What My Ballet Teacher Really Taught Me

January 4, 2018

As a teenager, I studied ballet six days a week at Ballet Elganova.  Madame Elganova was a tough, dynamic woman who demanded commitment and excellence from her dancers.  One didn’t cross Madame Elganova and we all yearned for words of praise to fall from her lips.

One day, Madame Elganova complimented me about something.  I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that I said something that dismissed her compliment.  Madame Elganova slammed her cane against the floor.

“When someone gives you a compliment, just say thank you!  When you disagree or say no, you’re telling me that my opinion doesn’t matter and that I don’t know what I am talking about!  Are you calling me a liar?”

She was right.  It’s funny the moments that stick with us – those moments when someone gets in and gives us a new awareness that makes a difference.  I have never forgotten that day.  She taught me how to accept a compliment graciously, and it is a gift I have in turn given to many people.

Every one of my dance teachers I had growing up mentored me in one way or another.  They not only made me a better dancer, they also imparted important life skills. I didn’t recognize the impact of the life skills I gained until much later.

Harvard Business Review’s article What the Best Mentors Do states that “the best leaders practice a form of leadership that is less about creating followers and more about creating other leaders.” The best kind of mentors “imprint their ‘goodness’ onto others in ways that make [them] feel like fuller versions of themselves.”

Entrepreneur’s 6 Things Great Mentors Do Differently suggests 6 factors that “set great mentors apart,” including NOT sugar-coating failures and saying “no” to mentee requests they are unable to accommodate.

Students at everybody dance! receive life-changing mentorship from our professional Teaching Artists who inspire them to achieve their very best in the dance classroom.  We are also proud of mentorship opportunities we offer outside of the studio. Our high-school enrichment programs – Mentor Match and the Student Training Education Program – allow high-school students to learn directly from professionals in arts-related fields through conversation, on-the-job observation and training, field trips and more.

Great mentors not only build up young people, they also challenge them.  When did a mentor challenge you in a way that prompted an important change in you?

Staci Armao, Director of Operations

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