“What do we do, Devon?”

I had a layover in Chicago on my way home from working in Michigan last weekend. (Side note- I’m currently laid-over in NYC from working in Iowa THIS weekend… #jetset #eyeroll) (And NOW, I’m finishing this post in Kansas City)

I got off the plane (in Chicago) and sprinted to the bathroom. (You know how that goes…) In the bathroom, while I tried to patiently wait in the exceptionally long line, I saw a little girl struggling to reach the automatic paper-towel dispenser. Her mom stood behind her and watched her struggle.

At first, I thought “a parent not jumping straight to the plate to alleviate her child’s obstacle, how strange?”

BUT THEN- The mother said “What do we do, Devon?”

Her daughter mumbled something under her breath that I could not understand.

The mother responded “That’s right. We IMPROVISE. And what does improvise mean?”

The daughter responded, as she placed her hands on the sinks on either side of her and pushed herself high enough to cue the dispenser, “It means you make it work for yourself.”

The mother responded, “that’s right- so now, make it work for yourself, Devon.”

I was in awe. My jaw just about hit the floor and I almost kneeled down to hail the amazing mother. (Until I remembered I was in an airport bathroom. Ew.) I mean, Wow! What an amazing lesson to learn.

Imagine if all young children had mothers like this one. Imagine if we were all raised to improvise through an obstacle rather than be given the answer immediately (through a parent, through technology, through whatever!)

I can’t remember the last time I sat and thought about a question for even five minutes before I got on my phone to google the question and receive the answer within seconds. All along, reaching my destination without asking my brain to rev up, even a little.

Improvising is a skill. What an amazing lesson to learn at ANY age, but imagine being taught that lesson as an adolescent.

Because (other than the vicious cycle of buying groceries only to get home and want pizza) isn’t that what transitioning into adulthood is- a whole bunch of IMPROVISING!? A whole bunch of trial and error?!

We shouldn’t be ashamed of constantly improvising our way through situations, we should be proud that as human beings we have the ability to make a decision, experience whatever consequences that decision may result in, and then learn from that decision – learn whether or not we would make the SAME decision the next time we are put in a similar situation.

Being able to improvise is truly a gift! It’s a treat! Let’s celebrate this privilege and enjoy the FUN it adds to each of our journeys.

The next time we are stuck at a fork in the road, let’s think about this mother’s amazing lesson and take her advice! Just, improvise. Just make it work for yourself. Everything else will fall into place, one way or another.

AYYYYY FREAKIN MEN- I love that mom.

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Every Square is a Rectangle

Maybe difficult is not so bad. Maybe easy is not so desirable.

Easy makes you soft, complacent, vulnerable. Difficult makes you strong, decisive, capable.

Easy puts you in danger of being arrogant, disrespectful and bored. Difficult fills you with a wealth of gratitude that connects you to life’s richest abundance.

The more you must work for something, the more you must invest yourself, the more it means to you, the more value it has. A difficult journey makes the destination all the more appealing.

Wouldn’t it be nice to stop worrying whether the day, the job, the encounter will be difficult? Wouldn’t it be great to just stride right up to the moment and meet it with confidence and joy?

Look back at what you’ve learned from life, and you’ll realize you’ve learned this. What is difficult is nothing to fear.

I believe this to be true, in many things in life. Most things, actually. However, I do not believe this to be true in love.

I am extremely young when it comes to life (and love), but I have also experienced a lot for a person my age when it comes to love.

Not only was I cultivated on the negative aspects of love, at a young age, while I witnessed my parent’s marriage shatter violently at my feet, but I also experienced personal, bittersweet experiences of my own as a teen and young college student.

Every relationship I’ve experienced has had its own pros and cons. Whether it be romantic or not. And I do not regret any of them. They each taught me something unique, and I have wonderful memories from them all. BUT The romantic relationships I had in the past can all be bundled-up in the same old duffel bag (no matter how many great memories they may consist of), whereas my current relationship, no matter where it ends up going in the future, will always sit in its own, shiny display case.

One difference between my current relationship and the three serious relationships that I had prior to it, is the fact that this time, I’m not with a boy- I’m with a Man. While the bulk of that fact has to do with age, there’s still a bit that comes truly because of the human-being that Matthew was raised to be. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Matt before he was 23, but I am certain that he has been more a “man” than a “boy” for the majority of his life.

The biggest thing that separates my past from my present is the simple fact of my present’s ease. Of course, not-so-fun stuff like stress, tears, frustrations etc. all still exist, but overall- life and love are just … simple.

If there’s one thing that I wish my friends (or anyone else) struggling with love/relationships could understand is that – Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.

What I mean by that is: While some loving relationships can be passionate, not every passionate relationship is love.

Passion is sometimes difficult, whereas love, when it stands alone, is always easy.

I used to be obsessed with passion. It fueled me. I didn’t understand that I could work hard or do things worthy of my time without all the unnecessary drama and added bullshit. I truly believed that a piece of paper without glitter was as valuable as chewed gum under a restaurant table.

My brain believed that a relationship without arguments meant a relationship unworthy of my time- A relationship without dramatic, overbearing passion meant a relationship without love.

This is not at all the truth.

It took me 22 years to understand this- 11 years witnessing as an adolescent, and another 11 years experiencing it, firsthand, as a member of 4 different relationships. The crazy part is that learning this in 22 years, is relatively quick. Extremely quick, actually! And if I learned all this in only 22 years, then what in the hell am I going to learn in the NEXT 22 years?

So maybe, I said it wrong- maybe the opening quote IS true, even when it comes to love. Maybe all the angst and drama from my past made it possible for me to appreciate the calmness and beauty of my present.

“A difficult journey makes the destination all the more appealing.” –

Maybe if my parents had a perfect marriage, or if I hadn’t undergone so much turmoil in my own, childish relationships, then I wouldn’t have understood how lucky I was to have met Matthew when I did….

Maybe it has less to do with Matthew being a “man”, and less to do with any of my previous counterparts being young “boys”, but instead, EVERYTHING to do with who I was ready to become when Matthew and I met?

At that time, I had learned enough to swallow my pride, and allow Matthew to (unintentionally) teach me the difference between passion and love. Because prior to knowing him, I didn’t realize there was any difference at all. Not in relationships, not in dance, not in any part of my life.

I didn’t realize that simple, easy and gentle could also mean happy, healthy and content.

Simple isn’t less, it’s just not excessively more. Simple is oftentimes- exactly what you need… simple is just right.

“Newsflash: You will never become the person you want to be by continuing to be the person you currently are. Growth’s only request is that you step out of your comfort zone.

And unless you are willing to take that risk, to take that uncomfortable leap into the unknown, you will forever stay exactly where you are.

Humans are not meant to stop growing.

In fact, no living thing on earth is meant to stop growing. We are all alive, reaching for the sun.

Progress in life is all about reinvention.

Reinvention is what allows you endless opportunities to continue exploring new parts of yourself. Whenever you find something about yourself you want to change, you need to look for a way to reinvent it.”

happy monday! peace 🙂

two years later..

1002203_10152184614354233_1344997121_nTwo years ago today was my last day of school-

And this is what I wrote..

“Think, but don’t let your thoughts about the situation distance you from the situation. Experience where you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing without overanalyzing it into triviality. Your life in this universe is not just some abstract concept. It is a real, living, unique adventure, so treat it as such. Release the temptation to outthink the moment, and find richness in living the moment. Take in that richness not by mentally outlining its benefits, but by participating in its substance. Sunshine warms your back and a rain-cooled breeze cools your face. Treasure life as you live it because it feels so good. Thinking is a powerful, useful pursuit. Yet there is more to life than just thinking your way through. Feel each moment and experience its rich sensations. Be where you are in person as well as in thought.” (Sent to me, by my awesome mamma)

Cheers to my last week of structured education.
& CHEERS to a lifetime full of never-ending learning/exploring!

—–

Sometimes, I do miss the structure and the privilege of waking up each morning with a free roof over my head, free food in the fridge, and free dance classes 6-10 hours a day. BUT dayuhm, where I am TODAY feels so good!! If you would’ve told me, two years ago, that I’d still be living in Pittsburgh, with a lovely boyfriend, in a beautiful home with a perfect puppy, AND that my bestest friend would STILL be by my side in this city, I would’ve called you crazy! But here we are!
Humbled to have learned that “plans” DO change. You CAN make your career, your love, and your success all happen at the same time and in the same place. There is no right or wrong way to do life. Everyone has their own story and we’re all on different pages of different chapters- that’s what makes life so damn interesting.

You can create art ANYWHERE! You can be happy ANYWHERE!

I know I have so much more to learn and so much further to go, but that’s nothing but exciting! Thankful, happy, eager and ohhh so lucky to be where I am!

Last thought-

I recently found this quote and placed it on my mantel in my new (unfinished) living room. It resonated deeply with me and where my life has gone since graduating from school. Since moving in, 3 different people have read this quote and expressed to me how much they enjoy it as well. It makes my new home feel warm and cozy like I’ve lived there for years.

“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cheers to life! Cheers to the unknown 🙂

GIVEAWAY!! – #OverExposed

Hey Y’all!

If you read my last post, you saw that I have been working on a side dance project with Lindsay Fisher and Matt Pardo. Well, our show is NEXT WEEK, and I cannot explain my excitement!

I thought it’d be a great idea to get the word out, AND send two lucky winners to see the show FOR FREE, by posting a little something about the brains behind it all – LINDSAY FISHER !

At first glance, Lindsay is absolutely stunning – A (surprisingly) 37 year old, beaut!! BUT once you get to know Lindsay on a deeper/more personal level, her inside beauty just busts through her lean, muscular seams. She is the epitome of beauty from the inside, out!

I have had the privilege of working with Lindsay for the past 6 months. During this short time, she has shown her true colors and confidently exposed some of her deepest vulnerabilities. Not only has she been a dance mentor, as I travel down this strange road, but also a personal mentor. She’s taken the time to explain her values in the studio, as a daughter, and as a wife. She is freaking AWESOME, and I feel immensely lucky to have been chosen to assist in expressing her journey with an audience.

We have gotten together and decided to do a GIVEAWAY for two lucky dancers (or non-dancers) !!

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One lucky winner will be given TWO free tickets (for themselves and a friend) to our show at the New Hazlett Theater on April 6th at 8pm!

All you have to do is follow these three EASY steps –

  1. Follow @montifresh and @datfitdancerchic on instagram!
  2. Post a dance (or non-dance) photo beautifully/confidently exposing a vulnerability or insecurity that you wish to embrace
  3. HASHTAG #OverExposed

Winners will be chosen THIS Saturday (April 1)

Here are some Lindsay Fisher insights – Explaining her life from a small child up until today. She so bravely expresses her honest and raw experience of dancing for the past 33 years.

Check her out and make sure to check out our show at the New Hazlett Theater on April 6th at 8pm! Click on link below for tickets!!

Over Exposed – April 6th @ 8pm

(Link to purchase tickets is also available at the bottom of the post!)

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1. Start by telling us a little about yourself and your career. Where are you from? When did you start dancing? And what has your career been like up until this point?

I am from Butler, PA which is 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. I was 4 years old when my mom signed me up for dance lessons…I hated them. In truth, I hated them because they were on Saturday mornings, which was exactly when the best cartoons were on, and therefore, I hated going to my dance classes because I genuinely loved the Smurfs. Up to this point, my career has been fulfilling. I spent the bulk of my performing career in NYC dancing for a number of different companies. I would consider myself a freelance dancer since I really enjoyed doing multiple choreographers’ work. I joined the professional dance world at a time when the the good old days of the big companies were beginning to dwindle, and more dancers/choreographers were doing “pick up” work. But, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have danced with some incredible dancers and choreographers. I’v done everything from classical and contemporary ballet, to musical theatre and commercial work, to post-modern dance and performance art…I love it all! Luckily, my first dance teacher stressed the importance of being well rounded and versatile which has definitely paid off in continual work.

2. Tell us about “Over Exposed” – Where did the initial inspiration come from? How has your original idea morphed into what will be shown on the stage on April 6th?

Over Exposed started as a way for me unearth all of the crazy things that have made my life what it is. I don’t think I’m special, I just don’t think many people like to share some of their insecurities and failures. Originally, I had planned on creating an evening length work with three dancers: Matt Pardo, myself and the beautiful Montana Michniak. However, my plans took a drastic shift when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in December. Since both of my parents are currently battling cancer (my father continues chemotherapy and hormone therapy for prostate cancer) I knew I didn’t have the mental capacity to continue to create during this trying time. Luckily, my dancers are incredible human beings and willing to roll with the punches, so I changed the structure of my evening to include 5 works. I have restaged some duets as well as reworked some larger group pieces that include some of the dancers I work with at Slippery Rock University. The funny thing is, pretty much everything I make is directly related to my experiences, so the feeling of exposing my dirty laundry is still felt when the evening is finally put together.

3. Of all of the crazy stories that you have from throughout your years of dancing – Which story seems to still sit heaviest in your heart, today.

I could literally write a book of all of the crazy things that I’ve either done, or experienced. I mean, I lived with a 76 year old Irish nun in the East Village of Manhattan (with 3 other dancers…who were Swedish) simply because the rent was $300/month. But what sits heavy on my heart are the things that have shaped the way that I see myself. When I was younger, I had a teacher who made comments about my legs. In truth, I was a string bean and when I see photos of my 15 year old self, I can’t believe anyone would have commented on the size of my legs. But that stuck with me for over 3 decades. It’s funny how a nonchalant comment to a teenager can change the way she views herself and her worth. From that day on, I identified as the girl with the huge legs. I would make jokes about my over developed thighs every chance I got so that other people would know that I understood I had flaws. I became so comfortable identifying as overly muscular that I couldn’t see myself in any other way. In Over Exposed, there is some footage of me covered in plastic wrap. After I heard this comment about my legs I spent months wrapping my legs in plastic wrap thinking I could sweat them smaller. When I created this “nest” solo, I cried. I felt so deeply for that 15 year old girl. I hated that she went thought such self-hate when in reality, she was just fine as she was.

4. Do you have a Life Mantra that you like to live by? Is there a phrase that you constantly repeat in your mind, write down, or use to help you keep your head up through all the nonsense that dancers have to put up with?

My dad had this wonderful phrase that I found poignant: “Be careful of the toes you step on, on your way up the ladder…they just might be connected to the ass you’re kissing on your way back down.” My parents always raised my sister and I to be kind and helpful to everyone. I think that’s why “dancer intimidation” is strange. You know, when you go to a class or audition and someone is trying to intimidate you by stretching or executing some insane pirouette sequence? I genuinely think that a lot of that stems from insecurity. When I would go to auditions, I would warm up, but chat with the other dancers who seemed friendly. The way I saw it, we may be coworkers, or living on the road together; what would I gain from being an asshole to them? So I guess my mantra is, “Don’t be an asshole!” Sorry for the language, I’m not known for my ladylike vocabulary.

5. As far as the show is concerned- What are you most excited for and what are you most nervous about?

I’m excited to perform in Pittsburgh! I grew up here, but I’ve only performed here twice. This will be the first time I’ve presented my work here. I’m nervous to be vulnerable. I think dancers can be fairly critical ( I know I’m guilty of this, at times) and so I’m nervous that my work won’t be seen as valuable. But, I think anytime you put yourself out there, you’re bound to be nervous. The same could be said for dating.

6. As a professional that’s traveled the world, spent many years in NYC, and heard all the bullshit there is to hear (but still been able to come out beautifully on top) What is one piece of advice that you’d give to a dancer graduating from college and entering into the professional world?

Take advantage of all opportunities and don’t be afraid to network! I used to think networking was cheating. Then I realized that all of the other dancers who were “calling in a favor” were actually just freaking smart. I’ll give you an example: my senior year of college, Kevin McKenzie (Artistic Director of ABT) invited me to take company class whenever I was in NYC. Now, My naive self literally thought he was just being nice because I had worked with him and the ABT Studio company while in North Carolina. So, one day I finally got the courage to take class. There I am, feeling like an utter fool standing in a room full of dancers who intimidated the hell out of me. I felt out of my league and insecure. A smarter dancer would have come back to take class again….I never went back. I let my own insecurities get in my way. Could I have potentially been hired at ABT…hell no….but I’m sure the artistic director of one of the most elite ballet companies in the world might just have some pretty impressive connections. Don’t let insecurities or fear determine your future. Those opportunities don’t come along every day.

THERE SHE IS!! Ugh. #Beautiful !!

Over Exposed Tickets – April 6th @ 8pm

#DreamTeam

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Hope to see y’all there !

Over n’ Out –

Monti 😉

The Road To (Re)Invention

Hey y’all-

Long time no talk. I know, I know … it IS, indeed, 100% my fault. And for that, I am immensely sorry. BUT you must know- I was going through a very strange phase of my life. In fact, I still am…

Reason be- No matter what had changed in the past: siblings, my parent’s divorce, puberty, high school, piercing (both sides of) my nose, moving from Texas to Pennsylvania, break up after break up – boy after boy (bleh), graduating from college, etc. This time, the change was different- something was missing. There was a very scary realization that I was not entering the next part of my life with the same security as before – and that terrified me.

Up until this point, every time I had experienced change, there was always one variable that seemed to stay the same –

Dance. 

As soon as I finally reached the week of my graduation, I very quickly began to realize just how fed up and finished I had been for quite some time. My whole family traveled to Pittsburgh to watch me graduate, and honestly, I could not have been more of a brat the entire time. I remember sitting at lunch with my mom and step dad the day they got to town, and my mom becoming very angry with me. She wanted to know where I could pick up my cap and gown – I didn’t know. She wanted to know if I needed to be anywhere for any type of rehearsal for the ceremony – I didn’t know. She even, so simply, wanted to know what time the actual graduation ceremony would begin – and again, I. Did. Not. Know. I ended up snapping at her, and quite frankly, I was even a little surprised with my behavior.

I had made “being positive” such a strong priority during my three years at Point Park, that when it was finally time for it to end, I began to release all of the anger that I had been holding in behind closed doors.

Don’t get me wrong – Point Park is a great place! My troubling time had nothing to do with where I was. Instead, it had everything to do with who I was trying to be.

Inside, I was traveling on a very negative personal journey. And to be honest, it was because I was trying my very hardest to be someone other than Montana.

Along with inorganically trying to stay in love with dance, I also struggled with self-image, finding a solid group of friends, and pretending to be happy in a very fake relationship.

They say, “you find yourself in college.” (Whatever tf that means, and whoever tf they are.) But, for me- I quickly realized that I spent no time TRULY “finding myself” until the day after I graduated.

For a while, I knew I didn’t want to dance. I actually went back and read journals that I had kept throughout my schooling – and even, in the midst of the most beautiful dancing I had ever experienced, in Tel Aviv, Israel, I was writing about how bored and disinvested my mind and body both were.

Eventually, through many tears, a few temper tantrums, and one really big fight with my mom, I got through it. Now, when I look past the actual situation, I see that what I truly learned was an extremely valuable lesson-

Before you can realize, admit, and/or change anything – YOU have to realize, admit and/or find the drive to change it YOURSELF. Nothing can ever be put into effect, in YOUR life, by other people. YOU have to be the change. (Oh, God. The cliché. Spare me. But for real…) YOU have to have the courage and the motivation to say it and want it yourself. 

Today – I can confidently say that I do not want to purse dance as a career any longer. Although, I am extremely aware of how far it took me in life, and I would never trade one second that I spent training and/or performing for anything in the world. Dance molded me into the human being that I am today. For that, I am forever grateful.

So, once I got past it… I thought, “What the hell am I going to do?”

I didn’t know how to go about living life, or taking the next step, without dance. I spent 8 months barista-ing at a local Pittsburgh cafe, and 4 of those months serving at a Mexican restaurant. (Shoutout to my food friends. I effing love y’all.) Those 8 months were great! It was the first time in my life that I wasn’t worrying about training, being thin, binge eating, self-image, auditions, cast lists, swollen joints, or eating ibuprofen like skittles (shout out to my girl Lindsay hehe). For the first time, I was actually making a tiny bit of money. I was straight-up chilling, and it was great. But I quickly became both exhausted and bored. I NEEDED to find something more- something that made me feel like there was room (and desire) for growth.

Well, luckily, an angel was sent into my life – Jorae Hassinger. @heyjorae – A designer at American Eagle Outfitters corporate.

Back story- Our boyfriends are friends from college. They introduced us, and I very quickly learned what an exceptional human Jorae is. (Don’t even get me started on the boyfriend. He is an absoulte gift. I would be so alone without his constant support, honesty, humor, ambition, affection and laughter. He is one of the main reasons that I was able to realize that I had been living a lie for the past 3 years. Since I have been with Matthew, I have never been more Montana.)

Long story short – (and for real: short) Jorae pulled some strings and got me an interview with the Marketing Photo Studio at American Eagle. With a B.F.A. in Dance and absolutely no experience with styling – I somehow got the position as a Freelance Stylist for AEO.

I’ve been at AEO for about 2 months and I literally love it more than I could ever explain in a blog post.

AEO is a Monday through Friday, nine to five job. But, I don’t stop there.

Side Hustle is a VERY real thing, y’all.

I am working on a side dance project with two absolutely beautiful humans both inside and out. Lindsay Fisher and Matt Pardo! (I know, I know – I just got done ranting about how I quit dance. Bare with me…) I still sometimes serve at the Mexican restaurant. I work parties slash banquets at my boyfriend’s family’s resturant, Mitchell’s, in Downtown Pittsburgh. And hell, I even have a profile on Rover – I dogsit during my free time. Whatever tf “free-time” means.

SO- long story looong—

This is officially the re-vamping of my original blog. (And I could not be more excited!!) Only this time, it’s not going to emphasize the steps to becoming a professional dancer, it’s going to EXPRESS MY steps to becoming professional. Period. No matter what tf that may end up entailing. Because let’s face it – we are all a little bit more confused than not when it comes to “life.”

I’ve decided to take a couple steps back and look at what I really want to do with my life, instead of trying to impress the people from my past.

So, please – join me on my journey! Monti’s Road To Reinvention!

Because Let’s be real –Life hands you shit, but there are silver-linings everywhere.

My first goal with this blog is to post every other week. Wish me luck!

A Little Throwback- A Whole Lot a’ Thanks.

Hey Y’all!

It’s been a minute. I apologize for that. I have been working on this post for almost a month now. Every time I sit down and add more, I end up getting emotional and quitting. Maybe “quitting” is the wrong word. Instead, I’ll say “pausing”. While I was at work yesterday, Baron Batch walked into the door, and I immediately felt guilty for not sucking it up and finishing this damn post. A good friend of mine Ryan McGoogan (Googs hehe) first introduced me to Batch’s blog, and I was totally infatuated. If you haven’t read his stuff, you will DEFINITELY want to check it out. Nonetheless – this guilt I was feeling, quickly turned into inspiration. I went back and reread the post that Ryan had sent to me, and felt this sudden NEED to finish this post.

So – Here we go !

A week ago, today, my family had just arrived to Pittsburgh to spend time celebrating my college graduation. It’s been 5 days since I walked across the stage in Consol Energy Center  at Point Park University’s 2016 Graduation Ceremony. The feelings I had all week leading up to that moment when I heard my name called last Saturday morning were indescribable. My last month of school was filled with a whirlwind of emotions, challenges, and straight-up tears (both good and bad). Although, throughout the commencement ceremony, all I could do was laugh. While the whole arena stood, every right hand covered every heart, and the lyrics to  “The Star Spangled Banner” flashed across the overwhelmingly large screen… I couldn’t help but stand in my cap and gown hysterically laughing. It wasn’t that I thought anything was funny, at all. I think the laughter was stemming from a place of surreal conflicting emotions. I was so freaking excited to have been standing in between two of my best friends, who had also accomplished similar things to myself. I couldn’t believe it was all really coming to an end – at Point Park University. I was nervous for what was going to happen after the arena was left empty and lifeless. Did that mean – “real life” was officially going to begin? Right when I left the ceremony? Or did it mean it would start the next morning, or when the weekend ended? Did I have a summer to still consider myself not fully immersed in the “real world”? When did it truly begin? And then, I realized, that “real life” had actually started a long time ago. I realized that “this step I take today is no greater or higher or harder than any step I have taken before. It’s just the next one.” (A friend of mine has this note, from her dad, tacked to the wall above her desk. I’ve always adored it.. but on this day, I understood it.)

(P.S. The emotional blah blah stuff is happening again, but I’ll keep pushing forward. hehe)

Anyways – that moment, the whole weekend, was magical and confusing and scary and wild etc etc ETC. But with all of my chaotic emotions, I began to reminisce on how I felt BEFORE this chapter started, nearly 3 years ago. How nervous and excited I was to move to Pittsburgh and dance/live in this whole new environment. Playing my three years in Pittsburgh quickly through my head, and remembering ALL of the lessons I learned, people I met, places I traveled, experiences I had (good, bad, or indifferent), I started to feel a sense of calmness – While there were definitely things to be scared of, I actually had nothing to fear.

I want to create a Throwback post to thank all of the individuals and organizations (specific to my field) who made the last chapter of my life even a possibility.

 

First of all – Michelle Stafford (Next Step Dance and Performing Arts Center in Frisco, TX)

(This is where the really annoying emotions pop up- hopefully I can continue at this point, without obnoxiously crying.)

Thank you for your constant push and never-failing high expectations. I definitely wasn’t the easiest student that you have taught over the years. (I know that hehe) Growing up, I was so determined and particular that I would end up defeating myself striving for something that does not exist –  perfection. And to make matters worse, I would expect perfection from everyone else around me. Including you, Michelle. I apologize for that, and want to thank you for never giving up on me. Even though I KNOW there were instances where you wanted to. You never backed down. Whether you were screaming in my face, holding me while I cried, or laughing at me when I acted obnoxiously excited over nothing, you always believed in me, and in my very serious passion and respect for dance. (shit. I’m crying ugh) I didn’t realize, when I was younger, just how much energy and LOVE, a person (teacher) must have in order to demand such high expectations from a student. It would have been so much easier for YOU to back down, but you never did. Never once. YOU, Michelle, are the reason why I fell in love with dance. And I know that’s true because of the tears I feel running down my chin and neck as I write these words for you. You taught me work-ethic, drive, tough-love, and the true meaning of passion. Even when I left you, and the rest of the studio, you never treated me any differently. No one has ever pushed me harder than you, and quite frankly I have never felt the desire to work harder for anybody else. You assisted in molding my life into what it is today, and the coolest part is that I’m not alone. You have molded so many young dancers into strong, confident, and happy individuals. I hope you’re reminded daily just how special and necessary you are to this world. I love you. Thank you.

Lily Weiss – Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts

I remember being absolutely petrified walking into the overwhelmingly large white studio (in my pointe shoes LOL) as an eighth grader, wanting NOTHING MORE than to be accepted into this magical high school. Booker T. had been a dream of mine since I was 11 years old. THE dream, actually. The only thing I thought of, desired, and really really wanted all throughout middle school. I stood in B+, holding my fan, prepared to do a Don Q variation, when all of a sudden my best friend, Reilly’s, music started to play from the speakers. I knew immediately that I had accidentally grabbed the wrong CD from the holding area. My mind was racing. Absolutely RACING. A current student was in charge of running the music, so I looked at her with massive bugged eyes and whispered “THIS IS THE WRONG MUSIC.” I had to run back into the holding room and grab my correct music. I’m sure you’re thinking that I was disappointed or upset or yada yada, but honestly even as a young 13 year old, I was always decently OK at moving on, quickly. I walked back into the waiting room and laughed it right off. 4 Months later, I got the letter. I was accepted into Booker T. Washington. My mom texted my, what of course was, a hot pink razr cellphone telling me of the news, and I sprinted out of my 8th grade math class to find Reilly in her 8th grade math class. We hugged and jumped up and down and screamed throughout the halls – we were ecstatic. And quite frankly, so were all of our friends and teachers. I’ll never forget that moment. And that moment was possible because of you, Lily. Everyone who graduates from Booker T. always tells the current students that they’ll miss it, they’ll never find anything like it again, there’s nothing better, etc etc. But you truly don’t understand how accurate those phrases are until you’re gone. I can say, overall, I did a pretty good job of living in each and every moment throughout high school. I understood and respected the fact that I was in a very special place at a very special time with VERY SPECIAL people. Lily has molded the dance department into something that others would’ve had a hard time even imagining as an option. The opportunities available, the companies that run in and out, the rep that we were giving as teenagers – I mean, it was unfathomable, extraordinary, and so ridiculously rare. Lily took in hundreds and hundreds of kids as her own, and she still does today – even though she has moved forward from her position at Booker T. Thank you, lily. You presented to me opportunities that would have never been in my life if it weren’t for your constant desire and passion for education. You completely changed my life. I will never be able to thank you enough for that.

Michelle and Lily tie in together – 

I had been attending New York City Dance Alliance since I was 9 years old, and the summer after my freshmen year at Booker T., Michelle was finally convinced to send a couple of us to NYCDA’s nationals in New York City. I attended these nationals for the next three summers. By the time I was attending my last summer in NYC, Joe Lanteri, NYCDA’s founder, had created a college scholarship foundation.

“The goal of the NYCDA Foundation College Scholarship Program is to award multiple 4 year college scholarships, primarily with total values of $5,000-$25,000. These scholarships will be awarded as tuition payments directly to the college of YOUR choice. The scholarship recipient must be intending on pursuing a performance based major (dance, musical theater) in college.

Since our inception in 2010, the foundation itself has awarded more than $1,300,000 in college scholarships. NYCDA Foundation scholarship recipients are now represented in 30 prestigious arts programs across the country. When factoring in generosity of our College Partners, over 300 teenagers have shared in $17,000,000 in college scholarships awarded through NYCDAF.”

Lanteri is another extraordinary human being with an extraordinary vision and passion for the arts and education. It’s surreal to think of how rare and unique my situation and opportunities have been because of this man and his desire to give. But what’s even crazier, is that I’m one of hundreds. He has changed HUNDREDS of teenager’s accessibility to higher education – created HUNDREDS of opportunities, and in only 6 short years.  He has totally changed the entire outlook and idea of going to college for the arts. I mean, that’s INSANE!

There was a teacher at Booker T. my freshmen year. Our time together was short lived in Dallas because he was quickly recruited to take a position at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. I only took one class with him because he immediately moved me down a couple of levels after the first day. Can you guess who this Queen may be? Yep- yours truly, Garfield Lemonius 🙂

Garfield was present at the 2012 audition process. Recruiting for Point Park University. I had just finished my junior year of high school and was looking for some sort of help. Anything. Because without some sort of help, there was no way my family and I would be able to afford to send me to college. Well, the unexpected – happened. I was somehow awarded a full-ride to Point Park University. And I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. It was truly the first time in my life that I just completely froze. On stage, in front of god-knows how many people. Just froze. And prayed that I wouldn’t puke all over Joe as he awarded me the ungodly amount of money to further my one true dream in life. I can’t even put it into words. I STILL freeze just thinking about that moment.

If it weren’t for Michelle sending us to NYCDA Nationals, and if it weren’t for Lily accepting me into BTWHSPVA (and also allowing Susan Stowe to steal Garfield away), then I would have never been in the right place, at the right time, nor knew the right people. All of the cards lined up perfectly, and now, here I am – a college graduate. 

Let me just say – that feels pretty damn good to type out.

With ALL of that being said, all I can think of is my “Two P Theory.”

Patience and Practice. 

2PT: As long as I have faith in my future, my life and whatever the hell it’s going to consist of, and as long as I make a constant, daily choice to practice life the way I know, the way I have been taught, to practice life – then the next set of cards will line up perfectly as well.

Trust the future, but don’t live there. Because newsflash, the “future” never actually exists. Only right now. That’s all we have. Right now. We have heard it, read it, preached it, the whole 9 yards, millions and millions of times. But to actually understand it and APPLY it – is a whole other ballgame.

Thank you. To everyone that has spent their lives patiently practicing – because of YOU, I am where I am, who I am and what I am.

I can confidently say – I am proud to be me. 

Onward – CHEERS !

The NYC Dance Alliance Foundation, Inc. is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) public charity, committed to broadening performing arts awareness while advocating education and high standards of excellence in dance. NYCDAF is dedicated to investing in the next generation of professional performers by offering scholarships for secondary and college education.

http://nycdance.com/NYCDA_Foundation/Mission___Launch.aspx

Do endings exist? Or instead, a plethora of overlapping beginnings?

It’s here. My last week of school. Ever. And quite frankly, I’m dealing with an extreme case of CES. I just made that up – Conflicting Emotions Syndrome.

Excited and scared. Nervous and ready. Ecstatic and devastated. Confident and confused. I mean, you name an emotion, and there’s a 88% chance that I’m feeling it, to some extent. Although, the majority of the time, the positive and fun emotions definitely overpower the negative and shitty ones. So that’s good!

This post is going to be a bit different than my previous posts – less information regarding outside research/sources and more information regarding raw and honest words deep within myself.

Oh, woah! Let’s get personal 😉

This entire semester was a roller coaster ride full of juggling focused energy with many distractions. As well as toying with the conflicting thoughts that included; preparing myself for the real world, auditions, budgeting, etc vs. truly allowing myself to experience and enjoy my last couple of months obligation-free. Whether the distractions involved partying, over-sleeping, Netflix, junk-food cravings, love, relationships and/or boys – they were present, and there is no denying it. Honestly, I feel as though I did a pretty damn good job of balancing each of these distractions and phases. I can sit at this point and be happy and grateful for where I currently stand. The future is obviously unknown, but I am coming to terms with the fact that, that’s never going to change – so my best bet is to embrace it head-on with every bit of confidence and determination. Which seriously excites me!

If I said my last day of dance classes at Point Park were extraordinary, I’d be lying. Because the truth is – they felt JUST as energetic, positive, exciting, challenging, tiring and straight up sweaty as every other class I took over the past three years. That’s what made it so special, I think. No matter what was happening behind the scenes, regardless of the petty drama that inevitably shows up in any sort of institutional or group setting, as soon as PJ and/or Gordon started playing that undeniably beautiful music- the bullshit faded and we just danced. We danced! Every single day! Therefore, I will cherish every single one of my classes JUST as much as I cherished those last 4 grande plies in second with Jason, and that insane race across the floor with Garfield. Thank you. To EVERY SINGLE person that I was privileged enough to cross paths with throughout college. Let the journey/excitement continue !!

I want to share with you a couple of things I will take away from my experience in school, as a young adult, in Pittsburgh, PA. I hope you enjoy –

I have learned:

That I don’t know myself quite as well as I thought I did. That I have a hard time sensing boundaries: personal and impersonal. That every emotion is a good emotion as long as you’re aware of its existence and you respond accordingly. That I really enjoy the city, any city, a lot! I love to explore new cities. I love to explore in general, but especially with a compainion alongside. I learned to laugh at things when they annoy me, and just how hard it is to laugh at things when I’m annoyed. What sexy really means. And the differences between loving a relationship and loving a lifestyle.

How to wake up after a late night – of rehearsing, traveling and/or even partying. That mirrors shouldn’t be magnets, even when they’re in front of you 12 hours every day. That Pittsburgh fans are the BEST fans. Go Buccos! What it feels like to care about both relevant and irrelevant topics. That my mom just keeps getting smarter, or maybe it’s that I keep finding ways to trust her guidance more and more. That bumps in the road, mistakes, and uphill battles are inevitable and necessary.That no matter who you are and/or how you act, there will always be people who don’t speak your truth, but there will also be people who give you too much credit – so I’ve learned to not think too deeply into either of those opinions. Only you truly know you.

I learned that life is a constant progression, and as long as I live by my “Two-P Mantra,” practice and patience, then my journey will continue to lead me in the right direction. I have learned whom I love. I learned that, that is all anyone ever needs: love. That love isn’t that complicated, but at the same rate, it happens to be the most complicated feeling to ever exist. I have fallen in and out of love – with friends, music genres, a boy… you name it. But I’m beginning to realize that love never really fades; instead, life just goes on. And that, that’s OK!

I have learned that timing is seriously KEY – and that being in the wrong place at the right time is a common thread throughout my life thus far. I enjoy that about my life, a lot. I learned what it feels like to become homesick. And how devastating it makes my stomach ache when my mom is in Texas or Michigan, but the only thing I want is for her to hold me and tell me that everything’s going to be all right. (Although this realization has also shown me that there’s nothing better than my Mom arriving to Pittsburgh (or wherever I am) – my heart immediately feels so much fuller.)

I learned that beginning fresh isn’t always easy for me, but at the same time, I crave change. I learned that it’s essential to have a friend who reminds you just how beautiful and talented you are. And how gratifying it feels to see her take an effortless breath of appreciation, and smile, when you remind her of the beauty and talent that she exudes herself. (Whether that’s through sharing poetry or horoscope threads)

That I enjoy walking, regardless of the weather. That writing is mandatory, and without it, I go mad. That a simple Facebook message can lead you to the most honest, caring, bold and spontaneous roommate anyone could ever ask for. (NO ONE could have handled us the way we handled each other. YOU selflessly remind me to stand my ground, and to truly believe that I deserve the best, no matter what. Thank you. I love you.)

I learned how happy and sad it makes me feel when I change my eating habits. I learned that there’s no sense in holding grudges or creating false accusations. Instead, you should genuinely want what is best for every single person – no matter who they are, or what they have/havent don’t for you. That YOU CHOOSE to be happy, just as, YOU CHOOSE to be sad – and that sometimes, you need to choose the not-so-fun one.

I learned that it’s pretty difficult to keep a surprise 21st birthday party a secret if you start planning 2 months in advance. But surprise 21st birthday parties are the BEST, especially when you have the opportunity to plan one for your best friend.

I learned how to voluntarily engage my hamstrings, and that it’s a lot harder to voluntarily engage my psoas. That I enjoy being held. That I swear/sweat a lot more than the average person. And that I don’t think I’ll ever try to fix or change those things about myself. I learned how to cook, how quickly bananas and avocados have to be thrown out, and that every time you prepare meat in a small apartment, the smoke detectors WILL alarm… every. single. time.

I learned that when someone spontaneously offers you a concert ticket, no matter how tired you are – take it! The people you spend hours dancing with, will end up being some of the most interesting and genuine humans you have yet to meet. I learned how happy music makes my body. (I learned that one two decades ago, I just enjoy the frequent reminders.)

I learned how tired I can become, and how quickly it can hit. I learned how important trusting your future is. And that it is absolutely pointless attempting to plan or predict it. You’ll get nowhere. I’ve learned that you WILL fail, and that failing always ends up being the best part – it opens new roads and leads you to new epiphanies. I learned that even when you’re naive, there will still be people who admire your innocent traits. I learned there are some things I may never be able to let go of. I learned the good, the bad, and the indifferent. I learned … that I have a lot to learn – and THAT makes me absolutely THRILLED for whatever is to come.

 

I want to thank every individual who assisted in making my college experience absolutely unforgettable. Specifically, My Mom, Ron, Landon, Aunt Jill and Uncle Gary, Dad, Cheryl, Dustin and Camran, Sasha, Garfield Lemonius, Jason McDole, Peter Merz, Ruben Graciani, Jennifer Edwards, all of the choreographers that I had the privilege of working with, all of the Parsons dancers and administrators, Katie, Vicki, Liz and Zoe, and Emilio. Each of you know why you hold a special place in my heart – thank you for the memories made and for the lessons learned.

 

On a final note – I do not know what’s going to happen, none of us really do. But what I can say is this – I am an example of following and pursing my dreams, regardless of ALL of the risk factors that undoubtedly go along with making that decision. I stand as that example, and quite frankly, the majority of my dearest friends do as well. (The majority of my readers also, I’m sure! ) And that gives me a sense of comfort, while diving head-first into the sea of unknown. Therefore – I can confidently say that no matter what happens – I will be happy. I will be excited. I will be working. And most importantly – I will be living!

 

Cheers to real life, y’all – Cheers to adulthood!

 

Good luck wishes are greatly appreciated 🙂

 

 

Nipping (unnecessary) Stress/Anxiety in the BUD.

We meet again!

And honestly, how lucky am I to have YOU sitting on your iPhone/laptap interested in whatever the hell I have to say!? Cheers to that – and thank you!

Alrighty – let’s get going.

We can ALL admit (especially as performing artists) that sometimes we totally allow nerves, insecurities, adrenaline, anxiety, stress ETC. ETC. to get the best of us. There’s no denying that in some cases those emotions are necessary and actually ASSIST in our successes – but there’s also no denying that sometimes those emotions act too intensely and end up unintentionally defeating us.

In this post, I have laid out helpful, scientifically proven tips that can assist in finding that happy medium between good adrenaline and bad adrenaline.

How can we cure stress IMMEDIATELY? For instance – in an audition, before a performance, in an open class, etc.

My first couple of tips come from one of my professors, Jennifer Edwards. (mentioned in “Let’s Start Saving that Moolah”) She received these tips through both personal experience and outside research.

Edwards talks about how stress is stimulated and initiated by chemical responses – hormones and neurotransmitters. aka: EVERYTHING WE DO! That’s right – every single step we take, every decision we make, and every emotion we feel is controlled by these hormones and neurotransmitters. She told us how “stress is necessary and apart of our autonomic nervous system.” This sophisticated system, controls everything thats automatic. It prepares us for our fight or flight response – AND that’s what I’m getting at. The same chemical reactions that occur when we are being chased by a bear, also occur when we are about to walk into that audition, attempt that really hard combination, or step into the lights on that stage. A FREAKING BEAR, Y’ALL! For real? Yes. A freaking bear. Now, that’s straight up nonsense. No worries, though! Luckily we have another system that counteracts the autonomic nervous system. The handy dandy parasympathetic nuero system! Big words – I know! But it’s actually quite simple.

An easy way to decipher between the two:

Autonomic Nervous System = Brain —> Body

Parasympathetic Nuero System = Body —> Brain

This trusty parasympathetic nuero system has the ability to bring us back to an “active state of relaxation”, and WE can control when it steps in and overpowers our nervous systems. Of course, if you’re being chased by a bear, don’t mess with the parasympathetic guy – let Mr. Autonomic keep ya alive, BUT if you’re about to step into an audition, it’s probably a good idea to call upon some sense of leisure.

There are two things that we have total control of that can seriously and scientifically calm our nervous systems into understanding that we are, in reality, not running from a bear – just simply about to perform some choreography. God damn it, it sounds so hilarious. So dramatic. But it’s REAL!

  1. Respiration – BREATHE!
    • Relax your neck
    • Clasp your hands behind your back and open your sternum/heart
    • Open your hands

We’ve all heard it a million times – “just take a deep breath.” But the fact of the matter is, when we, as humans, take a second to voluntarily inhale and exhale, we are forcing the nuero system to take over that vicious (yet necessary) nervous system. Relax your neck, clasp your hands behind your back and open up your sternum/heart, and then release your palms forward opening your fingers as widely as possible.

Think about it – if a bear (Oh, God, I need to find another example, but this bear thing just really makes me laugh/realize how ridiculously we allow our minds to rule our actions.) ANYWAYS – if a bear were actually chasing us, would we seriously think about relaxing our neck or opening our palms toward something that has so much power to potentially kill us? HELL NO! This allows the brain to overpower the nerves and understand that we are OK. It tells our nervous system that we actually don’t need to be secreting THAT much adrenaline.

2. Blinking

Take control of those damn eyelids – tell em who’s boss! Make eye contact with someone. (Hopefully you have a friend near, so you don’t look like a total creep staring some random person fiercely in the eyes.) Like I mentioned above – if you were being chased by a bear, would you stop and stare at it in the eyes? I’d sure hope not. haha. Same thing is working here -you are using your body to tell your brain/nervous system that you aren’t in danger. Pretty fascinating!

The next and last part of this post will touch upon a TED talk by Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are. And holy shit y’all, this stuff is SO good, it had me in tears.

I have provided the video link so that you have the opportunity to listen and experience it for yourself – but bottom line, Cuddy expresses her interest and research on how your body language can directly effect your brain, which in return can directly effect your outcome.

She leaves you with the advice to stand in a “high power pose” for just two minutes before you enter your next stressful situation, and she backs it up with numerous scientifically proven facts that merely changing your stance changes the hormones being produced by your brain. She shares personal life experience and speaks rawly and honestly about her passion for this game changing research. Thank you, Amy Cuddy!

LOOK IT UP. WATCH IT. ENJOY IT. APPLY IT! 

I can’t wait to experiment with some of these things the next time I’m feeling nervous about an audition or entering any sort of high-stress situation, and I hope I was able to open your eyes to some pretty interesting news and tips as well!

Until next time, lovely people.

CHEERS!

 

Artist Pick of the Week – Mattie Love @mattildaalove

Hey y’all!

This week begins a new tradition – “Artist Pick of the Week” and I’m absolutely stoked about it!

“Artist Pick of the Week” will include an interview between myself and another artist that stands at a similar position to myself – right on the cusp of transitioning from “Art Student” to “Professional Artist.” With each of these interviews, I will also include an interview involving artists that stand in a different position – artists who have already made this transition and can call themselves “Professional” – someone who lives on their own and is able to sustain their artistic lifestyle, in a major city, without feeling like they’re about to totally sink under that fine-line of poverty. Yikes!

I anticipate this weekly post not only to assist in answering some of OUR questions, but to also assist in bringing us together on the whole next level! I believe that the only way to make this blog worth something for ANY OF US is to provide information AND to reach out in attempt to create as many tentacles as possible – aka: SPREAD THE WORD! 

So let’s get to the good stuff –

MATTIE LOVE @mattildaalove

Originally from Utah but currently residing on the UES of Manhattan. She started dancing at the age of 3 recreationally following in her 2 older sisters footsteps, however she knew at age 10 that it was what she wanted to do for forever. She trained at Dance Impressions in Bountiful and was concurrently enrolled in the ballet program at the University of Utah. Growing up she had the opportunity to work with choreographers like Jason Parsons, Travis Wall, Andy Pellick, Joey Dowling and many others. In her career at Marymount Manhattan she has had the privilege of working with Aszure Barton, Norbert de la Cruz, Adam Baruch, Emery Lecrone, Twyla Tharp, Lar Lubovitch and many others. She knew at age 10 that she wanted to live in NYC but never imagined she’d be where she is today. She has always been different. When she was younger she was the tallest most developed out of all of her friends, she wasn’t flexible, and wasn’t naturally gifted aesthetically, but she had a heart and drive that others didn’t possess. It wasn’t until she started working with Jason Parsons that she knew there was a place for her in the dance world, and that she didn’t have to be anything other than herself to exist on stage – THIS is why she continued to dance and still continues to dance. It is the one place where she feels the most Mattie.

The following include her beautifully raw and honest ideas on life, art and thriving in New York City as a young, talented and sassy young woman! GO MATTIE! —

 

MM- Where/when you’re graduating from?

ML- Graduating in May from Marymount Manhattan with a bfa in Dance with a concentration in ballet

How was your transition from home to New York City?

My transition from a small farm in Utah to the city of pretty was no joke. It was hard. At first I felt liberated, free, and wild but then I felt alone, small, and scared. No one can prepare you for what the city makes-breaks-or takes from you and I wasn’t ready to look at myself in the mirror and tackle on adulthood. I didn’t want to return back to Marymount after freshman year. I was dealing with a negative body image binge eating and not knowing who or what I wanted myself to be. It wasn’t until spring semester of sophomore year that I felt like I was really in the right space physically and mentally. I was so concerned with the product and forgot entirely to enjoy my process in growing and in life. I was so type A- so far from who I really am but I got so stuck in being everything i thought I was supposed to be that I pushed everything that made me-me so far away I couldn’t even pin point who or what I was. I am so grateful for this year- it is the reason why I am who I am today.

Do you think that moving to NYC as a college-freshmen will make it easier or harder to live in NYC as a college graduate?

Moving to NYC as a college freshman may or may not make it easier to live in NYC as a college graduate. I have made great connections in the last 4 years which could possibly help me but I think that I have also been in the bubble of Marymount Manhattan. It can be easy to get caught up in the community you live in and forget that there is a whole world out there waiting for you.

What are your plans after graduation, if any have even been solidified?

The only plans after graduation that I have so far are to attend spring board in June and a couple choreographic endeavors at some studios around the United States. People don’t lie when they say auditions are hard. It’s been a beautiful audition season filled with some inspiring next times and no’s. For me and a profession job It’s not a matter of if… It’s a matter of when. I know I’m a dancer and going to fulfill my own dance career somewhere someplace and somehow I just have to be patient and keep showing up.

How did you come about those plans? What were the steps you took that consciously or coincidentally lead you to this next step/chapter? 

I guess these are my only options for right now! Nothing else has lined up so I’m taking what I have and I’m going to make the best of it. I’m a firm believer that God has a plan for me and I trust that through hard work and perseverance the next chapter will be exactly what it’s supposed to be and its most likely not going to be what I expect. I have learned through my 4 years in the city and in college that having expectations is much harder than having an open and willing heart and mind to embrace whatever comes my way.

Who assisted in your decision to take that next step?

Myself. However my family and friends have always been my biggest support system.

What are the steps you plan on taking AFTER graduation in efforts to achieve a specific goal in the near future? 

I don’t have any “goals” of getting a set job or being in this show or that show. I know I’m going to work-when and where are still up in the air (rhyme unintended lol) my goal is to never give up. To wake up- continue to train- take care of my body- share my love for life and dance- and make myself feel uncomfortable and out of my box. I feel the most me when I push myself to go to a show alone or speak at open mic night or put on my pointe shoes in the hardest NYC ballet class. Those are tiny goals that will eventually lead me to my dream of being the dancer I want to be.

If you have a “dream job,” expand on that. Why is it your dream-job, and what steps do you plan on taking in efforts to reach that dream-job.

My dream job would be something that keeps me performing always. Something that pushes my artistry and physicality. I love ballet preljacaj- they give me life I love everything about Marie Chouinard there are so many amazing companies that I would love to be a part of but I can also see myself on Broadway and in a music video or on tour with a pop star. My goal is to stay as healthy and happy for as long as possible because in order to dance and perform my body must be willing and able. Especially for someone like me who has dealt with an eating disorder my body must first be in a great place mentally and physically or else it will consume me and I no longer am the Mattie that I love.

How do you budget your time and money in such an expensive and distracting city?

I budget my time and money pretty well according to the book of Mattie. I love eating out and I love shopping however I am low maintenance in the grand scheme of things-as long as I can afford my chai and coffee each day then to me I am on a good track. It’s easy to find affordable activities in the city and I can always count on my friends to split an appetizer and meal when we go out There are many ways to affordably enjoy all that the city has to offer. Money shouldn’t and doesn’t need to be a reason to stop you from living a fabulous life in New York City.

How do you plan on making money after graduation? (Both artistically and non-artistically, if any.)

I love teaching and often teach workshops as well as do choreography for studios around the country. To me this is my favorite and most rewarding way of making money because i get to challenge myself artistically, I get to have a voice of my own, and I get to influence the younger generation. I’ve always pushed myself to be an example to young dancers and I’ve always wanted to live up to being the best idol I can be. I want to be an example of what it means to be “different” in the dance world. And how owning self and loving self can lead dancers to an entire different place than they ever imagined. I assume ill continue to tour with dance alliance which is both amazing and fun – I get to travel and make connections for teaching and dance with my best friends.

What do you value in life?

My days are filled with happiness that overall bring love into my life. No pun intended but love is what makes my world go around. Not romantic love (although not opposed lol) love from my family and friends, love from the sky, the wind, art. I find joy all over and the city is one of the best friends to me because it provides all of these. I value time with my family because at one point in my life i pushed them away rather than letting them support me in my endeavors. My days aren’t the same if I don’t have a chai in the morning, my hand on the barre, or I miss happy hour with friends. I used to be so concerned with being perfect and achieving the best dancing body and ability that I feared LIVING. I wasn’t social I didn’t go out i sat and worried that I wasn’t doing enough. Once I realized that LIVING actually helped me dance better and made me happier and I watched myself bloom no longer worrying about what I ate or didn’t eat if I should stretch longer. I value being human. I used to think I was just a dancer and I missed out on a lot of great opportunities to be with amazing people or be in amazing places because I didn’t want it to affect the way I danced the next day. I now teach that we must first value being the human Mattie (self) before we value the dancer Mattie. With out one I am not the other. I love food. I love sex. I love going out. The night scene to me is so fun- yes moderation I’m not promoting doing drugs and getting shit wasted every day but a little party never killed nobody. Myself right now in this minute is content with taking a ballet class, having a chai, hanging out with friends, going to the gym, then going out whether it be to a tapas place downtown or the movies at Lincoln theatre, or to marquee. I love taking in all that the city has to offer because I’m realizing I won’t have this life for forever. By focusing on the human Mattie my dancing has never felt better and I no longer seek approval from mentors I seek approval from myself and I love who I am becoming in this life. I also love expressing myself through my clothing. I think what you wear on your body is just as important as what you wear from ear to ear.

Give a piece of advice to any aspiring artist/dancer.

Let the shit go. Once you let insecurities, expectations of self and others go you’ll fly. Always say yes and trust in the process. Love and embrace that you’re the only person who dances like you. Without your insecurities strengths body life you would not be the dancer that everybody loves – vise versa. I’d also say be KIND TO EVERYONE!! Lift your peers/friends/foes up let their success be your success. Their success does not take away from yours! I wish there were kinder people in the dance world.

 

Well HOT DAMN! There she is WORLD! Take her in, embrace her words and understand (yet again) that we are ALL in the same boat, persevering our ways through this crazy, tough, emotional career choice TOGETHER! I know I’m not the only one who read this and found goosebumps all over my arms and legs.

Cheers! 

 

Let’s Start Saving That Moolah.

We meet again! First of all – let me say, I’m absolutely stoked that you decided to continue following montifresh and read my next post. Let’s get goin!

My previous post touched on four ways how to make “The Big Move” run as smoothly and accessibly as possible. But let’s be real – the best and least stressful way to make this next chapter start off smooth, is having a few saved pennies in the bottom of our piggy banks.

SO – How TF do we start saving money NOW?

I’ve done some yummy research and have found some fantastic ideas that we NEED to start applying to our lives, like.. yesterday!

(I stumbled upon another wordpress blog (theyounghopeful) that writes a “a girls’s guide to thriving in college.” Hot damn! I wish I would have stumbled upon their posts three years ago. The specific post that I will be quoting is “The College Student’s Guide to Saving Money,” and while some of the tips would have been helpful to know as a freshmen, a couple of them can still be useful for graduating seniors.)

I have highlighted two of the tips that I found to be most helpful –

1.Commit to a savings schedule.

  • Save 10 dollars every paycheck.
  • Keep every $5 bill you come across and stash it in your piggy bank. Every month, you can record how much you saved and then try to match that or do better next month (but do not buy stuff just to get a $5 bill as change, cheaters!)
  • Save an extra dollar every week. This one requires a lot more self-discipline. Essentially what you are doing is setting a certain time period—say, 5 months. For every week, you will add an additional dollar to your piggy bank. So the first week, you will donate 1 dollar, the 2nd, 2 dollars, 30th 30 dollars, and so on until you reach your 5 months, and then you start over. If you REALLY want to save money, keep this up for an entire year!

2. Institute a “no buy week” once a month.

This is obviously going to be easier for some than others, BUT try choosing 7 days out of the month when you keep that debit card and extra cash hidden away in your top drawer. No groceries, no eating out, no coffee shops, no alcohol or partying, even as far as no uber rides. You’ll be surprised with how often you’re throwing $3 here and $9 there on meaningless items that you don’t actually need to be spending $ on.

3. Make a budget!

I find this tip to be most important. Jennifer Edwards, a professor at Point Park whom teaches an entrepreneurship for the arts course, provided our class with a Skype meeting with professional dancer, Amy Smith. Smith is a founder and co-director of Headlong Dance Theater, a Philadelphia-based contemporary dance company. She provided us with a budget sheet that allows one to calculate how much their time is worth.

VALUING YOUR TIME

Determine the cost of your life for a year. What do you need to earn to live without financial panic?

Monthly rent _________ x 12 ________

Internet __________ x 12 _________

Cell phone _________ x 12 ________

Liquor, going out, etc. ________ x 12 __________

Artistic research ________ x 12 __________

Student loan debt _______ x 12 ________

Utilities __________ x 12 _________

Car/transport __________ x 12 _________

Groceries __________ x 12 ___________

Classes/workshops _______ x 12 _________

Clothes, books, etc. ________ x 12 __________

Savings __________ x 12 ____________

Vacation _________ per year

Use this number to calculate week, day and hourly rates. Divide your annual number by 1500: this is your hourly rate. Multiply that by 8 to get your day rate. Multiply that day rate by five to get your week rate. Use these numbers to negotiate for pay and budget your projects. Your time has value!

 

MY WEEKLY RATE IS $__________ per week.

MY DAILY RATE IS $_____________per day.

MY HOURLY RATE IS $ __________ per hour.

Fill this out for yourself and calculate how much YOUR time is worth. NEVER let someone devalue you as an individual, OR devalue the art form in which you are studying/working by paying you less than you deserve.

As dancers we tend to believe that “working for free” is a good way to network ourselves into the professional community, and while sometimes this is the case, most of the time it is not! By working for free, you devalue the art form and yourself as an individual in the art form’s community. A musician would never allow someone to record his music without some sort of payment, a lighting designer would never light a show without receiving the money he/she deserves, and a plumber will NEVER fix your toilet for free. (I mean- am I right, or what?!) What makes dance any different? Be strong and stand up for the greater good of our art form! YOU deserve payment for your work! DANCE DESERVES PAYMENT! 

The last two money saving tips come from an article written in US News. (http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2015/05/15/10-essential-money-saving-tips-for-college-graduates) This blog gives personal finance advice accumulated from voices behind numerous money blogs.

4. Be a social deal seeker.

We all want to be able to get away from “work” or be able to step outside of our small 2 bedroom apartments, but what is the best way to make those fun, extra activities affordable? “Happy hours, lunches out and expensive exercise classes are all fun and tempting when you start receiving your first paychecks, but these daily or weekly luxuries will eat away at your budget fast…One of the best things about being fresh out of college is that most of your friends are likely in the same financial boat as you– cash-strapped and paying down debt, but free from the time and financial responsibilities of family. Keep your college crowd together and grow your new city circle of friends by planning fun, low-cost activities such as picnics, pickup games and free outdoor festivals. Also look out for activities on daily deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt.”

5. Set a long-term goal.

“Budgeting does not always mean just saving; you can also budget in fun. Whether it’s a new couch, tropical vacation or dream home to own, setting a long-term goal will motivate you to stick to your budget and reward your financial responsibility.”

 

Woah – while that’s full of details and pretty damn dry, it is SUPER necessary to read and study before your parents finally decide to do the ole’ “cut-off”

My next post will be FUN and uplifting, I swear by it! 

Cheers!