Spring has sprung! Time to exercise!

The unconditional love of dogs....

Love, unselfishness, integrity, sincerity, loyalty to one's best, honesty, enthusiasm, humility, goodness, happiness, fun. Practically every animal still has these assets in abundance and is eager to share them, given opportunity and encouragement. ~J. Allan Boone

Frozen in fear of the unknown....

How many times have you not done something because you feared failure?

On Friday, while speaking with a student, I realized I have feared failure more times than I have taken risks.

I feared being rejected at dance auditions, so I didn't try as much as I could have. I feared being away from home, so I went to college only one hour away. I feared loneliness, so I stayed in relationships that were not healthy. I feared not being accepted, so I acted in a different way to make people like me.

Of course, now that I am at the ripe old age of 26, I am clearly much more mature and brave than I was in my early 20s. **wink.wink**

Really, what I think has changed my personality has been this economic recession. Like the song goes, "It's the end of the world as we know it". Like many young people of my generation, I put my conventional dreams of marriage, family and home ownership on the back burner in order to pay off debt and student loans. It's the end of the era when things were easy; when things were more or less guaranteed. For example: Get good grades in school, get a scholarship. Get to know your professors, get a good recommendation. Get a good recommendation, get a good job.

For young professionals today, we're told to have an internet presence; twitter, LinkedIn, tumblr, blogs, etc. Network with "power people", expand our horizons, learn new languages, move to new cities, meet new people, put ourselves "out there" and eventually a job will be had. Maybe not the career you studied for, but a job that will at least keep Sallie Mae at bay for a little bit of time.

I took a leap "out there" alright! My current situation is not the romantic notion I had as a child of what it meant to be an adult. I definitely never pictured myself living in China. However, coming to Shanghai has definitely put my life and personality into perspective. Everyday I feel as though I am at a dance audition, being judged based on a whole multitude of cultural perspectives. In a city that moves as fast as Shanghai, it's necessary to improvise, to be alert, and to think on your feet. I hold fast to my training in dance to help keep me sane, fit, and interested in the culture around me. I may not be on So You Think You Can Dance, but I dance well enough to inspire others, which means a lot. I feel like I am paying forward all of the training I received from my own teachers.

I choose to be friends with people here who bring me up, not down. They all have their own stories of struggle, strife and triumph. I suppose the transient nature of expat life and mixture of so many different cultures has made my personality more adaptable, and also has reduced my dependence on other people and relationships, which may sound negative, but it's actually a good thing. It means that I can focus on myself and my own needs, and when it's time to socialize and/or travel, I reconnect with the people who mean(t) something to me. After all, every connection is for a reason, a season or a lifetime. It's really been a liberating experience to be very independent and know I can live in any city, any experience, with various types of people.

Long term, I know these experiences are once in a lifetime opportunities, and I'm glad I had my eyes and ears open to them in the first place. It sounded so ironic to tell my student on Friday how scared I was back when I was 18 to go to college down in Maryland or Virginia, "so far away" from everything familiar to me in New York. But I also find it ironic when my friends tell me I'm "crazy" to live overseas or say they wish they had the "courage" to do the same.

At the end of the day, humans are animals; mammals to be exact. Animals in the wild don't put on a suit and drive to work, sit in traffic, get stressed out, get yelled at, come home, get yelled at some more, deal with family drama, live in the same town for forty years, etc. etc. These standards have been created by society, and although they are unnatural, people conform to them day in, day out, year after year. They conform to these systems of materialism and capitalism so they have enough money to buy their flat screen television, and sit in front of laptops, shutting themselves off from the very people around them. Animals don't use technology; they communicate face to face. Our society has lost something, and it's called compassion and spirit of adventure.

I am inspired by people who are not frozen in fear of the unknown. I am inspired by people who take life by the horns and influence compassionate change for the improvement of mankind. I am inspired by people who don't settle in a situation, but rather constantly seek solutions and improvements. Please watch "Small Voices: The Children of Cambodia", to be inspired by the work that volunteers are doing to help the destitute in Cambodia.

With this movie in mind, I offered this advice to my friend who's going through some personal and professional troubles right now:

dude you're very fortunate you live in america
you speak english
you have access to a normal toilet
you have access to clean water and clean air
the little things that count

keep ya head up
things will get better if you make them better.

PEACE and HAPPINESS to everyone! Think of other people before you think of yourself!

Week #28 in Shanghai

This week my 6th grade class continued their dance unit. Last week we explored breath, levels, mood, twisting, bending, reaching, and stretching in creative movement/modern dance concepts. The students also worked in groups and created sequences of movement that depicted one of the four zodiac elements (air, water, fire and earth). At the end, the students guessed which elements the groups were attempting to depict, and described what qualities made their sequences the most interesting to watch. It was a great experience to watch the shy students express their emotions and feelings in a new way. I really came to understand how the students felt and thought based on the way they moved their bodies and in the way they described their artistic process.

This week the sixth grade class is working on two tap dance combinations. One, in spirit of the rainy Shanghai weather, "Singing in the Rain", and the other, "42nd Street", from the Broadway musical of the same name. We are also working on a stomp/rhythmic combination in anticipation of hip-hop dance next week.

My 5th grade and 7/8th grade classes are working on the rock wall. We have our daily Super Monkey challenge where students move vertically up the wall to touch the black line, and climb back down to have their two feet on the mat as many times as they can in two minutes. In order to win the Super Monkey (stuffed animal) award, they need to scale the wall 30 times. Many of the students have been improving quickly, going from only five times in two minutes, to 15 or 16 times in two minutes! We've also been practicing our flag up/flag down relay, along with adding climbing obstacles for the students to climb over (or around, as some of the less skilled climbers tried to do).

Most exciting for the students has been the Super Mario Brothers climbing activity, where they attempt to collect as many coins and "lives" as they can for the duration of the game theme song. I'll also be introducing a "50 states" climbing game, and I would love to try to incorporate Mount Rushmore somehow since the students are learning about it in their history classes, but I have to find a vendor to enlarge photos of the Presidents for me!

St. Patrick's Day in Shanghai

I joined the Western bubble of expats gathered at O'Malley's Irish Pub in the French Concession to celebrate St. Patty's day with Guiness, green beer and leprechaun outfits. It was a great day/night of eating, drinking and dancing. My friends especially liked the green streamer wigs I bought for their birthdays. In fact, another lady loved their wigs so much that she bought ONE for 750rmb ($119!) when I originally only paid 32rmb ($5). Needless to say, we were happy with our [free] drinks for the rest of the night!! :)