Lisa recalls a story when her student gave her a mug with the inscription "The Journey is the Thing".
"whether you are going from a jette to a pirouette or from a classroom to your day job, life can be danced in every place you go and, like the teacup says “The Journey is the Thing”.
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Twenty years ago, on the 4th floor of a steamy dance studio in NYC, I had just finished teaching my high energy jazz class. I smiled at my sweat-drenched students as they were shuffling out of the studio. They looked exhausted but content having quite literally left it all on the dance floor. Some took the time to thank me for the class on their way out while others rushed away to their next class, audition or survival job.
I admired the way they cobbled together their days, which fluctuated and flowed between big dreams and huge disappointment. Cuts and callbacks, inspiration and perspiration. Their stamina was indefatigable on the dance floor and in their determination and passion for what they did.
On this particular day I noticed one student lingering behind as I packed up my things. “What’s up?” I asked her, hoping that everything was okay. I had known her for almost a year by then and saw her at least 3 times a week. She was one of my regulars, a really dedicated student. I can still remember now, more than 20 years later- when we first met on that elevator ride to the studio.There was something about her that compelled me to say hello in that moment on that particular day. “Whose class are you taking?” I asked her and she looked up from her well rehearsed “show no fear, act cool” focus at her feet and replied “Hopkins”. I smiled out loud. just as I am smiling right now as I remember that day...but back to the story…
“What’s up? “ I asked her as she reached into her dance bag. “I made something for you.” she said, offering me a beautiful tea cup and saucer that she had made for me. Wrapped around the belly of the cup was a painted inscription that read “The Journey is the Thing” in quotations with my name - Lisa Hopkins as the attribution. “Did I say that?” I asked. “You always say that!” She laughed. I was flattered that she had taken the time to make me something but surprised that her biggest take away from the endless hours she had spent with me in the classroom were those 5 words. “The journey is the thing.”
Looking back now, I can see what a compliment that was. That she really saw me and that I have indeed lived my life by that principle and that it is truly the journey which makes the dance sweet.
She was just starting out in her professional career at the time but in retrospect, so was I! Even though it may have appeared as if I was “established” in NYC - I mean afterall I was the teacher…The truth is, just like my students, I was cobbling together my existence, eking out a living - and unbeknownst to them, I was still on a student visa myself- barely making ends meet. I wasn’t even allowed to audition for the shows I prepared them for and things they just assumed I had already done? I never pretended otherwise,but they were so entrenched in their projections of how they saw me, I didn’t need to.
Still, I never felt like an imposter. I felt completely at home teaching these brilliant artists. My lack of resume credits at the time didn’t hold me back, but actually allowed and even required me to rely more deeply on who I was than what I had done.
Looking back, I now see that my student taught me a great lesson that day; even if I am only beginning to learn it in this moment. What I taught in the classroom was so much more than just credits. It had nothing to do with what credits I had or didn’t have or how fabulous combinations were or the number of students I had in my class. It was about igniting the purpose and joy in whatever we do and understanding that whether you are going from a jette to a pirouette or from a classroom to your day job, life can be danced every place you go and, like the teacup says “The Journey is the Thing”.
It is no surprise to me that my student went on to have a marvelous career herself, and I am honored to have been part of her journey. I still have that tea cup with the inscription on the mug. And, as I sip from it now, I recall our chance meeting on the elevator that day, and the coincidence that it was me she was coming to study with. But in the end, it was she who has taught me something about myself and for that I am grateful.
I’m Lisa Hopkins, thanks for listening. Stay safe and healthy everyone and remember to live in the moment.