Dance creates a community—but exists within a series of intersecting communities. November is a great time to think about how you are connecting with all the communities in your dance life: students, parents, and your greater community. (Don't worry, in December we'll be talking about self and family care, I just, um, need to figure out that work-life balance for myself first!)

In Moving Mentoring, the second principle of our curriculum is Support. Support is knowing: what you have, what you can offer, and what you need. In our bodies, Support means engaging core support, learning how to weight share, and utilizing gravity. In our minds, Support means clearly identifying structures and relationships. And in our hearts, Support means truly feeling open and connected to others: to give and receive.

One element of Support is gratitude. To me, gratitude means seeing the good in others and in myself. Perfection is not an element of gratitude! One important step of gratitude is naming specific things—and writing them down. For this month in your studio, create a Gratitude Tree. It’s simple and familiar but creates a major impact when you begin to see a tree full of thankfulness.

Gratitude Tree: Downloadable leaf template.

Create a gratitude tree in your lobby. This can be made from construction paper on a wall, or a million other ideas on Pinterest! (PS Follow me on Pinterest)

In the studio pass out leaves at the beginning of class and have student write one word that they want to embody in this class. For older students you can talk about setting an intention or focus for the class; for littles, you might give them 3 options and write the words for them. You can keep this general, or dig in to movement vocabulary and appreciation for our bodies. For instance, ask each dancer to write down a movement quality the dancer is grateful for.Sprinkle the leaves through the room and the dancers can move through and improvise each of these qualities as they pass them. Or they can get in small groups and use their leaves to make a gratitude phrase together. Once done, post them all to the studio gratitude tree. The downloadable has other options too.

November is a great time to show gratitude for your whole community. But I know you are busy, so let’s look at some simple, but meaningful options.

Easy gratitude to your teachers:

  1. Pop a chocolate bar tied with a ribbon in each teacher’s mailbox,

  2. Write a “top three” for each teacher on a sticky note: For instance “You are creative, hilarious, and dedicated. I appreciate you.”

  3. Make a Teacher Emergency Kit for your office with hair ties, tampons, chocolate, bandaids, and a phone charger and let your team know they can come grab anything, any time (but bring that charger back!)

Meaningful thanks to parents and volunteers:

  1. Saturday coffee—have coffee & tea& a basket of oranges in the lobby one busy day. Put up a sweet note.

  2. Handshakes. Seriously. After class, go shake hands with parents or caregivers in the lobby or in the pick up line and just say “Thank you,I know it’s a lot of work to get kids to and from dance.”

  3. If you have a small group of students, snap candid photos during class and email parents a photo of their child working hard. If you do this, do it for EVERYONE! So again, only if you have a small group of students. But it’s a lovely way for parents to know you are really seeing their child and caring about her or his growth in class.

Making an impact in your greater community:

November and December can be months that call us to service—to share with those less fortunate. For dance studios, schools, and college programs, November and December are also super busy times: end of the semester, winter weather, Nutcrackers, lots of holidays in many faith traditions.

Plan a February service project

But this is a great time to harness that generous, service energy and plan a service project. But plan it for your slow period. So if you know your February is going to be pretty slow, plan a service day now and use the holiday season to get people planning and generating excitement. Parents need a lot of warning and you know your community: would they like you to cancel Saturday company rehearsal so you can all go together and it's not one more thing on the schedule? Or would they be mad to miss a class they have paid for? Think it through!

Announce a creative giving drive

Or, instead of a service day do a creative drive. Announce the drive in November and put a fun bin in your lobby to start collecting. Gather items from November through January, giving families a long period to remember to bring something in. Here are some easy and meaningful ideas.

Dancewear Drive—you can donate new but excellent condition dance wear or costumes to an organization like Dance Peace.Or find a dance teacher in your area who perhaps teaches at a Title 1 school, and do something like a shoe drive. Many teachers who teach students without a lot of financial resources, keep a stock of shoes in their studio and students borrow them for the semester or for class. And, because people can be annoying, make sure you plan for 2 hours for yourself to sort thought the donation bin before sending to make sure you toss out the jazz pants with a hole in the crotch, etc.

Fresh Socks & Undies—Local homeless services are always connecting NEW socks and undies for people experiencing homelessness. This type of drive can be really fun and easy for families. Just grab an extra pack of socks next time you are at Walmart and voila, you are helping out. My church has a homeless ministry that I donate to, so you can see if anyone at the studio has a connection—or just research homeless shelters in your area.

Diaper Drive—In my area the DC Diaper Bank collects diapers for families in need. As the mother of two, I understand that disposable diapers are super expensive and cloth diapers can be too difficult for families without laundry facilities. I also know kids grow so quickly, so that brand new box of size 4 diapers that you just opened—poof no longer fits and can’t be returned. If you have big families in your studio, get a big bin and make a cute sign and collect diapers from November through January. If you don’t have a diaper specific charity in your area, check with a domestic violence shelter.

Lastly, try and squeeze in some time for you to connect with your WHY. How can you stay connected with your passion for dance, amidst all the giving and organizing and cleaning (pieces and studios)? Here’s an activity just for you. Take some time to connect with your values, with a Values Sort.

ashley thorndikeComment