Wonderfully You

Hey y’all. How ya doing? Hanging in there?

It’s March tomorrow, can you believe it? The month has flown by and I’ve been taking my time enjoying those quieter moments to just relax, let my brain veg for a moment. I wouldn’t exactly call it finding inner peace or stilling myself so much as just trying to figure out what is rest, what does that look like and how the heck do you keep yourself from bingeing all the Netflix shows or falling down the Instagram rabbit hole during rest.

I set up timers on my phone a few weeks ago so that I don’t spend more than an hour on social media a day. You guys. I did not realize how much time I was spending picking up my phone for a quick scroll here and there or how much time I took after work just mindlessly scrolling!

I also shut down all apps for downtime at 10:00 every night. Essentially I make sure the essentials are available (weather, clock, messages and phone), but everything else is off limits until 7:00 am. I was trying to make changes so the last thing I do at night and the first things I do in the morning have nothing to do with social media.

So far it’s been pretty helpful for me. You can try it, too, under "general settings and the tab “screen time.” Try it! I’m also attempting no-screen-time-Sunday’s…a challenge to be continued.

Social media can be great, a real tool to connect people, update on information quickly, spread a little joy even. I found myself falling into a not so good pattern. Too much time on the apps, too much time wasted, a need to check for…nothing really, and an overall dissatisfaction in general with myself. The highlight reels are so true and even I post only the good stuff. It’s what I want to put into the world, happy things. I posted a couple weeks ago about practicing patience and I realized in order to do a better job of that, to find satisfaction and gratefulness in my heart, I needed to separate myself from those apps. I’m ashamed to say it’s not been easy, but I’m definitely trying to break the habit or at least control the amount of time I’m on there and be more conscious when I am.

By setting timers to shut things down, I’m helping my brain to focus on things I want to do more, like reading. I actually just finished Misty Copeland’s book, Life in Motion, and loved it! I know, I’m late to the party, it came out in 2014, but I still found her story fascinating, her career amazing, and her words inspirational. You know what’s crazy is a year after she wrote this book she was announced as principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. Dreams really do come true, baby! Truly though, read her story and you’ll see it came with a lot of work and a lot of support.

Misty’s story delved into everything about her journey including the doubts she had in her career. Doubts are like seeds, they creep into the back of your mind, plant themselves and they can grow if you don’t weed them out. Even after weeding, you might find a couple seeds are still there and they grow back. If you don’t pull those suckers out by the root, or even weed at all, those doubts can take over your mind like an overgrown backyard. It seemed that when faced with those thoughts Misty embraced them, entertained them even, and moved forward without ever actually falling prey to them because she knew her purpose on this earth was meant for more. Giving up was not an option.

The last chapter really spoke to Misty’s great understanding of herself, finding out who she was in life, in ballet, and fully immersing herself in that. I find that so inspirational, to really watch people embrace themselves. They just are who they are, for better or worse. They live and act in their truth without being in your face telling you who they are. They don’t need to because they’re just being themselves; their actions speak to that.

Also, how many times can a person use “they,” “their, “ and “they’re” in a sentence? Praise the holy Grammar Gods that my English teachers, including my mama, made dang sure I knew the difference!

Some of my favorite role models, choreographers, and characters are just like that: Gene Kelley, Scarlet O’Hara, Bob Fosse, Ree Drummond (aka Pioneer Woman), Brenda Lee Johnson (of The Closer), and Dolly Parton. I know, it’s a random list.

I’m drawn to them because they’re fascinating to me and all they did was live their best lives, follow their path and their dreams. I’m sure each were faced with an opportunity to doubt who they were, but something told them not to. Ultimately when you know yourself you just are yourself, right? That fundamental “why” drives your actions.

I mentioned earlier my need to shut off social media (I promise this long post is all connected). In a lot of ways I felt like I kept seeing the same things online over and over again. Things that I once found so creatively inspiring became stale. Influencers using the same inflection, selling the same products, using the same presets, styles, and looks. Choreography videos of the same nature, not all, but many, and poses of the same kind. I like what I like but I began to realize that it all felt the same, nothing felt original or rather the better word for it, authentic. I started to feel stale .What was I on here for if I’m not getting inspired? Then it hit me, why the heck do I need to be on here to be inspired at all? Shouldn’t my own creativity be enough to fuel me to be, well…me?

So maybe I need to remember what I like, who I am, follow my why. If I step away from everything that’s packaged the same way, if I take a moment to delve deep into my own self, spend a little more time tapping into my own thoughts and creativity, maybe I could get a little more comfortable with who I am or at the very least, remember who that girl is before I was inundated with constant pictures of perfect. Had I forgotten what it was like to follow my gut?

Maybe I would actually take a step towards doing things that bring me real joy. Maybe I would actually feel a little less unsure of my song choices, movement choices, less lost on what to post, what to write because I’d actually be following my gut, numbers and followers be damned. Maybe I would actually spend more time working rather than “getting inspired” scrolling through the same content over again. Why couldn’t I produce the fresh content I’m craving? Be it in class, choreography, in my blog or heck, in my own life.

I suppose I’ve been on a thought train for a while about embracing oneself more, conforming less to what gets the most likes, and remembering that being yourself really is the only way to go for a fulfilled life. Following that heartbeat, following that drive the propels you forward is the only way to find a sense of self satisfaction. I know I could not live my life without dance even if means I didn’t end up on the Great White Way. I know I will always write even if it’s just a handful of people who read it or even just my mother. That’s being true to me, following what fuels me regardless of what it brings.

Misty Copeland’s book may have been about her journey to where she is today and if you’re wondering how these thoughts all intersect, remember she is in the ballet world, a world that demands perfection. Artistry is abound, your own mark and style is required to make you stand out and yet, there are rules to making it to the top, requirements that demand time, energy, and perfection. Doesn’t that sound like social media today? Be yourself, but if you want to be well received, well liked, these are the things that will get you there. A constant battle between excelling at the basics, but leave your mark as only you can. It’s the same as demonstrating a tendu or taking a picture of your coffee, the use of épaulement or the way in which you shot the pic can grab the attention of the viewer.

It’s all relative I suppose. I took away many things from Misty’s book, how her path truly lead her to where she is today, all the people that helped her along the way, and how all it took was one teacher just noticing her abilities and someone else offering her the opportunity. My goodness, it’s remarkable. At the heart of it, she had to be true in what she wanted, following that desire many times over even if it meant going against the wishes of others. Misty’s story really is a good reminder that becoming who you are is a journey and that you need only look inside to fully embrace wonderfully unique and original you. So maybe get off the apps and start following your gut more, remember who you are away from the influence of constant perfection.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time…

Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.

- Judy Garland

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The Perfect Bag

Alright, let's talk for a minute about bags, specifically bags for adults like this dance professor. Listen, I love me a good tote, but I'm telling you that it's just killing my back to sling everything on one shoulder. I simply cannot do it any more thus began the great bag search of 2018. 

I needed something with lot's of room, space to put laptop, notebooks, clothes and shoes (as I often change into normal or dance clothes mid day), normal office supplies like pens, pencils, sticky notes, etc. and of course water, food, basically all the life essentials. To top it off, it needs to look like something an adult would carry, in other words, as professional as a backpack can be with all my room requirements. 

A leather bag is really out. They don't have an much room as I need, not to mention they are super expensive. A giant supped up hiking backpack wouldn't do--those are also expensive and way bigger than necessary. A good ol' standard Jansport just wasn't going to cut it and I for sure wasn't trekking down to Target for a cheapie, this bag has got to last. 

This wasn't going to be an easy task so I spent a lot of time researching especially when I discovered I was going to be spending some cash no matter what choice I made, but hopefully it would something that would last me a long time. 

1. The North Face Surge  - $129-159

It's chockfull of pockets including a laptop sleeve and almost every pocket is fleece lined. The straps are molded specifically for women and the arm sleeves are nice and padded as is the back. The look is sleek and sporty, waterproof, and don't forget the two water bottle holders on the side. I know. That was selling point for me, too. Just kidding. But really, an overall great bag. 

2. The Vera Bradley Iconic XL Campus - $158

I was planning on avoiding all things Vera Bradley, truly, but I happened to find they enlarged their Campus Backpack and it's made for hauling a ton of things. There's a laptop sleeve, as almost all backpacks have these days, tons of pockets for storing everything you could possible need. Online I wasn't entirely sold, but in the store with my hands on it, I loved it. It comes in sleek black and a pink and black print inside...not my favorite. 

3. The Jansport Agave - $70

Definitely the least expensive option out of everything I've found. It's very similar to the North Face Surge but I found that a few reviews that mentioned how this backpack didn't last as long as they had hoped. I keep it in the running as a lesser expensive option, but truth be told, I put my bags through their paces so I wasn't 100% sold on this one. 

4. Patagonia Women's Paxat Backpack 30L - $119

This was an interesting find! Pretty decent price and definitely made to hold some stuff. It's got side pockets, laptop case THAT FOLDS OUT, a good amount of room, water resistant fabric and padded back and sleeves made for women. Yes, there is a men's version and other size options available. There's a smaller style of a similar backpack but this particular one fit my needs a bit better. 

Now the the hard part is to decide which one would work best! 

What bags are you using to haul your work life around town?

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First Day of (Show) School

First day of school! First day of school! 

Name that movie! 

So maybe it's not really the first day of school, but it is the first day of working my next show and I'm pumped for the day! We've technically started last May and now is the time we're really digging in and setting it all. I've got two solid weeks to get it all up and running which is both stressful and exhilarating--you work so hard to prep the show and it's numbers and then seeing it all come to life makes all the hours worth it. Seriously, sometimes I feel like I hold my breath waiting to see how it all pans out and then voila! We have a number! I get such a big thrill from this when I set work on our resident company. I can't wait to start the work on our Christmas show in September--eep! Coming up so soon...

Alright folks, time to caffeinate myself and focus in on the work coming up! 

Any big plans for you? Share them in the comments below! 

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Dance Life Teacher Conference

I spent part of last week in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona for a dance educators seminar and it was fantastic! I attended Rhee Gold's Dance Life Teacher Conference five years ago and walked away with so much information. When I came back this time, I knew I would be getting another inspiring experience and I wasn't wrong. 

Little tired, but super excited to make be there! 

Little tired, but super excited to make be there! 

Dance Life Teacher Conference is usually held every other year but there was a hiccup last year causing a three year gap since the last one. It seemed everyone was thrilled to be back at again! 

I find that this particular conference is strongly based on an educator's perspective. The faculty are seasoned with years of experience working studios, owning studios, and teaching dancers to all ages; Basically women and men who have a great deal to offer current dance teachers currently in the trenches. There is a great blend of dance classes, lectures on specifics such as props, recitals, behaviors and even learning disabilities plus there is a whole business track for owners and office managers. 

The man himself, Rhee Gold! 

The man himself, Rhee Gold! 

While I'm not necessarily teaching young ones on a daily basis, I am working with future dance teachers and I always need more information and resources to pass on to my students. Conferences like this are concentrated opportunities to double down on that information. What I found were some good reminders, a few new suggestions, and a great deal of reaffirmation in what we're teaching already. 

Aside from all this great material, I got to meet a ton of wonderful teachers from all over including New Zealand and those ladies were amazing dancers! The best part, for me, was that all of us teachers got to actually dance for ourselves and I mean dance. Full out, no marking and it felt good, y'all! When you get an opportunity  to move for yourself, you take full advantage of it and I certainly did. I'm still feeling it a bit, but who cares, I got to dance! 

 I also ran into so many alumni and friends which made the experience that much sweeter!

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Trying to share every piece of information would be impossible but if you're looking for some new resources, try looking up:

Julie Kay Stallcup - Focuses on working with younger dancers, faculty of LA Dance Magic, studio owner in southern California so so much more! 

Tricia Gomez  - Founder of Dance in a Box, crafted the Rhythm Works Certification system, choreographer for Disney and a ton more! 

Billy Griffin - Awesome musical theater choreographer in NYC, teaches at Broadway Dance Center and Steps. He was a blast--check out his instagram!  

Rhee Gold - Of course, if you weren't familiar with him before now, definitely get to know the man. He's a vast amount of knowledge and well worth the time getting to know. 

There are so many more, but I truly think you need to experience the conference for yourself! 

Julie Kay Stallcup interview with Rhee Gold. 

Julie Kay Stallcup interview with Rhee Gold. 

If you're looking for an opportunity to brush up on your skills, get some new material, be inspired by other teachers, this could be the conference for you. If I owned a studio, I would definitely attend again with my own faculty and staff.  Apparently next year is in Atlantic City, a whole new spot--maybe this is the year for you!

We stayed in a 5 star resort and the pool life was everything I wanted and more! 

We stayed in a 5 star resort and the pool life was everything I wanted and more! 

Definitely enjoyed my time in Arizona and have plenty to take back with me this school year. Now, it's time to get focused for the next project, setting A Chorus Line! 

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Opening Night!

It's Opening Night! I feel like this show has gone by considerably faster than most but here we are, ready to rock another Spring Show with some fabulous pieces! I've got a dino dance I can't wait to see with an audience--it's pure ridiculous entertainment and I'm in love with it!

I really can't tell you or even begin to explain how much fun it is to choreograph a piece revolving around an inflatable dinosaur or how elated I felt after every session I danced prepping for my "Boogie Shoes" number. Pure bliss. Music that makes you feel, makes you move and ideas that set your brain and heart on fire really do make a huge difference in the creative process. I'm honestly grateful for what has been a very fun and fulfilling spring show this year. 

Seriously. You can help but smile and giggle watching a dancing dino. 

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I'll be so sad to see it end this weekend, but I'm pretty darn thankful I've got a director and company willing to take a risk with my crazy ideas and fully support it from conception to presentation.  

Alright y'all! Let's get this show on the road! Break legs, dancers!

Best opening night of your life: Go!

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Show Week: Theater Musts!

We just wrapped up blocking weekend and it's time to really move into the theater! Every night this week I'll be sitting in the dark watching the whole show go up. Lights, costumes, haze, you name it, it's on! 

Show week can really be one of the more stressful times of the season but I think you just have to know what it is you need to make it a smoother process. First of all, I meal prep. I plan out every meal and set it up so it's a grab-and-go situation. Dinner is always simple, usually leftovers I can reheat in a jiffy. Simple, easy stuff that fuels me--that's it! 

Secondly, I pack the life essentials in my bag for show week. This is everything that makes me feel good and caters to every need I could have sitting in a auditorium for hours. Here they are: 

Ten Must-Have Show Week Items

1. Water bottle. Theaters can be really dry so I make sure to stay hydrated with a water bottle I can refill over and over again. This is a Pioneer Woman water bottle from Wal-Mart and I love it! It came with the cutest lunch bag that I use for my prepped lunches and dinners. 

2. Saline Spray. Like I said, theaters are dry and old and full of gosh only knows! I spray my nose and blow three times before I go in and I do it again at the end of the night when I leave.  I know, TMI, but I'm telling you it really does clear out your nasal passages of whatever dust and crud you've been breathing in. 

3. Eye drops. Dry air = dry eyes. Rinsing my peepers with some drops at the end of the night re-moisturizes them AND cleans out whatever got in. 

4. Essential Oils. Say what you want, but I believe 100% in a few smells: Peppermint to prevent headaches, lavender to stay calm, and lemon in my water for taste and to cleanse my system. Mix the three together and you get a sinus protection that yes, you got it, helps in a dry theater full of dust!  I mix these with coconut oil so they last and it tempers the strong scent for those flavors.

5. Lip balm and lotion. Man, that dry air, I'm telling you! It just gets me so I lather up my hands so they don't crack and I apply a quick swipe of lip balm to keep my lips from cracking, too. I also try to use a light or non-scented lotion so I don't bother my fellow choreographers and the management team. Some scents are just too much in a close space. 

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6. Book Light. Whether you're following a script for a musical or just reading through the tech sheet, this little guy will come in handy more than you can know! 

7. Scarf, wrap or sweatshirt. Theaters always tend to be on the cold side so your better to dress in layers. For some it's a big comfy sweatshirt, for others it's a giant scarf you can wrap yourself in--it's honestly whatever floats your boat! 

8. Hair ties. I tend to wear my hair down so I release tension from having it pulled back all day, but after a while it gets in the way. I made this cute hair ties I can wear on my wrist in case I need to whip my hair back. Some people opt for a hat, too. 

9. Snacks. Settle on in because it's going to be a long night!  Or week. Even if you ate dinner beforehand, you're bound to get a little hungry as the night wears on so pack something that will offer you protein or a bit of energy! Nuts are good, trail mix, a meat/cheese pack or even an apple with some PB. I like grabbing Almond M&M's because hey, nuts have protein, and the chocolate gives me a sweet little jolt. 

10. A good attitude! Yup, I went there and ended with a super cheesy line, but it's true! I try to get my mind relaxed and ready for anything. Right now it's about getting the show up and running and that's going to take as long as it needs. If I'm not mentally present or anxious about when we'll get done, I'm going to be more of a stressball than necessary. So, I relaxed, I mentally prepare and I enjoy the magic of bringing in another show. How many people get to do this for a living? This is a time to feel lucky and excited to see it all come together! 

Everyone has a different system that works for them and every theater set-up is different, too, but after years of performing and now choreographing, I stick closely to this list. Honestly, it's whatever you need to survive a busy, busy week! 

If you're ever in a show or needing to tweak your own list, these might be things to consider! Even if you're not performing, this list is great for traveling! 

What items do you keep handy for those busier times of the year? 

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So THAT'S Where It's From!

Ever have those moments that make you go, "Oh, that's where it's from!" or better yet, make you feel like a completely moron because you didn't know or remember. I tend to have those frequently...

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about willing what I want. Basically I heard a student say it and I got to thinking how brilliant it is, yadda yadda yadda. 

Fast forward for a second here--This semester I've got a new class on my plate, pointe, and in prepping and doing my research for it I, of course, get to reading more about Misty Copeland (how can you not be interested in this woman? She's amazing AND she's just about everywhere these days!). Do you know what I saw? An Under Armor commercial with none other than Misty Copeland and the slogan, "I will what I want." 

Well, here I am feeling a little like an igmo, thinking a student is brilliant when this inspirational marketing ploy is already out there and has been since 2014. Worst part is I have seen this commercial many times, how could I forget this elevating message?!

BUT, honestly, what does that matter? It still stands as a good reminder to make things happen for yourself. At least I can say I really know where the idea came from and you know what, Misty is a pretty amazing person leading the two year old campaign. 

There are plenty of people who defied the odds, thumbed their noses at rejection letters, battled an uphill climb and made something happen. That is pure determination if I ever saw and it's pretty darn inspiring. 

So, if you're needing a pick me up, a good swift kick in the butt to get yourself motivated or moving, just take a gander at this commercial of Misty being the awesome ballerina that she is. 

What quotes or phrases get you pumped up?

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Another Opening Another Show

If my seven year old self knew what her adult self would be doing now, she'd probably pee her pants, she'd be so excited. No joke. Here I am sitting in the same theater I grew up performing in, only this time I'm sitting in the audience as choreographer.  

My whole life I've been dancing and performing. It started as four years old, tapping away in a local mall for a Christmas program in my fancy white and gold sequined leotard. Moving and grooving, I loved it and dance just became everything to me. 

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From the time I was seven, I'd practically been living my summers up at the local community theater where my mom helped sew costumes. The first time I'd ever seen a live musical, I can remember walking in and seeing rehearsal for Camelot with the choreographer down on the stage calling out steps, the piano pounding out the music and the dancer promenading around the stage in synchronized fashion. 

It didn't take me long to figure out that if I stood in the back of the theater, I could dance with them. So I went with Mom every chance I could and learned the entire show in the aisles of the auditorium. When we'd get home I'd put on a one woman show recreating the musical, sang every note, played every part, danced every number. I had a captive audience at home! It was awesome!  Year after year we'd go back and I learned South Pacific, Will Rogers Follies, Bye Bye Birdie, and Hello Dolly, I knew them all, every part! 

Mom started renting videos of musicals from the library only adding to my new found obsession with musical theater. I learned about Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and my idol, Ginger Rogers. Gosh, I wanted to be Ginger! From then on I knew exactly where I wanted to be when I grew up, in the theater. I got my first shot at a show when I was ten, Child #2 in Showboat. That was it, I was hooked. 

Child #2,  Showboat

Child #2, Showboat

 I've never lost sight of that dream, though my path might have slightly altered. I've performed in a variety of places, earned a BS in dance and arts management and an MFA in dance then segued into teaching performers and setting choreography. Not matter what though, I've stayed true to my desire to be in the world of entertainment. 

Flash forward *ahem* many years later, I'm opening a show in the same theater I started in only  this time behind the scenes as choreographer! It's really special to come back to the place that inspired me as a kid, my theater home, working with folks that watched me grow up. What's more is that I know if I could go back and tell my seven year old self all that she will do, she'd be pretty proud of me. 

Happy dress and opening night to all the cast of crew of Crazy for You down at Garland Summer Musicals!

In honor, a few of my favorite past openings and shows! 

Performer? Ever dreamed of being on stage? What's your favorite role or moment in the lime light? 

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