Guest Author: Becca Sutter
Here at ADC we teach dance to a multitude of young girls and even some boys. Growing up in the dance world I know what it is like to struggle with the insecurities and self doubt that these young students struggle with everyday. When you live in front of the mirror and your world is your body it is inevitable that there will be some criticism and negative self talk. As teachers of dance, we feel it is our responsibility to teach these girls to love and accept their bodies.
If there is anything that I learned over the past decade, it is that self acceptance is the only way to live with true harmony and happiness.
The dance world can be harsh. Dreams and hopes can be torn apart in a moment’s notice by the comment of an insensitive teacher, judge or even a fellow student. It’s time to take the negativity out of the beautiful art form that is dance. It’s time to teach awareness and self love to these young impressionable girls who are already surrounded by the images of Victoria Secret models and airbrushed celebrities.
The reality is that not everyone is going to be a professional dancer. Not everyone wants to be a professional dancer. That doesn’t mean one cannot enjoy learning the beauty and skills of dance in a safe and welcoming environment. To me and the instructors at ADC, it is more important to teach a class that will imbue the qualities of awareness and kindness to yourself and your body than executing a perfect pirouette. If a perfect pirouette happens...great! There are ways to achieve highly efficient technique in a positive and healthy way. It shouldn’t be a battle and it shouldn’t leave students deflated. Dance is meant to be enjoyed and the learning process should be enjoyable.
As a child, I was obsessed with perfection. I was caught in the comparison game and I had to be the best. If I saw a more talented dancer, I would shrink. This kind of thinking can make a dancer feel depressed and hopeless.
That is why it is so rewarding to be an instructor at ADC, we know the importance of teaching young girls that the height of your arabesque does not measure the quality of your heart. We teach the qualities of compassion and love. These kinds of qualities can and will change lives. They give meaning and purpose to our students.
Whether you teach math, soccer or ballet, these are qualities that can help any young student. As educators of children we have a responsibility to be completely present and aware for every child that may cross our path. Our words and actions hold power and they will be remembered.
I will never forget my ballet teacher who told me I would never make it if I weighed over 100 lbs. I’m 5’9”. I would be hospitalized if I weighed under 100 lbs. That irresponsible comment shaped my life for many years. She probably doesn’t even remember telling me.
As adults who influence young lives, we are acutely aware of what we say and how we teach. We know the power of our position and it is our goal to touch the lives of our dancers in ways that many not be considered traditional to dance education.
The world is full of our children. As adults, the words we say carry weight. We have a responsibility to truly be there for them, to practice what we preach and lead by example. Children will intuitively know if you have their best interest at heart and if your intentions are right and good.
As Mahatma Gandhi wisely said “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Let’s be the change, if not for ourselves than certainly for our youth.