Embracing Edits

When you work, do you love the process or the product?

2021 – Photo by Megan Cleland

I have always been one to be constantly moving. Whether practicing grande battements in a dance studio, waking up at the crack of dawn to work out, or running across town to work one of my many jobs, life never seems to find a stopping point and that chaos is what I love. It is where I thrive and feel most like myself. But last year, things were paused. Last year, my body was forced to calm down. For some, this would be a gift – and I think in the moment it was. And now, life is back in motion but the small nuances in life are still full of unpredictability and nothing is certain. And now, I am moving a mile a minute and so in love with what I am doing, but constantly chasing the next item on my to-do list only for it to be replaced with another responsibility. And now, I feel this unresolved pull on my heart and my mind. And now, I feel suffocated. But why?

Jazz Nationals Choreography with the University of Delaware Dance Team

Perhaps suffocated is a strong word to use, but I feel as though “uncertainty” isn’t quite as intense as what I feel. Three years out of college and my goals and desires are shifting in amazing ways, but maybe ways that actually scare me because now these goals and desires are tangible possibilities. This year, I will have choreographed 22 routines all competing on various high school, college, all-star, and studio circuits…WOAH. That is the most routines I have ever choreographed in a single season, and my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for the chance to work with so many inspiring artists and athletes. No matter what my week looks like or what remains on my to-do list, the time spent with those teams and soloists gives me so much joy and re-energizes my passion for this art in the most amazing way. Some groups are new, some are individuals I have worked with for many seasons, and some are individuals who I have dreamt of working with for years. Three years out of college, and I cannot believe that I have reached this point in my career as a choreographer…and during a pandemic.

Jazz Nationals Choreography with the Temple University Diamond Gems Dance Team

That time spent choreographing has continued to shape my persona as a dance educator as well. When I leave for a weekend, I return back to my regular students and classes with a renewed desire to shape the young minds I work with, and a new perspective that can lead me to connecting with them in different ways. Choreographing a tap piece heightens my sense of musicality. Choreographing a pom routine reminds me of the value of precise movement, muscular stamina, and kinesthetic control. Choreographing a solo for a dancer opens my eyes to new movement qualities and challenges me to look deeper into the tendencies and patterns of my own students’ movements during rehearsals and classes. With every “to-do list item” or “responsibility” that I chase, I continue to learn more about myself, guiding me towards making the impact on my field that I hope to as my career progresses.

Those new thoughts and perspectives are only being fostered, as I find myself in my initial semester of pursuing my M.A. in Dance Education through the University of Northern Colorado’s Extended Campus. Through this hybrid program, I spend the Fall, Spring, and parts of the Summer semesters learning virtually, to then attend on-campus courses during the Summer semester as well. With each journal article I read, paper I write, or discussion board I respond to, my career goals solidify and shift, and then solidify and shift again. My perspective is broadening and I am identifying so much about my pedagogical persona, just as much as I am beginning to identify about my field as a whole. However, with each shift, one thing is certain: my love for and desire to continue educating artists and athletes fuels my work.

That fuel has propelled me into expanding my roles at Magnificat High School from Dance Team coach and Training Company Program Coordinator, to a part-time faculty member teaching Lifetime Fitness (P.E.) and Hip Hop 1 – a curriculum that I designed and proposed, myself. That fuel has propelled me into my first season as a professional member of Cleveland Dance Project Company, a contemporary-fusion dance company which has proven to be the dance family that I was searching for. That fuel has propelled me into another incredible season teaching at the Baldwin Wallace Community Arts School, teaching ages 5 to 60+ in classes such as Jazz I, Company-Level Training, Adult Tap, and more. Just when I think my engine is running on empty, that love and desire fills me up and reminds me of my purpose and my intentions. With every shift of my goals or shift of my career pathway, that love and desire to educate artists and athletes is the thing that remains constant.

2021 – Photo by Megan Cleland

So, to answer my own question, I think that I often tend to try and predict the product to a fault. I think ahead and I love to plan, but at the end of the day it is the process, the work that I am doing, that I love most – and it is that work that will lead me to whatever adventure lies ahead. Not to mention the fact that this past year taught me (more so, us) a very important truth: you simply cannot plan for every possible outcome. Having to respond to that question a few weeks back in graduate school prompted this post, which is really more of an update because I realized that it had been a minute…partially because the processes I have been involved in have been requiring much of my energy, time, and focus. (But trust me, that is not a complaint.) Stresses and lack of sleep included, I am thankful for it all, and look forward to seeing the shifts I am experiencing start to take shape. Hopefully the next update will be timelier, but there is a bit of hope in me that it faces the same delay, simply because I continue to lose myself in the process. And with that thought, off I go to the next gig…

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