Pacific Ballroom Dance builds character in youth by providing a positive ballroom dance experience. Our mission is to provide youth with a positive artistic, social and athletic experience designed to help them be productive community members.
Imagine walking down a quiet country road in the summertime. You anticipate fresh air, beautiful scenery, and cows grazing picturesque in the pastures. You also anticipate seeing a cow pie or two in the road. When this happens, you might run over to the offending pile and groan and complain and tell everyone how stinky and disgusting it is and even poke it with a stick. Or you can simply step over it and keep on walking. No need to convince anyone, including yourself, that the manure is lovely and wonderful. It stinks, but it’s also behind you. Failure, loss and setbacks can be viewed in much the same way, as expected, natural, and at times unpleasant parts of any journey.
Missing the Mark
Goals give us forward motion in our lives. They make what could be aimless wandering into purposeful and intentional drive. In ballroom dance, goals set a standard for yourself, your partnership, and your team. They define the parameters around which you will work so you can be clear about where to direct your energy. Goals can also cause a lot of pain when they are not achieved according to your timeline and ambitions.
Just Out of Reach
Perhaps on the day of show or in the heat of competition, nerves get the better of you, and things don’t go quite as smoothly as you’d planned. Maybe it’s just an “off” day for the whole team. Or worse, and most easily remedied: a lack of preparation So many things can cause a setback or be perceived as a failure. It can take deliberate, intentional work to prevent these inevitable moments from devastating you and driving you from the pursuit of your goals and ambitions.
Finding the Teaching
No matter the situation, be gentle on yourself when missteps occur. Be aware that each and every performer in every discipline has fallen short of their dreams at one time or another. Everybody has to navigate the cow pies in the road. This is completely normal, and to be expected whether your aim is to enjoy a career as a dancer or to accomplish any other life goal that requires stretching and growth. If you are able to think of each moment as an opportunity to learn and sharpen your skills, you will win your own positive outlook, self-respect and confidence. This takes care and patience; be willing to learn.
Have you own back.
When you catch yourself thinking terrible thoughts about yourself after a failure, defend yourself, to yourself! Let’s say you have the thought, “I should never have stepped out onto that dance floor, I don’t even deserve to be competing with these amazing dancers.” That’s not very nice! Would you let someone else talk to you that way? No! Replace the thought with something gentler and kinder. You could try, “I didn’t meet my goal today and I’m really disappointed.” This kind of thought speaks truth and it doesn’t sweep the loss under the rug, but neither does it make the failure a condemnation or judgement. Find and nourish kindness in your internal dialogue
Pay attention. If we look closely at our failures, they can teach us exactly what we need to do to succeed. Keep going and set realistic and specific goals for the future. Break those lofty goals down into smaller, more manageable milestones. Take time to remember why it is you love to dance in the first place. Winning is likely only a small piece of that pie. Is it the joy of creative movement that keeps you dancing? The fellowship and friendship on the team? The roar of the crowd’s applause? Hold on to that joy and love and know it will return to you again after the sting of loss has faded. Failure is just about as certain as a cow pie on a country road, but it needn’t be a stopping point or a stall. Lift up you gaze and keep moving forward into the sunshine of a longer journey.
Pacific Ballroom Dance (PBD) will present “Celebrate,” a holiday concert, at 7pm on the evening of November 29th and 30th at the Auburn Performing Arts Center, 702 4th St. Northeast. One hundred forty dancers, age three to nineteen, will perform all varieties of Ballroom and Latin dance. And just for fun, the Grinch will appear for a foxtrot and Rudolph for a little west coast swing.
“The theme “Celebrate” is about taking time to recognize the incredible people and experiences in our lives that make it meaningful. We have so much to be grateful for and we can share that joy with one another through the art of dance,” said Artistic Director Katie Mecham. “The mystic leader Osho once said, ‘Life should not only be lived, it should be celebrated.’ The dancers have embraced this idea whole-heartedly and put together a wonderful show that is sure to delight audiences of all ages.”
Guest performer Jevohn Gentry, a recent PBD alumnus, will also take part in performing “Celebrate.” Jevohn is enjoying a budding career as a professional dancer and has appeared in several short films and dance videos. Last summer he was also seen briefly dancing as a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance.
The beauty of this show can be found in the diversity of pieces presented, as well as the broad range of ages and skill showcased. It’s the perfect way to kick-off the holiday season. We hope to see you there!
The classic bully is easy to spot. You will know him by his lunch stealing, name-calling, glasses breaking, push you in the dirt behavior. Unfortunately, most bullying just isn’t that obvious.
Bullying is most commonly made up of small things like the “sigh and eye roll,” the “glance and laugh,” the “repeated rumor,” or the “pretend he’s not there.” These behaviors isolate others and build up over time. How many of us have the clarity and courage to identify and stop these kinds of patterns in our friends and in ourselves? How can we fight against this real-life bullying?
The answer might surprise you because the answer is to not fight against it. Tearing down a bully, including one we find in ourselves, is still tearing town. We can not stop fighting with fighting, cannot stop accusations by accusing. Instead we must focus our attentions and efforts on what and who we want to become, on what kind of culture we want to create. More than anything else, we must foster and teach empathy.
“Unselfie,” by Michelle Borba was required reading for PBD staff this summer. Borba teaches that the anti-bully is the person with empathy, who can use his imagination to place himself in the shoes of another and feel what they feel. She encourages adults to model and teach empathy as a skill anyone can develop. She teaches that those who develop empathy will become up-standers and not by-standers when it comes to bullying and they will be able to do it in a natural way that comes from the heart.
At PBD we are taking the time to teach empathy carefully and deliberately as an inoculation to bullying. We understanding that most cruelty happens far outside the view of coaches and others adults and we will never put an end to bullying by catching all the bullies. Rather, we can put an end to bullying by fostering patience, kindness, and the powerful tool empathy.
“Results are in!” It was ironic that I was the one to discover the team lists posted on the PBD website when my son Eli had been refreshing that website every ten minutes for days. Within a few minutes, we were all gathered–me, my husband, and four kids, and it only took a moment to broadcast the list up to our big TV where everyone could see. We all took a deep breath, zoomed in so each name would appear six inches high, and started scrolling.
Hope, excitement, dread, and curiosity swirled around us. Eli and Isaac, who had spent the last year on the Junior and Preteen Premier teams, weren’t as nervous as Eve who was hoping to be placed on the Preteen Premier team for the first time. It was Luke, my little seven-year-old who took me by surprise. First Eli’s, than Isaac’s, than Eve’s name appeared on their desired team lists. We high-fived and congratulated. Then it got a little quiet. We scrolled further and saw his name. “Well look Luke,” I said, trying to keep it positive, “there’s your name on Preteen Show! Congratulations buddy!”
He burst into tears.
At seven years old and just going into second grade, I had never anticipated that he would even be considered for a team where everyone else is in 4th grade at least. He was just trying out because, well, everyone else was doing it and for the good experience it would give him. I had spent some time trying to manage his expectations, but it hadn’t gone well. “Geez mom,” all four of my kids would say. “Why do you have to be so discouraging?”
>So there we sat, looking at the heartbroken tear streaked face of the little man we all loved so completely. And our hearts broke too, for this person who dared to hope and to try for a big goal. In truth, Luke had only been dancing at PBD for a little over three months, a brand new addition to the Preteen Show team and the smallest little figure out there at the spring concert. But in that moment I felt empathy bloom inside of me and I did not say any of the following things, even though I believe all of them are true:
“Don’t worry, you have lots of years of dancing ahead of you.”
“You really shouldn’t be upset, nobody else your age made the team.”
“You really shouldn’t have expected to make the team when you just barely started dancing.”
“Preteen Show is just as great as Premier.”
Instead, we all gathered together and sat in that sad place with him for a time, put our arms around him, and didn’t say much at all. I was using the things I have learned about having a healthy emotional life. There are no emotions that we need be ashamed to feel, and if we allow ourselves and those around us space to move through negative emotions instead of around them, we can move more quickly towards joy and peace.
I do believe, however, that there are beliefs and thought patterns I can help Luke develop within himself to face this disappointment and all others in his life going forward.
Abundance mindset over scarcity mindset.
A scarcity mindset tells us that there is a limited amount of opportunity, fun, and success to be had in the world. At first glance, this idea seems supported by the fact that there really is a limited number of spots available on the premier teams. But an abundance mindset informs us there are unlimited opportunities for positive growth and development. I have seen that every single team at PBD offers each student equal amounts of opportunity for growth, fun, and success. A scarcity mindset may have us believing that the only way to become a great ballroom dancer is by being on a premier team. However, an abundance mindset informs us that there are many paths and timelines for learning, and all are good and joyful. Scarcity mindset tells us that all of the best friends we could ever make are on that other team. Abundance mindset tells us that there are great friendships to be had all around us.
Growth mindset over fixed mindset.
<p style=”padding-top:14px;”>A fixed mindset tells us that dancing is a gift that you either have or you don’t. It places talent as the ruler of our futures and opportunities. However, a growth mindset tells us that we can learn anything, and that nothing is off limits or unattainable. A growth mindset can help dancers develop resilience and confidence. This mindset change can begin with our simple thoughts. “I didn’t make the team” can be replaced with “I didn’t make the team yet.”</p>
My experience with Luke has been like a window into the experiences of each of the students and their parents who auditioned and didn’t get the result they wanted, whose disappointment and despair was multiplied many times over by the many hours and years of preparation and dedication to ballroom dance that Luke has barely begun. I begin to understand. Yet I can see a clear path that is emotionally healthy, vibrant, and light for Luke and for all of us without avoiding the pain of failure along the way. Emotional and social intelligence, growth and abundance mindset: these are key concepts at the studio. The staff is trained and mentored in them. If we all join together to develop the emotional lives of our students both at home and at the studio, we can help our children grow in powerful ways no matter what happens when the results come in.
In a series of 8 separate rounds, 150 kids from age seven to seventeen came to audition for the premier and show teams at Pacific Ballroom Dance during the last two weeks of June. (Last year, auditions drew 120 kids.) After the overwhelming success of creating a premier team for the preteen age group last year and the steady growth in skill, dedication, and membership at all ages levels, Artistic Director Katie Mecham could see that a more robust audition process was necessary. Executive Director Heather Longhurst said “[Katie] collaborated with me, Monique, and the Artistic Team to design a new process that allows for more mindfulness on the partof coaches as well as care and consideration of the students.”
Last year there were just two rounds. First was the Syllabus round in which students of all levels danced the routines they learn in their syllabus class. After the syllabus round, youth and junior age kids were called back for the Choreography round in which dancers learned new routines in various dance styles and performed them before the judging panel.
This year, the first change made was the addition of Round One, a group class, for every age group. New dancers who might have been intimidated by the formality of the Syllabus round could now come dance and be seen without having to worry about preparing a Syllabus routine. It also gave judges a chance to take a longer look at each individual. All dancers were then invited to participate in the next round of auditions.
The Syllabus round now became Round Two, with a few big changes. In the past, every student of every age level came to the Syllabus round on the same day dressed in their black and whites with a number on their backs to dance before the entire artistic staff. Evaluating over 120 students one after the other required short rounds of just a few minutes each. Judges jotted down a quick numerical score and had to move on to the next dancer. This year, each age level came on a different night and danced before a smaller panel of coaches and artistic staff. Only two students were evaluated at a time, and judges were given ample time to create written feedback in addition to a numerical score. “[Our panel made] a gigantic effort to move beyond empty praise like ‘nice’ or ‘good job.’ [Their] comments were specific, meaningful, personalized, and supportive,” said Heather. At this point, preteen kids were done and a smaller group of youth and junior aged kids were placed on a call back list for the next round of auditions.
The Choreography round now became Round Three. Here, the changes were more subtle but equally significant. Heather Longhurst encouraged coaches to make this round”student-centric,” and offered a little guidance on what that might look like, while allowing coaches to create the experience of Round Three. “I saw effective emotion coaching, student choice, adult mentoring, skill building, opportunities for problem solving, empathy teaching, and more,” said Heather. Students were asked to arrive at Round Three with a written paragraph about their desire to be a part of a premier team. It gave students a chance to share their hearts and motivations.
Junior Premier coach Heather Bryant added an opportunity for students to work one-on-one with mentors from the panel to get real time feedback on how they could improve. Stars and Youth Show coach Raney Welch said, “I could tell just by watching the students react and respond that it was helpful for them and they felt seen. Their engagement and effort increased almost instantaneously after each coach approached them. It was amazing to see the entire level of dancing jump up within an entire group of dancers after just 10 minutes of personalized interaction.”
Youth Premier coaches Brent and Katie Mecham added a video element to Round Three for the youth age group. Students were asked to learn a short piece of choreography on their own time before coming in to the audition.
“We worked to make significant changes at all levels of the process, and this much change all at once is hard to pull off, but everyone collaborated and did a beautiful job,” said Heather Longhurst.
The Pacific Ballroom Dance Company presented “Rise” in three performances on June 1st and 2nd at the Auburn Performing Arts Center. Dancers performed 28 pieces of choreography featuring all styles of Ballroom and Latin dance. More than 120 students ages 7-18, and over 20 adult alumni participated in this concert (not to mention 7 brave daddies). 1701 audience members attended.
Celebrating 15 years
With this concert, PBD celebrated it’s 15-year anniversary as a non-profit organization. Alumni were featured dancing along with current students in a Broadway show piece. Many of these students could be seen weeping openly, filled with emotion as they returned to perform with PBD. A media presentation showed alumni explaining how Pacific Ballroom Dance has helped them grow not just as dancers but as individuals with character. Jordan Evans said, “The experience that I had with the team in building strength and building character is something that allowed me to learn to draw from myself, to draw from the power within.”
“Rise” theme celebrates resilience
The empowering of youth to draw strength and power from within themselves inspired this year’s concert theme, “Rise.”
This theme bound the concert together as a cohesive whole. At key points in the program, the audience listened to Maya Angelou recite her poem “Still I Rise” as dancers moved to the rhythm of her voice. This built to a celebration of strength and determined grit in the face of difficulty. When the Finale arrived, audience members felt connected to the performers as they danced emotions of triumph and unity. “The closing number was very moving and powerful,” said Kevin Bolland of Bonney Lake. “It brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing group of talented young dancers.”
In between the intensity of these heartfelt routines, our audience was entertained with whimsy and fun. There were giant red balloons from Paris, a wild Lindy Hop at a 1950s prom, ninjas battling for a prince, and the preteen show performing “Dance Like Yo Daddy” with their actual Dads performing the Sprinkler and the Cabbage Patch! This concert truly took audiences through all of the heights of human emotion.
The great success of this concert can be attributed to the high level of dancing from each team and individual, the quality and creativity of the choreography that showcased the dancers at every age and ability, and excellent stage management. One parent commented, “This was the most successful concert I have seen. The transitions were perfect, the flow of the show was outstanding, and from beginning to end you were thoroughly entertained. Two hours felt like 30 mintues!”
During our concert, volunteers filled an amazing 120 different positions from bringing food to collecting tickets to breaking down after the show. From helping in the dressing room to ushering in the theater, these indispensable people made the great machine of concert week hum!
Retiree Helen Babcock brought two of her friends from senior living center Julian Estates where she lives. The three women left the concert beaming. “I have been all around the world and watched shows in London, Paris, and on Broadway. This was the most entertaining show I have seen and I won’t miss another one.”
The PBD spring concert is meant to entertain and demonstrate the power of ballroom dance to create beauty in the world and in the lives of it’s dancers. This is evident on stage but also in the time between performances.
Before each performance, the staff and students gathered to reflect and encourage each other. Executive Director Heather Longhurst gave each student a little sticker of a four leaf clover. “Place it on the bottom of your shoe,” she said, “a reminder that we love you and are with you every step.”
Students also took the opportunity to open their hearts. Preteen dancer Brook Graney asked if she could share her feelings to the group. “Some people, they told me I couldn’t dance, and that I couldn’t do a lot of things that I loved,” she said with emotion in her voice. “I have a getaway that actually makes me feel good. I love it here and it means so much.”
On Wednesday, May 30th at 12:51 and 12:53pm, Hazel and Ivy were born to Junior Premier coach Heather Bryant and her husband Heath. Heather was able to carry the babies for 38 weeks, which is two weeks longer than average for twins. Heather said, “After 48 hours of labor and a C-section, both babies were born big and healthy. We feel so blessed”. At 7lbs 8oz and 7lbs, Hazel and Ivy certainly were big. That’s nearly 15 pounds of baby! “I was able to ‘dance’ up to 38 weeks when the girls were born. Most of the time my demonstrations turned into team laughter as my big belly didn’t allow for a true representation of the movement I was giving instructions on. But, the team members were good sports,” she said.
Heather can already tell her babies apart just by listening to them. “Ivy has a dainty whiney cry, and Hazel’s is more raspy. I can tell who is upset from the other room by the sound of their cry.” Heather reports that Ivy is taking after her dad with his nose and hair color and Hazel looks more like her Mamma with lighter color hair and similar face shape. “Occasionally I spot Ivy pointing her toes so if I have any chance of one of them becoming a dancer, it’s probably her!” said Heather.
Heather’s babies were born just two days before concert so she had to watch her team perform through little videos and social media posts. “I’m so sad I couldn’t make it (to the show) but so grateful we have technology to stay connected. I love this team and am so proud of them!” Heather knew she could count on her team and her assistant coach Adam Lee. “Adam was instrumental in JP’s success this year as he did everything a pregnant dance coach can’t or shouldn’t do. The team was super prepared and responsible going into concert. We walked through every hairpiece and necktie so that they were well prepared and I didn’t have to worry about them during the week I was in the hospital.” By the time auditions rolled around, and the babies were nearly a month old, Heather was ready to be back at the studio. “I was able to participate and direct auditions and feel successful with many new changes to the process,” she said.
Heather is looking forward to team starting up again in August. “The girls will get Tuesdays and Thursday nights with daddy,” she said. “I look forward to coaching because it will be important to have ‘my thing’ where I can enjoy dance and influence young dancers in a positive way. My experiences with motherhood may even shape the way I coach with a fresh new perspective.”
“We love both of them so much and are so glad they have safely joined our family,” said Heather. “Thanks to my PBD family for the love and support through pregnancy and beyond!