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ON THE NEW BUSINESS FRONT

Life is plugging away – some of it good, some of it bad, none of it what I had in mind when I wiped the slate clean to “start over.”Ha.  That is the true definition of life, is it not? Surprise. Frustration. Being endlessly pelted with curve balls and realizing you can’t dodge them all. It’s also the inevitable conclusion of sharing your life with another person. In the end, no two people share exactly the same vision or agenda, and compromise is a forgone conclusion to coupledom. Aye, there’s the rub. You can plan together and agree on things all you want, but when push comes to shove, a time will come when one person pursues their own interest with such tunnel vision intensity they don’t pause to consider how it impacts everyone else.Then, it’s only a matter of time until everybody involved is unhappy and feeling misunderstood, or worse, resentful. But going separate directions is not a malicious thing – just a result of the subtle differences in each individual’s heart and mind about how life should be approached. What ya gonna do? You can’t change the inherent priorities in someone else’s world. Life’s complicated. Marriage is complicated. Trying to meet the needs of opposing dreams within one family is complicated. Fact. But compromise and disappointmentis not what this blog is about.  Think of that paragraph as a vague apology for my lapsed writing. I’ve become an absentee blogger. I’m sorry.

So, I thought I’d talk a bit about my new business today.  Happily, I can report its gaining steam steadily. Some days the classes feel empty and I get depressed,wondering why the heck I opened a new business and started planting permanent roots in a place that presents such obstacles due to small-town cultural and financial restraints. Other days, the energy is fantastic, the rooms are filled with kids or the yoga loft is packed with lovely adults who all seem intelligent and open and I feel this overwhelming sense of purpose and right place.  This is my authentic work, and if I have to have a job at all, this should be it. In truth, teaching and running a dance and/or arts school isn’t just a job, but a career that I’ve prepared for through many, many years of study, commitment and experience. Not like I could work at Home Depot or in an office and ever feel at ease. So, I am back in a studio, my mind filled with memories of 32 years of teaching in different situations and places and considering what I learned from each one.Meanwhile,I wrestle with ideas and plans for long-term program development for this particular dance studio go-round. Most days, I feel pretty positive about it.

 The FLEX Art Center is probably one of the loveliest school’s I’ve ever had the good fortuneto run. It is not only classy and well equipped, but the atmosphere and the people that gather here create a very positive ambiance. You can feel the good energy building each week and so far, all my customers are thrilled with just about everything. In fact, I’ve not heard a single complaint thus far. Amazing.  Everyone believes the school will take off next season, and they’re probably right. The dance parents I have now constantly express gratitude and delight over the training and organization of the school, while the Yoga students thank me constantly for creating this wonderful place where they can gather with like-minded individuals to grow and express themselves. They are sharing news of the school with others and although people react slowly in the country and take their time checking things out, FLEX is getting a great reputation. People are talking, and every thing they’re saying is good, I’m told.

 I enjoy going into work each day. I arrive early and plug in a 5-gallon pot of tea water, then go to the loft and light candles and prepare a reading or poem for my yoga class. Next, I go downstairs and clean. I Windex the observation windows and front door and make sure the bathroom is clean, then putter in the studios, organizing. It’s been years since I’ve had to clean my own school, but I don’t mind. Its quiet and meditative and I take great pride in making the place feel clean and welcoming. People gather in the lobby to share a cup of tea before or after class, or sometimes a yoga student will fix a drink in a to-go cup and pause a few minutes at the front desk to talk before taking off to handle the rest of their day. Since learning about a student’s stresses and physical challenges is important to my role as yoga teacher, I truly listen. I’m engaged with their lives and I feel an intimate connection with so many new people now. This honest communication leaves a calm feeling of goodwill and friendship in the air.  Always wanted that in a school.

 In the meantime, the school has been officially opened (taking registration) for 6 weeks and with 50 dance students and an equal number of yoga students that stop by for class one to three times a week, I can pay all the overhead and the salary for my full time employee (Denver). Every day, new students wander in for both divisions of the school, so it is obvious I’m on the upward slope.  In fact, if things continue progressing as they are I’ll need to expand the yoga loft. I can double its size if I extend the floor, so the upstairs will become a huge second floor rather than a loft. This would not only allow space for more students, but also offer much needed quiet and more flexibility in regards to scheduling. When dance classes are going on downstairs, the noise of jazzy music and excited kids floats up, which as you can imagine, totally kills the peace and quiet needed to present a powerful yoga experience. I’d love to close off the space. Then there is the fact that some nights I’m squeezing 15 students (with their long yoga mats) into a space that is really more comfortable with 12. Yes, expanding would be fantastic. But then again, some classes have only three or four students,and most of my classes this year have been carefully scheduled to begin before or after dance classes take place.  I don’t want to spend more money on leasehold improvements than necessary for a space I don’t own – so I’ll make do.  Still, I’ve got a three-year lease, so expansion is probably inevitable in the future. Guess I’ll take that one-day at a time.

I spend a great deal of my time alone at the studio. It ispeaceful.  Mark teaches a teen hip-hop class and two classes for our teen boys (acro and hip hop) two evenings a week.  He had a few ballet classes on the schedule for adults and teens, but we are canceling them due to the pain this creates in his hips.  He really can’t dance at all anymore, and teaching is very physically painful for him, so he wants out. This is hard for me to accept because he is so remarkably talented. I watch his class, awed as always, and this more than anything else makes me miss the old days – how I loved the artistic exchange we shared. It is glorious to see him work his magic with dancers.  But his body has made it clear he is meant to do something else now and other than these few classes, he’s not much involved in this school, although he did help me slap together a quick website, ordered some brochures for me online and helped plan a magazine ad. Yes, I’m still a total dink regarding self- sufficiency in areas of technology and that is a real bother for Mark. I know he gets annoyed when I ask for help of any kind, so, I’m learning to fudge my way through things. I’m now tackling the set up of QuickBooks. I took a class on the dang program, yet still, being in charge of it intimidates me. Gee, you know you’re an old
fart when you long for simpler days when a pencil and graph paper is how you did your accounting.

Anyway, I’m pretty much left to myself to teach, market, organize, and run the school as Mark continues with his real estate business. Even though I began as a solo studio owner, that has been weird for me– a total adjustment regarding studio management. Being on my own often makes me sad, but then I remind myself returning to dance and evolving into a yoga teacher was something I wanted. I must remind myself that wanting help is more about habit and feeling isolated, than need. And the truth is, I’m not alone. I couldn’t have accomplished this first year without Denver. She is so mature now- an amazing dance teacher who understands the vision of the school as well as the syllabus and systems, and her involvement has made all the difference in the world. From day one, the people in this town are being introduced to an authentic FLEX. Meanwhile, Denver is also mid way through her own yoga training– something she was dying to do, so I agreed to pay for her training, not only because the school could use another yoga instructor, but because I wanted her to enjoy the experience for personal growth. Now, she’s starting to hang out in the evenings to do hands-on assisting (correcting people) as I teach yoga, and she’s a natural. It’s a fantastic thing for everyone – her, the FLEX students and me. She is happy and growing as an individual, helping her mom in an important way, and soon she’ll be certified and can sub yoga classes as well add a few classes of her own to the schedule – a path to her own individual growth.    I seriously doubt she’d ever have learned just how gifted a teacher she is at the old FLEX. There, it was too easy to take a backseat to other, more experienced teachers and to ride on the FLEX reputation and her position as daughter of the king and queen of the empire. We needed this time alone, a fresh start, and the challenge of beginning from scratch to truly unearth her creativity and communication and organizational skills. And she has. She is remarkable and I’m so proud of her.

 I should point out that Neva is no slouch either. In a fewshort months, her dancing has blossomed. She is beautiful and probably one of the best performers I’ve had the joy to work with in ages. Can’t wait to see where that goes. But she kicks in and helps us as an assistant. Yes, the new FLEX is definitely a Hendry girls’ project, and that is quite lovely too. Kent graces the door only for the two hours a week he is there with his friends taking class. He is strong and skilled and my heart sort of breaks when I see his latent potential, but a little acro and hip hop for fun is enough dance for him so that’s that. But. Man, his legs are long and straight and he has these great feet and a gorgeous back and such style and . . . sigh. 

 Of course, good classes aren’t enough to get a new business off the ground. First, you have to get students in the door so they know what they’re missing and we’ve been working like a demon to that end. Since we didn’t seem to have any preschoolers enrolled, I volunteered to teach at the local head-start preschool. Every other Friday I go in and teach 7 classes in arow for 135 preschoolers ages 3-4. Whew. It knocks me out, but you can bet I’m making people aware of FLEX ‘s strong children’s program. Next, Denver and I offered to teach a Girl Scout party so a troop could get their dance badges, but instead of one troop coming, the leader announced it to all the scouts at a bingo fundraiser, and we ended up with 47 scouts showing up for this wild dance awareness session. I was in one room with the older girls doing partner hip-hop with Neva, and Denver was in the other, doing a dance with backlights. We gathered everyone together for the lecture and then closed with some shadowdancing.  Parents were milling about, reading everything, picking up brochures, looking at pictures and articles on the walls, awed. The kids went wild. Needless to say, that evening was extremely successful.  And people talk . . .

 Now, this weekend, we are hosting an in-house Halloween party, just like the early days of FLEX in Florida. I built a gigantic shadowscreen out of PVC pipe and a queen size sheet (I spent an afternoon with supplies I dragged to the studio from home depot, along with one hand saw and a vague idea of how to accomplish the feat. Lots of cussing ensued, but I made abigger and better shadow screen than the one I had in the previous school (and much less expensive).  Denver decorated the studios with blowup pumpkins and skeletons (all in dance positions, I might ad) and we passed out hundreds of invitations. We are expecting at least a hundred kids tomorrow night, with an earlier party for the little ones ages 3-6 before hand. Eek. We are blowing up balloons, serving cake and treats, and have an art room set up in the yoga loft for kids to make masks. Downstairs, we have plans for shadow dancing, dancing with flashlights, backlight dancing, and much more. We even have a short show and plans to light up a stage area for it.  Hopefully, we’re ready! I’ll let you know how it goes.

 Next weekend, Blue Ridge has their huge Halloween bashdowntown. Since cabins in the mountains make door-to-door trick or treating impossible, local businesses set up tables to give out candy to area kids downtown. The merchants’ organization sponsors a costume contest and other fun activities,and thousands of people gather for the festivities. Um. Big celebration, you say? We’re there. We are setting up a booth and giving out candy attached to“free class” postcards with school information – pixie sticks for kids and chocolate for parents (on a yoga card). I made huge banners so people know who we are every time we dance, because yes, we are also dancing at the festivities. Denver and I choreographed a few numbers with some of our classes,and they turned out surprisingly good considering we only have new, beginner dancers to work with. We went with strong gimmicks, of course. She did a dance with stools, and I did a dance that involved the dancers using huge posters of their faces (had a photographer make a very artsy black and white pix as a prop which we blew up and put on foamcore) and it turned out  visually dynamic. Denver and I are even dancing together in the show, a ploy to make sure people associate strong dance to the school. We threw together this very fast, wild tap number to Ghost busters (a tan jump suit equipped with a ghost-bustingbackpack that shoots silly string into the audience is about as serious as I plan to get if I’m going onstage at 50.) Two dancing ghosts (kids moving in a stretchybag, enter midway through and we do some partner work with them. It’s funny and cute and greatly entertaining. It’s been a kick dancing with Denver and I must say, all time off aside, we’re still a strong tap team. We have compatible style, equal technique and a shared sense of humor. Our downfall is we laugh too much at ourselves when practicing.

 Of course all this extra activity takes a great deal of effort, but that’s the path to introducing the town to the new FLEX Arts Center in a way that will set the right tone for the school. Creating fun energy is very important to the general atmosphere. What I miss most about the old FLEX isn’t the accomplished dancers or success of the business.  I just miss the laughter and playfulness that made going to work inspirational.  That is something I plan to recreate.       

 Beyond that, I should point out that I’m not trying to make this FLEX a copy of the former one – just wanting to hold on to certain positive elements I was always proud of. But I’m different now and so this school has to be different,with different goals and influences. For example, next month begins my “Journaling for Deeper Awareness” class. I’ve wanted to teach a writing class ever since I graduated, so I put together a concept and offered a 6-week session in the yoga newsletter. Sure enough, people signed up. I’m so delighted. I’ll be teaching journaling techniques and an introduction to memoir writing in November, and hopefully, this will be a beginning, which will lead to many other writing courses. You can bet I could never have made the yoga and writing courses work in Sarasota– FLEX was too established and people had certain expectations for the school that made everyone resistant to our branching out in a totally different direction. Here, I’m wide open to new options and a different school vision – and this vision is kinder, more heartfelt and definitely more committed to personal enrichment for students than before – in the past, we killed ourselves to meet the demands of insatiable parents that seemed driven by ego and a desire to pursue things that deep down, we didn’t feel was good for the growth and development of young people.   The truth is, the school grew so big that it took on a life of it’s own, and with so many people involved in the process of training, each with their own agenda and concept of what theater and dance education should be all about despite our training, the school grew into an institution that was no longer a good fit for the Hendry’s.  I guess everything in life has its time and place and we recognized when our influence was no longer having impact. Change is a part of life. Sad, but beautiful too.

 Anyway, I have a new business demanding my time and energy,but it sure does make me feel alive and connected to my roots. It offers me a chance to explore new sides of my personality while also honoring my past – and this makes it a very special project.

Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to reopen the KIDDANCE Company and planning new products for dance teachers as well as an on-line newsletter of creative dance concepts, just to assure financial stability for the school. I feel I have to balance out the limitations from being in a small town, I guess.  I am also seriously contemplating more education (no I am NOT an education junkie – but as I branchout and expand my awareness, I can’t help but feel compelled to learn more about my new field.)

Ready for this? This time, I’m looking into massage therapy.There is a weekend program in Atlanta (one of the best schools in the country) that will lead to full certification after 17 months (eek – that is a long time to give up weekends and take on homework, not to mention embracing another student loan) but I would learn everything about massage therapy and holistic healing – from Swedish massage and shiatsu, to nutrition, pressure point acupuncture,and about a dozen therapeutic massage techniques. So, I’m toying with the idea. I plan to visit the facility next week. Becoming a certified massage therapist would help me expand the healing arts division of this school and give me a skill that would support me if ever I should need a different career. The factis, I’m not going to be able to dance forever, and while I can always be a school director, the recent period of time when I didn’t own a business of my own taught me that my work related skills are pretty narrow. I have a degree in business and all, but when push comes to shove, I’ve never held a regular job, so what good would I be to any company but my own? I would feel more secure if I was trained to do something else, just in case I ever needed or wanted different employment. Massage therapy is a very compatible career with yoga and dance, and it’s something you can do part time or in semi-retirement.  It’s a well paid sideline or full time job, and it offers flexibility and freedom – something I’ve learned is necessary for me to be happy. Even if the training just leads me to adding massage to the school services, and I later hire someone else to do the actual massages, being certified would help me understand quality care so I’d know how to best incorporate this division of an arts and holistic health enter – it would help me know who to hire, understand state laws etc… And face it, I’mf ascinated with the human body and how it works and I’m all about organic healing now . . . I’d love to someday have a big health-oriented center that includes art and dance and organic classes and services like meditation, yoga,and writing for personal growth.  Add to this the fact that I love connecting with people, love TOUCHING people, (and I’m told I have a great touch, don’t ya know) and love learning new things and well – it seems a natural fit. But I still have to give more school thought – gotta consider how such a choice would impact everyone else . . ya da, ya da. (Eating my own words, now, aren’t I?) And if the dance division of the school takes off, will I really have the strength to turn away to attend to other interests? At the heart, I am and always will be a dancer first.  This took 50 years to learn, but it’s true.

So that’s the big picture overview on my new biz.

I’m sorry I don’t write much anymore. My life has been inturmoil for the last 18 months or so, so I’ve chosen to lay off blogging. Somewhere along the way I reached a place where I instantly fall into this gut level of honesty when writing, which means that its best I keep my thoughts private when things are rough. No reason to aggravate my soul any more than necessary or to share my stresses with the world. Heck, the world has enough stress of it’s own that it doesn’t need my complaints floating out there in cyberspace.  I haven’t written a thing really in a long, long while – creativity shuts down when you feel badly. But I’m guessing, with the journaling class coming up, I’ll be writing more and feeling more positive, so that means I can return to light subject blogging as well – yes, more about turkeys and ducks and country adventures.  Of course, my blogs will always be too long and too mixed regarding subject matter to be an easy read or to gain a good following. But hey, I like it that way. It means only a few good friends will suffer through them and bother to return now and again.

 So, considering that, let me send you a smile and a shrug.

Life. Go figure.  Ya just gotta roll with it.

It is what it is.

Never perfect, but at least it is always interesting . . .

 

Until next time . . .    

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

3 responses »

  1. It would have been willing)

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  2. It would have been willing)

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