Held Back to Leap Free

To be honest, Nikól…..you dance in an affected way.

As my heart started to wrench, I took in Linda Haberman’s words.  I had just been cut from Rockette auditions, after nailing the combination.

I wanted feedback, so I had gone up to her and asked.  Linda was the director of the Christmas Spectacular and head of all the companies.

What stung most was, I was not a newbie.  I had two years of working for Radio City under my belt, hired first as a singer in the ensemble, and then as a Rockette.

I thought I was part of the “club” and had proven myself in performance, by not missing any shows, and by giving 100%.

And I was being cut because I danced in an “affected” manner? This felt unfair in so many ways.

I felt surprised, startled, and unsettled.

Have you ever felt like this?  Worked so hard for someone only to find out they don’t actually like your style or effort?

Have you felt like your best Creative work is being judged?

As I walked out of Radio City music hall, past the women who were kept to dance, feeling embarrassed….I felt like I was 12 again.

The year I was told I wasn’t good enough.

 

When I was ages 10-12, my father was stationed at RAF Lakenheath in England.  Once a week, my mother drove me to Bury St. Edmunds to take ballet.  The school was using the Royal Ballet curriculum, and there were levels.  I was at Level III, and had to wear a maroon leotard.

Level four meant I would get a new color leotard.

But it was about more than the leotard, it was about feeling like I was growing.

I loved to dance!

My mother always said I wouldn’t come out of the delivery room until the lighting was right.

And yet, taking lessons at this school was not joyful.

I was the only American there and felt like an outsider.
I felt like no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it right.
I felt like the teacher didn’t like me.

And then we received the news.

We are holding your daughter back another year.  We don’t think she is good enough to go on to the next level.

And they didn’t do this to me once…they did it two years in a row.

I was heartbroken, and my mother was outraged.  She deeply believed this school and teacher were not helping me, didn’t agree with the evaluation, and even more so, felt this teacher was harming me and my potential for growth by holding me back.

So, I stopped going.

And I didn’t take ballet for a whole year. While I did have a blast in 7th grade, crushing over Scott Ray and enjoying my handbells and violin, something was forming inside around my ability as a dancer.

A belief I wasn’t good enough.

Have you felt this in your Art?

 

The following year we were stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, and I was taking ballet from a studio on base once a week and got my first pair of pointe shoes.

I was over the moon!

I felt so special being on pointe.  I really liked the teacher and laced up my shoes with glee.

We were only going to be living in Heidelberg for one year, and then moving to Montgomery, Alabama, where I was hoping to attend an Arts and Academic Magnet School. The school was grades 7 – 9, taking in 12 to 14 year olds. I would be entering as a 9th grader.

In order to attend, I had to send in an audition tape, so I could be placed in either Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced Dance.  As an Arts student, I would be taking dance for two hours ever day, five days a week. Yahoo!

So, the tape was made, sent off, and I made the assumption I would be placed in the advanced class.  I was on pointe!  Plus, I was 14, so it all made sense to me.

When I received news I had been placed in the advanced level, I felt validated, and so excited.  I had never had intensive training before, and was ready to really dive into dance.

So, I show up for the first day of school, leotard on, pointe shoes in hand, hair pulled back, and was hit slap across the face one stone cold truth….

I was one of the weakest dancers in the class.

The 12 year olds were dancing rings around me, doing fouetttes on pointe, way more advanced.

And all I could think was,
How did I get here??

And yet, it lit a fire under me. I worked the hardest I had ever worked.  I threw myself fully into my studies, and something magical happened.

I grew.

The reason?

The teacher.

At the end of the year, I was awarded Most Improved Dancer and was given a solo on pointe for the end of year recital.  My solo was short and simple, but it meant the world to me.

I went up to my teacher , Mrs. Caruso, and asked her,
Why did you put me in the advanced level? I was one of the worst in this class!

She looked down at me, and smiled wide saying,
I saw potential in you.

 

Our teachers, coaches, and mentors are invaluable to forming our Creative gifts.  The beliefs we form as Artists can be tied back to those formative years when we were excited about leotard colors.

My dance and any growth could have been cut short when I was 12, but thankfully, I was blessed with amazing teachers that saw the burning desire and love inside.

I knew I loved to dance, but I had no idea how quickly I could improve. I had no idea of my own potential.  I needed her for that.

Mrs. Caruso saw this, and because of her, I kept dancing through high school, and then decided to get a BFA in Musical Theatre, and follow my heart to having a 20 year professional career in the theatre.

Thanks to Mrs. Caruso, I still dance every week, and leap and turn across the floor with abandon.

I know I always will.

And I know that with the right teachers in my life, I can achieve anything.

So, who believes in you?
Who is holding your potential high and reminding you of your brilliance?

Creativity was never meant to occur in isolation.  Who we are as Artists is constantly shifting and growing.  Many times, we can become so short sighted in our limiting beliefs and past failures, but it’s our teachers and mentors who remind us of what is possible.

Our teachers and coaches aren’t viewing our work through our personal blocks.  They view us through our potential and brilliance.

It’s in there.  It may just need illuminating.

So, who is guiding you?
And who HAS guided you?
Are they holding you back or causing wings to sprout from your shoulders?

What is truly serving your growth as an Artist?

I remember that 12 year old who was told she wasn’t good enough, and am taking a moment to hug her and love her. She really was doing the best she could, but she needed stronger guidance and better technique.  She wanted to grow as a dancer, and needed a teacher who could SEE that pure desire.

Linda’s words at the Rockette audition did sting me, but they also brought to the surface the vital importance of who I choose as a teacher.

Of course we are going to face challenges as we learn and grow, but it’s vital to have a teacher who MEETS you there and encourages you through the process.  One that has not only the knowledge, but the compassionate skill to truly help you OWN your greatness.

The proof is always going to be in your results and progress. 

So ask yourself,
Are you where you want to be?

 

The days of teaching through humiliation and shaming are behind us.  Thriving in our Creative Joy today comes from compassion, commitment, and collaboration.

If you want to see lasting results and the type of change that brings your Creative Dreams alive, give yourself the gift of teachers who will actually help you get there, and release the rest with grace.

Coming Home

I’m in a room.  The same I am in every morning at 6:30 am.  A brown couch behind me, and a TV in front. The door is shut and in the distance I can hear my brother playing Mozart in the living room.

I open my music stand, adjusting the height, my small fingers clicking the lock into place, and for a moment the overhead light flashes silver before I place a large book on top.

Suzuki scales.

Bending down, I open my case and take a deep breath, almost holding it, because all I hear as my hands lift my violin to my chin is a loud voice in my head saying,

I’m not good enough

And then my small bow hits the string, and I go through my practice, stretching my short fingers. Gotta get it in before I catch the school bus for second grade.

 

Remember childhood?

What was yours like? Did you begin your Art when you were young?

I grew up in a military household that was very musical.  My mother told both my brother and I we would take an instrument, and we could pick whatever that was. He chose piano.

For some insane reason I chose violin.

I used to always say that I never really excelled at violin because we moved around so much and each time we would come to a new military base, I would have a new teacher that would say,

Forget everything you’ve been taught. What you are doing is wrong. This is the proper technique.

But recently, I think I have been able to really get to the heart of it.  And I was surprised to learn that my violin and the feelings around it were actually the key to me moving forward in my Artistry and being successful.

I was a very artistic child, and was also in dance class and loved every minute of creative writing.

But the violin?

It always felt hard, and most of all, I felt like I couldn’t catch up or do it right.

What was it for you?
What was giving you that message as a child?
How has this affected you as an adult Artist?

 

I recently worked with a powerful coach named Tom Tynan, who led me through his process to uncover my core limiting belief, and when I wrote it down, I knew it was true…..even though it felt so cliche.  But there it was, in my own writing…

I am not enough

And in his process, he led me back to the child part of me that first had that belief, and guess who I met?

The 7 year old practicing violin every morning.

In all her glory, and with her best intentions to try and be lovable, and do right, be a good daughter and be a great musician…..she would get up every school morning to practice for 30 minutes.

But she never felt it was good enough. Her teachers weren’t reinforcing that, and it wasn’t joyful.

Not like writing…not like dance…not like singing in the church musical and playing a kazoo loudly for all to hear.

So, what did I do when I met her?

I hugged her.
I told her, “you are amazing!”

And she beamed, and hugged me back.  And then, I told her it was time to come home.  She didn’t have to be in isolation anymore. She could be a part of me and no longer feed the belief that I’m not enough.

Now, I could ask the question instead,
How AM I enough?

 

As artists and creatives we can have a very strong inner critic. And we have to ask the question, where did this begin from?

We are fully formed by the time we are 7 years old, and while the adults around us all had the best intentions and were working with whatever tools they had, our innocence can really suffer.

Especially with the Arts.

Our expression is very emotional, and can get tied up in our self worth.  We care so deeply about our dance, our music, our words, and art.

And the good news is, it can nourish us and feed us as we grow to create incredible work in the world.

But, take a moment to ask, what is that voice saying to you?

Or better yet, what is that voice truly asking FOR?

My career ended up being in musical theatre, and now with my business I use my writing a lot.  While I did choose violin as a six year old, it may have been because that is what was going to eventually open me to believing the most empowering belief,

I am enough.

And isn’t that what we are truly looking for as Creatives?

Enough to connect with our audience
Enough to put our work out to the world
Enough to stand center stage in the spotlight and been seen for all our glorious gifts
Enough to truly thrive and make a solid living doing what we love

And what’s more loving than embracing that inner child that has been calling to be seen?

So, take a moment and listen….tune in and get curious.  Close your eyes and see where your inner critic began….and find that child that wanted more than anything to express themselves with abandon, crayons in hand.

Give them a hug, and bring them home.

And then share your glorious voice.