how my students saved me

Every year, our performance teams gear up towards a massive event held in January, called the Sydney Salsa Congress. (By the way, I'm twittering too much clearly, I typed "@Sydn" and then sat for a moment wondering why the link didn't magically appear.) Spin City Dance usually brings two teams - one student level, and one pro level, to perform in front of a heckuva lot of people from all around Australia. Whilst there are many other teams that my other incredible instructors teach performance to throughout the year, the Sydney Congress team is the one that I always personally choreograph, train, and lead. I'm just a bit fussy that way. No surprises, really.

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Last year was no different - in August, we started putting out the word that the performance course would run for 12 weeks leading up to Christmas. Just one slight spanner in the works - in August, just as we did all this, my back decided to play totally dirty. I could barely walk, let alone dance, or teach, and my headspace was absolutely abysmal - devastation and depression reigned.

By the time first week of the course came around, I'd been in bed for 8 weeks straight (IN bed. Not out of work, but bed-ridden). And I couldn't really sit up for very long, just about 1.5 hours at most. My team of instructors and I discussed it - I still wanted to do the routine, but it would have to be assisted by them, AND the students would have to be clear that I was under duress (read: delusional from painkillers).

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On the first day, I hobbled into the studio, the team got the sofa bed set up in the corner so I could teach from there. Students milled in, and to my horror, I didn't know at least 70% of them. They were all new to my school, or at least, to me - how the heck was I going to explain that they were going to have an invalid for a teacher??

Yup, I thought I was screwed.

Wonderfully though, after a few ice-breakers (so all 40 of them could get to know each other), I explained the situation to them, and explained how I would be teaching "using my words" and my team (who didn't know the routine mind you since I couldn't exactly demonstrate it!) would be showing them what to do. And they were amazingly understanding, and game for the experience!

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So. Week after week, I'd hobble into the studio, get set up on my sofabed, and instruct/choreograph/lead them from my corner. And this team, well, my word. Week after week, frustrating as it must've been for them, worked incredibly hard to make the routine in my head, one that was fun, entertaining, and demonstrably great to watch! They'd all come from different schools, different levels (a few of them were even almost complete beginners) and as the sessions went by, I saw a solidarity form within the group.

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They wanted to help each other. They wanted to learn. They wanted to produce a great performance piece. And more lovely, they actually cared about me, rather than lamented my inability to give them more energy. Some sessions, I had to leave early from sheer pain. A horribly guilty feeling, as any teacher would understand. Some sessions, I was so delirious that I didn't remember what I'd showed them before, and patiently, they'd show it to me and we'd work off a shared consciousness.

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As the 3 months of training started drawing to a close, my back actually started feeling better, and I was able to give them all the special tips that you can only show people, not talk about. And my team, wow, they just blossomed. From a group of shy beginner/intermediate dancers to absolute show ponies. And when they did their THANG up there in Sydney, I was incredulous, proud, and most importantly, it made me well up with emotional tears.

JCPhotography - 21 Spin City Dance - sydney salsa congress-sharon pakir

Words can't describe the pride you feel when a group of people come together, to perform wonderfully in front of 1000 people, and the joy that surges through your veins. Nothing can prepare you for the moment when the music is blaring, you see their faces light up, and all the execution is flawless. Especially when it's been SUCH a long hard road. Seeing people who 1 year ago had just sauntered into their first dance class "just for a new hobby", becoming lithe performers with a flair for entertainment with a HUGE crowd screaming? PRICELESS.

Every year, I'm lucky enough to experience this with the team I take to Sydney - we are lucky enough that the crowd always goes wild for us, and even luckier that our teams are always full of energy and perform well. Yup, I'm already a lucky lucky girl, I know it.

BUT this year was different. This year, instead of feeling completely like this was THEIR triumph, incredibly, the energy was much more emotional, just so much more passionate. Why? Because this was the team that brought me back to life.

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It's hard to explain, but with this team, I could've so easily gotten one of my capable staff to take them. Forcing myself to go in every week though, gave me 2 hours of sunshine to look forward to, and to feel satisfied after. Having such a deep passion for teaching, it gave me time out of the house, just to do something I loved.

And this team of genuinely great people? Well they gave me back  my energy. They trusted me, even though I couldn't give them much. They respected my knowledge, even though I couldn't show them much. They proved to me that I was still relevant, still wanted, still integral, despite being well, for want of a better word, in a pathetic state and stage of life.

They gave me the yearning to teach again, the zeal to get better fast so I could show them some stuff, the inspiration to work harder on my dancing once I started getting better (rather than give it all up, because frankly, it seemed too hard at the time). They supported me through a horribly difficult few months, without even knowing. Little messages after classes, consistently giving me feedback, always making sure I was looked after. Plus you know, letting me be delirious at times when my body just failed me, time and again.

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Thank you Bond team. I have always adored teaching, and always feel that the energy you get out of teaching a bunch of great students is incomparable to many things in life. BUT you guys... you guys have given me what every teacher can only ever hope for - the very passion back into some very tired and painful bones. You gave me 2 hours every week to look forward to, and made me feel like I was a good teacher despite being a non-dancer. Thank you for representing me, my school, Melbourne, and most importantly, for trusting us with transforming you into genuine show ponies. I can't wait till your next performance!

Check out my team performing here.