My dance professor ended our final class period by saying… “In my twenty years of teaching many classes, I can say that this one has been my favorite and really mean it because of all of you. I have dubbed this group “The Breakfast Club.” Laughter and cheers exploded in the studio.
Our Breakfast Club: 9 college students of different ages, backgrounds, and dance experience who came together for a 2-credit dance technique class…. a class that I’m sure none of us will ever forget.
I’m honestly so sad to be writing this blog, because it means that the semester is over. I can’t even think of the right words to describe how this class has impacted me, but the sentiments that my professor left as feedback on my final reflection summarize my vibe pretty well:
Your positive attitude toward the class, my teaching, and the content played a large role in your learning. It was fun to watch your confidence and skill improve over the semester. It was also refreshing to watch you be empowered as you worked through relationship issues. You seem like a very different person today than the one who walked into the studio in August.-Mel
I cried reading those words.
As a senior, it’s easy to think back on collegiate experiences and feel pangs of regret. “I should’ve done this, I wish I had never done this, If I could do it again I’d do this…” all of these are common thoughts. My version? I wish I had become a dance minor. As I finish this semester, however, I no longer view this as a regret. I truly believe that I was meant to take this dance class in this season of my life. It has benefitted me so greatly both mentally and physically as my life has done a 180º turn in the past year. As life was changing and I was changing, this class was a beautiful reminder that dance will always be there for me. I smile as I reflect back on my time spent in the studio this semester.
Some of my favorite moments of the semester have been the beginning of the class period where Mel asked us how we’re doing. This question isn’t the surface level “How are you?” where everyone responds, “Oh, I’m good!” We all wore our hearts on our sleeves… even if it happened by stating what item of furniture we felt like that day. On more than one occasion, I felt like a doormat when I entered the classroom and left feeling like the comfy recliner. Tears were shed in our class… but none were because of what was happening inside the studio. The studio was a safe haven from the craziness of college and life. The studio was where our Tuesday and Thursday mornings began, quite often with a smile. This is what I will remember most.
As I look back on the goals that I set at the beginning of the semester, I am proud to say that I feel proud of what I have accomplished. My first goal was to increase love /appreciation for my own body. I have given myself so much love this semester. (yaaasss!) Beyond the studio, I’ve spent hours at the gym, I’ve practiced more positive self-talk, I have spent time in reflection. I have become active on social media in encouraging others, especially women, to love themselves, be encouraging to others, and live their truth. In the studio, I gave my all… my FitBit happily tracking my morning dance sessions as a workout. While I didn’t always succeed at keeping my emotions out of the studio (thanks for the hugs, Mel), dance helped me to channel many emotions.
My second goal was to improve my technical skills / embrace a new learning style. This was so much easier than I anticipated. I have learned new terminology, frameworks, and steps and put them into action. My mind has opened to new pedagogy both for dance and collegiate instruction. The word I would use to describe Mel (Dr. Hauschild-Mork) would be transformative. I hope to implement what I learned from her in my own classroom next year. I felt challenged by the content, but in the way that every person who enjoys learning wants to be stretched… just beyond the comfort zone. I feel like a much stronger dancer due to not only the refreshing of old techniques but the addition of new techniques, terminology, and dance history. It was equally as wonderful to see this growth in my classmates, especially those who had not danced in this kind of setting before. I felt so giddy watching them nail a move or step… perhaps even more so when they didn’t quite nail the step but gave it their all and had a smile on their face. That’s what it’s all about.
In this class, while we all formed a great friendship (so much so that we asked to be randomly assigned to groups for the final project), we also formed awesome relations with our randomly assigned ‘dance buddies’ from the first week. I was lucky enough to be paired with two lovely ladies because our class had an uneven number. During our final exam time, we shared a thank you note and small, homemade gift with each of our dance buddies. I will cherish the words of thanks that my dance buddies wrote me:
“Alex, you’re probably one of my favorite people to get feedback from. Your positivity tempers my tendency to hear feedback as huge negatives I take personally. I want to thank you for your supportive disposition and constant encouragement that is felt in all you say and do.”– a dance buddy
Oh miss Alex, thank you for your words of encouragement throughout this dance course. It had been a long time since I had danced in this way and I came in feeling very nervous. You made me feel like I was doing a good job and that my body looked beautiful while doing the moves. You are a strong woman, Alex. You will dance on to do great things.”– a dance buddy
…like, wow. I was blown away by their kind words and even more touched by the hint of sparkle in each of their eyes as I read these words out loud. What truly beautiful souls filled the dance studio this semester. I don’t always feel positive; I don’t always feel strong. I aim to be an encourager in what I say and do and I know that I sometimes fail… but these two amazing ladies made me feel like a million bucks by sharing their experiences with my encouragement. I feel like God is showing me my divine purpose more and more every day and he did so even within the dance studio this semester. I left a mark on these two ladies, and they left their mark on me. I am so grateful for the friendships made in this class… I could add many more examples.
One last thing that I am thankful for as I end this semester was the opportunity to see Haley each and every Tuesday and Thursday. We planned this accordingly so that we could take this class together during her first semester as a jackrabbit. After four years of friendship from afar, driving Haley to dance class, listening to worship music with her, and reflecting on our days has been such a highlight of my semester. Haley often reminds me of myself. I refer to her as my “little sister.” I have expressed to her that I am so happy that she can continue to learn from Mel and advance her dance career here at State. Through Haley, I will live my “what if.”
The fact that I have accomplished my goals, made friendships, danced my heart out, and learned so much more than the Cincinnati step just furthers the idea that I was meant to take this class during this season of my life. I will always look back on this class as one of the most impactful classes for me here at SDSU and as a constant reminder to never stop dancing (and to never forget the breakfast club.)
To my breakfast club pals: I love you all and you’re wonderful. Thank you so much for creating the environment we shared this semester. The class was amazing, Melissa’s pedagogy is transformative… but the class could never be the same without each and every one of you.