Episode 111: Dance Specialists Collab
Chelsea: Hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea! Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast, and I have something really special for you today. It’s not just an interview with one person. It's an epic collaboration with six dance specialists. We’re all sharing our points of view about our dance training. You’ll hear introductions in the beginning, so I won't go into huge detail now, but it is gonna sound a little different because I’m not actually hosting today!
I’m re-releasing an episode of my friend Jeanne’s podcast, The Feis Fit Podcast because we all got together to record for her show. Jeanne is a personal trainer for dancers who specializes in Irish dance, and she asked us to come on her show and then graciously gave me permission to release the episode here as well. So you get to hear from Jeanne and I plus two other personal trainers you may know, Kendall and Katie, plus a nutritionist Jenny, and Nina, an athletic trainer.
We talk about the best parts of our time as dancers, the biggest challenges, the life lessons we learned from dance, and for those of you who are dance educators, I think you’ll really like the part where we talk about what we would have changed about our own dance education, knowing what we know now about training, nutrition, dance science, and mental health.
Hearing how each of us approach this question differently was really interesting and definitely makes me rethink education in our industry right now. And even though we don’t explicitly talk about it, listening back to this, I think it is really interesting how each of the six of us have created a career based in the dance industry and now have thriving businesses that allow us to use our expertise and continue to work with dancers. I think that’s pretty amazing that we’re all about to do that.
As you’ll hear, we’ve become entrepreneur friends as well, because dance has a way of bringing people together, and that doesn't stop when you're not performing anymore. So, okay, enough from me. I’m gonna let Jeanne take over as your host today!
[Motivational Intro Music]
Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and dance team coach turned sport psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!
[Motivational Intro Music]
Jeanne: Hey, guys! It’s Jeanne here, and welcome to the show! I can't even tell you how excited I am for today’s show because we have the most epic collaboration going on. Some of my absolute favorite dance professionals are here to talk about some of the mistakes we made growing up as dancers ourselves and what we’ve learned since then through our own professions and life experiences.
Introductions – 2:52
So, I’m going to have everyone do a quick introduction so everyone listening knows who all is here. So, Jenny, do you want to start and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Jenny: Yeah, for sure! I’m so excited to be here. My name is Jenny. I’m a dietician for dancers. I also was a dancer for almost 20 years, and I help dancers of all ages (from aspiring to retired) to really feel their body for performance and build a better relationship with food.
Jeanne: Awesome! Let’s see. Nina, do you want to jump in next?
Nina: Sure! I’m Dr. Nina Geromel. I’m known as The Pointe Doc online. I’m an athletic trainer and a physical therapist, and I help dancers from all over the world and all ages prepare for pointe work.
Jeanne: Fantastic! And then we have Katie. Do you want to give a quick intro?
Katie: Absolutely! Thank you so much for having me. I’m Katie Groven. I’m a personal trainer for dancers, and I specialize in helping dancers optimize their skills using strength training by breaking down their skills and addressing their imbalances that are keeping them from reaching their skill goals.
Jeanne: Fantastic! And then we have Kendall.
Kendall: Hi, everyone! My name’s Kendall Baab. I’m also a personal trainer for dancers, and I mostly help dancers prevent injury and enhance performance with cross training, mostly strength and flexibility training, and then also providing the dance science education behind why we’re doing the training and how it’s actually going to help you in the long haul.
Jeanne: And then last, definitely not least, we have the wonderful Dr. Chelsea.
Chelsea: Aww, that was sweet. I’m Dr. Chelsea. I am a sport psychologist or mental performance coach, so I help dancers on the mental aspects, things like resilience, confidence on stage. I’m helping dancers make sure all the training that all of you help them with actually happens on stage and their brain doesn't talk them out of it.
Jeanne: Fantastic! So yeah, we have a little bit of everything here, which I think is so fun. The nutrition side with Jenny, and the psychology side with Chelsea, the physical therapy side with Nina, and the trainers Kendall and Katie too. So, this is going to be fabulous!
Favorite Dance Memories – 5:01
I’d love our audience to get to know us all a little bit more. So I thought it’d be fun to go around and share one of your absolute memories from dancing. Let’s see. Jenny, do you want to start? I kind of put you on the spot.
Jenny: Ooh, favorite memory. Oh, my god. There are so many that are sifting through my head. Oh, boy.
Jeanne: No, that was — sorry. I totally just put you on the spot there! If anyone else has one right away they can think of, you can jump in!
Nina: I can jump in. Like Jenny, I have so many favorite memories growing up. I started dancing when I was three and haven't stopped since. But one of my absolute favorites was playing the role of Clara in The Nutcracker. This is back in 2003. One of the memories that actually stands out is my mom came to my school and surprised me with my audition card with the role I got. So I just remember that clear as day like it was yesterday.
Jeanne: Oh, my gosh! That is so sweet. That’s so special.
Jeanne: Anyone else?
Katie: Yeah, I can go. My favorite dancing memory came towards the very end of my dancing career, and it was dancing with my all-star program and when we won the world championships in hip-hop, and hip-hop is never really a style I excelled in, but I was still on the team that won. I think that was the first time in my dancing career that I felt like I was on a team where everyone had a chance to shine because I felt like growing up there was always one or two people who always got the lead parts or they were always held up on a pedestal. And so, this first time I felt like I really helped contribute to something, and that was a really great team, and we were all young adults in our early to late twenties, and it was just really cool to see that friendship even though we had children and careers. It was just a really cool feeling to put in the work. We only practiced one day a week, but we still did a really great job that year. So that’s my favorite memory.
Jeanne: That sounds so fun and satisfying. That’s really, really cool.
Katie: It was.
Jenny: Something that — I feel like you guys have inspired me not to be a perfectionist and pick my favorite memory here, but I’m gonna draw on I think my last year as a dancer we competed in the Worlds, and I was there for one of my solos, and I just remember that being kind of like the last big finale with one of my favorite dances. Just to kind of speak to what Katie said, it was like a lovely team environment, and it was kind of like our last hurrah before some of us went off to university to do other things. And yeah, it just made me realize the community of it and then doing something like one of my favorite dances right near the end. So that was a great memory.
Jeanne: That’s so fun! Very cool. Kendall or Chelsea. Do you guys have a favorite?
Kendall: Yeah, I can go. So, mine was also in my last year. This was really a pivotal year for all of us. My last year in college, it was my last concert performance, and I was in a piece that was kind of more like a lyrical piece from one of the faculty members, and I was doing dance science in college, so performing wasn't really my focus point for my college career, but I got really great feedback from this faculty member who just made me feel like I was finally being seen by other faculty members for my dancing, not just for my dance science knowledge and my perseverance in that route.
So, he said some really great things about my movement qualities and why he picked me for this piece, and that has really stuck with me and actually instilled more confidence in me in the dancing side of things and served as a nice little bow on top of my college dance career that, okay, I do belong here. I am a good dancer. Even though I chose a different path, I’m still a dancer at heart.
Jeanne: That’s awesome. I love that.
Chelsea: I love listening to these. I was thinking my favorite one actually is when I was coaching and not dancing anymore, which in a way is weird. I was like why are none of my favorite memories when I’m the one on stage, and none of them are. They're all the ones where I’m on the back. But if I had one when I’m dancing it was probably the only time I’ve ever been in a true flow state on stage. I was not the dancer that was good at that and was always very intellectual about performing, and so, I think that’s why I didn't always truly love what I was doing. It was like, “Get on stage, do my job, and be done,” and why I liked coaching better.
So, my favorite dance memory is my first championship as a coach because we didn't expect it. That first time when everything just comes together. The team — kind of what Katie was talking about — the dancers were all in it. Everybody cared about each other. They worked so hard, and seeing them reach their dreams. So that was my favorite.
Jeanne: That’s amazing! Yeah, that sounds so satisfying. I love that. I would say mine was whenever — so Reel is the fast Irish dance. Whenever I was at a competition, I had prepared well, and I would get into that flow state onstage, and it just felt like I was flying around the stage, and I just felt so good, like the ultimate high. Yeah, I just loved that, how you get music and it just felt so good. So yeah, that was mine.
Biggest Challenges Faced as Dancers – 10:45
Okay, so let’s get into the nitty gritty of things and start talking about some of the challenges we faced as dancers. So, for this one, I just kind of want to open the floor, and if someone wants to jump in and has one they want to share, jump right in.
So, the first question I have is what was the biggest challenge you had as a dancer, either physically or mentally?
Katie: My entire dancing career was a challenge. This is Katie speaking, by the way. I remember my whole life saying, “Why was I given this love for something that I’m not even that good at?” I remember thinking that my whole life. “I love this, but I’m not that good at it.” I was never great at it, and it felt like a challenge. I feel like now that’s helped me in my career though because nothing came easily to me, so my gift now as an educator is breaking things down and re-teaching them because I had to piece everything together. Nothing came easily, and I just wanted to be really great at something, and dance wasn't it, but I did it my entire life, and so, it felt like the entire career in dancing was a challenge, but I’m glad because now I can teach better than maybe someone where everything came really easily to them.
Jeanne: Yeah, can you think of any specific skill that you really struggled with that you have been able to help dancers a lot with?
Katie: Anytime your leg has to come above 90 degrees. I couldn't do it. It hurt. I was gripping in the quad. My hips were lifting. The extensions, I couldn't do any of it. I could turn. I could jump. I was powerful. I was a really powerful dancer, but I didn't have the flexibility or the extension, and I didn’t know that there were certain muscles required to lift the leg. I just saw other people lifting their leg, and I just gripped in my quad and tried to hoist it up that way. And so, that’s been really satisfying to see dancers improve their extension and improve their mobility and be able to get their leg above 90 with ease because I could never do it. It never came easily to me. And still even flexibility, that still was really challenging. I never was that dancer who did a straight-legged scorpion or anything like that. I didn't have the back mobility. So that specifically.
Jeanne: Yeah, I can totally relate where I feel like sometimes our biggest challenges are actually the things that can help us the most in the long run, because for me I’ve always been absolutely terrible (to this day) at learning new choreography. I don't know what it is, but I cannot pick up choreography easily, and it takes me — I have to be alone in a room and do it over and over and over again for hours until I get it in my head, and then I’ll remember it forever. It just takes a long time. But because of that it’s like when dancers struggle to learn choreography I can usually help teach it really well because I’m like okay, I totally get it because I’ve been there and really struggled with that thing and found ways to break it down and learn it more effectively. So yeah, totally. I think that’s a great, great point.
Katie: It makes you a great teacher when you have to teach yourself.
Jeanne: Totally. Yeah, 100%.
Nina: Yeah, for me it’s exactly along the same lines. So, the biggest struggle, when you first said that Jeanne, I thought of immediately was pointe work, which is funny because now that’s all I do is I help dancers prepare for pointe. For me, it was my feet. My feet are still super stiff. I don't have a ton of mobility and flexibility, and so, I really, really struggled with that for many years even though I loved ballet. It was my favorite out of all the different styles of dance. I always wanted to do pointe.
And so, with that, I know so much more today than I knew back then, and I see dancers with the same struggles, so it is rewarding to be able to now help dancers with that. But yeah, it is so funny. Those things that were struggles are now where a lot of us I see focus in our careers later on.
Chelsea: Yeah, mine is the same on the mindset side. That’s why I do all the mental work because that was my challenge. In the two main ways I think about the challenge for me, mentally, was around the physicality of it. I was a studio dancer and ended up in a professional ballet company, but I’m not built like a ballet dancer. I’m tall and curvy, and that was always a challenge of, “I don't fit into this. I can't wear that tutu,” that stuff around how to not look like the part but still feel like I belong, which led to the mindset issue. That was my biggest challenge as a dancer that is something, as you guys are saying, I now help with the most is that sense of comparison, of helping dancers figure out how to define success for themselves and not compare, because I spent most of my dance career worrying about what other people thought, worrying about where I didn't match up to other people rather than recognizing my own strengths. So, focusing on that comparison part was my biggest challenge, to get out of that and just enjoy it.
Jeanne: Totally. Were you drawn to psychology because of your dance background and having those issues, or was it just like happenstance, you got in there and then…
Chelsea: Yeah, it happened late. So, I know it wasn't really that way. They were parallel lives, and I didn't realize sport psychology was a thing until a lot later, and then my professional life was over, I was coaching for a long time, I was in grad school for something else, and it kind of came together and had this major epiphany in my mid-twenties of like, “Oh, that’s what I’m supposed to do!”
Jeanne: Totally. Yeah, I get that. Well, Kendall, what was your biggest challenge?
Kendall: Yeah, I think for me I always felt like there was something missing in my technique. Well, not in my technique, I mean just in my artistry, I would say. I always struggled a lot with adding my own artistry and performance quality to my dancing because I was very good at technique, and it all made sense to me, and I feel like I could analyze movement pretty well. Especially in high school and college, from what I remember, I always loved being in class more than I loved being in rehearsal or even on stage, which is not what a lot of dancers say. Most dancers want the stage.
But there was always something that I struggled with was just adding that extra element of what makes me different, and then that really stuck in my head for a long time and influenced how I auditioned for shows in college or auditioned for other professional jobs. It’s something I still struggle with, to be honest, so I wouldn't even say that’s something I really help my dancers with now. I help them with the technical skills because that’s what I know best and I can analyze movement well, but that artistry was another layer of just dancing in general that I still kind of feel like I haven't quite figured out but learned more in college than I did growing up in competition studios or anything.
So, because I don't dance as much now as I used to, I do feel like when I’m back in the studio taking class it comes a little bit easier. I don't have to think about it as much. There comes a point where it doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to do it like the teacher. You can do whatever you want, but you don't really reach that level when you're in competition studio dance under the age of 18. So, you know, that comes a little bit later. So, I think that would probably be the biggest challenge for me.
Jeanne: Totally. I feel like that’s such a nice feeling. After you are done with competition, having auditioned for schools or whatever, then you can really just enjoy dance for dance and realize you can make it your own. You can get what you want from it. It doesn't have to be like you're living up to this perfect standard in your head of trying to fix everything. So yeah, I love that.
Kendall: You could call it an artistic choice, and that’s it.
Jeanne: In Irish dance, if you want to practice using your arms, you can use your arms!
Kendall: Yeah, right!
Jeanne: Jenny, did you go yet?
Jenny: I haven't. I actually love how we’re kind of all on the same wavelength here, but what I was thinking of was kind of like I was terrified of improv when I was younger, so I would get very into — I think a couple of you guys said this — perfecting my placement and technique. I loved ballet, loved pointe work. I would want to do it all the time, and then when I came to a class to do improv, I would get so nervous and freeze, which is so funny because when I work with some of the dancers here in BC, I see them do improve and I’m so impressed and think, “Oh, I wish I would have just let go a little bit and tried to –,” because that was a super uncomfortable zone for me to push myself into that a little bit more. I think I was very attracted to getting the technique right — and just kind of letting myself go and get into that and get into being okay with the uncomfortable. I don't think I was okay with that when I was younger.
So, I think the perfectionism piece kind of came into that. I really couldn't let go and be okay with not really knowing what I was doing. I think that kind of stays with you after dance too, right? I help people with that now a little bit, when it comes to other things in life and perfectionism, and food relates to that. Your body — I think not just in movement but seeing your body in the mirror all the time and when you don't dance as much and your body changes and not looking for perfection there. So, it kind of bleeds into all the other different areas, but for sure the improv piece was a big challenge in kind of dealing with that perfectionism showing up kind of everywhere after.
Jeanne: Totally. Out of curiosity, have you improv danced since you’ve been in the studio?
Jenny: Oh, my god. No!
Jeanne: Just at weddings or anything?
Jenny: My friends here asked me to go to a class with them, and I’m terrified still. So I really need to challenge this. This is my reminder after this podcast to do it. I’m getting so nervous. My palms are sweating thinking about — I don't know why. It just gets me. [Laughs]
Jeanne: Yeah, I don't blame you. So I feel like weddings, that’s like adult improv dancing there. [Laughs]
Jenny: The funniest thing is people when they hear you're a dancer they're like, “Oh, you must be really good at just dancing freely,” and, “Oh, I can't wait to see!” And I’m like, “Oh, my god. Don't!” [Laughs]
Jeanne: Totally. I feel you 100%. It’s like it doesn't always translate. Just like different dance types don't translate over. I remember in high school one of my best friends was a really good hip-hop dancer, and hip-hop and Irish are literally opposite sides of the spectrum, and she was like, “Jeanne, you'll pick it up. It’ll be fun! Just come! Just come!” I’m like, “Okay, whatever, but this isn't gonna go well,” and we go, and it was terrible. I could not do anything, and I couldn't figure out how to use my arms. So footwork I had down, but then they’d be like, “Here are the arm parts,” and it was not happening. Afterwards she was like, “Oh, yeah, maybe you shouldn't do this class.” [Laughs] Like okay. [Laughs]
What Would You Have Changed in Your Dance Class to Improve More – 22:20
All right, so moving right along. Let’s talk more about dance class specifically. Looking back, what specific adjustments do you think could have been made in your dance class either/or in your home practice (what you did on your own) to help you improve more? What would you have changed in your dance class or in your home practice?
Kendall: Would this be like what we, ourselves, could change, or other external factors too like teachers or studios or things like that, or everything?
Jeanne: Everything, yeah. So external factors like teachers, studio. Any changes you’d want to see in that class structure.
Kendall: Okay, I have one right off the bat, so I can go first. But I would say more anatomy knowledge in dance classes. That’s something that I didn't get until college when I took an Anatomy for Dancers class, like a semester-long class. The only reason why I had to take that was because I was doing a dance science degree. So, I feel like not everyone has access to this type of education in general, so I’m very blessed to be able to do that, and that’s part of the reason why I do what I do now in providing that anatomical knowledge, even if it’s just little tidbits of information on social media or in my programs or educating my one-on-one dancers. But I feel like if my teachers had had a little bit more knowledge, even just about names of the muscles or the bones or knowing where your rotators are for turnout, things like that would have made those connections a lot easier for me growing up rather than just trying to force a position or to copy a position that I see my teacher doing or someone else doing in class.
So, that would be a huge one for me. I have others, but I’ll leave it at that. [Laughs]
Jeanne: Yeah, I agree 100% with that. I remember growing up and my teachers would be like, “Keep your body still, body still, body still,” but I didn't understand what I was supposed to be engaging or what that really meant, so it was more just like a guessing game, or higher kicks it’d be like, “Just throw it up there,” versus being like, “Here’s where that’s coming from. Here’s what you want to think about.” Yeah, totally agree with that.
Katie: Yeah, I’ll piggyback right off of what Kendall said too. The strength training and the understanding of how a body functions, which muscles are responsible for it lifting the leg, which muscles are responsible for our arms. I mean, just having teachers understand that so they're not giving these cues to dancers, “Get low in your plié. Stop hopping. Stop traveling.” What does that even mean? When you hear, “Stop traveling,” dancers are like, “Okay, I’m gonna hold my breath and hope I don't move an inch,” but if we could incorporate conditioning and strength training specific to dancers, we cut out all of the white noise, and we can get to our results a lot faster.
That would have been helpful too if teachers could acknowledge, “I’m noticing you're utilizing these muscles. Let’s bring the awareness to this muscle,” and then you don’t feel like a complete failure your entire life because your leg doesn't go the same way as somebody else’s. I just need them to be able to see dancers as individuals instead of what I experience where coaches and teachers who found the star student focused all their attention on that person and left the rest of us in the back flailing around trying to figure out what to do. So, the conditioning and then being able to see dancers each as individuals and help them, and I know that we’re short on time and there’s not always the resources for that, but if I could wave a magic wand, it would be that.
Jeanne: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s fantastic. I’m just gonna piggyback one thing off of that because the treating dancers as individuals, I think it’s also important to incorporate more individual cueing because a cue is only as good as it is if the dancer can understand it. So, a cue that might work for one dancer may not work for another dancer, and rather than just yelling it louder or saying it over and over and over again, it’s like changing the way the dancer understands. You know, make sure they have a cue that they can understand and use in their dancing. So yeah.
Katie: And dancers not being afraid to ask, “What do you mean by that cue,” or, “Can you tell me a different way?” Instead they just absorb it and then it just never makes sense to them, or they’ve even asked me. When I do talk to dancers they say, “Oh, yeah, my teacher says this but I don't know what to do or I don't know how or I don't know what that means.” So yeah, not being afraid to have that conversation.
Jeanne: Actually, Kendall, I loved your series on Instagram. So Kendall did a series on Instagram that was like what your dance teachers actually mean when they say this. I was going, “That is genius!”
Kendall: Thank you! Thank you. It got good feedback from a lot of teachers and students. Teachers being like, “Yes, this is it,” and sending it to their students. So, that’s good! I mean, that’s what we want. [Laughs]
Jeanne: Yeah, that’s awesome. How about Nina. Did you think of anything from what you've seen as a physical therapist?
Nina: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there are many, many things, and I think you guys touched on a lot of important points already, especially regarding anatomy and finding those muscles. Another big one that I really think about is how we approach mobility and flexibility. I think it’s starting to come out. More and more people are aware that the static holds of stretching, especially before dance class, is really not the best approach to get that flexibility, you know? We don't want to be stretching what we call those cold muscles. We want to do it after class, but then also I see lots of other different communities and sports approaching mobility way different than dancers, that I think we can take some things from them.
One community I think about is the CrossFit community. They do so much mobility work, especially when it comes to mobilizing joints, mobilizing range of motion, so not just the flexibility of the muscles but our joints as well, which can help with pointe work and dancing and extensions and all of those things, and we really don’t do a whole lot of mobility drills at all in dance classes, even in cross-training classes either. We have yoga and plates, but even those really don't necessarily address what I’m talking about.
So, I think that’s a really big opportunity is to learn about that and lean into that a little bit. Of course there are limitations like we mentioned time and all of those sorts of things, but I think that’s something that we can look at as we move forward in how we can approach some of these mobility and flexibility issues that dancers have.
Jeanne: I love that. That’s awesome.
Jenny: Something that also came to mind when you guys were chatting about referring to anatomy and explaining the why behind certain direction was I think, commonly I’ve heard a lot that this from other dancers, around referring to the body in certain ways that we’re kind of used to hearing like, “Suck in your lunch,” or, “I can see your belly,” and that kind of thing. Those kinds of terms are thrown up so much and are normalized. I’ve heard dancers bring this up in discussion and in group that that can negatively impact them in their days, like making more of that connection to the why with anatomy or connection to their body and flow, using different words like that. That’s kind of something that inspired me from what you guys were talking about.
Then what I was thinking, too, I think also we have this perception in dance that we need to just keep pushing, pushing, pushing, and then I remember through four-to-five-hour-long classes, you would just keep going and going and going, and I think allowing that time for rest and, I’m gonna be biased here because I do this now, but allowing time to fuel so that dancers can actually have that opportunity to have more energy to actually implement those kind of strategies. Because yeah, I think there’s that common conception that we just need to push, push, push, and we don't have time for breaks, we don't have time for this, but a lot of other sports professions do that, right? They allow for that time to rest and refuel, so I think dancers can too.
Jeanne: Totally. Yeah, I see that even in the workout side, too. If I do workshops for dance schools, the teachers there sometimes — for strength training, specifically, it’s like you work and then you take a rest, and then you do another set and then you rest. But you need that rest period time in order for your muscles to be able to get stronger in each workout. But sometimes if there’s a dance teacher in there and I haven't educated them yet properly, they’ll just keep saying, “Keep going! No breaks! No breaks!” It’s like, no, that scientifically doesn't work. So, then it’s like taking a step back, but I think overall it is a culture of push, push, push, push, push versus working smarter and learning to listen to your body and, yeah, become a holistically more healthy dancer.
Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah, rest is one of the two that I was gonna say for sure, that just our whole culture around how competitions work and that awards are ending close to midnight but you're back in the convention room first thing in the morning. That is not helping, and then you don't have time to fuel, as you were saying. You don't have time to recover your muscles, and how many days a week and how many hours? When you were asking originally, “What would you change,” I was like the amount of hours that I spent there in the studio didn't translate to anything. I could have cut back and been a healthier dancer, physically and mentally, rather than the insane hours that were not helpful, which kind of leads to the big — of course I take this to a mindset place — the big change I would have made in my training is the definition of success, that I think everybody’s success in the dance world tends to be external and out of your control. Your placement at competition, did you get the job, did you make that college team, what role did you get in the ballet. It’s always that external success and being able to reframe it to internal success, and your own definitions would change how we approach everything.
Jeanne: Mm-hmm. I love that. Do you have any examples of internal successes that either you’ve found very helpful or you’ve worked with dancers who have found very helpful for them?
Chelsea: Yeah, when I say internal success, I just mean anything in your control that you have decided is your value. So, it’s usually just growth in some way, whether it’s gaining new skills, gaining a new sense of confidence onstage, improving your performance quality, anything that’s in your control as a dancer that you're deciding, “This is what I want to work on.” And so, when I talk to dancers who are super nervous at competition or they crumble, they get all panicked backstage before they go on. Having that sense of they're usually panicking because they're worried about their final score, or “If I’m gonna beat this other soloist,” or “Am I gonna ruin it for my team,” those thoughts, but if your sense of success is fully in, “I am just gonna go give my absolute best on the stage and be proud of what I’ve done,” and trusting your training and all that. So it’s that internal — by internal I just mean it’s in your control, and so, anything with that, and that’s usually something like growth or having fun onstage, enjoying it again, that kind of success.
And then usually when you do that, the external success is more likely. If you are able to let go of the negative mindset stuff and just enjoy yourself onstage, you usually score better. But if you're focused on scoring better, you won't.
Jeanne: Yeah, that makes total sense. I think it’s always so fun to watch dancers make that mental shift because in my one-on-one program, they have to set improvement goals where it’s like stuff to learn how to shift their focus to their own personal improvement versus just a place that they can't control, and it’s really fun to watch when dancers make that shift of going to competitions and being like, “Oh, what if I don't place? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and freaking out, to being like, “I put in the work. I made these improvements. I’m just gonna go there, learn what I can, and then get back to work.” That’s such a healthier place to be than to be relying on three judges to tell you whether or not you’re gonna have a great day or not. [Laughs]
Chelsea: Yeah, I think that’s what’s so hard. All of us as adults, I think — I don't want to speak for all of you, but we can look back and see that difference of, “I was so worried about what my teacher thought. I was so worried about what the ballet director thought, if they were gonna let me do this position and what the judges think,” and then now, none of that matters. What you think is not who I am, but it’s really hard to convince a 14-year-old that that’s true.
Greatest Life Lessons Learned From Dance – 35:17
Jeanne: Totally! Yeah, and actually that kind of segues into our last question here, so thank you, Chelsea. Our next question is what is the greatest skill or lesson you learned from dancing that has helped you in your everyday life. So, the greatest life lesson or, whatever, if your leaps help you the most in everyday life. [Laughs] Just kidding, but what’s the greatest life lesson you learned from dance that helps you today?
Jenny: This is kind of a roundabout way of how it helps me today, but I struggled a lot with just disordered eating patterns growing up and a lot of negative body image, and that’s something I struggled with but didn't really realize that I didn't have to struggle with that and didn't have to be having those thoughts all the time. I didn't start working on it until I was, I think, 21. After all of that work — I worked with a nutritionist and with a therapist and realized, oh, most of that comes from dance and just indirectly from a lot of different areas of dance.
It’s taken a long time to work on it, and I would say sometimes some days I still struggle with it or I feel an intrusive thought come in, but for the most part, if I was, say, a level eight back then, now I’m a level one. That's been a huge shift for me that has allowed me to just kind of enjoy my life more, honestly, and let go of those unrealistic standards that I set for myself. No one else really set it for me, but I was influenced by a lot of people in the dance world and, among other things, just media and all of those things too that are just out in the world. But I think that I had to go through that experience to make it to where I am now with that side of things.
So yeah, not really kind of a roundabout — more of a negative experience that’s turned into a positive but still has influenced my life tremendously. It also influences the way I speak about myself and others and how I teach dancers as an educator and the paying attention to the verbiage that I use has really influenced that. I feel like that’s a small change that I can make to try to maybe reverse those effects for future generations.
Jeanne: Mm, yeah, and I think that’s a great life skill because especially working in your profession, that’s very, very common that there’s just disordered eating habits. I know I went through that for several, several, a lot of years. It’s very helpful when there are educators who understand that so they can speak from a place that’s healthy and not words that could be, in a disordered eating pattern brain, misconstrued. So, there are even just some things — even if you go to a normal group fitness class, there are things that are said, whether it be, “Burn those calories,” or whatever it is —
Jenny: Right, right.
Jeanne: — that if you haven't had that experience you don't really understand how that can feel to someone who’s in those shoes. So I think that’s fantastic that it’s a negative thing that turned into a gift for you to help other people, and I think that’s fabulous.
Jenny: Yeah, thank you!
Katie: Well, Kendall, I’m gonna piggyback on you again.
Kendall: That’s okay! There’s a lot of crossover! [Laughs]
Katie: Mine’s the same because it started negative but then it moved into positive. So, I spent my entire dancing career looking at other people saying, “I wish I could do that. I wish I could do that. I would feel so successful if I could do what that person’s doing.” If I had only leaned into what I could already do really well, my whole mindset would have shifted. I would have had a much more positive dancing experience, and now as an adult and when I’m working with dancers, they’re so focused on what everyone else is doing, and I’m trying to remind them and remind myself to stay in their own lane and lean into what they can already do that makes them special, that makes them feel confident, and then build from there because when you already have that solid foundation, you're gonna build way faster than clumsily trying to stumble through looking like somebody else.
And so, in my own life and even in building a business, right, you see people on social media who do the same things, like what you're doing, Kendall, and you're like, “Oh, I should have done something like — oh, she said that so well. I should have done it that way.” And it’s like, “No! This is the way I explain things. This is how I do it,” and just lean into that. I also think becoming a mom helped with that too. For anyone else with children, you just stop caring what people think after you’ve made humans because you are their own personal superhero.
So, being able to feel really confident in, “This is the way I do it,” and lean into that and then helping dancers as they get stronger and they're like, “Well, I really want to do this and this.” “Well, why do you want to do that skill?” “Oh, because so-and-so can do it.” “Okay, but do you really want to do that skill?” “No, not really. I actually just want to do this.” “Okay, great, well, then let’s workout and let’s focus on this area,” and they just feel so much more empowered to go, “I already had a little piece of this,” and then you just sort of let it explode.
So, same thing. I just learned to just stay in my own lane and build on what I can already do instead of trying to create from someone else.
Jeanne: I love that. I think that’s fantastic.
Katie: Yeah, for me, what I think about is self-confidence. As a child, I was super quiet. I would even get embarrassed when people would sing “Happy Birthday” to me and things like that, and I never liked being the center of attention and still don't to this day. I’m just not that kind of person. But dance really showed me that you can still have what I call more like that quiet confidence. There were opportunities to be thrown into the spotlight, literally and figuratively, onstage and all eyes are on you and you have to perform. And so, those challenges really pushed me as a person, especially those formative years as you're going through adolescent phases and things like that. I think now I carry that with me, that I don't have to be this loud, extroverted person, but I’ve shown and proven to myself that I can have that quiet confidence, and when I need to perform or when eyes are on me, whether I’m speaking or doing something, that I have this proven record behind me that I’ve done it before, I’ve done it well, and dance has really allowed me and pushed me into those opportunities that I probably really wouldn't have done otherwise if I didn't have the dance world.
So today, I really think that a lot of my self-confidence comes from all of those different experiences adding up over time through dance.
Jeanne: Did you feel like you were like a different person when you were onstage?
Katie: Kind of, yeah, now that you mention it. It was just my way of, you know, expressing yourself, and I think all dancers can relate to that, the movement and your body. Some people do it with words. Some people do it with written words or whatnot. But for us, it’s with our bodies, so I did feel like I could open up and show myself a little bit more and just kind of allow that release of expression through me through dance, for sure.
Jeanne: That’s awesome. Jenny or Chelsea, you guys have –?
Jenny: Yeah, I was gonna say I think when you're — kind of speaking to what Chelsea was saying earlier around when you're in dance so closely and looking at, okay, what’s your score for competition or how did you perform, did you nail the audition, all of those things, there are so many skills that you don't realize that help you later on in your career. Even if you don't go into dancing professionally, there are so many things that you can use as an adult later on in life. I think the ability to deal with challenges and have discipline and focus, those kinds of superpowers, I’ll say, as a dancer aren't just relevant to the dance world, but they're relevant to, throughout your career, whatever you choose. I think it’s important to note that I think I felt sad when I wasn't going on professionally into it and I was kind of feeling like I was leaving it behind like a part of my identity when I was stopping, that you can contribute to the dance world in other ways, just like how we all are in a way, right? I think that’s important to note that those skills can be transferable, even if you don't dance professionally at a certain point or whenever. You can always utilize them in other ways and contribute to the profession to make it better in other ways as well.
Jeanne: I love that. That’s awesome.
Chelsea: Yeah, so true. That’s kind of what I was thinking of when I think what I learned the most that has made the biggest difference is the growth mindset aspect of I know if I want something that I have to work for it, but if I work for it, I’m gonna get it. That translates to long-term goals. I think I learned in dance that there are goals that might take years, but it’s worth doing. And so, I was in school for a really long time, but I never doubted that I would get there, or now, even as an adult, I can set goals and I’m like, “This is probably a ten-year goal. That’s okay! I got this.” I know if I work for it, I believe in my own ability to grow and get there, and I think that really came from dance. Because I was similar to Katie where I wasn't the best in the room all the time and I really struggled with a lot of it, and I had to learn to be okay with not being the best and know that it was gonna take me more effort than the girl next to me to be able to do the same thing, and I think that’s translated to a growth mindset now that has served me in every aspect of my life in dance and beyond.
Jeanne: Totally. Yeah, I agree a lot with that. Mine kind of piggybacks off of that where I feel like there were so many times in competitive dance where if I didn't reach a goal right away, especially when I was younger, I’d be like, “Oh, man. I failed,” and that was failed period. And then over the years, you know, you learn that, yes, you may not get what you want right away, but you can get back to work and learn from it and then just keep going, and it’s an endless spectrum of improvement. I think having those disappointing feelings, knowing those can't actually hurt you, and then knowing you can get back up and keep getting better is something you can use in literally any aspect of life. So, yeah, I feel like that’s what’s been most helpful.
Okay, well, thanks so much for joining, everyone! That’s all the questions I have today. So, everyone listening right now, I’m gonna go ahead and put everybody here, put their Instagram handle in the show notes. So, if you are not following everyone here yet, make sure you go do that right now because every single person sitting here posts really great content that you can learn from, and you can also learn how to work with them if you’d like. Well, that’s all I have! So, I will talk to you guys next time!
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