Striving to inspire excellence one child at a time for over 10 years, not only excellence in dance but also excellence as people! Wow, what a statement and a mission to undertake! Excellence? What is Excellence? Webster defines excellence as, "the quality of being outstanding or extremely good." Aristotle was quoted as saying, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore, is not an act but a habit." Then there is the ever successful Steve Jobs who said, "Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected." Or Colin Powell, "Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence." Do you see a theme here? Striving to inspire our students to be excellent... that is a lofty goal; but definitely one that I and my staff take seriously! There are tons of statements by successful people that tout the benefits of working hard and striving for excellence. Do you notice the pattern? These are successful people who have achieved many things in their lives! Did they have failures too? Absolutely! But, overall they are typically viewed as successful people. Our children need to understand that failure IS part of our journey, whether in dance or in life, but it is what we do after that failure that makes us successful for the long-run! Putting in the effort and hard-work to become the best person/ dancer that they can be will NEVER be a mistake and will always take them to wonderful heights in life!
Hard Work+Commitment+Persistence+ Dreaming = Success
Is there a formula for success? I'm pretty sure that every successful person out there probably could give us theirs and each probably would be somewhat different. But the standard formula, I think, will always contain the same elements. I absolutely love the quote at the top by Tim Notke, " Hard work beats Talent when Talent doesn't work hard." Can I get an AMEN?! There are so many people that are talented at something and they just squander their abilities. One example that comes to mind for me immediately is Johnny Manziel. What a waste! But there are those people out there that have to work just a little bit harder to get to even play the game and that go on and become the best that there is!! (JK Rowling, Seabiscuit, Jim Morris, Oprah Winfrey, Ralph Lauren - Just a few examples that popped in my head of people that worked hard to beat the odds against them!) I see dancers every day that have to work really hard at getting something and I can tell you 1) They appreciate it when they get it because they had to work their butts off to achieve it and 2) They are easier to coach and have the best attitudes because they WANT IT!! They are learning the formula for success! True success is gained by working hard, staying committed, being persistent, making sure that you never stop dreaming and setting goals!
So How Can We/ You Inspire Excellence?
There are so many articles that are out there today that lists this generation as the entitled generation and how our kids aren't going to know the value of hard work. Do I believe that it is true? No, not necessarily. I do think that some parents have very good intentions and want to make things easier for their children then what it was for them. BUT, NOTHING IN LIFE IS JUST GIVEN TO YOU! They need to learn that lesson while they are young! You can't force your child to want to participate in anything. You also can't make your child want to do a good job or succeed. But, as parents, we DO have a say about what we invest our time and money into! If your child doesn't enjoy something, why put them in it continuously? Are they going to start liking it? Probably not. Cultivate your CHILD'S interests. Help your child understand their strengths and the areas that they aren't as good at and cultivate the thought that anything worth having, is truly worth working for! If dance (insert sport) is truly what they want to do, then they need to be prepared to WORK at it! I think that the first step is to be honest with your child about what you are seeing. I'm not talking about beating them down or making them feel defeated; but I am saying to have an honest conversation about what their weaknesses are and what are their strengths. I have this conversation constantly with dancers. As they go across the floor, a typical correction for a jump sequence might sound like this, "You had great height, but you need to work on your turnout in your back leg more so you can extend your legs farther." Or, "That was a nice side-leap but your shoulders are raised. Remember that shoulders don't lift when we jump, we should use our legs and feet to push us off the floor not our shoulders." I also stop dancers a lot of times and have them tell me what they did incorrectly and discuss what they saw, what I saw, and then how to effectively correct the issues. These realistic self-evaluations become tools that our children can then use later in life to continuously improve, gain self-confidence, independent critical thinking skills (that don't require approval of others to know their own self-worth), and leads to successful adults!
Here are some key things I try to stress to my dancers and own kids constantly:
~ Life is HARD some days, doesn't mean we aren't blessed. Remember your blessings, be thankful. The hard days will pass, so remember to focus on the good ones!
~ Stay humble, you can always learn new things and be better than what you are, no matter what it is. The best dancer in the world can still learn new things from a basic ballet class EVERY SINGLE DAY! Know that you can grow and be better and push yourself to be that! Applaud those that are doing great things and try to learn from them!
~ Strive to keep learning and growing always!
~ Always be the hardest worker in the room! There is no substitute for pure sweat of the brow!! Work hard and keep pushing yourself!!
~ Never give up - EVER! Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people that believe in you too!
~ There is no substitute for personal discipline either! Do the right thing even when no one is looking!
~ Always do your best and strive to be the best that you can be everyday in everything!
~ Give it your whole heart and effort no matter what it is!
~ Champions are not made accidentally! They are made with lots of forethought and planning!
~ Don't settle! Don't allow yourself to be OK with good enough, keep pushing until you reach that excellent mark!
~ Be inspired! Be inspired by others that have succeeded and don't strive to become them but rather strive to achieve even more than them!
So yes, striving to inspire excellence is a lofty goal; but for me it is truly more than just words. It is a creed that I strive to work at every single day that I am able to teach dancers. I want to inspire them to be Great dancers and Great People and hopefully, I can succeed and pass along at least some sort of information to them that will help them be both!
That's right! I wrote that title and actually meant it! I know what you are thinking... Are you Crazy? Don't you know that we live in South Alabama. Yep, I do! I also know that I am the mom to 2 boys of my own and my oldest is a living testament of how dance can benefit our boys with their athletics! My son not only dances competitively and has since he was around 5 years old, but he also has played football, basketball, soccer, and baseball. He absolutely LOVES dance and baseball. He plays travel ball and rec ball for baseball and last season his all-star team were state champions. Now, I know the next question you have... does his coach know that he dances? Yep! And his coaches support him! Why? Because dance has strengthened his legs, his knees, his ankles, and his feet. He is lighter and quicker on his feet. He generally plays second base and because of dance his feet work is second to none. He can jump higher than most kids his age and he is flexible and able to change direction quicker without injury. He also has increased stamina, is more focused, has an increased attention span, takes corrections easier, is more disciplined, and typically easier to coach because of his experiences with dance from a younger age.
I was incredibly discouraged at one particular competition to have the unfortunate experience to sit behind an exceptionally obnoxious dad from another studio who proceeded to tell his 5 year old son, that was dancing in the aisles while watching the dancers on stage, that he needed to quit doing that because only sissies did that! I proceeded to educate him because only knowledge can truly stomp out ignorance. I explained that my son took dance and was an all-star baseball player and enjoyed every sport immensely. I even explained that his coaches encouraged his dance because they had seen the benefits to his skills on the baseball field. He stated that no son of his would ever take dance! How sad to be that ignorant! Ignorance is NOT BLISS sometimes! Dance will NOT cause your son to be gay or to be sissified! I actually challenge anyone that thinks that to please tell Steve McLendon, Herschel Walker, or Lynn Swann from the NFL, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Christian Bale, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or even Evander Holyfield that they are sissies for taking ballet and see how long you last. :) Professional athletes have taken ballet classes to increase their flexibility in their hamstrings, to strengthen muscles in their calves, to work their feet and ankles, to improve their balance and to gain more control over their bodies through ballet's rigorous training of proper arm, foot and leg placement. In 2014, the Dallas Cowboys installed ballet barres outside the locker room for stretching purposes. I dare say that absolutely NONE of these people were any less manly because they took dance. They actually were better athletes and benefited greatly from the techniques that they learned!
So, does dance training really help professional and high-level athletes? David Franco, who played four years of baseball at Miami University and created the Next Level Baseball Blog, says yes, dance training “helps your footwork, coordination and balance, which are all positives on the ball field.” So whether you have a daughter or a SON that wants to dance, you can see that the benefits of dance are significant for every gender. Boys that are involved in other sports can benefit from ballet especially in order to increase and hone their athletic talents for their other sports. Dance is beneficial for everyone!
e have started our season again at the studio. I always enjoy seeing all of the returning faces but the new faces and the new dance moms are always the ones that are the most fun. Being a mom of three myself, I understand the anxiety that comes with starting any new activity with your child. Did I get all of the right 'stuff' for them to be successful at this dang thing? Did I buy everything they needed? Was it the 'best' brand, was it good quality, OMG, someone tell me that I GOT EVERYTHING AND THAT IT WON'T BE MY FAULT THAT THE LOOK CRAZY ON THAT FIRST PRACTICE DAY! Yep, I have been there too! I feel your pain! Ok, so CALM DOWN now and take a DEEP BREATH! It is all going to be OKAY! I promise! I soon realized after a couple of those, I'm about to throw up I am so nervous for my child, moments that it is okay to not have it all figured out. The truth is no one really ever does; including the mom that has done this for 19 bazillion years. We all are on our own learning curve and the curve moves as our child grows older.
So what does a dancer need to be successful for dance class? Every dancer no matter what age, will need a leotard and some tights. For the little ones, one that is absolutely CUTE, PRETTY, SPARKLY, and did I mention FUN? Oh, yeah and it probably should have some sort of skirt that stands out when she twirls around. Generally you are going to be safe with pink ballet shoes and go ahead and spend the few extra bucks and get the correct ballet shoes, not the slippers that some stores sell. Ballet shoes should have ties at the top of the shoe (where the toe slides into the shoe). The ties help to tighten up the shoe to help it properly fit and stay on. Also, ballet shoes should have an elastic band that goes across the top of the foot. Ask the studio if you aren't sure exactly what you need because we have pictures and can also size and order exactly the right 'stuff'. You will need tap shoes for tap, jazz shoes for jazz, clogging shoes for clogging, etc. We have a list on our website, in our studio handbook, and once again, DON'T PANIC, we have pictures for you and can order it. :)
Below is a list of questions that we put in our September newsletter to help new parents - These will help you!
We are new to Center Stage and/ or to dance, what are some things to expect this year?
1) Will my dancer learn and grow? Dance is a progressive activity. Your dancer will learn new things every single week. All dancers learn the basics and then the teacher will begin to build upon those basics. We encourage practicing at home as well to further what our students learn. 2) Can I watch class? Absolutely! We have a video monitoring system in the lobby that allows you to see the entire class. We also bring parents in periodically to view the classes. 3) What is recital? Recital is the end of the year showcase that we put on. It is a very special show. We put a lot of time, effort, and expense in to trying to make the day extra special for your student! We want to Celebrate all of their hard work. Although we want everyone to participate in recital, it is not required. 4) Do we have to buy a costume for recital? We do purchase costumes for our recital. The costume gives our students the feeling of being a super star. We want to make your student feel extra special and be able to show off their hard work for their family and friends. 5) What does the recital fee cover? The recital fee helps to cover the expense of renting the venue. We rent the Enterprise Performing Arts Center which is not only extremely nice, but also state of the art. The recital fee is charged in January. 6) Do I have to pay for the costumes all at one time or can I make payments? You can make payments, as your budget allows or pay all at one time. All payments are due by December 1st though. 7) Are there other requirements for recital? You will need to have the correct color shoes; which are not included in the price of the costumes. We also automatically order tights, to go under the costumes, for everyone in the correct color. The tights will be ordered in January. 8) Are there other costs associated with recital? There are optional costs that are associated; but these are NOT required. Recital ads, flowers, Recital DVD, recital program, pictures, and commemorative shirt are some of these optional costs. We try to bundle as much as possible and these will be offered well in advance to allow you time to budget for the expense, if you choose to purchase any of these. 9) Can I pay my tuition and fees online or by automatic draft? Absolutely! Everyone was set-up at registration into our online system. You should have received an email with your login information. You can make payments online, register for classes, see any class notes from the instructor; including videos and/ or music that has been uploaded for our students to practice with! 10) Can I drop my child off and come back? Absolutely! Feel free to run errands or whatever. We just ask that you pick them up immediately following class time and that they NOT wait outside for their ride. 11) What kind of shoes do I need or what does my child need to wear and where do I get it? If you will refer to our studio handbook, we have our dress code policy listed. We can order all of your dancewear needs at the studio for you! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask us! 12) Since you are closed for a holiday or we missed because my child was sick is my tuition prorated? No, we do not prorate tuition. Just like we don’t charge you extra for the months that you receive 5 lessons instead of 4. We base tuition on an average number of weeks per season/ lessons per month. 13) Will I receive a statement every month? No, we do not send out statements except to overdue accounts. Tuition is due by the 10th of the month and a late fee of $15.00 will be applied on the 11th.
So as you can see, it will all be okay mom. Just relax and enjoy the year of dance with your child! The newness passes and we are here to help you! I know how you feel and believe me I want you to feel like you 'know' everything that there is to know about your dance experience! I look forward to seeing you for the next few years and you being able to help all of our 'new moms' as they arrive with what you learn; because let's face it you'll be an old-hand at this in no time!
Crystal Sizemore is the owner and artistic director of Center Stage Dance Studio. She has a MBA and Bachelor's degree in Business with a minor in dance. She lives in Enterprise, Alabama with her husband and 3 kids.