Friday, May 29, 2015

Banning Favorites

In the studio

"What did you do today?" I asked a five year old student as we walked into the studio building.

"School," she said.

"What did you learn at school?"


"What's your favorite shape?"

She paused for a while, almost confused by the question. "Triangles," she said finally.

"Why triangles?"

"Because it looks like pizza!"

Asking my students what their favorite things are has always been my go to question when I'm trying to get to know them better, but when I saw her confusion of the question it made me wonder what had caught her off guard. 

I realized asking a young person to choose favorites was limiting to their personality. Why do we have to have favorites? What's so important about having favorites? Can we like more than one thing? Can we like them all?

They're innocent although loaded questions: "What's your favorite dessert? Who's your favorite Disney princess? What's your favorite day of the week?" It unknowingly places an arbitrary value on things, a value that doesn't matter. You're also assuming they have to have favorites, and that not having a favorite is out of the ordinary. 

It's a hard habit to break, but I now ask students, "What do you like most about this? What's something you like about that?"

I found asking questions this way opens them up to a better understanding of the purpose of my question and perhaps a more thoughtful response. Instead of worrying about something's order of importance, they can concentrate on why they feel the way they do.

Is this nitpicking? Maybe. But I'm very nitpicky about making sure my students are fostering their creativity in the most productive ways possible. It makes them feel less pressured about why favorites are important and maybe (maybe) they'll worry less about being someone else's favorite, too.

How do you feel about favorites?
Do you dislike being asked that question?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The United States Capitol

Taking the trolly from the Senate building to the Capitol.
Fun fact: Cydney's mom chose the color of the trolly.

I know it's shocking, but Tuesday was my first time inside The Capitol Building. How long have I lived here? How many times have I visited? Sad, I know. But I'm glad I waited because Cydney is on staff at The Senate and she graciously took Leah and I on a special tour of this beautiful building.

The details of The Capitol are so thoughtful and symbolic, I highly recommend you have a tour guide. For example, you'll find out the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the rotunda was carved by a fourteen year old girl who finished it the very night he was assassinated. That little fact made me stop and admire the beautiful sculpture in complete awe. Despite the hundreds of tourists walking around, all these little tidbits made the experience more connected and intimate.

If you're not in to big group tours, schedule a private tour with someone from the Senate office who'll give you a more personal touch. They can take you on the balcony that overlooks the city or a ticket to see The House or Senate in action.

Afterward, have a pretzel outside the Federal Courthouse and feel like a true DC tourist.

Beware that the rotunda is under construction until 2016, so you won't get that iconic photo with the dome until then. 

Friday, May 22, 2015


After this weekend's shows, our school year is over. It's crazy to think another year has flown by. Cards have been written, flowers have been given, and the studios are strangely quiet. Every year becomes my favorite year, and I'll miss these classes in particular.

I had one student in my class who loves ballet. She's little, but you can tell she's serious. It was our last day of classes for the year and she gasped after an exercise. I asked her what was wrong and she said, "That was the last time doing that exercise." Her eyes started to water. She was clearly fighting back tears. Finally she spoke as she placed her feet in fifth position to prepare for the next combination. "This is emotional."

I agreed. Letting go of these classes has been very emotional. It was a bitter-sweet reminder how meaningful endings can be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

beauty, briefly captured but unedited

There's a glorious place I drive by on my way home from the studio. It's barely seen from the road, but when the light hits it just right, the green catches my eye and my heart skips a few beats. I always tell myself one day I'll pull over to see it properly, not just at 35 MPH with quick glimpses to my right.

The other day I finally just did it. I pulled off to the side during heavy traffic, forgot about dinner for a moment, forgot about any sense of urgency to get home, and I took it all in.

And, of course, I tried to capture it.

But that's the difficult part about photography. How do you capture the beauty of what you see? Despite all the advances done to lenses, cameras are still a poor substitute for eyes. I'm always tempted to alter my photos with a few tweaks here and there, but ultimately it ends up looking fake. Maybe that's because I'm not very good at editing, or maybe it's because nature doesn't want to be edited.

Either way, I wish you could see the glory of this scene in person. It's the kind of beauty that makes you forget about food on a Friday night, or the traffic you know is building up ahead. It's the kind of beauty that feels better unedited in its natural state.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Life Lately

I've been eating a lot less since getting the stomach flu. My stomach shrunk so much, it's hard for me to even finish an apple. Apples and popcorn are my go to snacks, but I've also been loving homemade soups and pasta dishes.

So, yes I've lost weight, but I've also lost a lot of strength. I saw a woman running yesterday and she was fit. It made me itching to get back into running and pushing my body at full capacity. Let's hope I don't die after a mile.

I'm headed to another gala evening, this time at the Freer/Sackler Gallery (one of the Smithsonian art galleries). I'm thrilled to get dressed up and see this side of DC.

I was supposed to perform in the Washington Ballet's Studio Company's performance of Sleeping Beauty as the Queen. Unfortunately, one of their members got injured and they wanted to give her the part so she could still perform on stage. I'm so sad, but I understand. Still, I would have loved to have performed again. I miss that stage.

When one of my nine year old students heard I wasn't performing, she said, "You would have been a beautiful queen." sob

Apparently I'm not above bribery. Talking during rehearsals is a big no-no in ballet, but it tends to happen when you have a hundred students sitting and waiting to go on stage. I told my students if they didn't talk at all during rehearsals, they would get cookies. But if one person talked, no one got cookies. Team effort, you know?

Speaking of teaching, I have so many heartwarming, beautiful stories from this year I wish I could tell you. And maybe one day I will. But for now I always worry someone won't like me talking about their children on this blog, even if I don't use their names. But I will tell you it's been my favorite year of teaching thus far. I love what I do and I love who I serve.

How's your life lately?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day

Thank you, Cydney!

Thank you, Sarah and Jason!

I approached Mother's Day with gritted teeth. Thankfully, I have good friends who recognized today would be tough. Cydney stopped by unexpectedly with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and the simple power of her presence. And then Sarah gave me more flowers and Jason cooked chicken piccata, crispy potatoes, pancetta green beans, and homemade bread.

Oh, and we had delicious mint chocolate shakes.

I, of course, deflected all feelings of sadness with humor. Such as to Mr. Branflake when he thought he was done giving me a shoulder massage, "You can't bring my mother back, but you can keep rubbing me." Or when I boldly told him what we're watching on television because, "I'm in mourning."

I decided I don't like Mother's Day anymore, and that's okay. We don't have to like every holiday and that's okay, too. Every holiday isn't for every person and it's nice to finally be okay with that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Swan Ball

Erin and I. Erin was a student at the conservatory I taught at in California and she's not dancing with Washington Ballet. 

The Washington Ballet's annual Spring Gala was pure elegance. As soon as you walked into the German Ambassador's residence, you were greeted by graceful ballerinas, trays of sleek canap├ęs, and the general splendor of ball gowns and tuxedos. Guests gathered for cocktail hour before heading outside to watch performances by Washington Ballet students and company members. Dinner was served on heated tables by a well choreographed staff. The food was breathtaking and the three desserts were too beautiful to say no to.

I tried to be discrete with my cell phone picture taking (sorry about the low quality photos). Then I learned the man on my right was covering the event for a magazine, so we both unashamedly snapped a few photos here and there. After dessert, I met up with fellow faculty members on the dance floor where we were served mini ice cream sandwiches while the band played classic hits.

It was yet another DC 'pinch me' moment I'm grateful to have.