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BIDDING FAREWELL TO SENIOR DANCERS

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As we wind down to recital season, we have also reached that point when it’s time to say goodbye to graduating students. Our beloved senior dancers, who many of us have trained since they were little, now stand before us as mature dancers, performers, beautiful artists and young adults ready to tackle the next phase of their education and careers.

As we watch their final performances, many times in awe of who they have become as dancers, yes, but also as people, we can’t help feeling a sense of pride that in some small way we have contributed to their growth, development and of course dance ability. We are like surrogate parents, older sisters and brothers who are have been so much more than a “teacher,” but a mentor, a disciplinarian, a therapist, an inspiration, a coach, a motivator and a friend. In some ways it may feel like the dynamic of the “dance family” we’ve created is ending as we lovingly kick them out of the nest to go accomplish what they’ve been trained to do. We trust we’ve done our best and they are “ready,” but it doesn’t change the fact that these little faces who we have seen almost every day over the last numbers of years, have made us proud, driven us crazy and looked to us for guidance will no longer be bouncing down the hallways of the studio, or laughing and joking around with peers as young dancers do. The absence of their presence sinks in and we come to the reality that the end of an era is over and sometimes it’s hard to let go.

We love all of our students, but departing seniors leave that lump in your throat, especially when you see their tears and read those cards and letters thanking you for shaping them and giving them the tools needed to succeed. To hear the “thank you’s” in let’s face it, a thankless job most of the time, overwhelms us and reminds us that this is why we do what we do; for this exact moment that’s occurring. And as the final performances are over and we wait in the wings as they come off stage, the knowledge that they’re hugging you and holding on to you a little bit tighter brings the urge to fights back those tears; realizing they’re just as anxious and nervous to leave your side too. But, as with any good teacher, we stay strong and look straight into those watery eyes and simply say, “You’re going to be wonderful and do wonderful things and I can’t wait to watch and hear all about it. I’m so proud of you.” I always like to throw in a little comedic relief myself at this point to end with and say, “OK, now cut the cord….get out of here.” We may laugh in the moment in order to compose ourselves, but we both silently acknowledge how difficult the realization is that “this is it.” There are always those special few who we have taken under our wing, who will know we are there for them whether they are 8, 18 or 28 and that kind of bond doesn’t waiver.

Until then, we send them off with a solid foundation, a kiss, a hug, maybe a lovingly gentle kick in the backside to nudge them forward, but know they will still light up the studio doors when they come back to visit and share all their new and exciting experiences. And they will, because while they may not understand all the lessons we try and teach them at present, as time goes on, the little light-bulbs will go off when they realize all the eye-rolls they gave us at the time for things they didn’t get, will somehow be an epiphany that everything we showed them, told them and gave them was done out of love; so that they succeed. And they will want to thank you even more down the road.

Now as they move forward, so do we, looking to those wonderful dancers who need us now, who will be the next group of sponges to soak in the education and training we are imparting onto them. We smile at those little faces now and turn our attention to them, because they need us. And in truth, we need them so we continue to grow and learn as teachers.

So, to all the graduating seniors, congratulations on these years, cherish them and remember them. We do. We hope we have changed your lives the way you have changed ours. Best of luck on the next adventure.  We, as your teachers, will always be here as your biggest fans rooting you on no matter where life takes you and we are always here for you. We send you off with all the love in the world. Make us proud. Make yourself proud. There’s nothing you can’t accomplish, we’ve seen it firsthand. ;)

Love to all.

Jess

 

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Author

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated danceteacherweb.com. For more info, visit her website at www.jrizzo.net.

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