THE DANCE STUDIO OWNER’S SECRET WEAPON

student profiles Mar 20, 2021

“I’ll be back in a minute,” Terri says and quickly escapes to her office. Once inside she instantly breaks down in big silent sobs and with a floodgate of pent-up shame.

Just 30 seconds earlier, in the lobby of her own dance studio, the Mom of a competition dancer outright told Terri she should probably decline the opportunity to represent the studio in an upcoming TV spot because “you know, TV adds weight and we really want to make a good impression.”

Shame honestly has no pity. It is a stubborn, unkind, relentless, entangled web of emotion that oozes with anger, embarrassment, and self-loathing. It gags us when we don’t address it.

Hidden in her office, Terri wept to herself, How did this happen? When did I let this happen?

The full-length mirror in her office had long been obscured by bright costumes, a pair of leg warmers, her winter jacket, and some weird green prop that really needed to be taken back to the storage room.

In a sudden, impulsive swipe, Terri cleared off the mirror and faced her shame. Never-mind her mascara-streaked face. Just look at that body.

Once a beautiful, petite ballerina, now she was at least 50 lbs overweight. Maybe 60. When did this happen?

Had her best friend been sitting with her, she would have said something kind, like, “Well, sweetie, you work ALL THE TIME! You run this studio, manage the competition schedule, deal with all the parents, you don’t even get home until 11:00 pm at night!  You don’t have a darn second to yourself!”

Miss Shame argued right back that being a fat dance studio owner is like being a dentist with rotten teeth! Or a hair stylist with a bad cut.  She may as well be a real estate agent who lives in a shack! Here, our bodies are our fortunes, and they are supposed to help advertise the healthy lifestyles we sell! It was utterly embarrassing.

And the worst part, the day Miss Shame dreaded the most, was the Spring Recital when she had to walk out onstage to welcome the audience and thank the parents. Last year Miss Shame was so embarrassed that she made her assistant do it.

Through thin walls Terri heard Jayne’s Mom leave. Good. Can’t deal with her now.

Looking in the mirror at her double chin, her arms, her belly, her legs, Terri felt overwhelmed by the prospect of clawing herself back into shape.

What am I going to do? Put on a muumuu and take ballet class?

Impossible and daunting! She was much too embarrassed to be seen in class at her own studio.

The lobby door opened and Terri could hear her receptionist’s cheery greeting. Someone had stopped by to ask about adult dance classes, and Andrea was handling it just fine.

A few moments later Terri wiped her dark tears away, put on a happy studio face, and emerged from the safety of her office just as the inquiring dancer was leaving with a copy of the Fall schedule.

“She was asking whether we had a class called “The Dancer’s Workout,” Andrea reports. “She says it’s an adult fitness class for intermediate ballet dancers. I told her we don't have it, but I actually think we’ve been getting emails from them. Doesn’t that sound familiar?”

“Did she sign up for Sandy’s ballet class?" Terri inquires. Or the 8pm jazz class?”

“No, she’s really looking for The Dancer’s Workout classes. I gave her our schedule anyway and told her she’d really love Toni’s class, but she didn’t bite.”

Carrying the weird green prop to the storage room in the back, Terri vaguely remembers the emails Andrea mentioned. The Dancer’s Workout – something about a beach – Oh! Treasure Chest Tuesdays, they called it, or something like that. Terri had been ignoring those emails for the past few weeks, with so much going on lately between the upcoming competition, the regular classes, needing to hire a new ballet teacher, and needing to cast the Spring Recital…

That night when Terri arrived home, her husband was in an irritated snit because someone had stolen a package off the front porch. Dave was now on a mission to order a video surveillance system. “It’ll be my SECRET WEAPON if somebody thinks they can steal off our porch again. I’ll catch them!”

It took only three days for the video system to arrive. The morning of its arrival Terri had a few minutes before she needed to start working on her audition and casting plans for the Spring Recital.

She took a quick peek on Instagram – There’s The Dancer’s Workout again!

This time she clicked the video and watched them dance for a minute, then clicked on the link in the Instagram profile to learn more about them. The webpage said these classes were “not for beginners and not for pros” but for the “para-professional dancer” who wants to use their ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance training to get back into “tip-top dancer’s shape.”

Well, I certainly don’t have time to take these classes, she says to herself. And then Miss Shame shoved that mirror image back into her head, urging Terri to continue scrolling through the webpage.

It says these classes were featured in Dance Magazine. Click. Scroll. Yup. There it is. Hmm.

She next clicked on the SAMPLE CARDIO SONG and watched it. I could do that, she thought…

The next morning *bing* in her inbox appeared The Dancer’s Workout TREASURE CHEST TUESDAY email with the subject line, “Be a Walking Advertisement for your Studio.”

“UGH!” She groaned. “I can’t get away from it! Maybe this is a sign… Maybe this is what I am supposed to do…”

As she started clicking, her skeptical inner dialogue began: “It mentions something about “bikini bootcamp,” what is that? Toning exercises. I thought this was ballet. Oh wait, it’s ballet, jazz, and contemporary for the first 45 minutes, then 15 minutes of toning and stretching at the end. Okay, I could do that. But I don’t want anyone to see me do it. Maybe I could do it at home since it’s a virtual program.

And with the same impulsive swipe that initially allowed her to face Miss Shame in the mirror, she signed up for the complimentary 21-day trial.

Her inner dialogue continued: It’s for current and former dancers. I’m a current dancer, sorta. I’ll just watch the video for the current dancer and see if I should start there. The class is called ‘Second Chances.’ How ironic.

Watched it.

I’m good with the choreography, she thought. But I would get really out of breath. I couldn’t do the full hour. Hell, who am I kidding, I couldn’t even do 20 minutes! Okay, I’ll start with the Dancer Restarter Program. It has less cardio and more toning exercises. I’ll start with that and take it up from there.

And so her journey with TDW began, six months prior to the Annual Spring Recital…

*******

“Dave, hurry, we’re going to be late,” Terri calls out to her husband. Seems every time they were getting ready to leave the house he was fiddling around with that video camera and making sure his “secret weapon” was working properly. In his defense, the video surveillance equipment did actually catch the package snatcher several months ago…

“Welcome everyone to our Annual Spring Recital. We are delighted to have you here with us tonight and to dedicate tonight’s show to all the parents who have made this year possible…”

Standing on stage, draped in a gorgeous, red, form-fitting A-line dress, Terri finishes her Annual Recital introduction to thunderous applause! As she steps back into the wings and heads toward the dressing rooms, Jayne’s Mother (Miss Rude, you might recall) runs up, gushing with enthusiasm, “Terri, girl, you look so beautiful tonight! How much weight have you lost? I mean seriously! You are just radiant! How did you do it?”

Ironically, it appeared Miss Rude had put on a few pounds herself and perhaps she was seeking assistance with this.

Terri thought for a moment about how she had become a member of The Dancer’s Workout® Virtual Retreat and how she had squeezed in a class a day, every single day, for the past six months. Some days she’d made herself wake up at 6:00 am to get her class in; some days, when time got away from her, she’d started class at 11:00 pm; but most days she did her one-hour virtual class mid-day before she left for the studio. She’d started eating better too, and the weight just fell off of her.

She hesitated for a vindictive second and then confessed, “Honestly I started dancing again,” Terri answered. “I joined an adult dance fitness program called The Dancer’s Workout® and I started taking daily classes.”

Driving home that night she told Dave about the exchange and he asked, “So did you tell her how you lost the weight?”

“I did! You know I felt I owed it to her since, honestly, it was her snide comment that got me started.”

“Well… you were a lot nicer about it than I would have been. You know how I feel about it.”

Terri glanced at him with a puzzled look, as if to say, I have no idea how you feel about it.

He shrugged and said with a smile, “Everybody needs a SECRET WEAPON. I have mine, and you have yours.”

She giggled as they turned into the driveway, imagining Miss Shame scurrying away alongside the package bandit, and knowing her husband was certainly right.

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 Jules Szabofounder of The Dancer’s Workout® (TDW) is a classically trained ballerina from the UNC School of the Arts and former corporate executive who helps busy working women, mothers, and empty nesters rediscover their love of dance. She specializes in the para-professional dancer (adult dancers who are not beginners and not professionals who simply love dance over most other forms of exercise). Featured in Dance Magazine and Good Housekeeping as one of the best dance programs online, The Dancer's Workout® classes were designed to provide former dancers an emotionally and physically safe path back to dance and to help current adult dancers and dance instructors achieve their daily fitness goals through dance. If you are a current or former dancer, you are invited to come dance with us.

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