Small recent victories:
Cardinals beat the Pirates (take that, Pittsburgh!)
In class yesterday, I had a moment of plie spring! into a retire position where my toe went well above my knee and everything actually stayed in place. The ability to lift and unfold the leg has never been something I’ve had an extreme struggle with, so it’s been so frustrating going back and feeling weak and turned-in with my toe pretty much digging into the lower part of my knee because I wasn’t strong enough to hold a turned-out, lifted position (you know, the way you teach it to beginner ballet levels).
Small Recent Fail: It is the final class with one of my sessions (that I admit, I took a particular shine to my students in this one) so I baked them chocolate chip cookies. No, I take that back. I burned them chocolate chip cookies. They’re all black and crumbling and sad on the bottom. Hey kids- thank you for being so polite and sweet! Who wants a chocolate angry brick?
I did not do this- or attempt to do this- for other classes for several reasons:
One- I obviously fail at being Morimoto anyways. Iron Chef Ruhlin indeed!
Two- I do not usually support giving junk food as a reward for good behavior. I tend to go with things like stickers. There’s an obesity epidemic going on and I don’t want to contribute to it (spoken like a true ballerina, hu?) Foody treats are fine, and a part of life, but I think that’s for the parents to give, not schools. Just my opinion.
Three- and I’m ashamed to admit this- there were a few classes that did not exactly inspire me to buy gifts out of my own pocket for kids that were….challenging. Some schools have different policies on everything from how teachers dress to how we’re allowed to hug the students, so I know I’m well within the legal side of interacting with students, but perhaps, and this is the part that bugs me about myself, not the emotional side. I think it’s only human to have favorites- the ones that show some potential, or simply are nice kids with a good attitude, that show up eager to learn, and not the ones that do things like slap other students and throw a stapler at your head (yes, it’s happened).
I don’t think that I have much trouble keeping it professional and keeping personal feelings out of teaching or writing. I keep the same rules of discipline and try to spread equal attention and praise around the sliding scale of favorites in students, and as a critic, if a show is good then a show is good. I think the question for me is not so much how to handle the work itself, but who to devote the work to?
If there is a company that has treated you or your friends badly, or where dancers have said nasty things about you, do you continue to spend money on tickets to their shows? Do you write previews or review for such places? More importantly, do I go to teach where I know it will be more of a challenge with those students? I think of how incredibly frustrated and exhausted and honestly- annoyed- I often am when I leave a classroom and feel like I had to pull every trick out of my hat to get students to listen and keep their hands to themselves. But I also feel for these kids; this kind of behavior is either learned or developed as a coping mechanism for who knows what is going on in their young lives. I know that not everyone is as lucky to have a childhood that consisted of privileged ballet class, a nice school with a small class size, parents that had time to play and help with reading, ponies and swimming on the weekends. And I keep hoping that if I pull out my best, teach a fun lesson, show some encouragement and patience, maybe dance class will be the thing that changes some attitudes or ideas of self-esteem or at least teaches a little discipline. I think as a writer and a teacher, you have to put personal feelings aside and go not where you necessarily want to go, but where you’re needed and where you’re helping the cause of art and community. (I’m not saying that anyone needs me as a teacher or critic, but I keep on trying just in case there is someone to whom it makes a difference.)
Maybe I should make burned cookies my trademark ‘thumbs-down’ for a show or class. If the kids were brats or the show stunk, I’ll send the whole lot of them a batch of burned-disaster cakes with my official stamp of buttery disapproval. And that’s if I’m WILLING to go see the show/ teach for them in the first place…I have so many other IMPORTANT things to do….just kidding.
I guess when all is said and done, I serve the art of dance, the St. Louis community, and excellence, whatever company it comes from and whatever school is in the most need of it. And I’ll try not to serve so many burned cookies. x0- jess