Not Your Average Self-Care for Dance Professionals: Part 5

Dance teachers are some of the most creative and exciting people to work with on the planet. I am here to remind you that another’s success will never hinder yours.

Ahhh yes, the topic of competition. I don’t mean dance competitions. I mean competition between teachers. Between studios. Between communities.

I mean the triggers that make us feel like we are nothing. No one at all. Totally unworthy of stepping onto a dance floor ever again.

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

All of us have that one teacher or that one studio director that gets under our skin. They copy our branding. They won’t let their teachers work with other studios. They have no interest in collaborating to lift the community up because they feel threatened by other studios.

Or maybe we are that person. That’s okay too, because you know what? We’re only human.

Take heart. We spend a lot of time as artists living in fear. Fear that we won’t be able to pay the bills. Fear that our work won’t be accepted. Fear that we’ve failed our students. Fear that we won’t book the job. It’s natural that it might carry over into running a studio or teaching a class, causing us to feel threatened and competitive within our community.

I am here to pointout a few of these fears with new perspective. Maybe, just maybe, they’re something to be grateful for.

This is a self-care series, so let me remind you that if you’ve ever felt triggered by another dance professional, the first step to healing is forgiving yourself for feeling that way. Take the time you need to forgive yourself so that you can learn from the experience and begin to move on. Try something new. It might not take hold overnight but I promise you, that another’s success does not hinder yours. There’s a process and a lot of work that must go into truly believing that - it takes time, therapy, and a lot of soul searching - but I promise you that it’s true. Trust. Trust that no one else can do what you do. On paper, maybe they can bullet point all of the same skills as you but truly, no one else can do what you do because they are not you. No one else will say it like you. No one else will do it like you. No one else is you, so they truly cannot hold you back.

When we are threatened by another dance professional, we get itchy and fiery and then we hate ourselves for feeling that way. Let’s take a deep breath and acknowledge these very human responses. In Hawai’i where I currently live and work, there’s a phrase that I find to be so beautiful: E ho mai. It means let it come, let it flow. We can let these thoughts of anger or envy come, we can observe them, learn from them, and then let them go. Easier said than done, right? I know. Remember, I am you. I feel you. I am there myself right now. However, if we push those thoughts away without acknowledging their existence, we may find ourselves riddled with resentment and weak self-esteem. If we let them come because they are natural, and we observe them without taking them on as something that defines us, we may just learn something.

Perhaps we are envious of the dance professional who travels with the dance competition circuit and gets to teach hundreds of new students in a new city each week. Let the thoughts come, observe them. Why are we envious? Do we have a travel bug we haven’t acknowledged? Do we feel stuck in our current teaching situation, with thoughts of moving to a new city or teaching elsewhere? Sometimes these thoughts of envy actually aid us in addressing problems we haven’t had the courage to look at yet. Sometimes they are the triggers to push us into uncomfortable situations such as looking at flights for a month trip to another coast, or to update our resumé and take it into a studio across town that we hear treats their teachers extremely well. By acknowledging our thoughts of envy, we may discover what’s truly eating us up inside, and those thoughts might be the catalyst for a life changing decision we might not have otherwise made.

Perhaps we are angered by the other studio director in town who just will not acknowledge our existence. They’ve copied our Instagram. They’ve added genres of dance to their schedule that our studio used to exclusively offer. But they won’t speak to us, make eye contact with us in the grocery store, or answer our emails to collaborate. Why are we angry? Are they a reflection of a behavior in us that we are embarrassed to acknowledge? Are they the epitome of how we never want to be, acting as a reminder in our daily lives to be an upstanding, non-competitive role model in our community? Let me remind you that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If that studio is copying your ideas or your methods, it’s because you’re having an impact on the community and they see it. Let me also remind you that some people were just put on this earth to trigger us. Honestly, they were put in our lives to keep us in check. Sometimes this means that we don’t get to collaborate with these people, and although it’s very sad for the community when dance professionals cannot find common ground to work together, it is probably for the best. This is a self-care series, so let us acknowledge that when we do what’s best for us, it’s usually best for everyone else. There are always going to be people that we just can’t get through to. Accepting that is part of self-care, and it may require counseling or coaching to process. Let me be the first to remind you that that’s okay. Your mental health matters. Use the tools and support systems available to you to work through this situation. Use the triggers you get out of these situations to keep you grounded and keep an open mind next time someone comes in and does something that you want to copy. Instead of feeling like you can’t do that, reach out and communicate with that person. Communication is everything in the arts. The people that trigger us can be our biggest inspirations if we let them.

Perhaps we are threatened by the new teacher at the studio that has a double major in early childhood development and dance. They are qualified to teach special education, certified in three different dance teaching programs, and have taught [insert famous child dancer from Instagram here]. Why are we threatened? Does their training mean they are better teachers than we are? Maybe. Do their experiences make them more well-known than we are? Maybe. Do their accomplishments make us a worthless, useless, clueless dance teacher? NO. That’s actually not possible. Their degrees and certifications do not make us any less of a dance teacher. Their experiences do not all of a sudden make ours nonexistent. They may make us feel small without trying, and uneducated. They may make us feel like we haven’t done enough. But their experience does not make ours invalid. Their journey does not make ours worthless. Use this time when you’re feeling vulnerable to look inside at what is really going on. Have you been thinking about traveling to New York to take a week of classes but you keep pushing it off? Have you been wanting to read that book on Functional Awareness for dance teaching and it keeps slipping to the bottom of the priority list? Have you been wanting to take some time to explore Tap Teacher Online but you’re concerned it may make you feel insecure about your training? Let me tell you, I have been you. I am you. I have felt all of these things, and it has always taken someone with the extra degree or the extra Broadway tour to come through and trigger me, pushing me back into my own education, in turn inspiring me tenfold and making me a more creative, more open, and more exciting teacher.

Our triggers can be the best thing to happen to us sometimes. It totally sucks. Yes, I won’t lie to you, it sucks.

But without being pushed out of our comfort zone, we cannot grow.

Isn’t that what we would tell our students?

It’s our turn now. It’s our turn to lead by example. Write the email. Buy the book. Take the course.

You have the power. The power lies in trust. Trust that you are on the right path, listen to your intuition, and lead by example.

It has been a great joy and truly a form of therapy to bring this self-care series to you, my fellow dance professionals and artists. Thanks to your influx of feedback, I’ll be here with Sadie Jane once a month now with a new post regarding self-care for dance professionals. We’ll continue to discuss the topics that we can’t always discuss with non-dance professional friends, such as how to handle multiple hours of teaching in a row on our feet; setting boundaries with colleagues and studio families; and a special edition come tax season on reminders for all your deductions.

In case you missed any part of the series, find easy links below, and again, let me remind you, you’re doing an incredible job. Thank you for being here.

Part 1: Nighttime Blues

Turning the mind off at night, precautions to take to wake up without pain, and accepting that part of our job will always be unfinished.

Part 2: Mental Health

Doing our part to destroy mental health stigma by removing ableist language from our teaching and opening up to studio families about our experiences with mental health.

Part 3: Social Media Triggers

Perspective shifts on the videos, photos, and branding that triggers us on social media.

Part 4: Stating Your Worth

Charging for the longevity of our careers, budgeting differently, and breaking the cycle that artists should work for free.

Amanda Trusty currently serves as the Artistic Director for Kona Dance and Performing Arts, a nonprofit performing arts center on Hawai'i Island. She studied musical theatre at Shenandoah University and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and currently studies tap dance under Gregory Hines' protégé Andrew Nemr. With a decade of professional performance and choreography credits from theaters both inside and outside of New York City, Amanda is passionate about using her artistry as a vehicle for change, with a sharp focus on empowering the next generation. As a freelance writer and activist, Amanda was recognized in 2015 by the Huffington Post as one of nine women bringing body positivity to dance. Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram