Saturday Morning Dance

 As a recent college graduate and as a person who has a lot of friends who are a lot of miles away, I can only really describe my life like this:

It’s shiny and new, everything real and big and exciting, but I’m looking at it through an Instagram filter that makes everything look a little softer and more sentimental. I love everything, and I miss everything.

I’m not going to bore you by listing everything that I miss, because that would be an obnoxiously long list and I don’t want to be sad. This post is dedicated to one very specific item on my miss-list: Saturday Morning Dance.

I don’t know if my cohorts from these mornings share my warm and fuzzy feelings about giving up our weekend sleeping in mornings to dance, but I loved it so much. From Late middle school until I graduated College, I spent every single Saturday morning in some variety of dance studio either teaching or dancing, and definitely never ever goofing off (lies). So I’m going to tell you about it.

MIDDLE SCHOOL

In Middle School, I got my first gig as an assistant teacher at my dance Studio in Scarborough, Maine. I went in every week and helped with the classes for 3 through 6 year olds. They were so cute. Oh my gosh, were they cute!! Ugh!!! The cuteness caused aftershocks which are literally still affecting me to this day. This was the first time I ever got called “Miss Sarah” and clearly I loved it. Mainly this job was me running around and corralling kids who had lost any and all interest in standing on their spot, taking them to the bathroom, and assisting with nose-blowing duty. I remember one day when I had just started helping, I was trying to move one little girl into her new spot, and I was trying to drag her by the hand. After several futile attempts, my teacher, Miss Melissa, came up and went, “no no no, like this,” grabbed the child under the armpits, and hefted them to their spot. This is a teaching (and babysitting) technique that I have 100% employed and have to remind myself not to do to the high- and middle schoolers I’m currently teaching.

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Two months into my freshman year, I moved to Ohio. I started dance before I started school. My first Ballet class, My teacher, Shelley, asked if I wanted to be in the Nutcracker, but said this year I’d “have to only be in Snowflakes and flowers.” Obviously, I was all sorts of into that and so began my four years of weekend rehearsals. Saturdays were beautiful because I went to the studio, strapped on my pointe shoes (which I will love forever regardless of how much pain they put me in), and rehearsed my favorite ballet in the whole world. The best part about this is that my best friends (still) were right there. We would focus and dance, help each other with parts that we couldn’t ever seem to really grasp, and then wait “offstage” and do our homework, lay in a heap of pointe shoes and legwarmers, talk about all the parts we hoped to get, and wait for Shelley to give us a break so we could make a beeline for smoothies down the street, tutus and all. I remember feeling just so happy and excited. Every week it was closer to show time, and even when there was dance drama (which there definitely was), we all knew it would be cleared up by the second act, if not sooner. In the spring, we did a different ballet or had guest teachers, but I just loved those fall Nutcracker rehearsals so much. Once, when I was in the party scene for the first time (totally danced with a boy, everybody be cool), I got a little enthusiastic and whipped my hand up into position too fast, smacking him in the face. Aah, the memories. I would trade them for nothing.

COLLEGE

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Lucky girl that I am, I was able to find a Saturday morning dance commitment within three days of getting to Hope College. A senior girl in the dance department leaned over to me during the Freshman welcome meeting and said, “I’m Sarah. You’re going to join Sacred Dance, right? Cool.” And then she sat back. I was 1) all kinds of blown away by her coolness and knowledge of what I was going to be doing with my life, and 2) committed right then and there. So from that point on, every Saturday Morning was a joyful mash up of Bible Study, improve, choreography, and all the hugs. It seemed natural that a Minister’s daughter majoring in Dance would end up in a dance ministry group, but I never anticipated how deeply in love I would be with those Saturdays. I remember, as a freshman, bursting into tears when a senior stopped me to ask how my heart was, and even though I was mortified, I felt so loved by this girl I had only just met. I loved the feeling of walking up the stairs of the dance building to see 15 girls in sweatpants clutching bibles and coffee all sprawled out in the hallway, not even trying to get out of the way of the extra devoted fitness junkies on their way to the cardio room. I would dance with all these girls in countless different contexts, I Would room with them, and even in one case this past summer, stand next to them on their wedding day. Most of my best friends at Hope I found through this group. But my favorite way to be with them, no contest, was Saturday morning Sacred Dance.

I miss Saturday morning dance. I miss the people I shared it with, I miss waking up and going straight to do my favorite thing. But who’s to say that when I see these people next, we can’t make that Saturday morning feeling happen? And not only that, but something tells me that my Saturday morning Dance days are far from over.

Peace, Love, and Pointe shoes.

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Only the Crazies Get Broadcast

Recently, I’ve been involved in a handful of discussions concerning issues tending to be more controversial. One of these discussions centered around art objects and the controversy which they can sometimes inspire from the public to which they are presented. We read one account about an exhibit presenting sculptures of women’s torsos, all of which were in the nude. In this account, a citizen approached the gallery owner and angrily questioned the validity of such an exhibit, finding it inappropriate. The citizen spouted off comments along the lines of “I’ll pray for you,” and “I hope Jesus comes back and walks the streets to show you His way.”

Of course, it’s hard to read this story with out two main factors jumping out at you:

1) This citizen seems to be a little crazy.

2) This citizen seems to be a Christian.

Crazy Christians.

Now, if this were the only account of its type, jumping to this conclusion would be a whole lot easier to combat. As it is, though, SO MANY stories like this get told every day. Stories of those whose faith is based on the ideas of loving one another without boundaries acting with such hatred that it becomes difficult to believe that anything coming from that faith can be good or loving.

Here’s the problem: Only the crazies get broadcast.

When was the last time someone came up to you and said, “Hey! I had a conversation with this girl, she was a Christian, and she acted completely rationally and gave me a quality hug”? I can guarantee you that you will never see a headline that reads: BREAKING! CHRISTIAN MAN ACTS IN A DECENT MANNER!

These kind of conversations aren’t happening because they don’t have the juiciness or shock factor which, in this age of information and digital connection, we so crave. It’s much easier to hear the stories of the crazies, categorize them as such, and generalize that to the greater population than it is to step back and consider that this may be an exception rather than the rule.

This phenomenon isn’t just specific to Christianity either. It happens every day with all sorts of different groups of people,  I just speak mainly of Christianity because that’s the experience I have with it. I’m also not excusing the behavior of those crazier few. I feel passionately about dispelling the notion that these kind of awful interactions are the norm because it KILLS me that one voice of extreme negativity or hatred can drown out the cries of a hundred acts of love.

So let’s make a pact. When we hear a story of someone acting irrational, immature, ignorant, or just simply crazy, let’s take a second, take it in, and say “Only the crazies get broadcast.” If we take small steps to stop perpetuating generalizations, we can work towards a place where the crazies aren’t getting broadcast because no one is listening to the crazies.

Just a thought.

Winter Break for Dummies

Ahh, Winter Break. The magical two days off of class when campus is practically vacated except for a select few. These few fall into several distinct categories: 

  • “I have Rehearsals” (These students tend to be part of the dance or theatre department)
  • “I have Practice” (Athletes)
  • “I have Homework and won’t do it if I’m home” (Let’s be real, you won’t do it here either)
  • “I live too far away/the roads are bad and I don’t want to die.” (Preach.)

While going home and getting some home cooking or sleeping in your real bed or cuddling your pet is all well and good, there’s a lot to be said for sticking around Holland (or, as I like to call it, the snow globe being endlessly shaken by an easily amused toddler) or really whatever campus offers this mini-break. So, today, my guest blogger and roomie Hannah and I present to you a practical guide of opportunities available to you when you stay on campus for Winter break. 

  1. AVOID HOMEWORK AT ALL COSTS. We’re serious. You need some you time. All homework should be done Friday afternoon or saved for Tuesday Evening. This is a BREAK, goshdarnit. You do you. 
  2. WATCH THE OLYMPICS. Order pizza. Get really patriotic for a second. Turn down the sound and commentate for yourself. *Disclaimer: This particular activity is somewhat Unique to this year, but come on. We don’t care if you’re into winter sports or not, these people are impressive. Watch them. 
  3. GET BREAKFAST AT THE WINDMILL. Or anywhere that you can get pancakes and sausage and coffee and eggs and more coffee. In the immortal words of Ron Swanson, “There is no sadness that can’t be cured with breakfast food.” Therefore, there is no reason not to march yourself to the nearest diner and order up all the bacon and eggs they have. 
  4. PHOTO SHOOT. This may be your only chance to take pictures wherever you want on campus without people either photobombing or just judging you silently. Act upon it. 
  5. WANDER DOWNTOWN. When you have class and meetings and rehearsal, there’s too often no time to take a day and just wander. There is much window shopping to be had. Plus, it’s nice to get off campus, even if it is literally half a block. There are puppies there. And people who aren’t college aged. Crazy. 
  6. MOVIES. Bonus points if it includes Will Ferrell. We’ve been favoring those with only the greatest (and/or most ridiculous) comedy duos. (i.e. Blades of Glory, The Heat)
  7. COLOR. Be a kid. You know you want to. They sell Giant puppy coloring books at Walmart for, like, a dollar. It’s a worthwhile investment. Some of them come with stickers. 
  8. GO GROCERY SHOPPING. Not only is this a practical and adult use of your time, but also your lack of classes and more relaxed demeanor puts you in a better mood, inspiring you to buy yourself things like coke in glass bottles or caramel dip for your apples. 
  9. TRY SOMETHING FROM PINTEREST. It will likely fail. One of two things will result from this: either a funny story to share when you’ve cleaned up the inevitable mess, or the satisfaction that you are actually amazing and succeeded and possibly a baked good.
  10. TREAT YO SELF. You work hard. You deserve it. Buy that thing you’ve been wanting. Oh, come on, you know there’s a thing. Go get it. Get it and enjoy it and buy yourself a cappuccino on the way home. You earned it. 
  11. EAT. Have no shame, just eat whatever you want, be it chicken nuggets or chocolate or peanut butter on a spoon. However, we suggest you go out and eat. Get fancy and have yourself a grown-up meal. Or just go out for dessert (it’s a thing, you can totally do it). 
  12. TAKE YOUR TIME. Take your time getting out of bed. Take your time in the shower. Don’t stress about other people waiting for you. There’s no schedule here in Winter Break land. Blast your iPod and dance until you’re done dancing. That’s your call. 
  13. HAVE A FEELS CHAT. Whether that be with your roomie (we have a lot of feels chats because we have a lot of feels) or your Mom over the phone, we are very pro-feels chats. It always feels nice to have real, actual, conversations with people and not just 20 minute vent sessions between classes. 
  14. LET IT GO. That being said, you also should vent. Let it all out. You have time. If you’re alone, feel free to go about this in the same way as Kevin Bacon in Footloose or Zac Efron in HSM3. Scream into a pillow. Re-enact Frozen (you don’t have to make an Ice mansion, but if you can, good for you). 
  15. EAT SOME MORE. Did we mention you should go get food? You should. Hannah inserts, “I’m hungry again.” See?? Eat.

We hope you are able to use some of these pro-tips. We are experts at being on campus when it is empty, so feel free to contact us for advice. We’ll be here. Probably eating. Image

Visions of Sugarplums

If you know even the tiniest snippet of information about me, chances are that snippet is that I’m fairly well obsessed with the Nutcracker. I nearly wore out a VHS copy of the New York City Ballet’s version (featuring Macaulay Culkin–look it up, it’s a thing) as a child and then almost died a thousand deaths of joy when I moved to Ohio in high school and my wonderful new dance teacher told me I could be IN the show. I ate up every minute of every show throughout the four years I danced with Tuscarawas Dance Arts Center. The show weaved itself into my soul and never quite let go. I went to college, and, what to my wandering eyes should appear but BALLET CLUB (!!!) which does–what  else– an annual production of the Nutcracker. Sophomore year I was asked to direct the show and have done it ever since. I literally eat, sleep, and breathe the Nutcracker every fall.

What this means, though, is that a couple of weekends ago I danced in and directed my last Nutcracker show. When the curtain closed at the end of the show, My co-directors cried and I went into Mom-mode and bottled that mess of emotions up. I spent two days existing in this crazy, fragile, tightrope universe in which I laughed until I was almost crying and refused to watch the Lion King for fear it would emotionally do me in. (Shout out to my roomies for putting up with this nonsense… wasn’t pretty.)

However, now that I’ve had some time to relax, sit, and sleep, I can face the whirlwind of Nutcracker feels left in the wake of my semester. So I present to you now the Top Five things I have learned from the Nutcracker. Grab some Sugarplums and enjoy.

1. Nobody hates the Nutcracker. 

Sure, not everyone is going to have my same undying devotion as I do (I’m basically like the President of the Justin Bieber fan club except instead of a teen pop star it’s a ballet written in the late 1800’s about a wooden toy), but there is no one who hates this. You can’t. It’s Christmas-y, little kids do cute dances on stage, and even if you aren’t a dance aficionado,  you can’t help but marvel at the anti-gravity feats pulled off by these majestic dance machines.

2. This isn’t the Paris Opera.

Though this has been most frequently said to me in the context of the Nutcracker, it’s applicable in most situations. I tend to get so caught up in the production of this show (which, by the way is entirely student directed, student choreographed, and student danced, plus everyone who auditions gets a part), that I panic over little details or cracks in the show. This isn’t the Paris Opera, though– and no one expects it to be. Whatever it is you’ve done, whether it be a ballet or a paper or a dinner you’ve cooked, you DID IT. That’s amazing. So own what you have, make it the best it can be, and be proud of it. You made it. Go you.

3. A solid support group is everything.

Whether we’re talking about when I was dancing in the show in High school or directing it in college, the people who went through the process with me made it all possible without going insane. We watched each other from the wings waiting with hugs and water bottles when we left the stage. We stood with rolled up tights ready to transform each other from Clown to Flower in a minute and a half. We brought each other coffee and taco bell (not necessarily together…. or maybe they were. This is a no judgement blog). These people made the whole thing worthwhile and the end of each season even harder, but in the best way.

4. You are never going to be able to please everyone.

And that’s okay. I learned from the Nutcracker that as much as I want everyone to like me all the time, you can’t be in a leadership role and please everyone. People are going to want a different part. They’re going to think you scheduled too many rehearsals. They’re going to be mad about stuff and you can’t avoid that. The important thing about this is that you try your best to hear them out, see where they’re coming from, and do what you can to fix any problems that are there. Sometimes, you’ll be able to change things around. Sometimes, you won’t. That doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job or that the show’s gonna fall apart. It means that you’re a leader.

5. If you have a dream and the drive, it can be done. 

Apologies for that sounding like a really cheesy motivational poster. But it’s true. If you told me when I was watching that VHS as a six-year-old that I’d dance most parts in that ballet (Running the spectrum from Mouse Queen to Snow Queen to Arabian) in addition to directing it, I’d have freaked out, laughed, and maybe cried (mainly because I would be six but also because that is crazy).  The greatest thing that I’ve learned from all of this Nuttiness is that this doesn’t have to be the last time I devote the better part of my year to this show that I love. If a group of college students with a tiny budget can stage the Nutcracker, then there’s really nothing holding anyone back from achieving what they want to achieve. All it takes is a dream and a little drive.

 

I love the Nutcracker, and I always will. I hope to direct it again someday. I want to keep making people smile at Christmastime and letting people dance in one of the most joyful productions in existence. People ask me sometimes if I ever have time to “be a student” or “actually learn.” The thing is, as much as I learn from going to class (which I totally do, Mom and Dad, promise) I think I’ve learned the most from being a part of this production throughout my life, and I don’t think it’s done teaching me.

Peace, Love, and Sugarplums. ❤

Nutcracker tara me

The Entirely True Story of How My Dog Ruined Everything and a Half.

The following is an entirely true story of the misadventures of our new family dog at our cabin in Northern Maine. It is a land of magical wonder, until something or someone ruins everything. This was one of those times. 

It was a day like any other. The lake lapped up against the rocks on the shore of our camp, the sun glistened on the slight waves, and we sat on the porch, drinking coffee, reading, doing crossword puzzles: Enjoying one of the beautiful, relaxed mornings to which we had become accustomed during our stays at camp. And while my parents and I were strong proponents of the kind of easy, calm feeling that camp both inspires and requires, our new dog, Ollie (a four year old Jack Russel Terrier), hadn’t quite gotten the memo. The realization that he didn’t have to be on a leash at all times had seeped into his soul like a quadruple shot of espresso. He ran at full speed through the camp, around the camp, into our neighbor’s camps (at which times he possessed a remarkable grasp of manners which has still yet to be seen by us), and under the camp.

It is there, in the darkest corner of the tiny space underneath our camp, is where our story begins.

Now, Ollie had gone under the camp before. We assumed he was chasing a chipmunk or digging a hole or, you know, just being a general nuisance to society. Five minutes later, we were painfully aware of how wrong we were. The unmistakable odor of a skunk seeped through the windows of my room first, and then quickly throughout the entire camp (We would later find out that they had smelled the skunk across the lake).

The next two hours consisted of us listening through the floorboards to growling and barking, panicking and hypothesizing whether or not we were going to have to burn the camp down, and laying on our bellies in the dirt waving hunks of barbecued chicken under the camp yelling, “Ollie!!! You want chicken?! PLEASE COME EAT THE CHICKEN.” 

When my dad finally emerged down the stairs towards the lake clutching the dog wrapped in an old towel, he was, to say the least, optimistic.

“I think we lucked out!! I don’t smell anything!” he said as the front of the dog literally dripped bright yellow skunk juice. The smell was so strong that my dad could not smell it.

I repeat.

The smell was SO strong, my dad literally could NOT smell it. 

Two jumbo cans of tomato juice, one trip to the grocery store in which no one got within ten feet of me, and several baths of peroxide later, our good friend stopped by and deemed our house unlivable as we could feel the skunk in the back of our throats. They graciously took us in at their home, and we thought that in a day or so the camp would air out and the skunk would vacate and that would be the end of it.

SPOILER ALERT: We were wrong.

The next night at dinner, Ollie was running around outside with our friend’s dog. We were enjoying our newly returned appetites and the lack of smell when a knock came on the door. We opened it to a small child, wide-eyed and panicked, saying, “Ummmm, um, your chickens… the little dog… we tried, but… the… the chicken….”

OLLIE ATE ONE OF THEIR CHICKENS.

My mom and I put our faces in our hands and, I can’t speak for her but I know it’s true for me, wished that we had actually taken a vacation FROM the dog rather than with it. My dad walked out to find Ollie standing over his prey, mouth full of chicken and a glint in his eyes that said, “I am destruction.”

After discussing suitable nicknames for our little hellion (among the favorites were the Roosterminator and, referencing the fact that my parents got him on Craigslist, “The next Craigslist killer”), we came to the conclusion that Ollie is never allowed to be off his leash and that he’s pretty much the worst. I’ve dubbed the affected areas as Ollie’s Trail of Tears.

And so ends the entirely true story of how my dog ruined everything and a half. But rest assured, it is abundantly clear to us that this is only the first chapter.

The next Craigslist Killer

A Message for You

Yeah, that’s right.

You.

We spend an awful lot of time trying to talk ourselves out of things. Telling ourselves that we shouldn’t try it on because we could never pull it off. We shouldn’t audition because we’d never get the role. We shouldn’t even ask because they would never say yes. What’s the point in getting all upset about disappointments if we can simply never know them? If we stay where it’s safe and never wade into the waters of the unknown, we’ll be content, right?

NOPE.

None of this makes sense. Why try to talk yourself out of things when there are so many wonderful things to talk yourself into? Look around! There are outfits to be rocked, contests to be won, loves to be had, chances to be taken, opportunities to be seized, and doubts to be kicked to the curb.

Listen up. I know you. You are made in God’s image. You are beautiful. You are loved. And you have the whole world at your feet, waiting to be a part of your legacy.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and show the world what’s up. Stop letting the idea that you aren’t enough hold you back from everything you have inside of your amazing, fantastic, talented self. As a very wise dance professor once told me, “we all possess our own unique genius.”

Why would you ever keep that inside?

Like a Ton of Bricks

Have you ever had one of those moments when, there you are, just standing in the middle of your life, probably doing something you do all the time, and, all of the sudden, it’s as if you’re looking down on everything that’s happening, and the sheer awesomeness of it all nearly knocks you over?

Granted, I have just described a super specific moment. I refuse to believe, though, that I’m the only one who’s ever experienced this.

For me, this happened the other day in my Modern class. I have this class late in the afternoon after five other classes, four of which being dance related and one being Spanish Linguistics, which just shouldn’t happen at 9:30 in the morning. Needless to say, I’m not usually in an excessively peppy place during this class. But here I am, standing and watching half our class do an adagio combination in the middle of the floor, defying gravity and extending long, beautiful limbs in seemingly impossible positions for who knows how long, and all I can think is, “Look how amazing they are. Look at all these people who I get to know. Look at us go! WE ARE FREAKING ROCK STARS.”

That’s a direct quote.

It was in that moment that I realized that I see this every day and I seldom take the time to stop running from place to place or stop my mind from racing in order to appreciate all of the beautiful people, places, and experiences I am lucky enough to have in my life. So here’s a handful of things that have recently slipped under my “WOAH WOAH WOAH CHECK OUT THIS AMAZING THING” radar. I gotta get that thing checked out.

  • MY BEST FRIEND IS GETTING MARRIED! I mean, I’ve always known this was an amazing thing. I was there for the proposal, and I died a thousand deaths of happiness. But it deserves to make the list because, for goodness’ sake! The girl’s found the love of her life, and now they get to start a beautiful life together! Who could ask for anything more for someone they love?
  • I get to lead a wildly enthusiastic, lovable, quirky group of beautiful women who love dancing, God, and eating lunch together. I always knew joining Sacred was a great life decision. As a freshman, it gave me solid older role models and people to go to for advice and support during years that were difficult for me in many ways. Now, as I get older, I get to be that person for the younger girls. Not only that, but I get to learn from them. Which is a gift I never knew I’d get.
  • My family is absolutely amazing, like all the time. I have loving parents who support me through everything (even when that means listening to me on the phone for a full half hour describing every bruise I’ve acquired that week),and two amazingly intelligent brothers who, in addition to the fact that I’m positive they’ll both change the world as we know it, dressed up like backwoods men and posed for a picture to put on a mug for me. I mean, let’s be real. Best brothers ever.
  • I talk in a Russian accent on and off, like, three hours a day, and very few people question me. And I still have friends. So that’s a thing.
  • I go to a school where I can direct a ballet, work backstage with professional dance companies, dance in a chapel service, live with people from all over the country, take a million opportunities, spend an hour and a half a day learning how to do sweet lifts with your friends, and countless other things. It’s a lot to take in.

I issue you this challenge: The next time you’re busy and feeling bogged down by everything that has to get done,  take a deep breath, close your eyes, and start thinking of all the awesome things that are in your life. Let them hit you like a ton of bricks. If you’re having trouble, I’ll help you get started. Repeat after me:

Look at my life.

Look at me go!

Look at everything I can do!

I AM A FREAKING ROCK STAR.

 

Work it.

-Sarah

 

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The indescribable women of Sacred Dance

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