Monday, July 30, 2012

Stop! Older Dancer Crossing...

One thing was for sure.  I was going to escape during the kids’ nap. 

But, Mani/pedi or ballet class?

Let’s see:
Mani/pedi - $50 (Really, Chi-town? In NYC a fab mani/pedi is only $25)
Ballet class - $0  (Hallelujah, faculty comp!)

And then there was the fact that the other day Mr. R asked me if I had a baby in my belly.  And I was lying down.  You rip yourself down the middle for these kids, and three years later they're calling you Fatty Boombalatty.  

Ballet it was. 

I left not as early as I should have, but not late so that I had to drive like a bat out of hell. I found a parking spot quickly and dashed in the studio to register and change, still with ten minutes to spare. 

I had time for some quick hip opening exercises to get my rotators firing, my pelvis properly situated, and my core engaged. For someone who in one month would enter the category known as Dancers over 40, I was feeling pretty good.  The correct muscles were turned on.  And mentally, I wasn’t worried about who was in class, feeling intimidated or dismissive. 

The class, taught by a friend of mine, was one of those classes for a blend of ballet students: young students looking to keep in shape over the weekend, workaday folks looking for an artistic workout, former advanced students and pros looking to keep dance in their lives, and older dancers like me, sporadic class takers looking for something that would injure neither body nor spirit.

Even though my vehicle felt in good shape, less than a minute into pliés, the first hubcap flew off.  My shoulder was BURNING, and I wished I’d had a crane to lift it to high fifth.

I knew too much blogging, texting, lifting kids and driving like I was trying to stick my face through the windshield had jacked up my shoulder.  The only way to get my arm up was to employ some kind of heave-ho motion where I threw my right shoulder in and down and jerked it up over my head.


I began wondering how I was going to do center.  Should I leave after barre, get myself a big ol’ box of ho-hos, go home and sit on the sofa and stuff myself?  Then my big toe began throbbing.  It was all I could do not to cry out, “Oh, for the love of God, my bunion!  Anybody got some Advil?”

I couldn’t relevé on my left foot worth two cents.  Between my good-for-nothing right shoulder and left  foot, I looked like someone who’d never danced a lick in her life and had wandered in off the streets and stuck herself in an intermediate class.

The ho-ho option was looking mighty good.

But I stuck it out.  Even though I was nervous about pirouettes, they went great.  Maybe I really got on my leg from working solidly on flat.  Or maybe it was that I was just letting things be natural, instead of overthinking and getting psyched out by turning.

By petit allegro we were all running out of steam -- even the younguns who appeared to be in great shape.  Unable to fully stretch my feet, during jetés, I felt like black Popeye dancing a jig.   

Somehow, I did the entire class.  Whether this was a testament to my dogged perseverance or stupidity, I was not sure.  My sweet friend, the teacher, complimented me by saying I looked the same as I did five years ago, before kids. 

That was a compliment. I think... 

While changing in the dressing room, I chatted with a girl nowhere near the Dancers over 40 category, a coltish girl with lovely extension, who admitted that she hadn’t felt so great either and had also been tempted to dash. 

No one is perfect, I remembered.  Even that younger dancer who looks fabulous, may be plagued by injury and self-doubt.

I stopped at the grocery store, where I skipped the ho-hos, and went home.

The kids ran to me as I opened the door.  With dinner, and playtime, and bath, and bedtime ahead of me, the real push to the finish line was about to start.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Vacuum Fail Mommy Fail Story

A Hoover? How depressing!

Since she cleaned her home herself, the Dyson vacuum cleaner seemed a purchase almost sublime in its practicality.  She could spend five hunnies on several sessions of just above mediocre work by a cleaning crew, or she could invest in a Dyson – a machine that would convert the task of cleaning one’s home from a traditional and servile obligation to a high-tech and patrician form of recreation.

Well, almost.

One fine day, when our lady was reveling in her home’s transformation via Dyson vacuum cleaner, she smelled something. 

Something. Very. Bad.

“Son,” she called to her then eight year old, while crinkling her nose in disgust. “Did Moxie poop?”  Moxie was the family dog, who, as she had aged, had taken to having more and more accidents, both liquid and solid, in the house.

“Yeah,” said the boy, who, loving the innovative ball technology visible through the transparent canister, was now nothing short of a cleaning spectator extraordinaire.  He pointed to a spot his mom had already vacuumed. “Over there.” 

Incredulous, she haltingly went to look at the place her son indicated. 

True to a Dyson vacuum cleaner’s reputation, the spot was clean as a whistle – all traces of dog poop were gone.  But the room stunk to high heaven.  It was nothing short of the smell of destruction. 

The Dyson no longer worked properly. It was dead. Death by dog poop. A super-sized vacuum fail/mommy fail combo platter. 

She sank to the floor. She cried.  She performed the twenty-first century equivalent of beating her breast and tearing at her hair. Her son, seeing his mother in such grave agony, cried too. 

Does not everything I touch turn to shit? she rage-wondered inwardly.  She would honestly have preferred to step in dog poop a thousand times over than endure this. 

But then, like summer storm clouds parting to reveal sunshine, grief gave way to hope. Wait! Surely there must be a way to fix my Dyson vacuum!  There must be some technological remedy for this finely engineered machine!

Her heart fluttering, she rifled through the phone book, found local vacuum repair shops, and explained her plight to the voice on the other side. 

Unfortunately, every single person explained to her that there was no way they could help. Extracting dog poop from a vacuum would jeopardize their workers’ health.

Sadly, she was shit out of luck.

There was nothing she could do but accept her plight and move on – a difficult thing to do knowing that she had essentially thrown $500 into the toilet. 

Alas, simply unable to live without her Dyson, she purchased another.  But from then on, before vacuuming, she crawled around on all fours in order to protect her investment from the fatal menace of dog poop. 

It adds at least ten minutes to the process, but isn't that time well spent when you're talking about a Dyson's life or death?!

What are your mommy fails that were tragic at the time, but changed the way you do things and gave you a pee-your-pants funny story to tell?  Send your best fail story to for a chance to be featured at this most excellent venue!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Everything Works Out Okay in the Movies

It was his first time, and we were very excited!

We had built it up into something big – a rite of passage, something he’d do when he was older, when he was ready.

But unfortunately, it came at a time when things had changed – when similar to airline travel post 9-11, the what if of going to the movies became “please, God, not again.”

The four of us (we were on a double mommy-son date) settled into our seats.  The boys began digging into their popcorn and became mesmerized by the family movie previews.  I kept stealing glances at their bright little faces as they became entranced by the larger-than-life happenings on the big screen.

It was magical watching them -- like my first time as well.    

Then I glanced at the exit doors.

Early into the movie, there was an act of parent-child separation that Mr. R found frightening.  “I want to go home,” he announced.

When I was little I was terrified by the opening scene in Bambi.  I cried and cried and my mother took me home.  This time, however, I was pretty sure Mr. R could tough it out. 

“It’s going to be okay,” I said, pulling him into my lap. “If you get too scared, you can cover your eyes.”

We continued watching the movie, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift.  (Sorry to be a spoiler.) We had several more incidents of eye covering, and a requisite sprint to the bathroom.  When things looked particularly bleak, Mr. R re-burrowed himself into my lap. 

“It’s going to be okay,” I repeated.  Then to comfort my child, but also with an awareness of the absurdity of what I was about to say, I whispered, “Everything works out okay at the movies.” 

My heart sank.

We enjoyed the rest of the movie, even staying to watch the majority of the credits.  The boys had a great time.  We mommies realized what a gift it is to take kids to the movies (quiet cuddle time!  Sitting down for almost 2 hours!  Whoo-hoo!), and based on the previews were very much looking to the fall releases. 

Despite his wanting to leave several times, Mr. R happily talked a lot about the movie once we got home.  I was surprised by some of the deeper things he understood, by what struck him and gave him a new sense of the world. 

My little boy has now experienced his first thrill of a movie on the big screen.   He has many more movie theater days and nights in his future.   And even as he becomes more sophisticated in his questioning of, and reactions to, what he sees on screen, for him and for all moviegoers in this country and abroad, may the statement, “Everything always works out at the movies,” always ring true.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mom in the Spotlight: Dance Studio Owner, Jacqueline White

Jacqueline White began her training with Arnott Mader of the Richmond Ballet and went on study at the Virginia School of the Arts and with the Lake Erie Ballet. As a student at NC State, she danced under the direction of Robin Harris, performing at numerous colleges, ACDFA and at the Kennedy Center. Upon graduating from the School of Design, Jacqueline went on to study and dance with the Nutmeg Ballet before returning to North Carolina to teach and perform.  Since moving to Charlotte, she has danced under the direction of Martha Connerton as a founding member of "Kinetic Works" and in her Summer Dance Ensemble.  Jacqueline has also danced with Kim Robards Dance, in Denver, CO and with Opera Carolina. She is the owner/director of Open Door Studios and a founding member of project incite. Her choreography has been performed at Piccolo Spoleto, SCEDA, the North Carolina Dance Festival and BalletFest Atlanta.

For more information on Open Door Studios please visit 

How many children do you have?  Boys?  Girls?
I have two, one of each. 

How old are your children?  
My son, Sager, is 9.  My daughter, Lila, is 5.

Where were you in your dance career when your children were born?
With Sager, I was dancing in a small company called Martha Connerton/Kinetic Works and teaching dance part-time.  And with Lila, I was just into my second year as a dance studio owner.

Has motherhood changed the course of your career?  If not, how are you staying on the artistic path you originally set out on?
If I were not a mother, I would probably be fully invested in dancing and teaching.  Children keep me balanced.

However did you manage starting a dance studio, let alone growing it, with two small children?
I was able to succeed in starting a dance studio with two small children because I didn't load myself down with expectations.  For me it was simple - I knew I needed to be teaching, but still close to home and in one place.  I did not have to rely on large numbers, as I only had one other teacher to pay, and I had a very supportive neighborhood.

What things do you do to stay informed dancewise?  
To stay informed, dance wise, I read several magazines, blogs, and books.  I take class as often as I can.  Every summer, I make sure to do a summer enrichment workshop for dance teachers.  In the past I have taken the courses of Finis Jhung and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.  This summer, I'm excited to be doing the American Ballet Theater workshop.  I also regularly attend performances and do research on the Internet.

How are you shaping the dance scene in Charlotte?
My studio offers open classes and master classes taught by both local professionals and visiting artists from renowned companies in town on tour.  For example, we have had artists from Bill T. Jones and Dayton Contemporary give workshops at the studio. ODS bridges a much needed gap between the collegiate program at UNCC,  the Queen City's professional ballet company, NCDT, and Northwest School of the Arts, a public arts high school.

How involved are your children in dance, and in the life of the studio in general? How do you get them to other activities with your Open Door obligations?
My children both take classes, whether that is to please me or themselves, I am still not sure.  They know most of the older students and all of the instructors by tagging along with me after school at least once per week.  I want them to be at home at the studio, whether they continue dancing, or not.  The studio could be theirs one day, but as for now, it is kind of like another sibling.

If you were writing your momoirs what would be your best this-would-only-happen-to-me story?
I can't think of one episode, it is more of a daily occurence.  I guess it would have to be when sitting through my studio's very first recital, I missed it as I was breast feeding my 1 week old!

Biggest piece of advice for new moms, especially creative, career-driven types?
There has to be balance--don't try, as I did, to keep everything as it was before children (clean house, busy social calendar, taking classes, joining every cause).  Learn to say no and let things happen on their own. . .

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stop Shooting When You're the Last One Standing

A few months ago, in the shadow of the Trayvon Martin shooting, I wrote about how I felt angry at my powerlessness. As the mother of a brown boy, who will grow into a brown-skinned man, I have little ability to protect him from those who will see him as a threat solely based on his gender and skin color.

Now, after the latest tragic incident of gun-related violence in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, I feel somewhat relieved.

Certainly black men are still targets, but really, of course, it's anyone.  This senseless, ruthless attack reminded me that anyone can go out to see a movie or to go get a drink and some Skittles, and experience their last moments on Earth.

Not because of an act of God, like being struck by lightening, but because some lunatic decided, actually planned, to make himself a movie character, take up firearms and go on a killing spree that very day.

As a human being, but especially as a mother, I am furious and sick to my stomach.  I pray for the victims and their families.  I cannot imagine the horror they are feeling.  How many more people have to die from gun-related violence?  How much longer does the NRA have to have the rest of us under their (cowboy) boots?  How many more mass shootings do there have to be before we get some effective gun control laws -- before more Washington politicians stand up the gun lobby and their minions?

Some idiots - Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)- have said that if more people in the theater had been armed they could have shot the attacker.  He draws a connection between the Colorado shootings -- this massacre-- and the attack on Judeo-Christian values. 

Of course!  We also know that hippie, socialist, gay-marriage advocatin', we-are-the-99%ers, abortion-lovin', anti-racist, environmentalist, health-care wantin' folks are evil haters of humankind.  Why, every one of these folks would blow a hungry and homeless person into chopped chuck for looking at their kale/wheatgrass smoothie the wrong way!

We also all know that killing is a cornerstone of Christian doctrine.  If only they could have, our Savior and his followers would have defended themselves with their firearms of choice!

Maybe Rep. Gohmert from the Great State of Texas, the state that gave me my husband (it has its plusses), is right, however.  There should be an endgame.

Let's all carry. Let's all shoot to defend ourselves, regardless of how sure we are of the level of threat.  Then if one person was wrong, someone can shoot him, and so on and so on. That way the Last One can stand victorious, knowing he was the true defender of humanity.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How to Survive a Power Outage Without Really Trying*

*Not only is it Blogiversary Week, but it is also Heat Wave 2012, with temperature highs smashing records all over the nation, thunderstorms galore and people losing power faster than a car with sugar in its gas tank.  Ba-dum-bum!  On that note, I thought I'd give you a reprise of Mom's New Stage's very first post, to teach folks exactly what to do if they have little kids and lose electricity.

Or, what not to do.

A fallen tree eastbound in Madison Park.
Photo courtesy of Maja Fiket.

On Monday, July 11, 2011, the Chicago area suffered a devastating thunderstorm. Huge trees were knocked down,* bringing power lines with them. 860,000 Com Ed customers lost power.  Some people in in the northern suburbs did not have their power restored until Friday night - four days later!

So in comparison I got off easy. Real easy. But if you had told me last Monday what I was enduring was just another inconvenience, I would have tackled you.

My day went as follows:

8:10 a.m. - Set out in car to teach college-level modern dance class.Think it just looks like another partly cloudy day, and feel doubtful that severe thunderstorms will actually appear, until the dark silver blue sky looming over downtown is visible.

8:30 a.m. - Get caught in monsoon-like conditions three blocks from work. Begin driving with nose pressed against windshield. Hear on radio that my neighborhood will be among the hardest hit.

9:00 a.m. - Hear that accompanist is stuck on train. Feel a palpable lack of motivation from the few students who managed to arrive on time. Wish had brought, not to mention charged, Ipod. Run through several musicless scenarios and find each as painful as an unanesthetized root canal. Decide to join the yoga class across the hall, much to the students’ delight. Take class as well, not knowing what a high point this is in my day.

10:40 a.m. - See two voicemails left by my mother who is watching Mr. R and Lady A, my 2.5 and 1 year old. Learn that the storm hit hard and the power is out. Children were terrified. Call Mother. Be asked the location of fusebox. Argue the futility of fiddling with a fusebox when the building/block/neighborhood/city has lost power. Explain fusebox’s location behind a picture in the hallway nonetheless. Drive home as fast as possible, noting all the fallen trees upon entering neighborhood.

11:00 a.m. - Arrive home to find apartment hot as a just-ran-the-marathon crotch. Also find wrong picture removed from the wall. Hug and kiss children. Assess situation. No hot water. No stove. No internet. No opening of refrigerator or freezer. Feel completely parched and have no liquid save tap water. Realize that escape routes such as the movies or the mall are not an option with young children who require a nap in their bed. Feel an anger and despair not felt since Job. Recommence discussion with Mother about the fusebox and the meaning of hallway versus front hall. Open all windows, which have not been washed since W’s Administration, and feel like an overheated, sloppy housekeeper. Wunh-wunh-wunh-wuuuuuuunh…

11:30 a.m. - Call husband and try to make plans for tonight’s dinner and sleeping arrangements. Beg him to come home early. Call other moms in neighborhood to learn who has the fortune of electricity. Learn that a tree fell on a friend’s car. With her husband in it. Yes, he was okay.

12:30 p.m. - Finally go out to eat after a hot, tired, hungry and thirsty Mr. R finished melting down, claiming that he hated restaurants when the opposite is true. Enjoy delicious lunch - my mom's treat. Everyone behaves. Ok, yes this is definitely high point #2.

1:30 p.m. – Go to produce market to buy milk for the Lady A since fridge must remain closed. Buy berries and like a doofus, forget to buy water, cold drinks and ice.

2:00 p.m. – Attempt to put down 2 kids who depend on some combo of warmed milk, air conditioning and white noise machines to get to sleep.

2:10 p.m. – Mr. R down, Lady A crying. Muttering, grab Aria up from her crib to “play,” if play means to keep a kid quiet.

2:15 p.m. – Try to supervise A while negotiating plans for evening. Dinner at my  Mother’s condo nearby. Settled. A lovely friend has offered us her vacant and furnished condo that happens to be in same building as my mom’s. Feel lucky at the same time as super hot, bored and persecuted. Call and text friends to bitch and complain. Catch Lady A eating a stick of sunscreen, squeezing behind the angled entertainment armoire (with about a million wires behind it) and trying to climb in kitchen garbage can. Restrain self from slitting wrists.

3:15 p.m. – Reattempt to put Lady A down with more cold milk.

3:20 p.m. – Lady A screaming. Abandon nap attempts. Put A crying, in Jumperoo where she eventually falls asleep. Get in bed with the phone and a notebook.

3:30 p.m. - Quiet. Personal time!! High Point #3! Yessssss!

4:45 p.m. - Everyone awake. Prepare to go to Mother’s building.

5:00 p.m. - Power is ON! Rejoice! Text friends. Call husband. Do happy dance with kids. Feel a little silly that I felt so wronged by the day’s events. Ruminate about what a cushy, spoiled American I am (when a day in my stifling, boring, hot-water-free apartment would be paradise to many in the world), before going back to the witching-hours business as usual, hoping that next time, I will handle things just a little bit better.

If the power went down in your home, what were your strategies?  How did you keep your spirits up? Did any new family rituals emerge?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy First Blogiversary, Mom's New Stage!

It's my birthday.  Fête me properly, dammit!
Late spring, 2011.  Chicago, IL.

A mother of two children under three wonders what the hell has happened to her.  She feels like a flabby, poorly dressed, irritable and exhausted shadow of her former self. She finds some of what she once was with her mom friends.  She looks further in dance classes, in stores, and at the bottom of too many bottles of wine to count.  

She finds bits and pieces, but in the words of U2, can't seem to find what she's looking for.  

Finally it comes to her. "I know!" she says, bursting with almost hubris-like sentiment. "I'll start MOMMY BLOGGING!" She decides to explore her longing to write by blogging about motherhood.  And dance.  And moms in the arts.  And other random s--t that strikes her fancy.  She plans to showcase her intriguing thoughts, and to dazzle people with the delectable soup of searing wit percolating in her little cabeza. 

She finds a name and hires a web designer, and on July 15, 2011, Mom's New Stage is born.   

As you know, that mom is me.

Over the year, it's been an education. I quickly learned that being somewhat clever and knowing how to use apostrophes and conjugate better than 75% of the U.S. population, doesn't mean that people will flock to your blog like foodies to a lobster roll truck.  I learned that the mommy blogger network, sites like Voiceboks and BloggyMoms, are indespensable to growing a blog.  I learned that you can write/do blog promotion or you can get some decent sleep (so as to avoid being a steaming cauldron of bitch energy with your kids as well as strangers the next day), but not both. 

hjdks.bvoeujves;/algv  - Ouch! Sorry. No, not a link for you to check out.  Just my barely six-hours-a-night head falling on the keyboard. 

Yes, I'm okay.  Thanks for asking.

Anyway, I am still learning about SEO and how to effectively use social media.  My skill in these areas only slightly surpasses what you'd get if you gave Atilla the Hun a Betamax.  


But there have been many successes too.  Four posts on  Guest posts on several very cool sites such as Full of it, Cocktails with Mom, HaHaHaiku. Profiles on the moms behind lemonade handmade jewelry and The Kids' Table, as well as mom alums of North Carolina Dance Theater and Hubbard Street.  Recognition by my peers, the super fierce-awesome, Val Curtis of Mental Chew and Kathy Radigan of My Dishwasher's Possessed, who will be including one of my posts in the third edition of their new weekly online magazine, Bonbon Break

Blogging is about not only building an audience, but creating, and becoming part of a community. Out of the blue people have emailed me and told me how much Mom's New Stage means to them.  An old acquaintance discovered my blog from random googling, sparking a re-friending.  And, of course, there are the my blogging BFFs - women for whom I would take a swig of bourbon and remove my own molars - even though we've never met in person.    

The connections have been immeasurably gratifying.  I love when a mom tells me that a post expressed exactly what she's been feeling. Or that I made her laugh.  

The best connection, I have to say, has been the reconnection to myself.  I was definitely in need of a new dance partner, something at this new stage of my life to devote myself to artistically.  

So happy birthday, Mom's New Stage!  Thank you for being, in terms of my creative life, a triple espresso.

And to my readers, I can't thank you enough for all your support.  It means a lot to me.

And baby, next year, we are going to WERK!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quiz Show: Having Guests Your Way

We were entertaining guests at home this past Saturday, and preparations for the visit threw me into a state of insanity.  I barked orders at everyone.  It was like I was filming two simultaneous infomercials:  How to Declutter Your Home and How to Completely Terrorize and Alienate Your Family In a Mere Matter of Hours.

Of course, we got the place looking better than it’s looked in a long time (why couldn’t we do that just for ourselves?!!!!) and had an amazing time with our friends, dear friends  we’ve rarely seen since we had kids. 

Just like every other time we have people over, I wished I didn’t have to get so off my pins when it comes to entertaining. 

Is that normal?

Or is it just me?

So help me out, folks – answer my burning questions and take my quiz!

Your entertaining style most closely resembles _______ .
a.    Friends
b.    Downton Abbey
c.    Sanford and Son

The food served is usually ________ .
a.    comfort food - a tried and true recipe.
b.    some four course deliciousness – a complex recipe I have slaved over.
c.    um, a frozen dinner, meaning a dinner from last month that I froze.  Do I freakin' look like a contestant from Top Chef?

Most of the time, the condition of my home is _______ .
a.    with a few odds and ends out of place – just in need of a routine straightening up.
b.    like the “after” version of an HGTV renovation.
c.    like a pack of wild boars ate my family and took up residence in our stead.

If you selected c in the prior question, your likely approach would be to ________ .
a.    clean up as best you can.  If these people are true friends they’ll look beyond your home’s shortcomings.
b.    take everyone out to a nice restaurant to compensate for my inability to entertain in my home.
c.    to host Ray Charles Night, where the lights are out, guests are given dark glasses, and “Hit the Road, Jack” is played at a subtle, if not subliminal, level.

If a guest were to open your closet doors she’d be ___________.
a.    looking at a place to store the usual, along with some things that always seem to be out of place.
b.    amazed!  For a time, I saw the dudes from California Closets more than my husband.
c.    on her way to the hospital because a bowling ball/iron/bonnet dryer from 1957 burst from a shelf and gave her a concussion.

The following statement applies to you in terms of your entertaining M.O:
a.    Mi casa es su casa.
b.    I am the Queen. Welcome to my castle.
c.    Don’t let the door hitcha on the way out.

You see your guests as ______________ .
a.   one of the family.
b.    celebrities who deserve royal treatment.
c.    the help.  Hello?  Guests should leave a place better than they found it.

After dinner guests are likely to ______________ .
a.    adjourn to the living room for desserts and more wine.
b.    feel like they ate way better than in most restaurants.
c.    be driving the porcelain bus.

If a friend seems unimpressed by your décor and menu, you ______________.
a.    wish she were more understanding.  You have kids and a job -- something had to give. 
b.    tell yourself she’s a dollar-store addict who wouldn’t know good taste if it kicked her flabby butt.
c.    wholeheartedly agree.  Only a fugitive from a third world prison would admire your hospitality.

If you picked mostly A:
Straight Down to Earth.  Not a speck of pretension in ya.  Your home is not a photo shoot, it is rather, a place to live in, a place for comfort. You want it looking good, but you don’t have to put on the ol’ razzle dazzle.  A home gets dirty.  Things get old.  And anyone who can’t understand that can take out their judgmental eyes and stuff ‘em.   What’s enviable, you ask?  Your perspective. 

Mostly B:
I Want Diamonds on My Perfect.  Wow, lady, how do you do it?!  Is it effortless?  Does it all come naturally? Or do you spend hours agonizing about how to impress everyone?  Everything is beautiful in your world, and one thing we all know is beautiful is a lot of work.  We have to ask - do you feel like your life would turn into an episode of Hoarders if you relaxed JUST. A. LITTLE?

Mostly C:
Think Outside the Refrigerator Box. There are dung beetles that take more pride in their surroundings.  Honestly!  You don’t have to be Martha Stewart, but living worse than Cro-Magnon man gives us serious misgivings about your psyche.  Not to mention physical health and hygiene.  Clean it up. Decorate.  Take some pride in your surroundings.  Sharing your home, and a little of your life with others will do you some good.  Really, it will. 

So, dear readers, I know where I fall in this quiz.  (Hint: it's between two.) What kind of hostess are you?


Friday, July 6, 2012

Mom in the Spotlight: Jenna Lavin-Crabtree

Jenna as Sugarplum
Photo: Nan Melville

Jenna Lavin-Crabtree is originally from Queens, New York.  She began her ballet training with Mme. Gabriela Darvash and Jody Fugate.  She later graduated from the School of American Ballet where she studied with such teachers as Alexandria Danilova, Antonia Tumkovsky and Stanley Williams.  Ms. Lavin began her professional dance career at 17 when she was invited to join the Chicago City Ballet, under the direction of Maria Tallchief.  Ms. Lavin also danced with the Atlanta Ballet directed by Robert Barnett, for seven years.  Her principal and soloist roles with the Atlanta Ballet include: Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, The Four Temperaments, Serenade, Tarantella Pas de Deux, Minkus Pas a Trois as well as Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

As a principal dancer with the Nashville Ballet, Ms. Lavin danced Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the title role in Giselle, and other principal roles in the company’s contemporary repertoire.  
Other professional affiliations include the Los Angeles Ballet, under the direction of John Clifford. 
Ms. Lavin spent eight summers as a member of the Chautauqua Ballet Company, under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux where she performed principal roles in ballets by Balanchine, Bonnefoux and Clifford. She is also a former soloist with Edward Villella’s Miami City Ballet where she danced principal roles in many ballets including Divertimento #15, Jewels, Pas de Dix, Raymonda Variations, Valse Fantaises, Western Symphony, Glinka Pas a Trois, The Nutcracker and Who Cares?

Ms. Lavin has worked with numerous choreographers, creating principal roles in ballets by Alonzo King, Lisa de Ribere and Stanton Welch to name a few. In the summer of 2003 Ms. Lavin performed in Casablanca, a collaboration between Warner Brothers and John Clifford’s Los Angeles Dance Theater. 

Ms. Lavin has been teaching ballet to young dancers throughout her career beginning in Chicago when she was 17.  She has taught master classes in Atlanta, Michigan and for the Nashville Ballet School. 

Ms. Lavin has been on faculty at Ballet Academy East in NYC since 2003 where she teaches and choreographs for the Graded Level. 

She is married to Cornel Crabtree and they are the proud parents of three boys:  Sky who is 7,  Grayson, who is 3, and Cooper, born April 2012.

Where were you in your career when each of your children was born?  Were you still performing?  
When I became pregnant with Sky I was still performing and had just started teaching at Ballet Academy East here NYC. Cornel and I were dancing with a small pick-up troupe and had just finished a weekend of performances at NYC's Joyce Theatre. I was more exhausted than usual before realizing, yup, we were pregnant. Surprise!

I didn't perform again after I had Sky. I wanted to just be a mom and had already put in 18 years on stage, so I was ready to move on!  When Grayson was born I was fully immersed in my teaching and my new found love for choreographing at BAE.  With Cooper I taught a bit when he turned 8 weeks and have been slowly getting back into the studio again.

I know for myself, finding time to plan classes can be extremely difficult!  Has motherhood changed class preparation changed for you?
Oh yes, motherhood has changed my class preparation for sure! I'm incredibly blessed though, in that it is such a pleasure to be on Faculty at BAE. Darla Hoover, who is a mentor of sorts for me runs the Graded Level Program where the students are extremely serious about their dance education.

We have a set syllabus for the first 5 levels. The higher levels I can give anything I want them to work on that day. Depending on which levels I have on any given day I can "plug into" the syllabus and just go in there and get to work. I love that the focus is on the kids I'm teaching and not myself. I love helping them and seeing them develop.

In many ways, motherhood is as challenging, and as soul fulfilling, as dancing.  Agree or disagree? 
That's a hard one to answer! Performing is so completely amazing and soul fulfilling and also so completely selfish. Your whole day is centered around yourself  (as it should be to produce the best performance).

Motherhood is, well. . .the complete opposite. Cornel and I are older parents too, so we literally spend every second we can with our kids. What makes the whole motherhood thing so fulfilling is the little moments.  The 3 boys really do bring laughter and joy to us every day.

In terms of judgment, dancers are always hard on their bodies.  While motherhood may make us somewhat forgiving, the standards are still there.  How has your body perception evolved?  How do you keep in shape these days?  

With just having Cooper 11 weeks ago I've been trying to find the time to walk 2-3 times a week. It doesn't always happen though. Hard to find the time with 3 kids. And hard to find the energy! 

Your husband was a professional ballet dancer as well.  Some dancers almost insist that their children dance, while others want their children to do nothing of the kind.  Where do you fall on this continuum? 
Cornel and I discussed this before we even had kids!  We both feel the discipline is fantastic and that ballet builds confidence and a strong body in kids. That being said, like the rest of the fine arts, ballet is such a challenging profession, that if a child doesn't really want to dance, then there is no reason to push them in that direction. 

Sky will be entering Level 1 in the Fall at BAE. He is very excited about this. The moment he is not excited about ballet it's done. Grayson loves to dance and loves music so it appears to be in the bloodline, but only time will tell! 

Even though I lived in the Big Apple for most of my life, and am currently raising children in Chicago, I marvel at folks raising children in New York City. Do you ever fantasize about moving to the suburbs or to a more manageable city?  
I have to admit I do fantasize at times about having a house and a big yard and tons of closet space and a garage. . .but look, I'm a New Yorker through and through. Our neighborhood has great schools and tons of green spaces.  Also, I'm within minutes of all kinds of great, kid-friendly NYC destinations.  

Has being a parent changed your approach to teaching? 
Parenting has changed my teaching style immensely. I'm so much more patient now. I know what a hard road the ballet kids have in front of them. I applaud them for going a full day at school and ballet and getting their homework done before 2 a.m. I have great respect for them.

Teaching for me has become a time in the day when I can fully focus on the task at hand -- helping my students become better dancers. It's satisfying to see results so quickly.

At home raising children is a much slower process.  I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I've always loved being in the studio. I'm very grateful that now as a mom I can still tap into that part of myself and enjoy it so much. 

Describe your mothering style in five words or less.
Mothering style....Feed them love, always. 

Advice for moms in dance?
Advice for moms in dance?  Things shift greatly when you become a parent. You don't have the same amount of energy or focus dedicated to just you and the art form. Embrace this. Take it one day at a time. Or rather, take it one moment at a time. It all goes so quickly - I always remind myself of that. 

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