motivation to pursue dancing then I believe it becomes more difficult to keep the rawness of dance in the center for the sole reason that “self” gets in the way.

I think it is difficult not to cross the line into self-centeredness in an industry that is so focused on how talented a dancer is, how a person looks, or when who you know can be more important that what you know. But I think a SELFLESS dancer is more powerful than a SELFISH dancer. I will go as far to say that a dancer who is in the industry completely for their own satisfaction is disrespecting the art of dance. Art is meant to be shared with the world; dance is supposed to be shared with the world. If a dancer truly feels self-fulfilled through dance then I believe it is their OBLIGATION to put their focus and motivation on sharing that with others. They should let their love for dance overflow for others to enjoy it with them. Perhaps if dancers were more selfless then the comparison amongst the people of the dance industry would end. 

One of the things I promised myself is that no matter how immersed I become in the dance industry, my fulfillment from dance will always come through sharing the art with others. Yes, I have personal goals and dreams I want to achieve, but my motivation will be to share my love of dance and contributing to the industry for others.  Why would I want to keep something so amazing to myself? 

 

 

Refreshed and Ready!

I just came back from a weekend vacation and I am PUMPED to get back to dancing. I wanted to take a few days off from everything that included life (which therefore included dance) in order to de-stress and be refreshed for this next part of the year. I didn’t worry about eating healthy, stretching, strengthening exercises, or practicing anything at all. Instead I just focussed on having a wonderful break.  It was honestly one of the best weekends I have EVER had in Australia. Regardless, I found myself thinking about dance in one capacity or another the entire weekend and couldn’t wait to get back into the swing of things.

I haven’t posted this on my blog yet, but I entered into the biggest dance competition in Australia!! It’s called Showcase and regionals takes place at the end of September. I’ve entered two solos in two different styles of dance. The reason I did this was to keep myself on track and motivated and have something to work towards this year. It will also give me some performance experience under pressure, something I need a lot of practice in! This term will serve as preparation towards the competition and I will continue to work on certain goals that I want to achieve prior to the competition.

Some of those goals are:

1) Increased flexibility in my splits, hips, and back.

2) Paying more attention to details (like pointing my toes)

3) Consistent triple and quadruple turns

4) Consistent fouette (spelling?) turns in a series

5) Aerial on a non-gymnastics floor

My dance classes are also changing a little this term. I’m still finalizing them and such, but it will be great to have a schedule that is more consistent than last term. The classes I will be taking are contemporary, jazz, lyrical, ballet, Pilates and possibly JFH and neo-classical if I decide I want to do it. I’ve also been having trouble finding private lessons, but hopefully that will start ASAP this term. Additionally, I have a stretch program I will be doing 3x a week.

It’s been really great working towards my dream and I am really looking forward to seeing how much I grow as a dancer during the next term! Keep reading my blog for more updates on my progress this term!

What is Inspiration Anyway?

I know I haven’t written a post in a while. I suppose I’m having trouble finding the right words to express what I want to say. Since I’ve started this blog and shared my story people have told me that this journey I’m on to pursue my dream with dance is inspirational. They tell me things like “You’re so inspiring!” or “I wish I had the courage to do what you are doing!”  

The reason why I have the courage in the first place to “go for it” is because I have a solid understanding of who I am. It wasn’t always like this; actually it wasn’t until recently that I started becoming comfortable with who I am. I am a circle and society is a square and it took me a LOONNNGGG time to come to grips with this concept. No matter how hard I try to fit my circle-self into the mold of this world it is not going to work. Once I realized that I felt freedom. 

I started thinking of what am I doing that is inspiring to people and why are they inspired? There are few people in the world that have the courage to drop everything and follow their dream. They are few people that admit that they don’t fit into society, yet they are trying to squeeze themselves into a place that wasn’t made for them. Little do they know that if they just had to courage to follow their heart they would find a perfect mold made especially for them.

But then the questions come…

“What if I don’t make it?”  “What if I fail?”

I would say this is the major reason why people don’t follow their dreams. It’s obvious in my previous blog posts that this has been a big issue of mine as well. It got to the point in my life that if someone asked me what’s the one thing I wanted to do in life the answer “performing” would pop in my head.  I wouldn’t answer the truth though out of fear of what people would say. They might say things like “you can’t make a living out of that!” or  “what happened to coaching gymnastics?” (my go-to answer in an attempt to bypass this whole conversation). If I didn’t tell people my dream then I wouldn’t have to worry about it not coming true and being a failure. But, I came to the realization that I’m forcing myself to purposely ignore something that was on my heart for fear of failure. I’ve already failed if I don’t try.

“What about my future? What about my finances?” 

This is another major thing that comes up and obviously one must be wise enough to know that this is a factor when choosing to pursue a dream. It comes down to sacrifice. It will be a financial sacrifice to follow your dream, but how much are you willing to give up in order to do what you love. I am very upfront with my employer about my dreams and my passion for dance and they are supportive. My commitments at work are my priority and there are sacrifices I have to make for dance because of work, but because my employer is supportive they give me the flexibility I need, where it is possible, to schedule dance around work.   

Yes, there is a HUGE financial sacrifice I make. I could be saving a lot more money, but instead I pay for dance classes, physical therapy, private lessons, dance shoes, gym memberships, flexibility programs, and all of the things that will take me closer to achieving my dream. 

I’m not the type of person to believe that money = success. To me happiness = success. I want to look back on my life knowing that I have no regrets and that I gave it my all. With that being said,  dancing professionally does not equal success to me because I do not want to put myself in a situation where I feel like I failed if I don’t make it. But I know that regardless of what comes of me following my heart I don’t regret that sacrifices I’m making one bit.  If I wasn’t willing to make the financial sacrifices then I don’t think I would be as serious about following my dream as I thought. 

“There’s people who have been doing this their whole life! I can’t keep up!” 

Again, if someone was 100% serious about following their dream then I believe their dedication and motivation would be enough to get them over this point. Obviously this is something I am dealing with. I’ll am vying for a spot in an audition against people who have been dancing their whole life with their own dream of dancing professionally. I’ve been at this for…not that long. This is where hard work comes in. I knew before going into this that I was going to have to work harder than others. I would have to be more dedicated than those people and I would have to not let them psych me out. It’s been a struggle, but over the past few weeks I’ve seen that my hard work has been paying off and I see an improvement in my dancing. Who cares if they’ve been dancing their whole life? I have the passion, I have the dedication, and I’m working my butt off. So whatever. 

 

Perhaps that is why people have called me inspirational, because I took these questions and stuffed them. Maybe people see my journey, know they are supposed to do something similar, yet they haven’t admitted to themselves that they too are a circle and not a square. Maybe it isn’t the fact that I, myself, am inspirational, but my courage is sparking something inside others that makes them think “hey, maybe I can do this too”, or “It’s time for me to admit to myself that I am not happy with how life is going and I need to do something about it.” 

I believe that if something is truly your dream, and you are 100% following your heart, then you will have enough passion to go through all of the negative parts, bypass all of the wishy washy bullcrap you say to yourself, or others say about you, and give it your all.