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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.

Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...

And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

points of view

Ninety-nine percent of the time, empathy is my friend, and being able to understand multiple points of view is useful when mediating or troubleshooting or in many other situations.

Take tonight for example. We have an event with a teacher, a student, a judge, and a franchisee, and a manager (me)

We all want happy students (who are also our customers, but many of our students are taking dance for many different reasons)

And we all have hats to wear and jobs to do.

The event tonight had placing (first and second, mostly) where the student is compared with a standard or level of dancing.

The student in question has physical limitations.

One could argue that there should be consideration for that factored in, and certainly it would help morale...maybe. But no one wants a sympathy blue ribbon. We all want to earn it. And to be fair, the judge was consistent giving seconds all night to anyone who danced off time or even off phrase. And the student in question did earn a blue ribbon in one of her events when she was able to stay on time.

If we give sympathy firsts, all firsts lose their meaning.

If we can't stay on time, we have to be ready to do some damage control when the student is upset. We can't control the physical limitation, but we can't Not Try either and expect the judge to hand a blue ribbon when we could do better.

One solution is to avoid entering events with placing/ribbons, etc. Perhaps that would be the student's preference, and if so we will avoid the situation in the future. As manager, I failed to articulate the nature of the event clearly so she would know what to expect. Her teachers failed to dance on time with her. The judge placed her how he had to in order to not be accused of favoritism or not upholding the standard.

There can be arguments in several directions, but certainly the most important thing is to have integrity in everything we do, and sincerely care for our student. Her frustration is at least partly with her body, and sometimes dance brings up things we need to process.

I don't mean to sound unkind or unsympathetic.

I understand each angle in a way. Like the teachers could argue that the judge could give some consideration and be lenient...why wouldn't he? But I'm not sure she'd want those blue ribbons either.

I'm so conflicted on the matter.

How to be both fair and kind.

When ideally one should never have to choose between them...


  1. Dancing With the Stars judges don't give an inch for people with an injury or other limitations -- case in point, dancing without flesh-and-blood legs. They may mention awareness of the limitation in the scoring segment but they judge the dancing for what it is.

    IMO, anyone with an impediment who chooses to learn dance at a school that includes competition as part of the (even optional) curriculum needs to understand that dances are judged against a set standard, without allowances being made for any reason. Wouldn't that encourage a wimpy, complainy, "poor me" attitude and a "my broken toe is worse than his strained shoulder" competition?
    I'm a lousy painter so I might take lessons but if I entered my work in a judged show, it wouldn't be with an expectation of winning a prize unless I saw my work get better and better. It seems to me, judging everyone with the same standard is a mark of respect and sets goals to which one can aspire. Anything else encourages self-pity. So counter-productive!
    So empathy is lovely and useful but, again in my opinion, it can veer off-track into what you call a "sympathy" reward which is yucky for all concerned.

  2. Meh.
    I'm going to put this one on the teachers. It was their job to describe the event to the student and get them ready for it. They most likely also "sold" the event to the student, so they had the opportunity to opt out if they didn't like the idea of being judged.
    Fair and kind? They aren't related. Fair is what it is. A situation is either fair or it isn't. Kind is how we approach the various situations of our life, a choice we make after the situation is already established. I'm pretty sure you don't need to beat yourself up over this one.