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Mutiny over the ballet bounty

I have been out of town on an impromptu business trip. A flood of scandalous news was sent our way regarding our old business. In a nutshell, the employee we left in charge as director has left the school and opened a competing business down the street (despite a legal non-compete contract which was a condition for her taking the position.)


Now, as in a divorce, no one party is responsible for the dissolution of a marriage. Nevertheless, people take sides -usually they rally behind whoever is their closest friend or can do the most for them.
The women say, “Hey it’s all his fault because she did the best she could and he is an insensitive lout that doesn’t appreciate her.”
The men say, “He did the best he could under immense stress and pressure, and she made things worse instead of being supportive and caring.”
But the truth is somewhere in between, and honestly no one on the outside knows what really went on, because the problems go much deeper – down to emotional levels of self-worth and conflicting personal desires.


Anyway, I understand that the truth is very complex and the surface information people hear (and judge by) is missing some very key elements. VERY key.  So, I won’t presume to discuss whether or not this split is justified on a certain level, other than point out that it is illegal. A legal contract is a promise of good faith. I guess you can find loopholes if you have a good enough lawyer – and you are very careful with what you say (which our former employee is doing with all the practiced perfection of a miss dance interview – sorry, that is a comparison only my old students will appreciate.) Some people operate under a moral principal that “if you can get away with it, then it must be OK.” Not my cup of tea.


The problem I have with this entire thing isn’t what is happening (since I know it is very complex) as much as how it is happening. The truth is, this plan has been in the works for some time, and it has affected the previous employee’s performance, causing dissatisfaction in the school to set the stage for this dilemma. I know her choice was preplanned because I knew about it some time before the announcement – and if I know about it living 500 miles away, well, then lots of people knew about it. (Not, unfortunately, the new owners of the school.) In fact, at Mark’s recommendation, they confronted this employee directly and asked about the rumors point blank, and she assured them she was not going to open a studio. Two days later, her announcement blazed across the newspaper and the next day at the staff meeting, there was a full-fledged walkout at the mother ship. No notice. Teachers justified their decision to go to the other school and simply walked. It is common knowledge that students will go where there teachers go. So while you can claim no one is being solicited technically, the fact is that when teachers are invited to go with you, students are expected to follow (that is why the teachers are invited after all, since the new school has no enrollment defining need to begin hiring for. They anticipate “need” on the assumption that stealing teachers will equate to enrollment.), and the fact is, other personel and contributing members of the old school have been asked to support this new endeavor – she even asked for our support! Talk about gall!


The upheaval was staged perfectly. It is scandalous enough that there would be a split, but if customers walk into the school and no one is there to teach the kids, they would lose faith in the management’s ability to control the situation. The new owners of FLEX were left with no teachers and no dance director to help them solve the dilemma. They were, so to speak, sitting ducks, and everyone knew it and delighted in the fact. Obviously, resentment runs deep. They were not only sideswiped, but also hit with a vengeance on multi levels. I felt badly for them. The least I could do was get them some staff and give them some advice.


All issues of legality aside, I was shocked and appalled by the unprofessional behavior of the teachers involved. I don’t care how angry you are, it is only responsible to give notice and not work to purposely bring your previous employer down in so ugly a way. This was a mutiny, orchestrated to do the utmost damage. I am shocked to see so many individuals follow along without conscience. As far as I am concerned, everyone can leave if they want – the new owners are responsible for their employee’s dissatisfaction and that is another issue altogether– but have some class people and give fair notice. If what you are doing is truly good, right, and justified, than it will succeed without the forced damage done to your previous employer. I won’t go into the falsehoods being spread to influence others – but I promise you that the new owners of the school are not the only ones being duped. By the time that reality is revealed, the damage will have been done.


Anyway, I really had a hard time accepting what I was hearing.  As is always the case, when we hear things that seem out of character to us, we go to the source to see what is true firsthand. I received all this disturbing information at 3:00 and decided I had better make the trip to Florida. I scurried to put life in order and was in the car driving by 9 Pm. Mark was unavailable, so he opted to stay home and hold down the fort.

By 6 AM, I am cruising into Sarasota. Tired, agitated and disgusted by what I do know to be true, despite any justification others may use to support the decisions they have made.
Mark calls. He says, “I am holding out the phone from my ear. Do you hear what I hear?     
In the background, Joe is crowing loud and clear.
I squeal with delight. “Isn’t that a beautiful sound? I wish I was there with you to hear it in person.”
He says (drolly) . . . I am at the house.” Meaning, he is pretty far from the chicken coup, and the rooster is still ringing out loud and clear.” . . . And you can hear a rooster.” 
“It’s not enough to wake you up. Just enough to celebrate where we live. Admit it.”
He does. (He says I make him out to be a killjoy in my blogs, but I don’t intend to. Usually, it is just our humor and he plays the straight man’s roll so willingly. Honestly, he is a good sport and ultimately supportive of all my adventures, as I am of his.)
Hearing that bird makes me wonder why I am here, having driven all night. with my eyeballs scrunched in frustration. 

He then says, “I think you should turn the car around and come home. Let everybody back there kill themselves, cause they are “doing it for the kids” (justification de jour- cracks me up, for what they mean is the selective kids – theirs). Really, Ginny, we know better. Come home.”

I know he is probably right, but I insist I have to learn more. I was convinced that I could make sense of this puzzle that has been plaguing me so long. We were turned into the enemy within two months of leaving – a choice that began many of the school’s problems. We left our business in good hands, or so we thought, but we made it clear to both sides that our ongoing involvement would be very important to the transition. It is frustrating watching your life’s work be unmanned (internally) – especially when it just doesn’t make sense for any of the parties involved. In retrospect, if you consider who has the least to lose and the most to gain by leading the school down a spiraling path, the writing is on the wall. It is just writing I have a hard time accepting, on an emotional level.   

Therefore, I began my fact-finding mission. First, I headed off a few of the “walk-outs” at the staff meeting, primarily because they respect me and wouldn’t do anything improper while I was witnessing it.  I helped staff the school for the short term with teachers who left some time ago. This foiled some hopeful plans for chaos, I suspect. Then, I talked to parents, students, teachers, and managers. I looked at the sequence of events which brought our school to this awkward impasse, trying to fill the holes in the big picture. Meanwhile, every hour, I call my husband and fill him in on all I am unraveling. He sighs and says, “Come home, Honey. Your rooster misses you.” (Sure, it’s the rooster that misses me.)

I kept hearing more and more depressing facts. Fabrications. An alarming amount of twisted logic. Everyone is being misguided in a huge manipulation orchestrated under the veil of innocence. Fires are everywhere and instead of putting things into logical perspective, everyone is fanning them. Our job was always to diffuse problems, but it seems no one has been doing that. Sad. The few people who refused to be a pat of this madness have long since left. Smart cookies. Those left behind had an alternative agenda. All along, people could have worked together for the best interest of everyone. But in a struggle of wills, they didn’t. And the gossip is so outrageous it would make me laugh if it wasn’t so sad.


Finally, I learned one thing too many, one thing that so disturbed my husband when I shared it, he said, “Against my better judgment, I’m coming down. I’ll be there in eight hours.” And he was.

Now, I have plenty to say about our experience in Sarasota this week – plenty to say about art and integrity and responsibility and character and mistakes and people who say and do things to promote their own interests, and inadequacy and ego and fear and arrogance. I have words of sanity to offer to people who have been lead so far from the path we originally designed that it could fill this blog and jam up the internet airways till kingdom come. Again, I must say, people do not have all the facts. Not by a long shot.

And dance people who read my blog are expecting just that. But I’m going to disappoint them.  I’ve known for some time that all kinds of people from our old business my blog. It happens to get lots of Sarasota traffic. Go figure. But these people don’t join me here with earnest or kind intentions. They aren’t friends or they would be bold enough to walk into FLEX when I am in town to say “hello”. They’d step forward out of respect and/or friendship. (And for the one parent who did just this on Thursday, with such grace and kindness, making lovely comments on our new home and our life, and making it a point to see Mark and I both before going, I must say we were sincerely touched. That parent has so much class.  I couldn’t help but be very happy for her child. The apple will fall close to a very good tree in this case. )  Anyway, other blog readers are tuning in with resentment, or curiosity – looking for things to criticize. One parent even had the gall to pull up pictures of our house and say to others, “Isn’t it nice to see what OUR money bought.”

Which is so sad. First of all, it isn’t true. As long as we ran FLEX we had very little to show for our hard work other than ulcers and heartache. The money we used to build our house came from walking away and turning our talents to other areas – areas where there is actually a monetary payoff for hard work and commitment. FLEX was like some great insurance policy. We were better off (monetarily) dead. Sad, but true.  Then again, even if this was not the case and this person’s tuition did indeed buy us a log or a brick, it is sad to think that those we devoted so much heart and effort to, now begrudge our having something to show for it. They certainly have a child with training to show for their investment. I guess everyone would be a lot happier if our eighteen years of hard work resulted in us having to work at Wal-Mart. We were suppose to be “doing it for the kids” I guess. Interesting. 


Anyway, I’ve decided to devote one rock on the fireplace to the parent who thinks I have the house I have today because of her tuitions. (Guess she forgets the scholarship she received when her family fell on hard times. Nevertheless, a rock is symbolic of her wisdom and sensitivity, so this I’ll make a nice dull one her namesake). I sure believe I DESERVE that house because of her now.

The fact is, the house we are building is all about who I married, not what we did for a living previously. Rustic Architectural Design is my husband’s new business – as you will see when his project is featured in log home magazine and our business grows (we have a second structure already in the works and plans for a third).  As much as people may think we are nothing beyond dance mongers, well, that shows greatly you underestimate our gifts. For the record, you can train people to spit out technical information about dance, but artistry cannot be taught. Without it, dance is a superficial, empty exercise and those involved have a limited capacity to do anything of value with it. In retrospect, I believe everyone got the bargain of a lifetime working with artists such as we were, for basic tuitions.

Anyway, because these negative and confused individuals are visiting my blog for reasons I will never understand, I have been avoiding the dance subject for many months. When Mark came to FLEX to try to help (knowing things were not on track), he was forcibly kicked of the building. I didn’t write about that, or the other hurtful things that have transpired over the last year, because I just didn’t have the heart to go there. And we decided to throw up our hands and give up on that fight long ago. When you are sad, you lack the fight required to face these kinds of things. And I had witnessed firsthand how my blogs were twisted and used as proof of my evil. Ha. I wrote something because a heart to heart talk and sincere guidance wasn’t working. Instead of my blog being the wake-up call needed, it was taken as an offense and used as an excuse to explain the overexagerated reaction of hatred– which obviously began long before that blog. So much for trying to put perspective (and offering some important withheld information) on a situation. I gave up on counseling those that needed it long ago after that ridiculous escapade. I knew then my honesty was a threat, and people who feel threatened will do whatever is necessary to protect themselves. 

But I was sorry to leave the FLEX issue out of my blog entirely, because the fact is, I have friends who have nothing at all to do with dance – writing friends who celebrate my leaving dance and they want to know how it is going, or ex-students who are sincerely happy for me and curious about how I am adapting to life without a dance empire. I have hated censoring such a huge part of my retirement (an emotional stuggle) because of those dance people spoiling for a fight.


It is also too bad, because I have dance friends who are very interested in my take on the dance world, and they could learn so much about dance if I addressed the issue – at least philosophically. I have new perspectives on dance education now, thanks to distance, maturity, and all the research I am doing for my thesis (a book on dance of all things).  Want some logic on the true state of dance education – read Grace under Pressure by Barbara Newman. In her forward, she states: “This book is about the craft of passing dance through time, about the transfer of experience and knowledge from one generation of artists to another. I wrote it as a tribute to the hidden artisans who choose that craft and in an attempt to document their work before they, and the standards they value, are gone for good. You have to remember that what we see on stage is merely the visible tip of a process we never see, which takes place in classrooms and studios, in rehearsal and creation, in the bank, the boardroom and the mind. The process reaches back into history and forward to a world no one can imagine, and the authorities who guide it fasten the past to the future every day.”


This is how true artisans think. It is not “business is business” or “I can do anything I want if I can get away with it”, or “it is for the kids and the parents like it” mentality. It is committing your efforts to something bigger than the coordination of rhinestone costumes and pop music and affected movement that does nothing but satisfy uneducated people on a commercial level.


I have friends and students from the past and present who visit this blog with the best of intentions and they would enjoy exploring a subject we all care about on a deeper level.  But, I’ve respectively decided to keep my feelings about dance to myself. If there is one thing I know more than anything, it is that people believe what they want to believe. And if they want to believe negative things about us or our motives or what has happened in the wake of our retirement, so be it. They get something from that, but don’t ask me what. And the repercussions of everything happening now stretches far beyond the individual students that everyone is scrambling over today, like the plastic platinum trophies at competition that are so ridiculous. Actions going on now will set off a string of repercussions that include legal, financial, and emotional fallout, not to mention a long-term impact on the dance community at large. It sure as hell isn’t about dance (or the kids) friends. Trust me. Besides which, anything I write about dance will be taken as a message about my dance school or students, past and present, because no one can see that my commitment to the art is so much bigger than FLEX. Sad, but true.


Someone turned to my father this week and with a big smile, made a comment about our facility. They said, “Business is business.” I think he enjoyed my horrified reaction to that comment when he related it, because since the beginning, he has said “Business is business” and I have argued that the arts require special consideration. I believe decisions cannot be made in dance with a “business is business” mentality or the magic is lost. But maybe the magic was always my own illusion. Perhaps I was too idealistic for this entire dance school thing all along. Perhaps it IS about tuitions and plastic trophies and whoever has the most students in the end really does win. The powers that be are just dead set on winning something I personally wouldn’t want. I shouldn’t care. But it sends a chill down my spine .

Wisdom as it pertains to art is something gained over many many years, and it’s the result of many many experiences that stretch far beyond the comprehension of the local dance studio mentality. But with a sigh, I understand some people must learn these truths themselves. Or not. I don’t hold out much hope for certain individuals anymore.
This is the hardest thing for me to accept of all.

Anyway, my blog was silent because I was out of town for a week. A friend ran into me in Sarasota, laughed, and said, “NO WONDER you haven’t been writing. You are here. I’ve been so disappointed everyday when I check in and there are no pearls of wisdom on your blog to make me laugh or think. Go home so I have something to read, will ya!”

That was sweet. So, I’m home, planning to do just that. To write about everything except my old business and dance. But that doesn’t mean we are not concerned or involved or thinking about the state of dance in Sarasota every minute.

I learned everything I needed to know when I went home. Much of it will leave a sour taste in my mouth for many days (or years) but much of it was wonderful too. People accused me of rushing in like the Calvary to try to save things. They said I had no right to be involved. Interesting. But that is because they had no understanding of what I came for.  


I came to witness what we left behind and to see what those we entrusted with the thing we loved did with that responsibility. And as a bonus, I saw kids I adore and miss. I spent time with teachers who still had a sense of humor, who can laugh with me about everything in a bittersweet way. I had dinner with parents I enjoy and we laughed about things from the past and things happening in our lives now, about my husband the “ballerina on a tractor” and other non-dance related things.  And I realized that finally, after many years of our wanting it, some of these dance people are our friends. Real friends, not people wanting a part for their kid in the next dance, or wanting positions of power or a chance to earn more money from us. Not people who put us on some kind of dance pedestal in an unnatural way and suddenly resent us for not giving more either, or people who discard us because we are no longer useful to them as they continue in a frenzy to validate their talent in the most unsophisticated ways. I’ve discovered good people who enjoy our company – enough to hang out and laugh for the purpose of talking and visiting. It was a nice time and I wish Mark had been there sooner to experience that portion of the trip.


When Mark arrived, we talked a bit, spent some time with teachers and friends, and then we went into a store to get away from it all. And someone who hasn’t been in our school for over twelve years came up to us and said, “I’m so sorry for you.”


We thought perhaps this parent didn’t know we had sold FLEX and moved. Obviously, she didn’t know we were so happy now. It has been such a long time since this parent had any reason to be involved in FLEX gossip, considering her daughter is married and she is toting around the ex-dancer’s kids now.  So we asked what she was talking about.


She said, “I just feel so badly that your name has been trashed around this town. And the person doing it is such a surprise. We were under the impression you left certain individuals involved in your school because you shared a good relationship with them.”


What can you say to that? “Um. Um. . .” Then, smack yourself on the forehead like a sudden revelation took place?


That was when I turned to Mark and said, “OK. Let’s go home.” I was so icked out, I can’t describe it. There are some truths you just don’t want to discover. It is great understanding the big picture, but when the big picture leaves a lasting image that you can’t get out of your head, you rather close your eyes. Unfortunately, we had promised to teach that night, so we felt honor bound to stay.  For the kids” (shoot me).   

Mark was scheduled to teach. I had told the kids that we didn’t care what decision they made and it didn’t matter where they planned to dance, but they should come to show their respect – even if it was just to say good-bye to a teacher who truly made a difference in their lives. I told them to come for “dance” – for the last class of all time between them and the past- that their presence wasn’t a statement, other than the statement of fond appreciation for Mark’s role in bringing dance into their lives.


They chose to have a pizza party to celebrate the boycott of his class instead. 

They certainly showed us.

Mark was disappointed. He said, “They are trying to hurt me, and/or make a statement about their future choice. But what hurts is knowing the kind of leadership they are getting which condones this behavior. They are just kids, carried away with this feeling of self-importance and swept up in the drama of the fight. Their bad attitudes have been left unchecked and now they are raging out of control. Can you imagine you or I ever allowing a student to act disrespectful, to dishonor their mentors or teachers in this way? We’d drag them by the bun and toss them into the classroom despite their whining. And any parent that didn’t like it would be put in their place too. Some dance principals are not debatable.”


Our number one lesson was to teach students to live with gratitude for all they’ve been given – I even dragged my students to visit my teacher in New York 30 years after he was actively my teacher. And trust me, they would rather have been at the <st1laceName w:st=”on”>Broadway</st1laceName> <st1laceName w:st=”on”>Dance</st1laceName> <st1laceType w:st=”on”>Center</st1laceType> taking dance classes with “cool” teachers. It was an ongoing argument as parents and kids fought to get what they wanted rather than what they needed. We held firm.  It wasn’t because my teacher could do something for me (or them) now – it was an act of respect – and it was to teach the new generation something about what makes a great artist – something that stems on artistic integrity, and an appreciation for those that lay a foundation for the gifts you get today . When you are involved in the cycle of dance for enough years, you understand that what is “in the moment” is not nearly as important as the values you instill and the attitudes you support – because these elements come into play later. Artistic karma, ya know.


I guess it is a different world, and the values we tried to instill with dance are inconvenient  and therefore disposable today. As Rodney Dangerfield would say, “I can’t get no respect.” But that isn’t sad for us. It is sad for those who miss the point – generosity of the spirit.  Without it, a dancer is just a floating through the craft as an exercise, peeking at a physical level but never grasping the wealth of spiritual and soulful joy that drives an artist’s work to be authentic. Considering our ex-students are still dancers in training, their choice was a sign of misguidance, more than a sign of character weakness. Not easy to watch for us old timers.   Especially when you consider that a few years from now, this generation of dancers will be gone – they will have turned into accountants and marketing executives, wives and mothers – and they won’t look back, other than to tell their kids fun stories about their dance days. These dancers will have had a taste of dance, but it is being served without  enough seasoning to keep them at the buffet. The cooks, later, will have to wonder about their menu.  In other words, the struggle over the few dancers that appears important today is irrelevant in the long term. Newman also states, “Most dance students, even those who reach a relatively advanced level, disappear without a trace. Don’t forget, it’s murder out there without means, motive and opportunity.”


Your legacy begins not with who you teach, but what you teach and how.

Shortcuts are the path to becoming lost in the woods, and a house built on deception and an absence of integrity is a very weak structure. Not one I would ever send my kid into.

Mark and I have always known that when you teach on a level that attempts to set a strong sense of principals in place, you win some and you lose some. We can focus on those who never really “got it”, or celebrate those who we’ve influenced in ways we can be proud of. We are so thrilled to see how the values embedded in our teaching stuck with so many individuals, even some of those who’re in the middle of this awful turmoil. Teachers with a great grasp of dance have come forward with the best of intentions. Students who obviously love the art have stepped forward with admirable independence.


Even management apologized and said, “We are guilty. It was just easier to jump on the Hendry Hate train then deal with your shadow.” Hendry hate train? Wow. Counting the passengers on that train is depressing. Imagining who the conductor was is devastating.


But we know it is hard when you are being pulled apart or facing peer pressure, being fed misinformation designed to rile you up emotionally, etc- to do what is right despite the pressure or influence to act otherwise. And we know good and special people can get lost and confused, especially if they are naive, or they put money in a higher priority than other, less tangible, valuables. Nevertheless, we are humbled by students from our past that came forward with a genuine smile and a heartfelt hug, making it clear they missed us and valued their time with us in this great journey of dance. And we are touched by the letters of thanks we’ve received from dancers of the past too- letters inspired by things transpiring today. 


I received this e-mail today:


Hey Ginny,

I got to say most of this to Mark when I spoke to him, but I wanted you to share this with you too -I couldn’t help to remind you guys how special you are to me during this icky time.


You poured over a decade of your heart and soul into FLEX and it showed. Don’t let ‘them’ tarnish your memory or the legacy that you left behind. For every one of your critics, there are two more dancers that recognize that their time at FLEX created a magical impact on their lives. You both deserve to enjoy every bit of your new lives without the drama that is surrounding this current situation.


Be proud of what you created, you produced generations of kids who will always hold a special place in their hearts for you, Mark and FLEX. I just feel sorry for those who have seem to forgotten all that they were given, and trust that as always happens in life, the pendulum always swings back and evens things out.


I read this and was reminded that it wasn’t just about dance, ya know. And it sure as hell wasn’t “business is business”.  People can (and will) back peddle and start saying they respect and appreciate us now, (denial with a smile seems to work so conveniently for some) but we witnessed firsthand what truly has happened. Announcements claiming innocence and best intentions, excuses made now to develop a facade of superficial earnsty, really is an insult.

So, what will happen next? Well, Mark and I probably have a better idea than anyone involved. We see things very clearly, thanks to distance and experience, and we also happen to have a say in certain elements of the equation. But speculation is not something I will share publicly. The funny thing is, we believe we know more about what this will mean to everyone in ten years than what it means now. Nevertheless, we do not intend to influence the outcome of fate (though we’ve considered trying), because we believe everyone must lie in the beds they have made – and are currently making. But that doesn’t mean we will turn our back on our beliefs either – even though it would be easy to do so considering we keep getting so “icked out” when we get more evidence of how people really have felt about us and see how dance education is being approached today.

Honestly, we plan to use our time now to enjoy those people who have made us proud. We plan to go back to our old dance school, if and when and for as long as we can, to dance with students that come to the floor with positive attitudes, excited to explore movement and new choreography. We would have been there sooner if we hadn’t been forbidden to make our presence known. Fact.


We plan to encourage those that need encouragement and remind everyone what counts is artistry and honoring their gift.  We look forward to sidestepping the raging egos and political struggle that has been a part of this, and every, dance studio since the beginning of time, to just enjoy our limited role as friends and teachers. If things work out for our old school, we will be happy for everyone. If they don’t, we will know we did our part and lived according to what we believe. We wish to remain removed from all the business and legal elements now on the line.  All along, what we wanted was to shed the business of dance and embrace the artistic joy again. It is like becoming a grandparent – we wanted to enjoy the kids and then give them back for someone else to raise. Ha. Pipe dreams on our part.  

In the end, I look at the difficult transition of our school and the sad way people have dealt with it, as a growth opportunity. You learn so much through adversity. I am grateful that events have revealed what portions of our life were authentic and what was simply an illusion. That is important to know.


We have lost a great deal as good memories have been soured and undeniable truths regarding deeply seeded resentment has surfaced.  But what we have gained is good too. I didn’t leave dance, remember. I evolved. I am now writing about it, trying to channel all I believe to be true in a fictional accounting that will reach many more individuals than I could reach in the local dance class. That is an element of my life’s work too, and my dance school experiences, while bittersweet, gives me a lot to think about for that project.


While Mark and I were driving home from Sarasota, he commented that everything going on back home is like the Starwars Saga. He feels compelled to grab a dear friend or two and shout, “Luke, come back from the dark side!” He thinks Darth Vader, (once a Jedi knight too) has built the death star and is excited to try it out regardless of the innocent that thrive on the planet. (Mark does a great Darth Vader in the dance classroom impression.)


I asked if that means I get to be Princess Leigh – (and if he was gonna be Jabba the hut because he makes Jabba jokes often about himself. hee hee.)  I fancy myself in that Princess Leigh costume, ya know.


But Mark said, “No, you are Obi Wan and I am Yoda. Then he proceeded to make me laugh with some great pearls of dance school wisdom in Yoda’s affected dialect. I thought about that later, and I believe he is right on the money. Obi Wan left the struggle, just lifted his light saber and allowed himself to be plowed down. Because he was better involved as a voice in the head of those that continued on. He was sort of a sprit that encouraged people to trust the force. I’m not implying that the dilemma going on in the dance school is a struggle between good and evil, by any means. That wouldn’t be fair at all, because I understand there are two sides to every story and I really am struggling to understand both. I just mean that this is no longer our war, and we can’t be involved, other than our hoping what is decent and lovely will prevail.  But I honestly have concerns about that. I fear nothing good (and I mean good for dance, not for individuals) will be left at all.       


Now, I have had my say. I have homework to attend to, and Halloween is tomorrow! Tonight, my evil family members have conspired to drag me to the haunted corn maze. Eek. I have pumpkin soup to make. I must keep my feet grounded in what is real, and in this case, it is liquid pumpkin and whether or not I can outrun the guy in the corn with the chainsaw!

Gee, I hope we carve a happy pumpkin this year. I saw enough scowling faces in that last staff meeting and the dance class to last me a lifetime. Ick.


I am sorry for all that has happened. Mostly, I am sorry for the kids who think the pied piper is their friend . . . and the parents who, with good intentions, hand him his pipe.



About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

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  1. Ginny-I feel so bad for what you and Mark have to see happen to your beloved dance school. My daughter was an early casualty of the “ego” you referred to and it was actually a blessing in disguise after everything I’ve seen and heard happening there. I only wish we could have gotten to know you better and my daughter could have experienced you and Mark as teachers more. She is still dancing, but without the stress she felt after you left. I am so happy for you in your new life and all that you have to show for your 18 years of hard work.


  2. Sometimes, a soft, quiet voice travels a long way. Thank you for this.


  3. Not ready to be jedi, are you. Too much talking, too soon, are you doing. Silence is a Jedi’s best friend. Thoughts in your head are not all best spoken, young Jedi. Not learned are all my teachings yet, and not ready was I to read this.


  4. Ginny, your words are so true. It’s remarkable how much understanding you have over conflicts. Do not let any of FLEX’s problems let you down, because you and Mark are in all of our hearts, now and forever. Although some students are being very immature and avoiding you, they will soon realize what a mistake they have made. I hope that you come visit us, because I miss the magic you and Mark used to bring to FLEX on a daily basis.


  5. Malignant Self Love – Narcissism An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements) Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance, or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions) Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favorable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted


  6. I have, of course, the power to post or not post any comment that comes to me. I had to smile at this one, for while it surely does describe many people I know – in dance  particularily- (especially those who have not done anything to support their confidence other than fabricate a limping reseme) I think this is intended to describe me. Am I obsessed with fantasies of unlimeted sucess? Ha. Maybe I am. I certainly am proud of my achievements and I do have ideal, everlasting, all conquering love and passion for things I find important. As far as I know, a lot of people have benefited from that kind of tunnel vision motivation, whether you think it is reasonable or not. (Not, unfortuantely, my own children but our move was meant to reconcile that). Anyway, I thought I would share this lovely comment with those who come to this site as friends. This is the kind of anomosity I get, even here, in my own personal writing space. Don’t ya wonder why these kind of people hang around my site, like some kind of zealous rebels looking for excuses to fuel their negativity? Guess my existance is a threat, even 500 miles away. Which says something for being unique. Maybe I’m not the one who feels so unique,- maybe it is others that find me interesting. I don’t  imagine I’m a subject of adulation, but it seems “others”  are urked by the possibility,and they are now intent on knocking their idols off the pedestals they once put them upon. Hey, don’t sweat it, Pal. We stepped down on our accord. I know it pissed a bunch of you off – especially those that were giving us parties and gifts and speaches as we left. Love and hate go hand in hand they say. Considering the people we cared the most for are the ones who reacted the nastiest in our absense, we believe it.  Honestly, does all my talk about roosters and teaching underpriveleged people to read and apple picking and MFA homework and literary interests really seem like fodder this kind of person would be interested in following? If they have such a low opinion of me, why do they visit my site to read what is almost always an essay about life change and discovering country matters. I guess they are only here like a mole, looking for information to undermine their “enemies” – but they are fighting a war that no one recognizes as existing. It’s dance people. Get a real cause to be involved with, like world hunger or animal rights.   You are embarrasing yourself with your obsession on your kids extracirricular activities and dance studio politics.I have written over 6000 words on this blog in the last year. I have printed out notebooks of the material to serve as notes for a memoir my instructors have suggested I work on next.. And in all that, I have written three blogs that address the issue of my school, my dance philosophy and what has conspired in the last year. Yet, that seems to take center stage for these sad individuals who can’t seem to let go. Lord knows, if they have a new teacher now, it is time to start sucking up and resenting them instead of concerning themself with our opinions, and leave Mark and I to our new lives without the peeping tom thing taking up so much of your time. I love that many of our friends and ex-fans visit here. They sends words of encouragement and good wishes. They laugh with me at the absurdity of the world and sometimes they are moved to by the revelations I unwittenly share.  Some friends say my blog encourages them to make change in their lives, because they see that new and different lifestyles can be enriching and an adventure. Some come because they are enthralled with country life and reading about our experiences is the next best thing to moving themselves. Some just come out of mild curosity to see how their old teachers are doing.But, really, why are you here? I canceled one blog I had started because I was so uncomfortable with the following – all these negatifve people were tuning in to make me uncomfortable, but I won’t cancel another. And I won’t censor myself because I know they are out there. But don’t poke the bear with a stick either.        


  7. Jaime Woodman Saunders

    I’m still deciding on what I’d like to post in regards to your blog. Quite frankly, I’m stunned. But right now I’d like to focus on the anonymous comment about narcissism. Is that a dictionary definition? If so, you may want to quote the definition and cite your source. And unless you speak the Queen’s English, you wouldn’t spell “behavior” with a “u.”That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon.


  8. Interesting. This supposed textbook definition of narcissism tends to further the miss-conception that narcissists suffer from self love. In reality, they do not love themselves, they are in love with their own reflection. Very important distinction indeed. And very different consequences when the psychological motivation is considered. Really, even if we are dealing with a classic narcissist what does it matter? Narcissist or not, the goal was always a simple desire to transfer a love and respect for dance to the next generation. How can that possibly be bad?My question to you would be, what is the purpose of this comment? Obviously you have some opinions on the matter, but how does this acerbic remark further the debate? As I often ask my own students, “Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?”Finally, there is an old adage that states, “Praise in public and chastise in private.” If you want to hurl darts publicly, at least have the guts to stand out in the open. Really, show us who you are and make it a fair fight.


  9. Jamie, if you only knew the kick I get out of you being an english professor now. It suits you!But in all fairness, lets not point out spelling errors as proof of someone’s lack of intellect – cause it will sink me, Girl. The more emotional I am, the worse I spell. Ha. This is one personl in a glass house that isn’t about to throw stones at the spelling bee! But thank you for your response.  


  10. I don’t mind spelling errors. And really, “behavior” with a “u” isn’t incorrect by any means. It definitely doesn’t show a lack of intellect. On the contrary, it’s a proper spelling…just not in the States. I just thought it was funny that the anonymous post had British spelling when I’m almost positive that the person posting isn’t from England. The different spelling doesn’t indicate a lack of intellect, but the copied dictionary defintion (the “u” confirmed that) indicates a lack of original thought. That’s all I meant. 🙂


  11. As both a student and a daughter, I think I am of the perfect age to understand both my parents and what they stand for and to look at all parties involved as equals. I am at a time in my life where athority figures no longer hold the power to persuade me into submission and I find that age and status mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of intellect and integrity. Human beings are just animals. Some are instilled with the tools to survive amongst even the most ravonous of beasts, hiding in the shadows to strike at them when they are weakest, and some only know how to get by untill the climate changes and their kind slowly become extinct. I believe I have a one of a kind perspective on FLEX, past present and future. I have been there when parents and/or students huddle in the corner of a room, conspiring for their own gain and with a sure sense that “Mark and Ginny are clueless” to their plans – with no regard for the fact that I am standing 5 feet away. I have heard my parents late at night, thinking of ways to put the fires out while doing the least amount of damage to both their livelyhood, and the students who relied on it and them for guidance. I have news for all – they were NEVER clueless, no matter how far away from the flames. I have read the heartfelt letters from students and parents who did “get it,” and who understood what my parents stand for and what they always tried to teach. Not just movement, but respect for the oldest dance form in the world and for those who keep it alive. Unfortunately, I have also heard the complaints. I have witnessed the “threats” of quitting over costumes, competition scores, or program placement. Such petty things are not necessarily the fault of the dance world today, but the real world today. And it is sad to be a part of a generation torn by integrity and ignorance. Thankfully, I am one of the last “originals.” I am thankful to my Mother and Father the morals and ideals they have instilled in me at home, and for all they have taught me as artists, through dance.My parents are my heros. They posess the tools needed for survival in all walks of life. Sensitivity, integrity, wisdom, strength, humility and forgiveness. I am proud of all they have shared with the world and hope that someday, I can make even a fraction of the difference they have made in the lives of so many. And this is why I make myself known here out in the open, prepared for any vultures lurking in the shadows and with all the tools needed to survive even the pettiest of battles. Thank you Mom and Dad 🙂


  12. Are you SURE you don’t want to go to college to study writing, Honey?  


  13. Well put! You definitely have a handle on figurative language. Too bad I don’t have more students like you. 🙂 Grading papers would actually be enjoyable.


  14. Mark and GinnyI didn’t know how to get in touch with you but I needed to thank you coming back to Flex. It meant a lot to me as a parent that you would take time away from your family and life to help keep things “normal” in such a stressful time. Thank you!


  15. kelly rebenstorf

    ginnyi dont know if you rember me or not but im kelly rebenstorf one of your old students from 12 or 13 years ago i know we have had our ups and downs but i now realize being 24 years old , flex was where i learned how to dance. and even though me and mark at the time could not stand each other he is the one who taught me how to dance. i wish you both the best of luck hope all is well congrats on your new house and dont even worry about childish comments or people who have nothing better with their lives than to make yours miserable. if you need any legal advice believe it or not im finishing up law school so im here if you want, lol. seriously i do wish your entire family the best of luck


  16. I have read and heard enough, sorry YODA, its time to expose this cozening of people.The following are FACTS not opinions I have proof for all written words:Is INTEGRITY desirable? Would you have your child mirror someone who not only has no loyalty but turns on her mentors, the people SHE called her second parents, the very same people who taught her EVERYTHING she knows about dance. A person so cold she can lie to your face and smile doing it, a person who stole money from her employer(yes I have proof), a person who makes up lies and hurtful stories(poor grandma)(myspace)a person who makes promises she knows she can’t keep and never intended to keep, a person who has never run a business, a person who breeches LEGAL contracts, a person who has no talent for choreography so she plagiarizes others, a person who does not have a higher education or training, a person who has no studio and will never will, a person who has little money except yours and theirs.Lets have a pizza party instead of dance training smart choice… ya think, lets have a car wash for my studio instead of dance training, would you have washed cars for Flex (then why now). Let’s go to the beach instead of dance training… so much for being serious dancers is this a social club? Hmmm is this the same social club who’s peers had a questionable pool party on LBK.. giggle WOW! LOOK! OOPS! Isn’t she the same person, not too long ago, you demanded NOT teach your children. Isn’t this the same person, you didn’t want choreographing your dances, isn’t this the same person you didn’t want doing your solos and duets, isn’t this the same person who screwed up the studio, so bad, where she was artistic director she was demoted by people who don’t really know dance. You do realize you and she were the problem! not the owners You do realize everyone that left is now coming back. I have a question for all of you ZERO’s who peruse this blog, can you tell me what has changed? Can you tell me what loyalty you have gained for her since back then, can you tell me what the hell you are thinking! please I would like to know! I really truly don’t understand. Yes she WAS a beautiful technical dancer THAT’S IT!! The new owners of Flex are tooo nice. If it were me she would be and still may be PROSECUTED for breech of contract,slander and theft. Where will you dance then… The rest of her personality traits are just character flaws are you sure you want them to rub off on your kids. Then why do the ZERO’s bash Flex nothing positive to talk about? Why do still you tell people you dance or used to dance at FLEX? CREDIBILITY? Why is a ZERO mom H.A. calling other moms making up lies to get them come be a ZERO student is that the only way you can get students by lying? Ask your teachers why everybody hated Miss ZERO when we were learning dance (little miss tattletale) Zero GD Studio in my opinion is the perfect description of her JCC dance studio, her teachers, her character and her pupils.


  17. HI Ginny, I am a student of Marks from Cardinal Mooney H.S. We also knew the same family….The smiths, Lee and Sara…Well I just found this from a coworker who has her daughter in dance. I just wanted to say Hi to you and mark. The children have gotten so big wow well hope all is well. Your house is beautiful. thanks



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