See those windchimes in the pic? Those were a moving present from my wise-beyond-her-years neighbor, Madison. I was moving from Royal Oak, MI...back to Chicago. She was 7 years old at the time, and we both cried (at different times) when I announced my return to Chicago.
Over the past 9 years, these chimes have gone from my friend's condo, to a rental home, and most recently...to my very own home. They always sounded perfect, year round...and reminded me of how the Universe likes to help. I've always had generous neighbors with welcoming porches and kitchens. Sitting on my deck last week (where I took this picture), I realized that Madison is sixteen years old now. What would I tell her about myself?
Well, here's a representative week of my activities:
I think it's very important to have a black (or almost black) kitchen. Paint names are important, because they obviously tell the story. Current paint names are 'Velvet Curtains', 'Black Truffle', and 'After Midnight'. What kind of nocturnal sideshow am I running in this bewitching bungalow?!
I think I'd suck at being a car salesperson (or any sales person) because I'd have to pretend everyone is my favorite person ever. But, Adam S at Subaru, you did a good job tolerating my asking of strange professional questions, wearing of sunglasses for the first few hours of negotiating, and driving kind of badly. I say I'm the best customer ever, and I know I'm full of shit. Until I have the ability to walk in with a bag of cash to buy a car, I'll say thanks for arranging my loaner car for a few weeks. Because my new car color has to match my kitchen.
I listened to a lot of Tool and A Perfect Circle last week. Because I see this pattern: some guy off the street can say the exact same thing I said two weeks ago...and suddenly it's new, super groundbreaking, insider information. Really? Yes. Forget it, just listen to 'Schism' since you guys don't hear me talking, anyway.
I regularly trespass into neighboring yards, because I ignored my dog for too long as I was looking at paint color descriptions, Tool lyrics, or stalking people on LinkedIn. It's 3:45am - I'm wide awake, watching her closely after she climbed a fence and mocked me all evening. But, I have to make sure she's ok while she's snubbing me from across the house. I'm also really hungry now because I gave her a bath and needed a beer more than food at the time.
I don't take or teach dance classes for the main purpose of connecting with others. I take them to push my own creative/expressive boundaries, and to question and validate my definition of my own movement. I teach dance classes in hopes that students create their own brand of confidence within their practice, and realize genuine expression through their movements. Also, if you saw me in Contemp-Hop Fusion class downtown a few weeks ago, you'd know that I'm embracing uncomfortable outside-of-my-box situations better than ever - it's like vitamins for me.
While I talk about 'sucking less' at any given task - it's about finding my full potential in that task, which is not necessarily the same as being 'better than I was last year, or better than other people'. That concept is a constant struggle for me. When I think I'm doing badly at something, it's because I'm trying to be 'who/where/how/when/why I think I should be'. For whatever reason, ambition doesn't motivate me so well. I'm not going to lie and say I don't seek any approval or understanding from others. I'm blabbing about insecurities in hopes that it helps someone feel normal, or understand what's behind all my goals, or even how this sheds light on some other eccentric individual in your world. I'm not quite that disconnected in all my artsy introspection. This is a public blog post and I'm sharing some my regular, honestly shitty thoughts. Otherwise, I'd just write it in a journal and leave it at that. (I do that, too.)
After a few recent discussions with artists (I still got that Ravenswood ArtWalk job), we all eventually quit caring about what people will buy...and just made what we wanted to make. Which then got a good response, because of course it's emotionally risky in expression...and quite personal. And people (even weirdos like me) support those who put that shaky vulnerable feeling out there.
(Note my ad campaign is moving to pictures of me, not particularly dolled up or super smiley...not what I think a dance teacher *should* look like, but rather openly tossing that notion. The word SHOULD is passive-aggressive. Don't judge me, Should. Hey...why would I suggest anything other than my RBF and unplugged costume preferences?)
I suppose that is something important that I'd want to share and discuss with a creative 16-year old I haven't seen in 9 years. I recall her telling me about various hairstyles and jewelry she could wear, but that it really didn't matter. And the day that I left town, I stopped by early in the morning, and she ran downstairs and said "Paula!" like that kid said "Peter!!!" in that Folger's Christmas commercial. I mean, she may not remember me at all. But she has been a helper whether she knew it or not...one hopeful chime ring after another.
Hey, Maddie. I'm doing ok and I know you'd understand all my rambling observations...as you did back when you where 7 years old. Here's a representative pic of me staring at a mini-van during my Springbrook Prairie photo shoot. I'm wondering why I think I can appeal to a dance student by standing in a field alone...and of course my photographer friend, Randy, captured the moment.
Amid the search for fair trade underpants, cruelty-free cosmetics, and a new home...there is that recurring, nagging task of blatant self-promotion. Yeah, I'm still working on it...
I'd rather spend the time hearing other people's stories than talking about myself, but a one-minute Take My Class pitch doesn't work that way. So, the 2016 campaign must begin, and that means I have to ask people to take pictures and video all about ME. And the pieces must be consistent in their simplicity. Don't worry, I have enough black dancewear to do it...and the Sepia Sessions professional makeup workshop/photo shoot coming up with my students.
Anyway...here's the the first video. It has received a number of Facebook and YouTube views, and it's startling. I haven't felt like bothering anyone to do the second one, plus I can't get the right time of day going with this weather. Excuses. I'll be solo-ing at a restaurant in March and will be the 'featured artist' at the local library in April. (It's called the No-Shush Salon, ha.) Here we go...
I was in the city this week, picking up new eyeglasses. My choice in doctors, hairdressers, and art/dance/yoga studios are all over Chicago-proper and burbs. Lately, I had considered moving back to the city - it always feels righteous when I am there. As a true grit-lover (I like the plural grits, too), I enjoy the worn textures found around old buildings and cityscapes. Maybe I need more of that in my day-to-day routine...maybe it's a good investment to live in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Maybe this is crazy-talk because Mercury is in retrograde and I have to Weigh. Everything. Against. Everything Else. Compare & Contrast.
Back to the eyeglasses trip...
My viewpoint on this lunchtime-in-the-city errand...driving up through Bridgeport & Pilsen...was now seen through a prospecting resident's eyes. It was not a problem to park the car, pay the meter, jaywalk, and talk to strangers - all while checking my phone about 15 times. I've got to be ready for a post of someone's #authentic lunch, #blessed lifestyle, or more validation that my bedroom paint color has been repinned for the 40th time. (It really has. It's a great sepia-grey...) For all the wrong reasons, I stay on top of that to distract me from the work e-mails about Rev. G of a business case document. Different problem for another blog. Walking back to the car on Halsted (in my usual spacing-out, looking-at-everything-and-nothing mode), I noticed an art-deco grate revealed through melting snow. I was defeated: "I just don't have the hustle in me anymore." With an armful of stuff, including my phone, I wanted to chuckle and cry all at once. Instead, I took a picture of the grate, enjoying how it felt under my shoes and reminded myself that I should go underwear shopping. City folk do not have time for this dilly-dally. I'm like a tourist in my former city. What was I thinking? I have this large-ish hunting dog from Kentucky, we are fitting into Bridgeport, or even a more residential neighborhood like Dunning, how...? I imagined myself running near underpasses and squatting in gangways, guessing if the dog or disaster would find me first. That kind of behavior is somewhat tolerated where we live now, where the neighbors are more willing to join in the adventure. But I loooove the city, and don't other people (like me) make it work? At that moment, I saw myself through the eyes of my former city-dweller self, and vice versa. We ain't the same.
Noooooo, but are we suuuuure? Sure, I can save on property tax in the city compared to Oak Park. But, I'll get nickeled and dimed as a result of other city scenarios. It's likely the same cost of living - I just have to pick my poison. Realistically, neither area will work...why does there have to be a poison, anyway? I planned to think it over some more in the car ride back.
"You're just being dramatic..." I thought to myself as I savored the butter-ish flavor of my Popeye's biscuit. This was the only time to eat (in the car) before I had to do the next thing. Hard to hear my thoughts over the rattling in the car - from the ironing board in the backseat, naturally. I was using it for holiday craft shows. The season is over, so it's time I remove this counter-height, redneck-hack-style jewelry display solution...and make some room in the car again. It looked ok since I had ethnic textiles draped over it...at least, I think it did. No, no - that is not what I am supposed to be thinking about right now. But it's another reminder of the constant hustle, in the name of un-stifled creativity.
Through this seemingly nonsensical analysis, I have been trying to prioritize and to locate myself in a radius of what I want to do, where I want to do it. A years-long project, in an effort to strip away the layers of self-actualized motives, weak agendas (I told you I am bad at self-promo), and foolish dreams. This city vs. non-city thing was just a new way to ask myself more questions.
Here's one of the recurring questions:
If I did less 'optional stuff' all over the place, I might save time and money. To do what? Cuz I *am* doing what I want to do. Lather. Rinse. Repeat vicious cycle. Sometimes it helps to be driving everywhere, mulling this over, so there is no time to transcribe my mother's inspirational video series, now available in a box on top of my radiator. I should watch some of them, it's rude not to...
But, really...it's not ok to be driving everywhere all the time. When I moved back to Chicago-ish in 2007, I said I wouldn't do it. I'm totally still doing it. Granted, all the reasons are different and perhaps more worthwhile...but must constantly re-prioritize where and when I hustle. The efforts to unplug once a week are sometimes successful, and I am maintaining some 'creative radius rules'. I used to ask the Universe to help me find my own place - not in terms of a building or a house, but rather a community. Perhaps it will find me, instead...tugging on my shoelace because I am not paying enough attention. (I really have to stop checking my phone so much.) Sepia simplicity will fall into place, and I need to stop worrying about what its zip code is.
This little holiday present 'survey' project ended up getting pretty intense. Maybe I am just drinking a lot of high-ABV beverages, but I am overwhelmed and *moved* by the responses. It started with asking students about their favorite smells, which led to tastes, then I asked about visuals, which then added to the sense of touch. Sound is just in there all over the place - as we are all dance students, geeez Lou-iiiise. Yes, we were gonna cover *all* the senses. I felt pretty clever, and figured I could Pinterest the snot outta their responses. Each student's response was a little gift - I read them slowly, as if I was slowly unwrapping a long-awaited gift. One of those gifts where you didn't even *know* you wanted it, much less how badly you wanted it. It has taken me days to get in the mind-frame to tackle it, because I had to take it in and mentally prepare for all the resulting inspirational rabbit holes in which I would fall. (Too many prepositional phrases there, BUT brb - let me go pour another drink...)
OK, I am back! I tend to do Pinterest before bedtime (in hopes of inspiring cool dreams - also the dog baby is asleep and not causing mischief). And, this one really has taken me to so many places, in time as well as spaces around the world. *what is with all these damned prepositions???*
Anyway, doing all this has made me admit something. I *must* officially identify myself as an artist. *cringe* In my corporate job, I make fun of the fact that I am that sleazy, glossy-brochure-making marketing chicque who can hold a conversation with engineers. 15 years of truck manufacturing will do that to a gal, especially when the engineers are not always ugly...hmm. (I'll talk about our pocket protector slogan project another time...)
In my artsy roles (dance teacher, metal smith, general crafter, and board member for a Chicago neighborhood chamber of commerce) - I don't like to identify as any of those roles, since I am a random artsy person who taps into her business experience to somewhat succeed. Plus, I really get all Judgy McJudgy Pants when people ramble on about their Profession during the introductions. Quite possibly, I am a self-loathing bitch or just REAL BAD at promoting myself. But, in the end, I am that dreamer - busy thinking of a theme for the next thing - in traffic, through a development program review meeting, and definitely during any kind of PowerPoint presentation making. (How many times can we say something is 'robust' or 'innovative'???)
So, yeah - that's me right now. Take a look at all the ideas in my head, in all the 276 pins below. (They are, in fact, robust.) I don't know what I will do with it yet, but as a creative-type, teacher, marketing scumbag...and, artist...I am nourished.
I surveyed the students on their favorite scents...of course there were some seriously earthy overlaps...
Before belly dancing and dog parenthood took over most of my free time, I had a little online jewelry shop. I upped my handmade game and took metalsmithing classes, which allowed me to make my own components, and to ruin/recreate on a regular basis. One gets emotionally stronger that way. Now, it's mostly dancing and dog chasing. But, from time to time I have special projects for friends. One of my favorites is setting stones that friends personally mined during hiking and outdoorsy vacations. I'll have another one like that to complete this winter, yay!
When I can't get to the torch/hammer/bench, I try to make little things at home with vintage components. As artsy people tend to overlap, I am lucky enough to get invited to cool craft things at cool places. And the pieces I make are sepia-toned, to be sold at sepia-toned venues ...no joke. Usually I just do one show a year, but this year...I have two shows scheduled, right down the street from my house:
Saturday, November 21, 10am-4pm
Friendly Craft & Vintage Market
6731 W Roosevelt Rd, Berwyn, IL
Friday, December 18, 5:30pm
The Veltway Music Spectacular
6815 W Roosevelt Rd, Berwyn, IL
Check out the 'lookbook' below for a sneak peek of my handmade items!
A few weeks ago, I helped organize an artist marketing workshop. We arranged for a few arts business people to present their thoughts on marketing one's art. Among the presenters, there was an art dealer, an owner of an arts center, and a social media dude. After laying out the trays of crackers, hummus and cheeses, I inserted myself as the realistic emcee, a marketing professional who happens to be a weird-ass, sometimes successful, artist.
As I introduced the last presenter - the owner of Lillstreet Art Center - I identified myself as a marketer of boring things (truck parts)...and also a dance teacher and a metalsmith (I got my start at Lillstreet's Metals department). People chuckled. Great segue, as that was my intention. Without knowing what the art dealer had said earlier about required originality (I was at Mariano's to buy the crackers, hummus, and cheeses - and tampons), I said the shitty thing no artist wants to hear. "I know I should not say this, but what is original, really? You *will* see similar works, and that's ok. Share and explain what inspires you, and why you do what you do, what's behind your work. To me, that is why people have bought from me, and that is why people will buy from you."
What did I say that for? Wellll, the social media dude was talking about what one should share on their social pages, and advised folks to not limit content exclusively around their work and sales-y stuff. The room was filled with 20 not-extroverted people who had no idea what the fuck this song and dance was about. I hoped they took in what I said and thought about how they buy art from other artists. Is it about price, originality, inspiration? Sure. Is the tipping point where one values appealing art SO MUCH MORE after realizing that the artist was not a pretentious asshole? For me, it is the transactional moment of truth. The topic garnered more discussion with my fellow ArtWalk colleague, Gene. He described, quite elegantly, that the process is more about taking our inspirations and presenting them together in our own way, which supports its originality. I can see that, and how that can easily stem into a needless conversation about appropriation. We let that slide since that topic has been re-hashed enough - let's just focus on being honest, genuine, and not-a-dicque.
People came up to me and chatted afterwards. I wished they ate more of the cheese I had laid out, but these people were serious about learning. I felt their fears around how their work will be received by the public, and still feel them, myself. I've been working on how I define my personal style in solo dance form and I just don't know. A lot of people do the dark, moody dance so well...I enjoy it. But, I don't wear black eyeliner well, my sideswept bang doesn't stay put...and I am too earthy of a dancer to pull it off, it's not the right fit. My kind of darkness lurks in the coolness of nighttime grass, the scent of flowers at dusk, tarnished metal, uncomfortable thoughts, and a sense of failure that is reconciled over time. (That must be why I like dark, textured costuming with earth tones. My Personal Paula Styling, while it has its own story, is not in the slightest bit unique, invented, or re-invented. At best, my juxtapositioning of seen-before stuff aims to hold the human attention span of 7 seconds.) I've mentioned that in American Tribal Style®, we function as one aesthetic unit. It is less about showcasing the individual dancer's personality. We have our solo work for that, and other performance projects may be flavored by this personal style. I'll refrain from saying that it affects my student's style, as it is my job to help them find their own personal style through the observation of my and other dancers' work. I've read many interviews with famous dancers and they advise that one should not look for it, but just to keep learning and dancing...and it will come. I am fine with that, but I still need to create some kind of focus for the solos that I muster from time to time. I've waited a while before even considering an attempt.
After thinking I could save the next effort for a poorly-attended hafla, I got another opportunity. My student, Mickie, wanted to hold an event for a suicide prevention support organization. She is personally affected by this cause, and I was glad to join her in some dancing at a fundraiser hosted at the very same studio in which we dance. With limited time, I figured we could have a few solos and then come together. It's her event and I wanted her to express some of her own vulnerability and healing through dance, which is not usually seen. I suggested we can dance together at the end, mainly because we have to keep things varied as we progress through a long-ass song. But, it also shows that one is not necessarily alone in their journey. Bonus, unintentional artfulness. I am ok with disjointed solos to a song with disjointed, soul-searching thoughts, and finishing with some acknowledged, grounded movement in a group...because I am that weird-ass artist who has possibly started a style journey. It may fail to resonate with the outside audience, but the sincere effort never fails our internal audience. It's an ongoing, everyday effort to explain this to myself...through the use of increasingly shorter sentences.
Check out the performance song link below...
Last week, I reached a new low in marketing efforts - OR - you could just say I'm really eco-conscious. In lieu of a legit business card, I wrote my class information on the back of a dog food receipt. Grrrrrrrreat job. My student friends were strangely impressed with my lack of enterprise.
Now, I've never been accused of trying too hard, and there's some sick pride in that. However, I have spent way too much time on business cards for various ventures. Wasted effort with letterpress designs with special rounded corners, as well as the affordably unspecial kind from the local print shop. Just another piece of paper that gets mangled at the bottom of someone's purse or pocket. I've got a few acceptable designs up in another window now, so I'll do something about it, I promise...
So, how do I find people to take my classes? They found me through the interwebz, or they knew me already, or my students bring in a friend. Sometimes they've seen my class at a studio event - and they give me their e-mail address or Facebook info (on the back of a dog food receipt or the like...) I have done open house events, and it does not really grab new students. Most of them are there because it's free, not because they want to take the class. But, it's part of the business and we all do it. I have had business cards here and there, by the way. Ehh. Maybe I am just not compelling enough, because there's that thing about me not wanting to be that way. "Hi, I teach belly dance - if you want to join us, that's cool...the class is a great bunch." See what I did there? I didn't even talk about myself and how long I've taught or how many dance classes I take, or how giant my dance costume closet is...because ewww, this is not about me, it's about YOU, and your needs. I just don't take myself seriously to keep a straight face when it's time to tell you how I'm about to change your life, big time.
Yes, I know it's a weak strategy to lurk in the background, popping out here and there. No, I do not behave this way when I market anything or anyone else. For my troupe, Amaranth, I made sure to ask a professional graphic designer friend to design the logo. I used my office's promotional company to make the best t-shirts. We completed all kinds of strategy exercises to define the troupe's brand - and I maintain a ridiculously urgent need to stay consistent with it. No logo or image will appear pixel-y!
So what about the Paula Brand? It's totally there, with this kitchen talk and all the flavors of dance. I legitimately dance in the kitchen and use the french doors as my mirrors, filming class drill video/choreo samples in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room. My teaching persona is really that quirky and unconventional. As a first time flamenco student at Clinard Dance, I realized that the smaller classes were better for me. I had no idea what I was getting into, so I wanted/needed that extra supervision. This class was a multi-level class, so I also appreciated how Wendy taught it effortlessly. I was not teaching at the time, but it made an impression on me on how much goes on in a small, multi-level class.
After 2 years of dedicating myself to 'less-is-more', I discontinued one of my classes so I could have a day off. It's down to two classes a week, with students moving away as a new ones arrive. It always stays small - six people at the most in one class. I put my two classes together for student performances, so that makes for a manageable amount of dancing for each student. In my fits of "what am I trying to DO here?" doubts, I wonder how my students feel about their dance journeys as they have many choices on what to study. Does my class setting do right by them? I just got my answer: one of my first students told me that she wants to go for General Skills certification next year. I didn't even think anyone would consider the time and expense of certification after a few years of my teaching 'experiments'. Somehow, I helped make belly dance a practical thing for her? Yessss! And upon that announcement...a second student asked me to help her work towards General Skills as well. This is my kind of low-key, crazy-exciting success.
Still, I'll work on promoting myself more. Part of that training regimen includes solo performances and business cards.
After weeks of office torque ROD jokes and my FREE NUTS sign (for cocoa-almonds at my cubicle), I'm trying to act like a grown-up with feminine interests. I went back to my website to see what aspect I was 'selling' in belly dance. Flavor, dance...YOUR dance with YOUR OWN flavor. Okay, I guess I that makes sense...or maybe I was just really hungry when I made up this campaign. No, no...I meant what I said...and I do what I say.
Here's how it happened: I widely accept that students pick belly dance as a short-term dance project. Whether it is one session, or several sessions to work towards one performance, it's a well-defined goal. It almost fits all that SMART goal standard business: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based. I tell my students that it took me a year of lessons to reach the 'kinda bad' level at belly dance. And, it's my job to set the attainable/realistic portions of student goals in the given timeframe. I've been lucky where it's very straightforward process - my students often do the research and have a plan.
Last summer, I had a student who is a pole expert but always wanted to try belly dance. She drove over an hour each way to take a month of class. After the first class, she decided to belly dance for a tribute performance at a pole dance workshop/convention. "What moves can I comfortably/realistically achieve after one month?" We choreographed most of it and we video-texted back and forth as she practiced for a few more weeks once class was over. Since she was well-versed with pole dance, she added some of her favorite floorwork moves to complement the basic belly dance moves. Plainly stated, she flavored her pole floorwork routine with belly dance.
Around the same timeframe, I got a call from a woman who wanted to hire belly dancers for her September 50th birthday party AND also dance a little bit. She had hired a traditional Egyptian belly dance performer before, but this time she wanted something different. We had two months to prepare and find a few moves that she could own with her fun-loving personality. Her home already had Moroccan decor, so she was drawn to this style. She worked her ghawazee shimmy, and she stayed with the class for another month - so she could perform at a student showcase. She said she wanted to have something to show for all her hard work, including her very own choli. It had a lovely mirrored trim, or "with the pizzazz" as she called it. Her tastes were naturally drawn to ATS® flavor - particularly the North African and Indian portions.
Fast forward to right now. I have a student who has signed up for several dance styles; belly dance, Bhangra and flamenco. Well, we do have a bit of all those going on in ATS®. After seeing her dance today to a flamenco-inspired song, I knew that the newer flamenco-based moves would be interesting to her, as well as the rest of the class. The class was intrigued by some new (and challenging) moves...just as one of my most dedicated students announced that she's relocating to Iowa. Her years of working super hard have warranted the super-duper challenge of dramatic slow movement.
All these circumstances will flavor the next class performance. I'm also working to get the class to feel more confident with eye contact, and there is no faking it when it comes to the powerful moves and song they chose. Encouraging eye contact (for spins or anything, really) is easier when students face another fellow dancer. It's calming to see your dance sister's face instead of a faceless audience. Soooo, we may have to fashion some West Side Story drills and inspiration for this six-person (two trios) formation. It's coming together in my mind's eye...an interpretation of my student flavor profiles. Yesssss.
It comes up often in conversation..."should co-workers know about my belly dancing thing...?" I've thought it over for the past few years as a started a new job, telling my closest colleagues as we've had to arrange happy hours around my teaching schedule. (Of course, I need BOTH happy hours AND dance classes.) Telling on a need-to-know basis was pretty easy since these people were my co-worker friends. Until last year, when I was scheduled to work at the Mid-America Trucking Show from Thursday-Saturday. This is the biggest trucking industry show of the year (seriously) and it's been part of my vocabulary for the past 10 years. I skated by with explaining that I taught class at a yoga studio on Saturday, so I needed to be back. I didn't say more than that.
However, it doesn't always end so quickly when this conversation is had with others:
"Oh, I didn't know you taught yoga."
"I don't - I teach a dance class."
"What kind of dance?"
And that's where my 'splaining has been worked down to a script. At least it is the same description I give to brand new students (minus the actual dancing to show examples)...presenting the folkloric roots, the modest costumes, and the "I am not Barbara Eden nor do I wear sequins" disclaimer. At that point, I'm not sure how they really feel about it - but I explained what I could.
Earlier last year, I had to return a form to HR. The HR representative had her Director in her office, and he asked me about my Art Walk involvement. Someone had looked up my LinkedIn profile and saw I was on the non-profit ArtWalk's board, and mentioned it in a meeting. He thinks that is great, and we talk more about what I do outside of work. The whole convo (as listed above) progressed. Luckily, they find this to be healthy - and now the HR lady is chastising me for not logging exercise points in our program for extra FSA dollars.
In the fall, I was helping Accounting with an Accounting Tips newsletter. The lady in charge of it told me about her craft hobbies and it came up that I taught dance. And she suggested that I teach a mini-lesson at a payroll professionals conference. I'm trying not to dance in her office to show her how low-impact it can be. I'm trying to look like I'm talking intense newsletter formatting talk.
Now my boss knows the whole story:
Right before Thanksgiving, my Director and I had quality time in Montreal for a meeting on Vehicle Weights and Dimensions (my marketing career is very exciting). The usual small talk about hobbies and exercising on the road came up. I said I taught a dance class, and he said he did know a little about it. We went on to discuss how I market the classes, and he said I should market it as a 12-week class so I could have student testimonials with dramatic results...because all that stuff takes time to make a difference. Little did he know I already had such testimonials for people who did stick to it, while I explained that expecting someone to commit to a 12-week course (without knowing they'll like it) is very unrealistic. He realized that was probably true.
In a typical day at work, I am juggling the usual chaos while I am watching video clips for inspiration (from troupemates, or from my own searches), downloading music for class, discussing studio schedules, and posting on the Facebook secret class and troupe pages to work around absences and performance planning ideas. Plotting and more plotting. And then my 5-minute artsy daydreamy groove comes to a jarring halt. "You want to talk about pricing this aftermarket part for this fiscal year? But I'm in the middle of posting an important comment on the Sister Studio page - and proofreading it to make sure I don't seem arrogant OR misinformed!" But, since the day job pays the bulk of my bills, I must humor the marketing and pricing tasks at hand. It's too bad, since the juicy dance ideas may fall out of my head and not come back for days.
Axles, Assuit - sales forecasts, performance themes...same thing. And it's kind of true. I'll be in a go-to-market strategy meeting and I will immediately apply that principle to what we want to do with our troupe website, or for the next hafla. Or, on other days, I'll just shrug off the corporate BS and feel grateful to have an outlet that appreciates me. I'm glad to contribute balance to my fellow dancers in male-dominated office settings. A friend and former colleague (who also takes my class) was looking up hafla costume ideas at work, and I showed up in her Google search. Neat! Or not?! It was particularly creepy-satisfying to see her stalker photo of Belly Dance Paula (the photo from my website bio) on her computer screen.
Sooooo...as of Friday, I think I'm done hiding it from the bulk of the office. The troupe had a performance right after work, and there was no time to go home first. My hair had to be done in advance, and some stage makeup had to be ready to go. Half the office probably assumed I had an exciting Friday night date, while others knew the real story. "What's going on with your BUN?"
We'll soon find out if my creative side is appreciated, or if it isolates me further from the standard employee profile. I've made it clear that I'm not going to switch to polo shirts (after I got in trouble for modifying a company shirt on a casual dress day). I'm not really a badass rebel type, but apparently I am in this very conservative setting. I've had the fear that it would be used against me - where my 'entertainer persona' impairs my mathematical abilities, and creates an uneducated barfly perception of me. I will keep representing myself as-is and need not mind the what-ifs. (Besides, hasn't everyone seen Flashdance and at least ONE Step It Up movie?!) A student just now posted this mantra for herself, asking the class to remind her as well, "Don't let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen." YES!