Ep. 150 Transcript - Dr. Chelsea Pierotti

Ep. 150 Transcript

[Motivational Intro Music]

Dr. Chelsea: Do you wish you had dancers who pushed themselves in class and held themselves accountable? I think it's a common challenge for a lot of dance teachers, and we wish our dancers would embrace a challenging class with a positive attitude and enjoy the process of training to be an excellent dancer. Well, today I'm going to tackle the concept of accountability in class and getting dancers to go full out with a friend of mine, the incredible dance teacher, Kelsey Nelson.

Kelsey likes to dig into what developing artists need, and dancers who train with her are given tools to aid in both their mental and physical needs while also learning proper foundation and technique. Kelsey created her own cross-training and teaching method, and we get to learn all about it. Before she started her journey as an educator, she worked professionally on various major motion pictures and in corporate work, and now she travels across the country working for national talent competitions and conventions. She is impacting the dance industry and is so sought after for her innovative and knowledgeable training and coaching, which is why I wanted to bring her here to you. She's a master at teaching challenging classes that help dancers find their own motivation and accountability, and she's going to share her little secrets with you today.

If you love the show, be sure to visit www.lovethepodcast.com/passionfordance and share your love of the show so that I can continue to create episodes like this one. So let's get to all the amazing advice from today's guest, Kelsey Nelson.


[Motivational Music]

Hi, I'm Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and mental performance coach. I know what it feels like to be a passionate dance teacher who cares about your dancers, but you want to challenge them and help them be their best, and I also recognize that some traditions and teaching practices in the dance world are harmful. So I'm on a mission to change our dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers using positive mental skills.

When you understand how to help your dancers with their confidence, how to find their own motivation, work together as a team and more, your dancers will unlock new levels of competitive success and happiness. And it's not just about them; you deserve the same. So we'll talk about how dance teachers can use positive mental skills to be more confident, resilient, and motivated as well.

Be sure to hit “subscribe” wherever you listen to podcasts. There are new episodes every Thursday, and each week you'll hear from me and my guests with advice and actionable tips for building mental toughness, covering topics about mindset, motivation, resilience, and building a community. Passion for Dance is a show designed to help dance educators like you have a positive impact on every dancer you teach.

[Motivational Music]


Dr. Chelsea: Hi, Kelsey. Welcome back to the show! I'm so happy to have you back.

Kelsey Nelson: I'm so excited to be here.

Dr. Chelsea: And we had to look it up to start this. You were here on Episode 19 back in the summer of ‘21, which, it's been a while, but how amazing. I'm so glad we've gotten to know each other, gotten to work together more, and I’m happy to have you back.

Kelsey Nelson: Yeah, I'm so excited! It doesn't feel like it was, what, three years ago, that we connected for the first time. But I'm definitely excited to be back and chat with you again.

Dr. Chelsea: Absolutely. Well, this time, I wanted to chat more about your teaching method and your training that you do with dancers because I think it is really unique. One of the reasons we originally connected was because your approach has such a mindset approach to it as well. It's not just the physical training. You talk a lot about that mind-body connection, which is what drew me to your content initially.

So I'd love to talk some about your method of training. I guess you would call it cross-training.

Kelsey Nelson: Yeah.

The Purpose of Kelsey’s Cross-Training Method – 3:39

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah. Okay, so will you just share a little bit about your method and why you chose to do something new and what's the purpose of this kind of cross-training?

Kelsey Nelson: Yeah, so I was teaching at a studio, and I had just had my son, and so, I had started going to Pilates classes because I was just needing something for myself, number one, and number two, that was going to be really gentle on my body to get back into after having a kid. And while I was doing it, I started really starting to feel stronger, deeper in my body rather than just like the typical workouts that you would do. And so, I started thinking, “Well, if I'm feeling this way after having a kid, how can I take some of this and maybe help some of my dancers also feel this same connection to their body?” And I was just seeing technical gaps in their training because it was the first year that I was teaching at that studio, and I just felt like, “Well, if I could just tweak this a little bit or tweak that a little bit, then I could get them to keep progressing and improving.”

And so, I started really small. I didn't use any props. It was just very basic things that I started having them do, and then I slowly started to incorporate more and more and more. And so, a lot of what I've created is based off of the classes and the training that I personally have done over the years and found the most benefit for my body as a dancer in than just me as a human being and as a person. Especially as we get older, our bodies need different things. And so, that's kind of where that whole process took place and how it evolved.

Dr. Chelsea: Makes sense. Have you — I'm sure you have — seen amazing benefits to your dancers from this kind of cross-training? Can you speak to that?

Kelsey Nelson: Yes.

Dr. Chelsea: What do you see?

Mind-Body Connection When Teaching – 5:32

Kelsey Nelson: Well, the first major thing is just their overall strength and control of their core and their alignment of their body. But another really big benefit, like you said, is that mind-body connection. And I talk to every dancer that I go in and teach, whether that's at a studio that I go in weekly or monthly or if I just do a guest teaching somewhere, that the class is going to feel like it's about getting stronger, but really what I'm doing is I'm training their mind, and that is what is going to change their body.

So really getting them to understand the concept of mentally connecting to what they're doing and being present and being aware and holding themselves accountable really changes how they take class, and that's going to get the results that they need in the long run.

So, yes, strength is going to improve, body awareness is going to improve, but really I'm training their brain first, and then the result transitions into the rest.

Dr. Chelsea: That makes sense, and I have talked on my platform some about how awareness is that first mental skill. You have to know what you're doing, like you said, be present, understand how your brain is connected to your body. And so, I love that that's your approach.

Can we get a little concrete about the how, or like what does that look like? I think when people talk about, “Oh that's mind-body connection,” that's great, but what does that look like when you're teaching?

Kelsey Nelson: So what I try to do, especially when I'm starting out with newer students and students that maybe haven't been exposed to the type of training that I do, I do a lot of explaining.

So I request from the studios that I have an hour and a half to two hours to offer up this class, because I'm not just going through and giving them an exercise and saying, “Do this.” I'm really going through and explaining how this muscle impacts this, and how that, then, is going to translate into movement, and how that's going to impact your overall performance. So I really go through and I try to take a lot of time to educate the dancers and the students and even the teachers that sit in and observe class, so that way they can get a deeper appreciation for what they're doing and they're not just kind of going through the motions.

And, like you said about awareness being that first mental skill, that's what I talk about all the time is we'll do an exercise and then I'll say, “Okay, where did you feel it? How did you feel it? What came up for you mentally while you were doing the exercise?” So I ask a lot of questions. I learned that from when I worked at Lululemon. They ask us a lot of questions, and they're all about mindset and all that. So I bring that into my class, and I get a gauge from where the students are, and then I drive my class based on that. So that way they're getting the most out of it, and it's not just me giving them a bunch of exercises that they can't connect to their actual dancing. So it's that connection piece that's super important for me.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah, that makes sense from a motivation place too. Like, it's a lot easier to get a dancer to be motivated to work through a class when you're like, “This exercise directly makes this skill better.”

Kelsey Nelson: Yes.

Dr. Chelsea: And understanding that that connection is there, yes. Love that. It could be hard to do since we’re on a podcast, but do you have any favorite kind of exercises or something that somebody could try? I guess, to our listeners, I also want to say Kelsey's Instagram has amazing videos and we'll link it in the show notes. Go watch it. And she generously shares them with me. So sometimes my content is Kelsey's videos. So there's great video evidence, but is there anything you feel like we could describe that would make sense as something to try?

Exercises to Try – 9:23

Kelsey Nelson: Well, I think just like basic functional movements, and then you can start to tweak and modify and adjust them based on what you might be seeing that your students need. So those basic functional movements, so squats, I know that sounds really basic and easy, but really focusing on form, how they're doing them, holding them accountable to that, and lots of repetition.

The same thing with lunges, and thinking of going in different planes (so different directions). So going front, going at an angle, doing a side lunge, going backwards, crossing back and doing a curtsy lunge. So getting the body to move around in lots of different planes is going to get the brain and the body to work differently rather than just doing those same basic directions that we always think about.

And then any type of core work. So when I teach class, a good half of what I'm doing is core-based and really getting the dancers to understand all the different parts of their core. There's a lot that goes into your core. And a lot of times when I go into a classroom, the kids just point to their abs and they're like, “My abs are my core.” They're a part of it, but they're only a small part. So I talk a lot about building a house for your core, and so, you need the four walls, you need the floor, and you need the ceiling. So explaining that all to them and having them touch their body and understand where all those parts are, and then as we're doing the exercises, asking them, “What wall, what floor, what ceiling did you feel when you were doing that exercise?” And that gets the visual part into the training too.

So just starting with those functional, basic movements. And hip bridges, I'm really a big fan of any type of hip bridge. Dancers need to use their glutes way more, and they don't use them enough. I find a lot of pelvic tilt and weak lower back and all of that stuff is coming from weak glutes. So, really any type of hip bridge. You can do them with a 5- or 6-year-old, you can do them with a 29-year-old, a 58-year-old. At any age, hip bridges are going to be really important, and just focusing on proper technique and alignment, and with any exercise, just really going slow and focusing on the alignment and the placement and the technique is going to be way more important than necessarily all the additional things that you can do in the exercise.

Just start a foundation and then build it up.

Dr. Chelsea: That makes sense. I love the house metaphor. I think dancers do very well with metaphors. We like to visualize. I can see it. I can feel it. But it is just the basics, and I think we forget that, but we do it in ballet. We understand, “I'm going to do a plié combo and a tendu combo every class, but we lose the awareness, and I think this kind of strength training is the same thing. You can just do squats and lunges, but if you lose the awareness, it's not going to have the same impact. So very intentionally connecting which muscles, what's happening, and why, yeah.

The last training question: you started to say it, all the way down to like little kids. Do you start this with younger dancers? 

Start This with Young Dancers – 12:35

Kelsey Nelson: So, when I first started doing it, the kids were nine and older, and then as our students at the studio that I was at started to progress and get much more advanced at a younger age, then I started incorporating it into my little-kid class, with my five- and six-year-olds. Now, we are not doing the same intensity with all the props and all the things. So just getting them to understand their body and being aware of their body.

So, in our warmup, we would do jumping jacks, we would do cross-body reaches (so taking our left hand to our right toe). So really getting that crossing the midline. Having them do squats into a passé-hold and holding it for four counts, just getting them to start to be aware of that. Having them do bird-dogs. So being in a tabletop and lifting opposite arm and foot and having them balance.

So just starting to get them aware of their body and understanding how to make their brain and their body work together, and then we started to advance that throughout the season. So we start very basic, and then as the season progressed, we might go across the floor doing lunges or we might do something like that. But again, not crazy props or anything. Just that basic foundational connection with their body.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah, thank you for clarifying. It makes sense, and you can absolutely start awareness at a young age, and we should and could. Speaking on the brain science side, yes, we can talk about that awareness at a young age. They can understand it. They can process it. We don't need to wait for the teen-level classes. So I love that.

Okay, I want to move into effort, and maybe it's just watching your videos, but it always looks like your dancers are so focused and just fighting for every little bit. I'm sure there's variability, right? There are dancers who are going to give you everything and those who are not, but you often also say, “Work smarter, not harder,” but getting them to give you that effort.

So will you talk a little bit about getting effort out of all of your dancers in your class?

Getting Effort From Dancers in Class – 14:43

Kelsey Nelson: Yeah, so I talk to my students about how we can't compare ourselves to anybody else in any other classroom, at any other studio, at any other training facility because we don't know how they're training. We don't know what they're doing, and so, we might not be getting seven ballet classes a week; we might be getting one, right? And so, rather than feeling like we can't accomplish what those dancers are accomplishing with their seven classes, if we are more intentional with what we're doing with our time and with our energy, then we can get greater results even if we're not getting seven ballet classes a week.

So getting them to understand that they need to be more intentional, and I use that word probably a thousand times in every single class. My little nuggets know it. The older kids know it. I'll say, “What does intentional mean?” They'll be like, “Do it on purpose.” So getting them to understand that we're not just going through the motions. We're doing this purposefully, and there's a reason, and there's a why, and there's a how and explaining that to them helps them be more invested in what they're doing.

So if they want to get a result, and they understand the how and the why, well, that's going to drive them to work harder to get that than if I'm just telling them to do something. So it's just like, you know, I don't know when you were a kid, but if your mom told you to do chores and just told you to do them, I wasn't really apt to do them. But if I knew why I needed to do it (because she had a late work meeting or this or that), and I understood that, I was way more enrolled and invested in it.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah.

Kelsey Nelson: So then I was more likely to help. So it's the same idea. I try to bring that into the classroom. And again, it's up to them, and I explain that to them. I tell them, “My job is to give you the information and provide you as much knowledge as I possibly can. But your job as the student is to actually apply it and take action.”

And so, there's the quote, you know, “Knowledge is power,” and I tell them that, in my opinion, that's not true. The application of knowledge is power. So, you can know something, but if you don't apply it, well, then it's kind of useless. And so, I really try to empower the kids and the students to take the class in their own hands and really take ownership of their growth, and it's not my responsibility, it's theirs. That lands with about 85% of the kids. And, obviously, that's not going to land with everybody. But the more kids that kind of jump on board, well, then that energy shifts in the classroom. So then more and more people feel that and the effort changes.

So that's kind of where my thought process is on effort. That was a long explanation.

Dr. Chelsea: No, that's perfect. And I was actually going to ask you, do you believe effort is 100% on the dancer, or is the teacher somewhat responsible for the level of effort in the room?

Kelsey Nelson: Oh, I think it's definitely everybody has to be giving effort. So, as an educator, if I just walk in and I'm just like, “Here's the exercise. Do it,” well, if I'm not invested in what I'm providing the student, how can I ask them to be invested in the product that they're giving back to me, right? So I think that there's definitely a give and take, and it's my responsibility, especially as the adult, especially as the professional, and especially as somebody that's being paid to provide knowledge and experience to my students, I need to come in prepared, excited, invested, encouraging, equal energy and attention to every single kid, balancing the feedback along with the encouragement, and not being afraid to push them and hold them accountable. And if I'm not doing those things, well, then I can't ask the kids to give me back all of their effort. So I think it definitely is a two-way street.

Dr. Chelsea: I want to drill in a little bit on what you were saying about holding them accountable because I think that's something that teachers, coaches, we struggle with. We're like, “I want to be positive. I want them to know that this is safe and happy, but also I want you to get better. I want you to do the work to get better.” So will you talk about what that looks like to hold them accountable?

Holding Dancers Accountable – 19:11

Kelsey Nelson: Yeah, so, it's funny that you bring that up because I was thinking about it as I was getting ready. I was like, “Man, accountability is just what so many people struggle with, especially when it comes to the teachers, the studio owners, the coaches, and it's scary.” Accountability is scary. It's scary to get held accountable. It's scary to hold people accountable. And, at the end of the day, when you know expectations and they're put in front of you right away before you do anything, it's not as scary, and it's not as in your face when you are held accountable. It's when you're held accountable without knowing what the expectation is that it feels gross.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah.

Kelsey Nelson: And so, I think as teachers, it's not even so much accountability that we need to focus on. It's clear, communicated expectations prior to whatever it is that you're doing. Whether that's a rehearsal, a conditioning class, a combo, going to convention, going to nationals, whatever it is, just being really clear with the expectations, and then following through and not being afraid of that and putting those “consequences” — I say there's consequences for everything, whether it's a good choice or a bad choice that you make. But putting those out there at the forefront, then everybody knows and you can't be upset. You can't be — I mean, you can, like you already knew what was going to happen. So I think that that's where accountability comes into play.

I went and taught at a studio (this was, like, last year), and I'm pretty diligent and strict when it comes to my conditioning class because we're working with the body and I just want to make sure nobody gets injured and everyone is learning the proper technique, and afterwards, the studio owner talked to her students and said, “What did you think?” And they were like, “We wish that you would hold us to the same standard that she held us to because we know we can do it.”

Dr. Chelsea: Wow. That’s awesome.

Kelsey Nelson: And she told me, “I think I get scared because I don't want a kid to leave feeling upset or with their feelings hurt or for a parent to call and be upset with me.” She's like, “But I think I'm doing them a disservice by making class feel good all the time.” And I try to explain to my students, “It should be fun. I didn't say that all 60 minutes were going to be fun. We should have fun, but we also need to work hard and know that a struggle is okay, a failure is okay, a misstep is going to be okay, and we're going to learn from that, we're gonna be held accountable, and nobody's going to be mad or upset with you. It's just going to be what it is, and then we're going to go on to the next thing.”

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah.

Kelsey Nelson: So, Accountability doesn't have to be this big, dramatic thing. It can be a clear conversation, and then you just go on to the next. So I know that sounds easy, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

Dr. Chelsea: It does, but also that is really great advice, and I think you're absolutely right. It's setting the expectation at the beginning because then you give them a chance to have the ownership and say, “Yes, I want to be here. I want that. I want you to push me. I want to get better,” and that ownership is really powerful for a dancer. But then, yeah, as the teacher, it's easier to, then, follow through, right? You said it can feel icky, but it's easier to follow through when you've set it out. And kids, adults, everyone, we want to believe that we can be better, or we want to know that our teachers believe we can be better.

And I think that studio owner had a good point, that if we keep it safe and happy and comfortable all the time, it actually loses some of its fun. It's not as motivational anymore. It feels very like Groundhog Day, right? Rather than feeling like, “Yes, okay. I actually want to be challenged today.” And it's scary to hold them to that. I think we've had plenty of times of upset parents or upset kids that it feels like, “I don't want to go there,” but you can with clear expectations that you follow through on, equally to everyone, and in a class that still is warm and fun. It's not either/or.

Kelsey Nelson: Right, and I think when you're not setting a standard and have clear expectations at the beginning and are holding dancers, students, people, parents accountable, I think it lessens their confidence in themselves because it doesn't feel like — well, you believe that they could do that thing where they could be pushed to that next level.

So accountability, as much as it might seem like a negative, it's actually a positive, and I try to tell the kids all the time, “Technique and structure in class and accountability, that's narrowing the view so that you know exactly what to do to then give you the freedom to do it.” But if you don't have that accountability, you don't really know where to go or what to do, and that actually stunts your action. You don't take as much action.

So when you know what the expectation is, you can really give it 100% and not hold back because you're unsure of what the result’s going to be.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah, and it leads to this idea of mental toughness, and people ask me all the time, “How do you get that mental toughness, that fight?” I'm like, “You have to set the bar higher and say, ‘I believe you can do this, so I'm going to give you the feedback to get you there,’ and then you decide if you're going to fight for it.” And as soon as dancers decide, “Okay, yeah, I'm going to fight for it. That was hard, but look what happened,” then mental toughness is created through the challenge and through getting through it. 

Kelsey Nelson: And I think it's, too, celebrating the process of getting over that hump, right? So taking a really challenging exercise, doing something that the kids are like, “Oh my gosh, I don't know if I'm going to be able to do that,” okay? And then we push through, and I'm walking around, and I'm cheering them on, and I'm getting down on the floor with them, and I'm in their face, like, “Keep holding it. You got it,” and then they come out of it, and I'm like, “Look, we did it. We did it.” And then it's that, “Oh my gosh,” and now they want to do it again, and now they want to hold it longer, and now they want to go deeper in their lunge, and they want to do all these things because the celebration of making it through that process was way more exciting than getting to the end result.

So, then, you get to keep pushing them and expanding what they're actually capable of doing in their mind. You already knew they were capable, but now they know that they're capable.

Dr. Chelsea: Yes, and that's the direct connection to confidence. When people will ask, “How do you help your dancers be more confident?” You give them a challenge, you believe in them, you push them and you celebrate when you get there, and it's not just like, “We're going to be confident once we achieve this competitive thing.” I'm like, “No, we're going to be confident once we survive this 60-second exercise.” It can be micro, and it's just as powerful.

Confidence is a Catch 22 – 25:51

Kelsey Nelson: Well, and that's funny that you bring up confidence because I was teaching at a studio, and I gave them this like four eight-count to the right and immediately went to the left, and all their brains were melting out of their ears, and they were like, “Oh, my God,” and then I played a really fast song and I was like, “Now we're going to try it with a faster tempo,” and they were like, “We can't. We can't do this,” and I'm like, “We're doing it!” And I just put the music on, and I just sent the first group out, and they went through and nobody died, and then the second group went and then nobody died.

I'm like, “Confidence is like a catch-22 situation because you don't get confident by doing things you already can do. You get confident by trying things that you aren't sure if you can do yet.” And I told them, “I challenge you to do something every day that's a little bit scary.” And I said, “I don't mean like start parkour or weave in and out of traffic. I mean, like, raise your hand in class to answer a question that you might not be 100% you have the answer. Volunteer to go in the first group. Wear color when maybe you always wear black. Just do something that pushes you a little further outside of your comfort zone, and then when you see that you're okay, then you're going to keep doing those things. But you can't come to class and do the same exercises week in and out and build your confidence. You have to be pushed a little bit every single time, so that way you continue to expand what you're capable of and what you believe you're capable of.”

Dr. Chelsea: Absolutely. The catch 22 is right, and science backs you up, right? We think, “Oh, I'll believe in it. I'll believe in myself once I get there, once I do it once. Once I can do it fast, I'll start to believe in myself.” It's like the actions come before the belief.

Kelsey Nelson: Yes. Yes.

Dr. Chelsea: You have to do it first, and then the beliefs come, but we get stuck there. We're like, “Well, I can't do it yet, so I can't try.” It's like, “Then you never will.” The confident belief is not going to happen until you've taken that little bit of confident action. My phrase is get comfortable being uncomfortable. You have to get that little edge that you're talking about, and those are great examples. Just those small things to push the edge a little bit is how you're going to create that confidence, yeah.

Kelsey Nelson: Yeah, it doesn't have to be anything huge. Just tiny things, and then celebrating those tiny things, and balancing out that accountability with that celebration. So being able to do both of those things with a positive approach I think is key, and what I do in the classroom may be a little bit different, because I do push pretty hard for dancers to really find their edge, but I also am huge on celebrating it. So it's that balance of those two things, and I've had people say, “You give them the space to be confident in themselves. So you're giving them that space for them to like discover their competence, and I think that's where you are different than other people.” So I think that is kind of like the mental part of the training that I do.

Dr. Chelsea: For sure. Oh, yeah, and I was actually gonna ask you a little bit about feedback and kind of that balance with how much you're praising or what you praise and when you're celebrating with them and what that balance looks like. I know you definitely make an effort to get to know everybody in the room and connect with everyone, and that's a big part of your effort too. So what does that feedback to celebration look like? 

What Kelsey’s Feedback and Celebration Looks Like – 29:08

Kelsey Nelson: Yes, like I said, I ask a lot of questions, and not that I do a lot of generalized feedback, but I really try to go through and I'm observing the students and I'm observing what's happening and where opportunities might be with each exercise. So I'm not a teacher that just stands at the front. I'm weaving in and out of the kids. I'm in the back. I'm in the front. I'm on the sides. I'm doing all of the things so that I can get that 360 view of what's happening in my classroom. And then I give that feedback, like, “I saw this. I saw that. So-and-so, try the exercise again. I want you to be the example for everybody, because this is what I was seeing, and let's see how we can apply the corrections and use an example and then have everybody try it again.” I'll be like, “Okay, that was a three out of ten, everyone. Here's the feedback. Now, we're all going to do it again.”

And then when I see somebody that's really killing it or is taking that mental checklist (everything I'm saying, you can see them processing it in their head), I might call them out and have them do it again, not as a punishment, but as a celebration. Like, “I want everybody to watch. I picked her out because of X, Y, and Z.” And then that allows the classroom (the other students) to see live, in the flesh, their very own teammate doing and being celebrated for what is being asked of them. And it makes it more attainable to them, I think, than if it's just me showing it or my assistant showing it. I really try to pull from the pool of kids that I'm teaching and I really try to not make it the same kid every time.

So I'm super aware of if I'm not seeing somebody that I feel like I can really pull out, and it's not just the same kid over and over again, well, then, I'll use me as an example because I don't want any kid in the class to feel like I'm only paying attention to these three kids. The class is for everyone. And then as we do something, if we improved, I'll be like, “Y'all, you totally did it! You got better,” and I talked about 3%. Like, “We only need to get 3% better, and then if we get 3% better in every single class, well then in a month you're going to be a completely different dancer, a completely different student.

So asking them, having them do an exercise, and then having them do it again, and saying, “Okay, who feels like they got 3% better?” And kids will raise their hand, and I'm like, “Then you killed it. Then that's exactly why we're here.” And I talk about awareness is the first step to improvement. So, “Okay, are we at least aware that we didn't apply the feedback?” And they'll be like, “Yes.”

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah.

Kelsey Nelson: And I'm like, “Okay, then you actually improved. Even though you didn't apply the feedback, you improved because now you at least know that that thought process needs to be happening. Now you need to take action on it.”

So really just being in communication with the kids, so that feedback and that celebration just feels like a conversation, like clear communication. I try to do that so that way the class has that nice — it doesn't feel like they're getting beat up or super celebrated. So I just try to keep it as that clear, positive communication.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah. Well, and it sounds like you're celebrating a lot of the effort and the growth. It's not just the person who has perfect form. It's the dancer that's like, “I'm really thinking. I'm really trying. I got that little bit better,” that’s focused on effort and growth.

Kelsey Nelson: Yeah, I'm huge on growth mindset. I talk about it with the kids a lot, and I was never the best dancer. I was never the front-row kid. I was the kid that got sent off when the a la seconde turn section was happening in the dance because I couldn't do it. I was that kid, so I was never the one that was front and center, so I know what it feels like to work hard. And so, I want the kids that are working hard — they're the ones that I want to celebrate because that's going to get you so much further and then give you so much more longevity than just natural ability. 

Dr. Chelsea: I fully agree. You know that you and I have talked growth mindset a bunch and the power it makes, and it circles back to what we were saying about effort in class and being motivated to work hard and their focus. It's like, well, if they believe they're capable of getting better and you're giving them that standard to say, “I think you can get to here. Are you ready to go with me,” that's cultivating that growth mindset, and it's going to continue to see more focused effort in every class.

Kelsey Nelson: Yes, absolutely. 

Dr. Chelsea: Okay, awesome. Well, we have hit so many good topics today. Thank you so much, Kelsey, for coming and sharing. Will you tell everyone where they can find more about you and your work, especially if they want to have you come teach one of these amazing classes?

Kelsey Nelson: Sure, so you can email me. That's going to be the easiest way to get in communication with me. And it's kjndance@gmail.com, and then my Instagram is just that same exact handle @kjndance, and I post a ton of stuff on there. I also have a website www.kelseynelson.com that you can go visit. I travel all over, and I do guest classes, residencies, just try to reach out and cultivate relationships and develop the mindset and the positivity and the work ethic in dancers whether you're beginners or super advanced. So I love working with all dancers and would love to work with you!

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah. Thank you, Kelsey, and I know I had the privilege of working with some of the dancers that you trained a little more regularly, and you can tell how much this consistent work pays off for them and how like their mindsets and how they approach challenge, and yeah, you're making a huge difference out there in our dance world, so thank you so much, and thanks for being here!

Kelsey Nelson: Well, thank you so much for having me. I loved it! 


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Thank you for listening to Passion for Dance! You can find all episode resources at www.chelseapierotti.com/podcast, and be sure to follow me on Instagram for more high-performance tips at @dr.chelsea.pierotti. This podcast is for passionate dance teachers and coaches who are ready to change the dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers. I'm Dr. Chelsea and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world.

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