We had an unbelievable photo shoot downtown for our Company students with Greg Tjepkema and I can't wait to share the photos with everyone. I really tried to push the envelope this year, so I can stay a step ahead of everyone following in my footsteps! We used a gorgeous row house as a backdrop, an abandon train, the hood of my car and pretty much any cool place we could find to create magic. We did head shots for all the kids, and decided to get a 'dance shot' of each of them in all black on a white brick background. We got all of our group shots done in all various places and then we finished up at the beach in water with balloons and climbing trees. It was a lot work, but it was worth it!
Then we decided that after the Photo Shoot would be a perfect time to have our annual Company end of year BBQ Pool Party. We always have several get togethers a year for our Companies, including a Christmas Party, but everyones favorite is always at the end of the year. We are all done our competition season and everyone can really let loose and have fun. Were lucky enough to have a great family in the Bellchambers at our studio who lets us use their house every year. They have a big backyard with a heated pool, a hot tub and a fire pit, so the kids are amused for hours. The dads BBQ, the kids run around and the moms work on their contemporary dancing while all the staff enjoy the show!
Now in the past when we have had Company parties with everyone included it has always seemed a bit disjointed. The older kids would always hang out together in a separate area of the backyard then the younger kids. They would hide up in small groups in bedrooms upstairs and it just didn't seem like a big group atmosphere. And to be honest, I never really noticed it was like that until I experienced how different our party was yesterday!
There was one point in the evening when every kid from our studio was there and every parent was as well, including my own parents. Everyone was gathered out on the deck while every kid was in the pool together, from age 5 to 18. The moms were doing a Rockette line and the kids this time were cheering on their parents instead of being totally embarrassed by them. We started a fire and all the kids gathered to roast marshmallows and make smores. I went down to help them out only to find the Senior girls handing out the supplies and making the smores for the younger kids. The Inter kids were all roasting marshmallows for the Juniors and everyone was sitting in each other's laps around the fire.
I went back up to the deck and sat down with a group of parents spanning all the Companies and commented on how nice this was... they all quickly agreed. A parent who has been with my studio for many years commented on how great the atmosphere was and how happy she could see her daughter was. I guess sometimes you forget how much an 8 year old at your studio really idolizes a 13 year old. Just being able to ride on their back in the pool or to share a marshmallow with them around a fire really makes them feel included and special. I'm sure you can all understand how a younger student can look up to an older student as a dancer, but can you say the same about them as people? Yesterday I could say that I had 32 kids who all felt special and included, as well as about 50 parents who could not have been happier with that reality.
We leave for our Nationals trip in about 4 weeks and now I could not be more excited. The parents planned an evening out in Rhode Island, while the older kids agreed to babysit for the night. We also decided to have a bonfire at the beach the night before we all leave and I know that every family will be happy to participate. Nationals would have been exciting regardless, but now that everybody is more familiar with each other, it will bring an entirely new element of fun to the trip.
Maybe it's the combination of people at your studio in a year, or the group of kids you have at one point, but I feel it all kind of coming together for us right now. It won't necessarily effect the way the kids dance at Nationals, but I don't think how they perform will necessarily be what they remember most about our trip. They're going to remember the sleepover party they all had crammed in one room, swimming all together in the pool, and improv dancing on the beach at night. I like having meals out with the parents and I enjoy sitting by the pool having a Mojito with whomever is around. I'm glad that I can enjoy studio activities with all the families instead of just encouraging them all to do things together and not being included. It's also nice that I can be involved in all the fun and still be shown respect. After all, you can't really respect somebody that you don't really know!