Your critics aren’t the ones who count

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There is nothing more frightening than the moment we expose our ideas to the world.

Brené Brown is one of my favorite researchers at the moment. Her insights into being vulnerable have been life changing in such a wonderful way for me that I almost can’t imagine a life without learning from her.

This video clip is her presentation in the 99 conference to people working in creative industries. Shortly, she is saying that without vulnerability we cannot create.

When we present an idea of something that we care about, we are afraid of rejection. In dance, we present ourselves, our ideas of the music and movement and rejection hurts because we care so much. In the video, Brené introduces a few very good thought patterns to get ourselves ready for the criticism that we know we have to face for sure.

Publicity and privacy

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All world’s a stage.

Especially in the field of art and in the time of social media – all our actions are part of the branding process. I have many Facebook friends who use social media purely for advertising purposes: they post dance videos, pictures, dance events and write statuses about dancing, they befriend dancers and dance fans who they don’t know personally. But, I also have friends who post pictures of all kinds of life events from birthday parties to weddings and even funerals, status updates about their family and friends and they befriend people only if they actually know them.

Neither way is “right” or “wrong”. They’re just different ways of using a tool for different purposes. I perfectly understand the reasons for both and personally, I use both. I use friend lists a lot. If I want to share something more personal, I make it visible only to a few selected people. Dance stuff that I wish to share with a vast audience, I make visible to all friends or even public.

I think the way our lives are both public and private, is interesting. It is also a bit controversial in a number of ways. Because we are all “public”, other people easily start thinking they know us based on what they see of our lives and make evaluations about us as people based on those things. It isn’t an easy task to differentiate what we know about the person or the personality, and what we know about what that person does. Looking at the public image someone displays of themselves doesn’t really tell us anything about their motives. We might think we have the capacity to deduce “oh he only wants attention” or “she thinks she knows everything” whereas the reality might be different – especially when someone makes the decision of not sharing anything too personal. Yes, there are still people like that, and as for some it might seem old school, to me it is an attractive alternative and a way of keeping important things to people you trust and who are truly close to you.

Because social media gives us a tool to mold the perception that others have of us, it allows for impression management. Giving a positive image of youself is somewhat natural to humans, I think, and can help in thinking more positively about yourself too. But taken too far, it might turn upside down and start creating too high expectations for reality: I should feel as awesome as let everyone understand, I should be as active, interesting or successful as my profile looks like, so am I failing if I don’t?

And whether we want it or not, people will always have opinions and those opinions will be affected by what people see and hear. Limiting our public lives into only positive things might make some people think that we are extremely happy people or that we have a great life. It might also make someone think that we are terrible show offs. Maybe some will think that we only want to share positive things. And the truth is, this applies to real life situations too and not just what we do in social media. Some of us are really good at behaving in a certain way no matter what’s going on in their private life. And for some of us this is a reason to believe that everything is well or that the person just doesn’t give a crap. Both possibly false interpretations.

It is a very natural human tendency to be interested in other people’s lives, thoughts, feelings and how they are as people. And unfortunately it is also very human to use schemes and heuristics in interpreting situations and behaviors. Our own experiences create expectations of situations – we “know” how things are supposed to go and why. Having schemes (scripts) is very useful because we don’t have to re-evaluate every situation but we know how to behave properly almost automatically. But, using simple schemes to evaluate complex situations can be misleading and harmful. Or at least our understanding of the situation can be only partial, which is ok until we start acting on that understanding. Some might say that it is the person’s own responsibility to give such an impression that people can safely act based on that, and some could argue that it is our responsibility to find out the true nature of things before acting. I support both views; I do think that finding out as much of the truth is always a good idea, but I also think that we as humans need to pay attention to the way we interact with others.

Another aspect to this topic is the respect we ought to have for each other’s boundaries. No one can demand someone else to show or tell more about themselves than they want to. Then we just need to figure out what level of publicity are we ok with.

Why am I writing about this topic right now? I’ve experienced in my own life how big controversies can different expectations of privacy create. So, paying attention to it before things get weird is highly recommendable, if you ask me. And in general, we forget so easily nowadays that once we post something into Facebook or some other social media, it will stay there. So think carefully of what you share because those things might turn against you in ways that you can’t anticipate.

In memoriam Marjory Smarth

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The worldwide house dance community got very sad news last week as a house dance legend, Marjory Smarth lost her battle against cancer. She had been fighting for many years but I don’t think anyone of us believed she’d be gone so soon.

In the video, she tells about her fight against the disease and how important dancing was for her.

I had the privilege of meeting Marjory in 2012 in Oslo, Norway as I participated in an event she was judging and I also took her workshop. She was an amazing person and dancer, always positive, always supporting each individual and you could see that she just loved life. It was heart breaking, yet somehow very beautiful to see how the social media filled with posts about her – people expressing their missing and sorrow for her death but also their gratitude and joy about her life. During her life, she touched so many so deeply that it is overwhelming to think about.

She was a very wise woman in a very human way. I think every one should listen to what she has to say in the interview below, no matter if you’re a dancer or not.

She was truly unique. Loving, inspiring, positive, strong and accepting artist and such a real person. She made us better because she loved the dance so much that you had to be honest to even be in the same room with her – there was never room for faking or negativity. For me, her story is one more reason never to stop dancing and doing what I love. I wish to respect her legacy and I believe that she will stay alive in the dance. One of her last wishes was not to have a funeral but for everyone to dance to celebrate her life.

Like she would say, live true and dance free.

Project: 14 weeks of positive change, week 8

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One of the most important things, if not the most important thing, in my life is my relationship. I am extremely lucky to be together with a person who I share a lot with and who both respects and loves me unconditionally. He is the most honest and intelligent man I know and I appreciate him on so many levels that sometimes it is a bit overwhelming. My challenge is to make him aware of my feelings and thoughts. I know he knows that I love him and things are generally more than well with us, but still, I want to make our relationship a priority just like I have made a healthy diet and other lifestyle choices.


DAY 2

Openness and communication are, to me, some of the most important things in a relationship. Sometimes they need to be worked on and, yes, sometimes reaching out to the other person requires effort. Or at least a conscious decision to do so. I don’t agree at all with those people who claim that everything should be easy in a relationship. It’s not a bad thing if things go well effortlessly but getting out of the comfort zone shouldn’t be unthinkable for the one you love.

Last night I decided to reach out a bit and get out of my comfort zone. Usually I’m not very good at starting serious conversations about “serious” things even though I don’t mind having those discussions. I tend to wait for the topics to just drift into deep waters. This time I took action and started a conversation about us, our future and what we want from life.

Talking about our dreams and life goals felt good and I was happy that I started asking those questions. To really know the other person, you must know what he wants.

Communication and openness are of course present every day and not just in deep discussions. It is probably even more important to make it a habit to share your feelings and thoughts and to ask about those of the other one every day or multiple times a day, than to occasionally open up and have a groundbreaking bonding moment. My boyfriend isn’t from Finland and he noted the other day that we Finnish people tend to focus on facts and we talk less about how we feel about the things we do. Therefore, I will try to expand the emotional part of my storytelling and maybe after making a conscious effort on it, it will become a natural part of my way of communicating.

DAY 6

This has been a tough week for a bit different reasons than the previous weeks. Yes, I continue being busy, but this week my boyfriend lost a friend and a crew member to cancer. I had met her too and she was an amazing woman and a great dancer. I’ve tried my best to be there for my man and support him in every way possible.

I’m having a common cold which makes me tired but, knowing that he processes things through dance even more than I do, I wanted to stay at the club with him until the end and dance with him, to have a very human moment with him. It goes without saying that homework has to wait and some of my tasks from this project are momentarily secondary.

In general, I think it is extremely important to recognize what is important for your loved one and respect that – I might not think the same way about everything but because I love him, I want to stand by him no matter what decisions he makes. Opinions can be talked about and both can have their own ways as long as neither tries to force the other one to adopt their stand. Like it says in this blog text, you shouldn’t expect the other one to change. He will change if he wants to but creating a mutual way of life will require both parties to respect the other one so much that they’re willing to change on some level.

DAY 7

In a way this step of change is the most difficult one. When we are in a relationship with someone, we have expectations, hopes and emotions that make it more difficult to keep the focus in yourself. It is so easy to start thinking what the other one could have done or said differently and what aspects of his behavior you don’t like and so on. To look past all that and to make honest evaluations of yourself and how you might make better choices, takes a lot of will power.

For instance, I’m not very business-minded but my boyfriend certainly is. I have often difficulties in agreeing with the way he prioritizes things even though I do understand why he makes certain choices. Sometimes I have to work mentally really hard to make it clear to myself that his choices are about him and his life and not about us – meaning that I can’t put my own way of thinking and decision making on him.

It is a common mistake that people make to think that we all deduce, make decisions and interpret things in the same way. To understand and accept that our minds work differently, makes life easier because we don’t predispose ourselves to disappointments so much. This is especially important when you’re emotionally attached – when we love someone, we give them power to both make us happier than anyone and to hurt us deeper than anyone. The actions and words of our loved ones mean so much more than those of other people.

Another difficult side of this is to monitor your own behavior. I’m emotionally very reactive and intense and at times it’s hard to keep my reactions on a fair level. To me of course, my emotions are very real and they don’t feel unreasonable but I have learned by now that my intensity can make other people uncomfortable and for them, I seem to overreact. That’s why I have had to learn to suppress my negative reactivity and to trace the thought patterns that cause these reactions. It is a lot more useful then to open up the thoughts to the other one. But it is not easy. It is extremely demanding because basic emotions are some of the most primitive human things that come so naturally. And it’s a long road. But, I want to think that it is worth it.

All in all, I think that by remembering and trying to apply the following things, we can make small but significant changes in our relationships to the better even when nothing’s actually wrong.

  • Step into the other’s shoes – try to understand the way he/she thinks and feels and why.
  • You don’t have to agree about everything but talking about the things you don’t agree about and making compromises is necessary.
  • Listen. A lot. Ask questions.
  • Touch the other one a lot and often but make it meaningful. I didn’t write about this in the post but I must say that holding hands, hugging and kissing more than usually is nice and it makes you feel closer.
  • Say and do nice things – little praises and the words I love you cannot be used too much.
  • Look in the mirror. Ask yourself if it’s about what the other one said or did or if it’s about the way you interpreted that.
  • Be ready to put in some effort and to grow.

Gliding down the memory lane

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I went ice skating today. Last winter I put my skates on only once and before that I had a few years’ break. For those readers that don’t know, I used to do synchronized skating for about 15 years winning two silver medals in the junior world championships and placing fifth in the actual ones. So, I basically used to live in the rink.

Lillin risti-ikkuna

There’s something so personal in my relationship with skating that I feel like I should be in the rink alone to really get to know to ice again. The feeling I get every time I put my skates on is very intense and there is nothing quite like skating. I love the speed, the sound of the blade digging into ice and the white thin figures on the ice. I love it but my skills are rusty and the experience is very different knowing what I was able to do. It hasn’t changed only for the worse – the achievement/execution part is all gone. Now I like to explore the ice and my relationship with it and my imagination is running wild as I think of all the things I could do if I combined my abilities to dance and my ability to skate (well, the skating part needs more work).

I wanted to find some old skating videos. Unfortunately YouTube came round in 2006 which was almost at the end of my career. But I did find some videos.

Here’s the short program from season 2006-2007. That was my only season in Team Unique and actually my last season in the world championship level.

And here’s the free program from the same season and competition in Prague:

One last one, and a funny one too. So, I quit in 2007, had a year off and then I went back to skating but in an “open series”. We practiced once a week and everyone was an ex-skater. It was funny because our theme was hiphop and I had been going to hiphop classes for a year at that point and I still kept taking dance classes aswell. During the season 2008-2009 I realized that it was hard to just skate once a week after being used to doing it six times a week and that I wanted to dance more. So I quit skating and started to push my limits in dance.

So, this might explain why I’m so good at doing formations. Seeing figures and different transitions is somewhat natural to me. But actually, dance has widened up my perception a lot and I think that the artistic freedom in dance is much more valuable than the almost militaristic execution in skating. I feel a bit sad every time I watch synchronized skating nowadays because the potential in the sport is tremendous. What choreographer wouldn’t want to have 16 dancers who can skate?! The glide element alone makes so much room for play that the possibilities are endless. But since the synchronized skating people want it to be a sport – not an art – there are very strict limitations for creativity. And the skaters aren’t of course dancers. To be honest, I really learned how to move after I quit skating.

But well, I have something in mind. Let’s leave it a secret for now. Since there aren’t that many videos, I’ll post a few pictures.

Casper1 Casper2 Fado1 Mystikki kuvia 163 lyhytohjelma1 vapaaohjelma1smlyhytalkuVapaan alku12vk07voitonhuumaesc06alkuverkka2

Skating gave me a lot although it did take a lot too. I didn’t get to party every weekend (actually we weren’t allowed to drink alcohol at all during the competition season) and I couldn’t always hang out with my friends as much as normal teenagers. And, like I said earlier, instead of learning how to express I learned to perform and instead of living and breathing movement, I executed. But, I traveled into Russia, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech and Canada to compete. I learned about body conditioning, fitness training, mental training, sewing sequins and most of all I learned to work really, really hard. I’ve had plenty of time to party afterwards. And I think that my honest movement expression has grown a lot but it will still take its time to mature.

The last year, the next year

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Happy anniversary with wordpress.com!

Thank you, wordpress. It’s been a good year. Quite a busy one full of challenges. I guess this is a good moment to look back at my year and see if I’ve achieved what I’ve wanted to achieve or worked towards my dreams.

During the last year,

I was organizing the biggest annual street dance event in Finland, which was a huge success. All in all, I organized or co-organized 11 different dance events,

my students placed 1st and 2nd in their own categories in the Finnish championships. Personally, I won two different hip hop battles, placed third in the hip hop 2 vs 2 category in the Finnish championships and was in the top 4 in three different dance competitions,

I taught 10-15 hours a week all the time. Hip hop, house and voguing, all levels of students, in three different dance schools,

I submitted the first version of my bachelor’s thesis about dance therapy, mirror neurons and empathy,

I kept studying in the university and getting good grades,

I was a singer in a nationally touring band that plays gipsy music,

I performed as a singer in various events and took vocal lessons regularly,

I started studying Japanese,

I became the executive director of a new dance school / organization.

During the last year, I was also tired and stressed out at times. I felt like I do too much for everyone else and my own art and my studies suffer because of that. I felt like no one appreciates what I do and no one sees my work, and that I am always second to my colleagues. I felt like I can’t reach my true potential in anything that I do because I’m involved in so many different things. At times I felt like I am a bad girlfriend, a bad daughter and a bad friend.

But then again, during the last year, I have been with my family, loved my man and got love back, helped my friends in all kinds of situations from moving in to fetching forgotten keys and advertising for events. I read a few good books, listened to a lot of good music, saw some great movies, wrote lyrics and tried to capture the beauty of the world in pictures. I wrote diary entries and I read my own diary entries and on the pages I met a young woman who is on the edge of her own greatness.

During the last year, I started to accept something. The understanding that I am me, there is no one else like me and that I am allowed to shine, started to make its way into my thinking. That is probably where this writing stems from as well. It is liberating to be OK with it and it makes it so much easier to celebrate others, too, without the need to continuously compare me to them. Now that I have started to accept my own way of being, maybe during the next year I will be able to manifest it more – maybe I will take even bigger steps towards what I dream of without looking for acceptance from anyone else than myself.

During the next year, I will keep being a good dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, psychology student, host, event organizer, singer, girl friend, daughter, friend, book fanatic, generally intelligent person… me.

Thanks to everyone who has read my blog and subscribed during the first year. There is plenty more of this so stay tuned. And if you like my dance videos, please share them. Visibility is vital to us dancers – it is what gets us work and brings food to the table.

 

 

The girl with a heart

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I wrote some time ago about two of my students in the post “two stories of love and passion”. I started making a video of Elli, the younger one, already back then but I didn’t have time to finish it until now.

But, here it is. A story of one of the most inspirational people I have ever met.