I'm only a little sorry that this has turned into such an epic story, back to the original topic of the - the previous entry - (which you should read to get up to speed…) my trouble with finding a dance class.

This past week, I was feeling fat, out of shape, stiff and flabby and wanted to go to a dance class. I am far away from the Ballet class that I have been attending for nearly ten years… depression was setting in. So I looked around me for a class I could go to. I found one option for that day- an Adult Hip-hop class at a local studio.
The following things took place after I found the listing:
-I looked up the studio and I was immediately wary. It is a Competition-Based Studio (I could write another whole post on how I feel about those… I probably will at some point) and generally aimed at starting children young and keeping them until they go to college. The studio also has Voice and Acting Lessons… *sigh*. Again, I could write volumes.
-I looked up the Adult Class Listings in General. They have Two Levels of Adult Clogging, this Hip-Hop Class, Adult Jazz, Adult Modern & Contemporary and Adult "Ballet Stretch and Tone." Every Class description except the Clogging was "All Ages & Levels Encouraged."
-I looked up the Instructor. She's 19 years old, has only really danced with that particular studio and is currently enrolled at the local university. Her aspirations are to graduate and move to LA to be a "writer, director, producer, editor…" … … …

So. Many. Flags. So many flags for me. However, I COULD be wrong. And, if you know me, you know one of my Life Mottos is:

"You can learn anything from anyone, even if all you learn is how not to do a thing."

Cherry on Top? First Class Free. Heck to yeah ya'll. I'm nothing if not broke so why in God's name not? I signed up.


Fast forward a couple of hours (I signed up last minute, again, why not?) and I get to the studio. Yet more flags:

-The studio floors are not sprung. I'm pretty certain they were just a layer of roll-out marley over concrete floors. I'm 33 years old you guys, I can't be dancing high impact over a concrete floor with my knees.
-The studio floors were FILTHY. And I mean, filthy. I knew I was going to have to wear my street shoes to the class (because I'm travelling and not fully prepared) so before I left I cleaned the soles of my shoes really well and then didn't wear them to the class. So I had clean-soled shoes. Despite them being street shoes. But the floor of this studio was covered in Glitter, Dirt, Hairballs (ugh, human hair) and torn floor tape. I didn't really want to sit on the floor when I walked in and I definitely was feeling like if I got sweaty I would NOT want to be on the floor.
-The studio is located on the corner of a strip mall and this particular front studio had two walls entirely made of windows. The windows were tinted, but in such a way that when it is dark outside and the lights are on inside (like almost every day of the winter when a dance studio is open) the windows are just as transparent as if they weren't tinted at all.

Let me explain why these things are BAD. In one more bullet point corresponding to each bullet point above:

-Injuries. Especially for young children who are leaping/turning. Especially for dancers, who have a short shelf life anyway. I'd like to be able to walk when I'm 60.
-I don't mind a little dirt but how hard is it to run a broom over the studio floor? This class was at 7:30 on a Tuesday. The studio opened at 4 that day and if there was THAT much dirt accumulated over 3.5 hours… gross. It was clearly a few days' worth of dirt. Obviously someone doesn't care enough about the studio to make certain it is swept at the beginning or end of every evening.
-Need I tell you why windows out into a strip mall that are easily observable is a bad thing, with children (mostly girls) in leotards stretching and dancing for hours on end? Much teenagers, adult women, etc.? I mean, they don't let the parents sit in on the classes, except they do because all you have to do is walk right outside and any Rando can see into the front studio.


Now for the class itself. I've already got my hackles up but like I said above, I'm willing to try.

*All Ages and Levels Encouraged*
A Sticky subject. I've been in All Levels Classes with Beginners, and it is fine. My Ballet Class that I've attended for ten years is All Levels and I thrive there.

The key to *All Ages and Levels Encouraged* is to NOT teach to the lowest Beginner Denominator. Nor do you teach to the most Advanced Denominator. You have to teach to an Intermediate Student and offer both a more difficult and more simple modifier to accommodate the above and below levels. That is the most successful way to teach an *All Ages and Levels Encouraged* Class.

This was not the way this class was taught. Myself, three other girls who appeared to be college aged and were clearly dancers and another girl who looked also college aged but identified herself as "an absolute beginner who is horrible" (#shewasnot) made up the class. All of us looked anywhere from 5-10 years older than the Instructor (and me, a whopping 14 years older) and all ready to go. All of us except the "absolute beginner" were first time attendees.

I am not going to make any further comment on the Instructor, other than to say that she was not a correct fit for any sort of Hip-Hop Class that I need to be taking. She taught a class appropriate for Absolute Beginners and it is the fault of the Studio for listing it as *All Ages and Levels Encouraged.* Any good studio owner (not necessarily any 19 year old instructor) should know who their classes are appropriate for.

20 minutes into the class, one of the other girls suddenly blurted out (in an unconvincing manner) "I just remembered I have to leave early, I'm sorry!" and fled the room. I'm pretty certain she didn't have anywhere to be, but she might've.
The other two girls, the Beginner and I stuck it out for the whole class. We followed the exercises, we did what we were asked, and behind the instructor's back the other two girls kept trying to up the difficulty level.


Free Class, I can learn something from any teacher… this time I learned going forward to be more forthcoming about the Levels of my Class.
From now on, I'll be advertising my Classes as "Class Taught at Intermediate Level, Modifications Available for Beginner/Advanced Students." Or, ya know, apply appropriate Levels in appropriate places. It might mean fewer people walk in the door, but it will also mean no one leaves super disappointed because they didn't even break a sweat.

However, this still leaves me trying to find my own Dance Class that I can attend. I think there are two more options around here, where I am now. Hopefully they too, are First Class Free. We'll see what happens.
Find a Dance Class

If you haven't read my previous post that can be found - here - I'd recommend reading it so you know what kind of struggles I am having Professionally, before jumping into the problems I am having Personally. The reason I say this is because well, they're compounded. Not even compounded- they're codependent, interconnected and damn good friends, my problems.

Moving onto the topic of this post: Finding a Great Dance Class. I find this task IMPOSSIBLE. So when I find a class I like, I tend to stick with it, even if no one understands the reasons why. Bullet Points Ahead: plunge forward my friends!

-I am at an odd level of ability as a Dancer; I am far better than "Student" but less proficient than "Master." I fall somewhere between Intermediate and Advanced in most any type of dance that I've pursued seriously. Let's look at the Big Four Styles
*Ballet- Intermediate (my technique and flexibility have always been a little poor, but my comprehension and retention of the steps is awesome.)
*Tap- Intermediate (due to lack of being able to find classes as an adult that could keep my skill set challenged.)
*Jazz- Advanced (again, my flexibility is poor but other than that and a healthy aversion to multiple turns, I'm golden.)
*Modern- Advanced (flexibility problems as indicated before but this is truly probably where I shine most in the Big Four.)
And those are just the ones that people could easily quantifiably judge me on. There's also the ones I've not pursued seriously that I'm solidly Intermediate in (belly dance) and those areas that I hit somewhere between Beginner and Intermediate (hip-hop, anything in heels, and Ballroom dances.)

-Where I truly Excel, and where I choose to Teach, is the realm of hybrid styles of dance. Where I can always find something too easy and always find something too difficult. Burlesque, Musical Theatre Dance, Go-Go, Chair Dance, these are the things that make my heart sing, my body work its best and everything just to make sense.
When I nailed those Theatre Conference Workshops last Fall, I was ecstatic because I knew I'd just FOUND my place as a Professional. Whenever I absolutely crush an Adult Dance Class that I'm teaching, I soar with purpose. Every single time I take the stage, shining and  nearly naked… I just get it.
There are always things that are going to be too difficult for me (fouetté turns, ha!) and always things that will be too simple for me, but in a world where the vocabulary pulls from everything, I have a far better chance of finding more things I am capable of doing. Need to do a turn here in a Burlesque routine? I have 15thousand (exaggeration obviously) types of turns I can choose from. Especially as the choreographer or instructor of a class. With a mixed-style dance I can gauge the talent pool in front of me and I can pull from anything I choose to make it work for those people- and no single move ever has to stand out as "woah, that’s not Ballet" in the middle of a dance. I like that.

So there's the basic premise of my status as a performer. I'm a mish-mash at an Intermediate/Advanced stage who can always find something too easy and always find something too challenging in the right settings. I prefer to flounder most of the time than to find things too easy. I WANT to try to be better, constantly.


A few months ago I took a Master Class with Brian Brooks. It was aimed at a dance school for children and I was easily old enough to be every other participant's mother. But I was there in one of a few teacher spots they'd opened and I was NOT going to pass up something like that.
I spoke with him after the Class and he said to me some of the best words I've ever heard. He said to me "you still look good out there." He didn't say "you should be doing what I do!" Because that would've been unqualified bullshit and we both would've known it. He didn't say  "You're too good for the place you're in" because that's probably not true either.
What he said was "you still look good out there." Which, to me anyway, means the following:
-He didn't mind watching me.
-He didn't have any criticisms about the way I danced his choreo to any extent that he felt the need to make corrections.
-He said "good" not "like you're having fun" or "like you enjoy it" which could be taken in multiple ways. He said "good."
-I am doing exactly what I should be doing, where I should be doing it, and my constant desire to improve is serving me well.
-Reassurance can come from unexpected, but highly needed places.

This concludes Part 1 of my 2 Part Saga of Dance Classes and why finding the correct class is so difficult for me. Part 2 is on its way.
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