I like to quote movies in my aerial teaching that reveal brilliant life lessons. As a child I could quote The Princess Bride from beginning to end, (anybody want a peanut?) but that’s a story for another time.
While re-watching the Harry Potter series, I found several quotes that apply to aerial teaching. I'll admit it - I have a one-track mind! My favorite character besides Harry is headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore. A great teacher in his own right, Dumbledore (written by J.K. Rowling) is full of wisdom. Here is one of my favorites:
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
– Dumbledore, The Chamber of Secrets
Which is more valuable…talent, or character?
Our culture frequently values talent over character. Growing up as a dancer I was complimented for being gifted, not for being a hard worker. I did work very hard, by the way! Through my dance and aerial training I have learned the opposite is true - hard work gets you so much farther than talent.
How does this play out in the aerial studio?
I think it can be easy to give more attention to the talented students. Showering them with praise on their beautiful lines, strength, and so on may send a mixed message that ability is more valuable than grit.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t point out students’ strengths. Everyone has strengths that should be shared because it helps us appreciate and learn from one another. But strength in aerial training involves far more than learning sequences or mastering difficult skills.
An aerialist’s strength is not just what’s on the outside, but also what’s on the inside.
Have you noticed anyone being brave lately? Think of the student who works hard, showing up multiple days per week to overcome their challenges. Or the student who keeps working on the one skill that frightens them the most. Have you noticed students encouraging one another? Or students volunteering to help with set-up or clean-up in the studio? These people show what it means to work like an adult. They know their choices have an impact reaching far beyond themselves.
How can teachers acknowledge the inner strength in students?
When I see a student take an expressive risk (i.e. dancing on the ground before moving into the air), I say, "I appreciate your bravery - keep going!" They may not be aware they are doing something worthwhile until someone else acknowledges it. When a student overcomes a challenging or scary move, I celebrate with them. When a student goes out of their way to be encouraging or help out at the studio, I thank them. Our words can be simple, yet powerful.
Focusing on choice reinforces a studio culture of creating your own destiny and overcoming the odds. Like Harry Potter, we realize it is our choices (not talents) that make us heroes of our own lives.
What stories do you have about overcoming the odds through aerial training?
Please share in the comment section below!
About the Author:
Julianna Hane traded life on a cotton farm to become a dancer and aerialist. She is the author of the Aerial Teacher's Handbook and Director of Training for Born to Fly Productions.
Our authors include our Master Teacher Trainers as well as Born to Fly™ Certified Teachers.