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A Letter To My Dance Teacher

17 May 2020 12:00 AMLauren Nairne
A Letter To My Dance Teacher

A Letter To My Dance Teacher 

 

In my head I’ve written this 100 times.  And each time the emotion I feel stops me from putting pen to paper or my fingers to the keyboard.  

 

My life has been guided by choices that my parents made for me at a young age.  The choice to put me into dance classes at 2 years old, that day of my first class carved out the rest of my life.  It seems crazy but it’s true.  To my parents I will forever be thankful.  

 

I’ve had an INCREDIBLE life and have been blessed with amazing opportunities, both as a dancer and now as a dance teacher, a mother and a friend.  I am grateful for these blessings each and every day and without those dance classes each week, without my parents commitment to take me, (and pay) and my teachers unwavering commitment to making me the best dancer I could be, none of that would have been possible.  

 

Today is her birthday…. 

 

I must first say that throughout my years, just like you I have had MANY MANY dance teachers… but as a child I stayed at one studio (shock horror, I know.  It rarely happens now).  But I believed (as did my parents) that I was in the best possible hands and with each and every teacher who I was blessed with throughout my childhood years and professional years that followed… this thank you also extends to you. 

 

Dear Miss P, 

 

As you know I’m almost 30(something) which means you have known me for 30...(something) years! That’s longer than my closest friends, our best family friends and childhood school teachers.  We talk often about how old that makes us feel, the fact that my own children also share a special connection with you is something that I will always hold dear to my heart.  

You may not be physically be able to spot them for their bend backs or show them the time steps but even without dance, the lessons that you teach them will stay with me (and them) forever.

 

I’m one of those people who doesn’t have a great memory, I can’t recall details of my childhood vividly like some but that’s why we have old VHS tapes and friends like Rox who can fill in the gaps right? 

 

When I started writing this letter I quickly realised that my most cherished childhood memories (the ones I remember well) all involved dance, you may not be in them all (because you know you were scary back then) but each of them be it a good memory or a bad brings me joy to think about it today.  

 

The fact of the matter is, dancing with you didn’t just make me a better dancer, dancing for you made me a better person.  Something that I may only have realised now because every day I try to make my own children the best possible versions of themselves. 

 

As dance changes with each growing year (especially this one) you may not understand the changing technology or new ways of working and teaching but one thing has stayed the same.   As teachers we  want the best for our students, we want to see them succeed (in whatever they choose) and for that we have teachers like you to thank, because that is what you wanted for us. 

 

I’ve thanked you in person for telling me to pointe my toes, put my head up and don't put my hat too far over my eyes but there are a few things I haven’t thanked you for… things that may have nothing to do with dance but that you and dance taught me. 

 

So here goes…

 

Thankyou for teaching me about commitment.  If I had a regular 9 to 5 job now I think I would probably accumulated alot of sick days and holiday pay because I would rarely call in sick.  As kids, missing class wasn’t an option and somehow you not only shared that lesson with me but also with my parents.  We all got it, I remember my Nan driving me to classes the day my little brother was born, straight from the hospital because it was right before Easter competitions. And sitting for weeks on end with injuries watching classes and not dancing because missing out simply wasn’t an option.  It’s one of my family values now and it’s what gets me out of bed on a Saturday morning for 7.30am swimming lessons and early morning pilates… because missing out when you’ve committed to something just isn’t an option. 

 

Thankyou for teaching me to lose. 

I was 10 and under and you let a few ‘selected’ girls from our group do the 12 and under routine ‘walk the dinosaur’.  I wasn’t one of them.  I remember crying in the car and myself to sleep that night but my Mum held my hand and told me it was going to be ok.  She didn’t call you to complain or pull me out of the studio and I went back to class the very next day because losing and not being the best was ok. 

 

Thankyou for forcing me to do things that were outside my comfort zone.  Something that I WISH we were able to do with students now but sometimes it just doesn’t seem possible.  What you said was exactly what we did.  Whether it was a style I wasn’t comfortable with (street tap) or a song I didn’t know that you had chosen for my solo, I never questioned it.  This set me up for auditions and jobs where I was completely out of my comfort zone but because you forced me to feel comfortable out there in the danger zone I was open to so many more opportunities and rarely (if ever) said no to any opportunities that came my way because I was always up for the challenge.  

 

Thankyou for helping me understand that doing something you love and doing it every day never seems like hard work. 

You complain now, about the pain in your legs, your health and the restrictions that dancing every day of your life has forced upon you.  But I’ve never heard you wish you didn’t do it… ever.  I’ve never heard you wish you didn’t teach that kid who couldn’t keep up in the back corner that extra private to get her up to speed even if it does kill you.  And even though I see that every day is a struggle for you, you’ve shown me that doing what you love will never be something you regret.  It’s not doing those things that you will regret.  

 

Thankyou for teaching me that my best is best enough.  Another moment I can pin point.  You were as tough as they come when it came to dance teachers but the one thing that in my late teenage years you taught me, was all about balance.   If you raised your voice at someone for something they did wrong then even if it killed you to say, you would leave them with something positive before the class was through (most of the time).  

 

Example and I can even hear you saying it: 

 

Miss P: Lauren, HOW MANY TIMES DO I NEED TO TELL YOU TO STAY ON YOUR TOES IN THE COMBINATION TO THE LEFT… DO IT AGAIN. 

 

Combination ends… I’m likely on flat feet…

 

Miss P: Lauren, better. 

 

It probably wasn’t and to be fair I’m sure you didn’t do that every time but you gave me that wisdom and I carry it today, every day... 

 

Me: POPPY PLEASE GO INTO THE PLAYROOM AND PICK UP YOUR TOYS! 

 

Poppy goes into the playroom and picks up one toy and sits in the middle of the room.  

 

Me:  POPPY, GOOD LISTENING, THANKYOU :) 

 

I continue to pick up the rest of the toys reluctantly. :) 

 

Thankyou for teaching me about priorities. 

This may seem strange but our routines were polished to within an inch of our lives but our costumes were often held together with safety pins.  I know you and your tribe of sewing ladies worked as hard as you could all hours, night and day to finish everything you could and that sometimes it simply wasn’t possible.  As long as it held on the day the adjudicator couldn’t see the safety pins.. there was no issue.  Some days I feel like my life is held together by a bent safety pin but as long as it stays done up until I get a chance to fix it or move past it then holding it together is the main thing.  And never use those gold safety pins… that’s a horrible idea! 

 

And finally THANKYOU for teaching me about feeling, that every song has a story and every movement has a purpose.  That transitions are important and how your dancing makes people feel is the thing that they will remember.  

It may not be dancing now, it’s not the steps I teach or how many times I ask my girls to pick up toys but the way I make them feel about themselves that is forever lasting. 

 

You often made me feel sad or deflated if the routine wasn't up to scratch, but those feelings were heavily outweighed now by the feelings of determination, passion and drive to be better! I know that, that is what you wanted me to learn, and I did.

 

Old age suits you, I know it doesn’t suit your body but it suits you none the less.  

 

I wish more people knew you now like I do, you’re a grandparent to me and to my kids, your soft, slow and sentimental and I am grateful every day that you're part of my family, I wouldn’t trade teaching you to use House Party or fixing a bug on your laptop for the 100th time for anything.  I hope one of my students will do the same for me when I’m old too.... (Sophie if you're reading this, you're it!)  

 

From the bottom of my dancing heart... Thankyou! 

 

Happy Birthday!