From Spider-Webbed to Dance Party-ing: 4 Lessons to get Unstuck

A few years ago I discovered one of my super powers: 

Family Dance Parties.

Now I'm no stranger to Dance Parties.  I've hosted many over the years.  Some lasted hours and others only one song.  They've de-stressed me in traffic, cured a rough day, turned a funk into silliness and laughter.  Dance parties have helped me find forgiveness, courage, and love when journaling or talking it out came up short.  

The power of a dance party is strong.  

Because the super power of a dance party is that when I'm feeling stuck, a dance party can be the tool that gets me unstuck.

And a few years ago, Dance Parties helped me unstick a problem I was having with my kids classes.  Most of my classes were for the pre-school age group: 3-5 year olds.  At the end of each session, we would have a recital.  2 minutes or less for each kid to get up on stage and perform a dance we'd spent weeks and weeks working on.  The problems?

    - My classes were based in creative dance and used exploration & creativity as the foundation for learning.  Teaching a dance that I made up to Pre-Schoolers felt completely out of alignment with my teaching philosophy.  

    - Most Pre-Schoolers don't want to spend weeks and weeks memorizing and rehearsing a dance, they want to explore and play and move.  

    - I didn't want to spend precious class time rehearsing either.  Especially since it felt like everyone was learning way more about dance & movement during the other parts of our class.

    - I hated that if a student was too shy or scared to get on stage, they missed their chance to celebrate what they'd learned during the session.  

So instead of recitals, I started having Dance Parties.  A celebratory event where each child could dance for an hour with their loved ones, sharing their favorite parts of dance class and experiencing the joy of movement together.  Plus a chance for each class to "show & share" something they'd been working on in a low-key, low-stress way.  Want to get up and show your stuff?  Great!  Not ready for that step?  No worries, we'll all be on our feet moving together again in a minute.

It was pretty good stuff.  And then a parent said "This was so much fun.  I wish we could do this every weekend!"

Me too.  I was having a blast.  So I started to wonder - can this happen more often?   Can it be for all families with young children, not just as a "graduation" event?

And that's when the sticky spider web started to trap me. 

I started reaching out to schools about bringing dance parties to their students and received no answers.  

I looked for places with the right kind of space but found rental rates were WAY high and felt too risky.

I attempted to partner with other local businesses but they either felt what I wanted to do didn't align with their mission or they were afraid my event would be competition for their business.

Self doubt started to creep in.  I wanted for this to happen so badly but what if I wasn't ready?  What if there was no way to do it without having it cost a ton of money?  What if people weren't actually interested?  

What if? What if? What if?

Threads of slippery silk spinning around and around.  I was stuck.

Lucky for me, a timely distraction showed up.  My friend Shawn was working tirelessly to find funding for 3 girls to attend their summer dance programs.  I wanted to help and said if we could find the space, I'd be happy to teach a Family Dance Party as a fundraiser.  

Lesson # 1 in getting unstuck: Lead with service.

Now I was working on something bigger than me.  Shawn was taking care of a lot of the details, but I was sending her any suggestions I could think of to connect her to someone with a space we could use.  And I was telling everyone I could think of that this party was happening.  

Shawn found space -  through Ellyzabeth Adler and Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble.  This came as a shock to me because I've known Ellyzabeth for years; teaching after school programming through Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble was one of my first Chicago jobs and played a huge part in my teaching artist career & philosophy.

Lesson #2 in getting unstuck: Ask people you already know.  A solution might be right under your nose. 

The fundraiser party was a huge success.  Guests had a blast.  The feedback was clear: this Family Dance Party thing needs to be happening more often.  Ellyzabeth and I talked - she was open to hosting more parties if I was interested in teaching them.  

I was over the moon excited.   And then I had to teach myself how to put together an event series.  Planning out dates and themes and writing descriptions and stumbling my way through event promotion and marketing.  There was so much more to it then I originally imagined and every time I turned around it felt like I was discovering more steps (and more tasks) that needed to be completed before we'd be ready to launch.  

Lesson #3 in getting unstuck: Adopt the mantra "I don't know how to do this but something inside me does." (Thanks Paul Williams & Tracey Jackson)

And now, here we are.  A full schedule of monthly Family Dance Parties is on the calendar for the 2016-17 school year.  The first one, Spooky Spectacular, is happening THIS Saturday!


 I'm working on getting the word out to everyone I can think of.  My creative juices have been flowing, thinking up fun new Halloween themed creative dance activities to teach.  I'll show up on Saturday morning ready to party.  But more than that I'll show up ready to learn.  Because there's no way I'm giving up on this Family Dance Party thing.  I'm ready to do whatever it takes to make this a huge success.  Which leads me to

Lesson #4 in getting unstuck: Persistence is key.  Dream.  Take action.  Pay attention to what's working (and what's not).  Refine.  Repeat.  

I'm definitely not stuck anymore.  Bye Bye spider web (well, until Saturday's party where we'll be making & dancing through a giant stretchy web!)  Now I'm using the lessons I learned to move me into momentum (and prevent a return to the web).  

When was the last time you got stuck?  What was the top lesson you learned that helped you get unstuck?  Share your stories in the comments  below.  I want to hear about your courage & creativity in getting out of the web!