MFA Monday: What’s the Magic Word?

Happy Monday, Framers!


Confessions of an MFA: Day 2 – The Magic Word


For most people, we hear the phrase what’s the magic word and immediately think of childhood.  Of course I remember robotically adding please to every question I posed, just in the hopes of avoiding the inevitable question that was sure to come if I didn’t say it.  As I get older, though, and continue to explore this crazy world of dance, I am starting to think that perhaps my mom was actually mistaken.  Please isn’t the magic word.  It’s a great word and one that should certainly stay in everyone’s vocabulary.  But the word that actually carries magic for me is one that is much shorter, yet so much harder to say.  No.

I have always been the queen of yes, especially when it comes to dance.  It has never been uncommon to find me, Sunday afternoon, in a princess dress, teaching the two year old birthday girl how to do a plié, and absolutely emitting bitterness that I didn’t have the ability to say no.  I feel like it is engrained in me to say yes first, think later.  It’s certainly a personality flaw – although, I have to say, I don’t think the years of being drilled with the rules of dance class etiquette helped any.  Every dancer I know is a yes person.  How else would post modern have come to be?  Respect it though I do, can you imagine the first meeting with your choreographer describing the piece?

Moving out to a new city and looking for new teaching positions, this yes tendency of mine has been in full effect.  Being the overly organized personality type that I am, I decided the only way to solve this problem was to create a no checklist based on all of the clues I should have paid attention to in the past when talking with potential employers.  If an offer had a “no” answer to any of the questions, I gave myself permission to say that magic little word.  Here is a section from my “Not For Me Checklist,” as I titled it

      • Does the school/company have a legitimate, well-constructed website?
      • Did someone from the school/company respond to my email within a few days?
      • Is there a mission statement?  If so, do I fully believe in that statement?
      • Will I be an employee or a contractor?
      • If teaching audition classes, will I be paid?

And so on.  It may seem to some people pretentious or demanding, but honestly, every single question came from my experiences and the many times I had ignored my instincts only to wind up in an environment that wasn’t the right fit for me.  I realized that what has always been most important for me has been feeling appreciated by my company, and that sense of appreciation inspires me to continue growing as a dancer, choreographer, and educator.  It took listing what was most important to me in order to give myself the freedom to say no.

This has, by no stretch, been a flawless plan.  Am I still completely guilt-ridden when I say no to teaching on a weekend?  Absolutely.  But, come Monday morning, I honestly think I’m a better teacher – who knows if I actually am, but feeling it is a good first step, right?

It all comes back to the love affair with dance – no relationship is perfect, but, for me, at least this checklist helped me to define what I could and could not live without in this romance.  Now, the next step is creating a “Not For Me Checklist” for my personal life so I can stop finding myself at baby showers for a friend of a friend.  Wish me luck.

MFA Mondays

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