I was a dance student for 14 of my 18 years in which I learned how to leap, turn, and perform on a stage. I spent hours perfecting dozens of routines, memorizing choreography, and training my body. Learning from my teachers was incredibly valuable to me, but nothing prepared me for the lessons I encountered through teaching the art I practiced for so long.
I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to place me in charge of a class full of twenty excited, talkative, and compassionate little girls, but I'm glad they did. The first day was nothing short of overwhelming and I was close to quitting. I had no idea how to get through to these girls, it seemed as if they just wanted to get out of class as quickly as possible and I wanted them to love dance just as much as I do. There was a disconnect between us and I struggled with how to reach them.
At first I took the strict approach, these girls were here for dance and dance only. I didn't tolerate much and I know this took a toll on both me and my students. I couldn't understand why they just wanted to talk and joke with one another while in class. I didn't know why it was so difficult for them to stand still while waiting for their turn to leap across the floor. Nothing made sense to my 18 year old brain until I forced myself to remember what it was like to be their age.
I remembered how hard it was to be in a room full of friends and not tell them everything on my mind, or how hard it was to stand still when my favorite song played through the speakers. This changed perspective flipped a switch in me and I adapted my teaching to it. I let them tell me stories about their favorite dragon and their theories on the existence of mermaids. I let them have their own mini dance party if they needed to. I let them be themselves rather than a restricted "dance class" version.
They opened up their hearts to me and taught me more about myself than I could explain in less than a thousand words.
On a particularly difficult flexibility day, their usual chatter turned into groans and complaints. While sitting in the splits close to (fake) tears, Adele popped up on my playlist and quiet singing came from the corner of the room. Suddenly "Miss Tess, singing makes it hurt less!" echoed throughout the room and twenty little voices, including my own, joined in. Adele became our go-to girl after that.
Flexibility is something we worked on weekly, but sometimes our hips just don't go any further. Every single week without fail I heard a faint "Miss Tess, can you push me down?" come from behind me. One little dancer was painfully close to reaching her full middle splits, but couldn't get there without a small push. She got it every time.
These encounters were small, but had a ripple effect on my day to day life. Each and every one of those girls have beautiful souls and I wish they knew just how much of an impact they had on me. So, thank you Liza for teaching me that singing usually makes things a little easier, and thank you Isabella for teaching me that we all need a little push to get where we're going.