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Choices. Dance, like life, is all about them!

"Everybody has got the potential for great-good and great-wrong within them, but it is the choices we make that define who we really are." ― Charles de Lint

Choices: life is all about them; we decide what to eat, what to wear, how much to exercise, when to talk, when to listen, when to give your all, and when to rest. Choices can also be applied to your outlook; your own personal perspectives on the world around you. How you respond to the culture of expectations that exist in everyday living is yours to decide. Will your outlook weigh you down, or lift you up? It is a powerful notion.

I recently read an article about a guy named Jerry, who left the back door of a restaurant open when locking up after work one night. He was robbed, shot and left to die. Jerry survived and was interviewed six months later about the experience:

"The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door, then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die.The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, ‘He’s a dead man.’ I knew I needed to take action. There was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me. She asked if I was allergic to anything. ‘Yes,’ I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Bullets!’ Over their laughter, I told them, "I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead."

Jerry empowered himself, rather than leave his outcome to fate. He chose to rise above a dire circumstance through positive thinking and came out of the situation with strength and a hopeful happy spirit.

I often think of Jerry when a dancer complains about not winning a scholarship, not being recognized for achievements, or that other students in class are always in the spotlight; getting the solos or recognition from the choreographers. I think of Jerry when I hear or see the blame game students use to justify their feelings of not being the “best”.

You’ve heard the Blame Game before: “that teacher just doesn’t like me,” “they only notice when I make mistakes,” or “my parents don’t have money for private instructors like their parents do.”

It all sounds a bit like a negative perspective to me. Deflecting responsibility is an easy way to avoid accountability. We all have the choice to look at life, whether in the dance studio or out in our world, with an attitude of complaint and pity and excuses OR with an attitude of gratitude and determination to see positive, not negative, empowering us to move forward and improve. Thankfully, we all have the choice to do something positive to change things for ourselves. We can let the circumstances of our life either make us stronger or break us. We can look up and in or look down and out. We can get better or get bitter.

Look back at Jerry; he was shot, left for dead, and could justifiably have given in. Instead, he allowed this trial, frustrating and painful as it was, to become his testimony. Jerry would say that in the times that are most desperate or when you have hit your lowest bottom and feel defeated, these are the times when you should try to look at the silver lining in your own life and overcome the negative with positive. We can sit back and wallow in a huge puddle of our own self-pity, feeling bad about our lives or the perception thereof, and allow circumstances to dictate our outcome. Or, we can make the choice to find a break in the clouds, and look internally for what we can do to change the situation and attempt to control the outcome ourselves.

Self-empowerment through positive thought applies to all aspects of life, including Dance. Self-pity will often blind us so we don’t see the opportunity we have to find a way to work harder to get better, to reach our goal or dream.

On a day that is “not your day”, challenge yourself to look within. Do not blame the student who is always noticed, or that teacher who just doesn’t seem to like you. Don’t blame what you are wearing or even the frustrating circumstances of your day. Blame is lame. Instead, make the choice to listen more and work harder. Control what you can control, reflect on any feedback you are given, and make the choice to get it done! You have the power to make a change for the better and you will see who gets noticed! As James Allen says in his book As a Man Thinketh ”Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.” You are the author of your own choices- now go make good ones!

Sara Palmer

Dance Educator and Choreographer

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