“Will you take a look and let me know what I’m doing wrong?”
Time and again, I learn some of the most valuable lessons about navigating a professional career from my teen ballet and jazz students.
I’ve been a children’s dance teacher since I was 15 and it’s truly been one of the most rewarding and fun roles I’ve ever had. It’s been a blessing to watch my students grow into beautiful dancers and incredible people and was especially impactful during the pandemic over the last few years.
Which is why I really should stop being surprised that these incredible moments happen, but I never will.
As I was coming into set up for teaching, getting my audio figured out and taking mental notes of who’s present for roll, one of my quietest students came in and started working.
She set her phone up at the front of the room and turned her camera on, facing forward. She took up some space in the studio and went into a preparation, a pirouette turn, and 4 a la seconde fouettés. I continued to prepare for class and kept a close, but coy, eye.
She finished her set of turns and picked up her phone, and slowly approached me.
“Could you watch me and tell me what I’m doing wrong?” and handed me her phone.
I watched the recording of her turns and shared my feedback with her. Her turns were really strong, but her extended leg was dropping as she was rotating around (a really common issue with such a difficult step). We reviewed how to avoid that during the turn sequence and some strengthening exercises to work, as well.
After class was over, I realized I had experienced something incredible, valuable, and something I was totally going to copy and recreate.
It was so simple and so smart and totally struck me.
She came in, got right to work, and asked for direct feedback.
Again, simple. smart.
I’m not sure if it’s my background as a writer or years of completing lengthy quarterly performance reviews, but I always understood feedback to be something that occurred formally, infrequently, and with heavy regard.
I didn’t realize it could be so simple.
I’m grateful to this student (and my others) for teaching me in these small moments. The moments in between dance class and life. The moments where big learning occurs.
Feedback should be steady, straightforward, and sincere.
It should happen outside of the big, structured processes and be shared without criticism.
It couldn’t be simpler. I see that now.