15 Things I Learned in 2015

Well, since I made lists for 2013 and 2014, I guess I should make another one for this year (or at least everything since my last semester-ly list).

  1. A one-month trial of Microsoft Office can last forever if you never restart your computer.
  2. Cooking sounds a lot more appealing at the beginning of the semester.
  3. Don’t underestimate how much people can change (in all the best and worst ways).
  4. Don’t underestimate how much the world can change (in all the best and worst ways).
  5. Professional success is sometimes more about making friends than being the “best.” I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.
  6. You don’t have to be everything that you admire in other people.
  7. I need prioritize taking care of my body or this “young and invincible” thing is gonna run out fast (i.e. sleep and adequate warm-ups are not optional).
  8. Yoga is awesome.
  9. Perceiving things categorically (starting with sounds and colors) is neurologically efficient, but that doesn’t mean it reflects reality.
  10. Those who don’t learn history are destined to make up their own version of it.
  11. The person grading your paper actually does want you to do well–it’s so much easier and less of a downer to grade.
  12. Things which may actually be a contest to see who avoids quitting the longest: dance, blogging.
  13. If you can make five-year-olds learn something, adults are a breeze.
  14. If you want to see our society’s sexist and racist assumptions spelled out without the usual coding or denial, listen to kids. And sometimes presidential candidates.
  15. Comedy is really a nuanced, powerful, and generally underrated art. No joke.

Happy New Year y’all! Have fun and don’t make too many resolutions!


What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Princesses

I get it. Little girls have sparkly tiaras and Disney princess dolls thrown at them from every angle. So then some people panic that the “princessification of America” is threatening the development of empowered women (or at least non-spoiled-diva women).

But it’s a little strange that both the pro- and anti-princess camps tend to center their view of princess-hood around these three points:

Why is no one pointing out the fact that princesses are future queens? Why does no one respond to the girl (or boy) who wants to be a princess with “Okay, princesses get to rule a country when they grow up! What kinds of laws will you make in your kingdom?”

Bam. You’re talking leadership without having to take away anyone’s tiara.

Because look, I’m all for being critical of media and letting girls know that they can be lots of other things besides princesses–but even if Target rips some gender labels off its toys, gender stereotypes are not suddenly going to disappear. And continuing to position “femininity” as fundamentally opposed to “empowerment” isn’t helping anyone.

So if the tiara fits, take over the world in it.

Camp Notes: Science Edition

Sometimes, actual science is cooler than what kids think:

I was with a group of 8-year-olds toward the end of the day, some of whom who were getting tired, commenting on how much time was left, and not moving quickly enough. So for some reason, I thought it was a good idea to bring in special relativity.

“Hey, did you know that if you move really fast you can warp time so that time in the outside world goes by quicker?”

“That’s not possible.”

“It’s true, but you have to go super fast, almost lightning speed.”

“You’re just making stuff up.”

“Actually, Einstein discovered it.”

“No way! I bet you don’t even know Einstein.”

In their defense, I had also recently told kids that I had fairies at my house, so maybe I’m not the most reliable source.

But I think I’m going to add “alleged creator of special relativity” to my resume.

Sometimes, actual science is way less cool than what kids think:

I was having a conversation with a 5-year-old about how there used to be more planets before scientists decided to get rid of Pluto. Several minutes later, he asks:

“How did they take down Pluto, again? They used rockets to blow it up, right?”

I had to explain that Pluto was still there, and the scientists just sat in a room and decided to reclassify it as a dwarf planet. The kid was not impressed.

Camp Notes

Some observations from working at an art/science camp for kids:

  1. According to outfits worn on superhero day, Elsa from Frozen is considered a superhero. And hey, given that she can turn people into ice and instantly build castles, it seems pointless and kind of sexist to argue otherwise.
  2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still a thing. A big thing. (Is it still the 90s?)
  3. I’m pretty sure elementary school teachers are actual superheroes though.
  4. It’s really hard to make yourself more interesting and appealing than a play structure.
  5. Tag games where people can “save” each other are a sad representation of failed self-interest. They never save each other, and they all get out.
  6. “A couple drops of paint” will never actually be a couple drops.
  7. Tissue paper tie-dye is actually really awesome.
  8. Paint markers are really exciting.
  9. Kindergardeners are not too young for intense interpersonal drama (seriously, exclusion stings at all ages).
  10. Kids don’t know how to distinguish adults’ ages. Anyone over 15 is already pretty ancient, so they might as well be 53. Or 98.

Some quotable moments:

Kid 1: “Santa Clause isn’t real!”
Kid 2: “Santa’s not real?”
Kid 3: “Some people think God isn’t real but he is.”
Me: “Hey, who wants some more beads?”

Kid to a counselor: “Why are you wearing fairy wings if you’re a boy?”
Other kid: “Boys can be fairies too!” (You tell ’em, kid.)

Intensive Life

So where have I been this week? (No I’m not apologizing for my lack of posting, though I have been busy and pretty exhausted, if you were wondering.) I just finished my first week working as a chaperone for Joffrey Ballet School’s San Francisco program, and I’m having a fabulous time with the people, the place, and of course, the dancing.


The most exciting perk of my job is getting to take class with the program. It’s a very diverse contemporary ballet-focused program which has involved doing everything from classical variations to contact improv, and the faculty is incredible.

Because of my chaperoning schedule, I sometimes have to take class with younger groups. While I totally appreciate the opportunity to take class with people my own age when I can, it has also been a really informative experience to take class with younger dancers. For one, it has made me more conscious of the way I take class (how I learn combinations, how I respond to group corrections, what I do when I’m on the sides, how I manage my space, etc.). I guess I feel some pressure to be a role model, not just as a dancer, but also as a student/class-taker.

It’s also interesting to watch dancers at various ages and stages of technical/artistic development take class, particularly since it’s been a while since I’ve been in a dance setting that included younger kids. It’s easy to look at adult/professional dancers and not think about how they got to that point, but looking at students, I can see how different elements of dance training “click” at different points for different individuals.

The irony in all of this this is that almost every kid who has ever been at a summer dance intensive (including myself in the past) gets really concerned about what class level they are placed in. And while everyone has heard the “it doesn’t matter, you can improve in any class, work on basics, push yourself, blah blah blah” spiel, we don’t immediately realize just how true it is. I’ve known this stuff for a long time, but now, at a point where I’m more or less responsible for my own training and just thrilled to be in class all day, when I’m standing in a class of fourteen-year-olds and all I can think is “I’m dancing and learning stuff! Awesome!” it has a different kind of resonance.

Another highlight of this week was a Q&A session with the faculty. This gave me a lot of thoughts and feels that I might just have to make a separate post about, but in short, it was both surprising and encouraging to see that they had varied and non-conventional paths to their careers. Their stories included late starts, non-dance college degrees, parental resistance, and paralyzing back injuries–not exactly typical steps in the “how to have a dance career” eHow–but it was clear that their intense commitment and tenacity, as well as talent, allowed them to carve out their own routes.

A few words that stuck from this week:

  • “Instead of banging your head against the door, you could use the doorknob.”

Josie Walsh on working hard versus working smart

  • “Sometimes fear is an indicator of where you should be going.”

–Josie again

  • “Be careful about trying to emulate people. What you see isn’t always what’s going on.”

Allison DeBona when asked about her role models

  • “Be aware of what other people are doing, and then do something else.”

Sara Silkin teaching improv

Now on to week 2!