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Let’s Get Personal: My Sweeter Side

File 2016-06-29, 9 42 24 PMComing out of Sweet Side of Swing, I’m always full of warm fuzzies. I’m reinspired, revitalized, and refreshed. It’s a great way to kick off a new season: bonding with other like-minded, pedagogically invested Pros and creating cathartic epiphanies that in turn serve to bond the community. This event more than any other, puts me in touch with my maternal side, my sweeter side.

I am aware, that as an alpha (assertive) female, I am sometimes misunderstood. Whether this is sociologically unfair is irrelevant; it simply exists. I am known to be rational, direct, practical, efficient, extroverted, comical, fast-processing, and high energy. This has served me well in all aspects of my career and sport endeavours. Some of these traits are not traditionally feminine, but I’m tired of defending them. In this age of gender neutrality, I think this argument needs to fade into the past.

Every human is made up of a complex set of personality traits that is custom-built from their unique set of life circumstances and experiences. And how they appear in public can be very different from how they are in their private life. I’ve learned over the years to do my best to reserve judgement of all dancers: while dance is an expression of a facet of themselves, the way that they need to appear “on the stage” is likely a stark contrast to their “backstage” persona. My stage presence demands confidence, grace, eloquence, polish, sensuality, and assertiveness. But this is not all I am made of. This is not the persona I bring to private lessons, for example. In a private lesson, I morph to the energy level and personality of the dancer I am coaching. I let the student show me how I can reach them. My gregarious side more often takes a back seat and in that intimate setting, I get to live in my softer, nurturing, empathetic skin for while.

As an academically trained coach, I have a lifetime of experience in helping people. It has been ingrained into my DNA to help people for nothing but the sole reason that my help will make their life better in that moment. I don’t need any external motivation – I would teach for free if my income was otherwise guaranteed. My school teaching and sports coaching experience has given me a knack for predicting problems and inefficiencies before others do, so I am powerfully tempted to step in and do preventative maintenance in order to ensure smooth sailing for those project and people I care about. A friend recently called me “an alien”, because she finds it highly unusual that I don’t hesitate to offer my help whenever I can, because I can, instead of waiting to be asked or withholding help pending payment.  This was after spending hours patiently answering her questions on teaching strategies over dinner. Of course, it’s a struggle to hold back this instinct in circumstances where my help would not be appreciated, or would be misinterpreted. But my intentions are never to take control – I have no primal need to take control. My intention is to facilitate others in gaining better control for themselves. I genuinely want their projects to succeed.

My sweeter side doesn’t have to be wimpy. I can be sweet and gregarious. I can be empathetic and hilarious. I can be practical and nurturing. Sometimes, people make an impression based on that one facet they witness that one time, rather than taking into consideration a broader perspective.  Just because I’m direct, doesn’t mean I don’t care. In fact, I am direct because I DO care and don’t want to waste your time. I’m very conscious about being effectively understood and not wasting time. Sometimes I’m quiet, and it definitely doesn’t mean I’m shy, submissive, withdrawn, or a snob. I might be tired, I might be focused, or I might have lost my voice (which happens a lot).

Thanks to various personal growth experiences such as the Landmark Forum, my sweeter side sees possibilities in you you might not see in yourself.  My sweeter side hates giving empirical scores on my judging sheet, and would much rather pull you aside and show you that technique that will make your dance click. My sweeter side is moved to tears watching our new Rising Star couples debut their new routine after months of work and life obstacles. My sweeter side is not only open to, but actually craves feedback of any kind. My sweeter side tries at all costs to avoid offending anyone unintentionally. My sweeter side will sit and give you 100% attention with no judgement as you privately share a personal struggle. My sweeter side has been in agony sitting on the sidelines since my ankle injury not being able to physically connect with humans through social dancing. My sweeter side wants to make your dance community better, one blog article, one weekend intensive, one private lesson at a time, even if it’s my rational side that ultimately gets the job done.

It is my sweeter side that compels me to start projects such as the WCS Rising Star Support Network, our Swing Literacy Development Method teacher education program, the Westie Wisdom series, our AllStar Apprenticeship program, and this Coach’s Corner blog. Myles and I both share a keen interest both in developing the sport and in coaching and mentoring the next generation. I am so lucky to have a life partner to share these sweet projects with. Myles always helps me remember my sweeter side.

In my community, I’m proud of my role as Mama Bear. I love that it succinctly reminds people that a woman can be both unapologetically fierce and nurturing, and that when necessary, love and support can appear assertive and commanding. But it’s always with the best intentions. I see all students of WCS as my bear cubs, and passionately want to make your dance lives better.

PS: Wanna see my tough side? Stay tuned next week…;)

8 Responses to “Let’s Get Personal: My Sweeter Side”

  1. Tessa I know where you are coming from here is one I use that I think gets close ‘consistent in our principles but flexible in our approach’ love ya x

  2. Wonderful article Tessa! I’ve never experienced anything but your sweeter side. You are a treasure to the WCS community. As a Fitness and Wellness Coach, I understand your wanting to get the best out of everyone you encounter in our community. Thanks for being you!

  3. Thank you Tessa. I believe you have the blueprint here for a very substantial book that could be valuable to women of many careers and not one esoteric group. Women can relate to Your experiences with dance, even if they don’t dance because they’ve probably tried it or dreamt about it or admired others who can. I think it can be said that dance in form and theory is a metaphor for many things and in reality is an evolution of life. The way that you teach, coach,
    perceive and encourage is valuable to anyone who needs or is open to learning. A good teacher can teach anything they understand. However, with that being said, I am happy you chose Dance as your vehicle.

  4. Thanks for your blogs Tessa 🙂

  5. I understand this completely, I often feel misunderstood because of my energy/personality and it is good to know that others have gone through it! I also think some of the most fulfilling life experiences we can have are when we share our passions with others selflessly! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Kristi Monson June 30, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    I love the cuss outta you! …every aspect of you! …and I’ve always noticed and admired how you go out of your way to dance with your fans at big events, and set the standard for kindness and professionalism. Congrats on all your amazing accomplishments, and thanks for being in my life xoxoxo

  7. A part of what you write reminds me of a point Gary Jobst made in another of these discussion on FB, His observation that many of us dancers are introverts working in an extrovert’s environment. I believe one of the ways we can use dance is to work our way from in to out. And enjoy the process.

  8. Thoughtful and useful. Thanks, and keep not apologizing.

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