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CAG Blog: Powered by Optimism

"Powered by Optimism" captures my reflections of life in and around an all-girls' school and highlights the values of C.A.G.: leadership, global citizenship, wellness, and teaching and learning. Underscoring it all is a deeply ingrained sense of optimism that we are preparing a generation of boldly creative women who will help change the world. 


nutcracker lesson- 11.19.13

It is that time of year again – if you have a ballet dancer in your life, you know what I am talking about.

My own 7th grade daughter has been a dancer since she was four, and now, eight years later, I have seen her studio’s production of The Nutcracker countless times, as have her dad, her grandparents, our friends, you name it. 

It has struck me that she and her fellow dancers, aside from the sheer joy of dancing, share life lessons that are reinforced each and every year, with each and every rehearsal.

1. Perseverance

Each year, dancers are required to audition for their parts. The girls take a risk. Each year, there is the potential for some real disappointment, or the sweet surprise of being assigned a plum role. Dealing with the disappointment is, in my mind, the true test of a girl’s grit and determination. Will she drop out before the show because she did not get the role she thought she deserved? Will she stand tall and deliver her part with the discipline and grace of a true artist? Will she come back next year determined to nail her audition so she is set up to land a more technically intricate role?

2. Connection and Collaboration

Rehearsals can be long and boring- they last for hours, and dancers are called to practice their part for relatively short periods of time, if you consider the three- and four-hour stretches they spend at the studio. And yet, I see each year how the girls happily sit around and wait for their turn. They don’t grumble, they don’t resist. Instead, they feel connected to something that is bigger and better than each of them. And as the dancers each contribute their building block to what promises to be a stellar performance, they giggle, they console and they cheer one another on during the long hours they spend together. For girls, this connection is so crucial. It helps them build their own sense of self. I am constantly surprised at the lack of competition among the dancers – for each of them is utterly devoted to the goal of creating another Nutcracker gem. 

3. The power of teachers

After eight years at the same studio, my daughter has come to know her teachers well. They are an extension of her family, in some ways, and as parents, my husband and I entrust so much of her emotional and physical safety to them. We all do – no matter what the circumstance – and whether it is the classroom teacher, or the coach, we hope our child is known, challenged and supported in her every interaction. I am grateful for the teachers who have allowed her to develop as a dancer and an artist, who have understood her strengths and have guided her to overcome her challenges. For girls, being in relationship with strong role models is crucial as they discover the young woman they want to become.

Of course, these lessons can be learned outside of the dance studio. They happen in school classrooms, on the athletic field or on the stage. The possibilities are as varied as the girls with whom we engage. We just have to give them the opportunity.

Posted by on Monday November, 19, 2012

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