Growing up as the daughter of a dance teacher has taught me so much more that just shuffles and plies. I’ve learned balance, focus, manners, perseverance. I’ve learned the importance of thank yous, the extra mile, and tradition. I’ve learned to accept critiques and to take orders.
It’s time to chronicle these lessons.
It happens at that stage of a project where I don’t yet know what I’m doing, but I can see the deadlines on the horizon.
(Or when I have a migraine looming. Like now.)
Life gets a little… intense. Panicky, even. How in the world is it all going to get done?
My mom often feels this way when starting to choreograph a new piece. There are 3.5 minutes of song waiting to be filled, and no grand ideas for how to fill them all.
What do you do?
You take the choreographing 8 counts at time.
Fa-lap ball change, heel heel. e-and-a 1 & 2. e-and-a 3 &4.
Fa-lap ball change, fa-lap ball change, fa-lap ball change, push turn
Hey, there’s an entrance.
Without letting the panic well up again, she repeats the process. I just have to choreograph 8 counts. I can do that!
Slowly, slowly, slowly, she builds up the whole piece. Sometimes inspiration strikes and she can choreograph the entire number in an hour; more often she pulls it together one section at a time.
My mom has taught me over the years how applicable her method is to, well, everything. All big, scary, overwhelming projects can be broken down into smaller, manageable chunks.
Other (less graceful) writers have phrased this principle in other ways:
“You know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
(I prefer the dance metaphor.)
So how do I get through this PhD program? This summer? This pile of laundry?
Breathe. Just take it 8 counts at a time.