Life Lessons From My Dance Teacher

Jodi (green top) taking a bow with her students after a Spring Recital.

My career in the dance industry started as a studio dancer in a small-ish town called Stevens Point, Wisconsin. My first studio was very showy, and especially strong in tap and musical theater. It was a great experience, but eventually the owner decided to close.

In the meantime, I kept hearing about this teacher at a different studio named Jodi Flatoff. Everyone loved Jodi, but she was into all that modern stuff. We didn’t do that… and quite frankly thought it was really weird.

The next thing I heard was that Jodi was opening her own studio. I needed a place to dance, so I decided to give it a try. I signed up for jazz and modern during the summer session. Jodi had a very strong following of students from her old studio, so the classes were packed. Talk about intimidating! All these girls were familiar with her choreography and I was not at all. It was difficult.

Facing that challenge Jodi taught me my first lesson. Work hard. I wasn’t the best dancer in the class but she noticed that I was doing every combination full out, even if the steps weren’t perfect. She even mentioned it to the other dancers. The fact that my teacher noticed little ol’ me in this huge class was super meaningful and motivational. I knew that working hard in her class would be recognized and appreciated.

Jodi also taught me that dance is not only entertaining to watch, but is a medium to express your thoughts, ideas and emotions. Going into Jodi’s modern class, I thought modern dance was weird. Coming out of it I learned it was, and still is, my favorite style. We were one of the first studios to bring modern to a local competition, and it blew them away. Initially the judges didn’t know what to think, but after a moment of letting the coolness sink in, they got it. And they loved it. High score awards all over the place!

I remember one day, towards the end of an exhausting rehearsal, Jodi said, “Pushing through these moments is what will make you a better dancer.”

This proved true time and time again, and it’s advice I will never forget.

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