Molly Kay Stoltz

dancer - teacher - choreographer

teacher/taught mentor/mentored

For most of my life, I’ve been a student. I’ll always be a student, because we’re always learning, right? I know people say they can’t wait for formal school to be done, but when college was over for me, it felt like I was losing a part of my identity. I SO identified with being a student- it was (and still is) who I am.

You can call it being the teacher’s pet, or whatever you want, but I’ve always sought to be in relationships with all of my teachers. I would linger in class after we’d finish so I could catch a juicy tidbit of info, or ask a question. I would think of ways to connect more deeply with the subject, go above and beyond with my projects and papers, study hard to pass my tests with no mistakes because I wanted to show that I was engaged, and that I cared about what the teacher was trying to teach me.

Maybe it was how I was raised, or maybe it was just who I am (probably a bit of both), but my teachers have always been some of my favorite people. I’ve been very lucky to find that some have become more than just teachers- they’re my mentors, people who throughout my life I’ve looked to for guidance.

Now, as I start to dive into becoming a teacher myself on a more regular basis, I find myself wishing I had taken better notes on how to be a good teacher. What is it about my teachers that drew me to them? What did they have to say that I found compelling? Sometimes, I doubt myself and wonder “Why would these students want to listen to what I have to say"?” Sometimes I simply wonder “What is it that I have to say?” It’s not that I don’t know things- I know I know things. But, being a teacher means somehow taking it to the next level and understanding how to make many different minds hear what you say, understand it in their own way, and process it and make it work for them.

When you think about it this way, teaching is an immense responsibility and undertaking. No wonder I stress out about it every week! I’ve interacted with so many wonderful teachers in my life, that I know I have a tall mountain to climb to reach that level that my own teachers have reached. Beyond this, I can’t even imagine the time and effort it takes to go from teacher, to mentor. That is another mountain in itself. To make being a teacher into your life, connect personally with your students, let them into your own life, admit to your own failures or struggles in order to hopefully help your own students avoid them, and support them to the fullest extent. When I think about it, mentors are treasures to cherish.

My ending thoughts are both of gratitude and of aspiration. I want to share how grateful I am for my mentors, and hope that I get the chance to return the favor and take on the role someday. It would be an honor to follow in the footsteps of the mentors I’ve learned from, and pass on their knowledge. I hope that by practicing good habits as a teacher, I can inspire my students just like my own teachers have inspired me. It’s a challenge but one that I seem to continue to rise to each week. Now, off to plan lessons!

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Reflecting on 2018

2018 was quite the year. Over the year, I have been reflecting each month on the lessons that I’ve learned and the things I am grateful for. Instead of keeping it to myself, this year I thought I’d share.

Advice from self:

Get a massage and chiropractic appointment each month. Some months are about making small steps, not big ones. Stuff isn’t important. Adults are responsible for themselves, and I am not responsible for them (most of the time). Three shows is too many shows (oops too late for 2019). I like alone time and plants. They make me happy. It is ok to take time off. Listen to people’s stories and ask good questions. Get out and have fun! Say yes and then figure it out (thanks Ellen Keane). Stretch before and after class and rehearsal.

Things I’m grateful for:

The time I have. My kitties. My dance companies. People who understand me. My parents. My home. My coworkers. My body workers. For evenings off. For being a year older. For my brain and my body.

In looking forward to 2019, I know that I have one do and one don’t. First, travel is one of my top priorities. Trips already planned are to New Orleans, LA, to South Dakota for my brother’s wedding, and to Anchorage, AK, to meet my husband’s mother for the first time. I hope to plan other trips as well. As for the don’t, I don’t want to spend all day at a screen. This means making more time to be outside, to dance in a studio, to read a book, or to take a bath without my phone nearby. So, that means I’m going to wrap up this blog today so we can all get out and enjoy ourselves!

But, don’t be afraid to share what you’re grateful for, what you’ve learned from your past year, and what you want to accomplish this 2019!

Musings on "Garden of Names"

I've been taking time this month to catch up with friends in the city this month. When not rehearsing, I've been making sauerkraut, holding babies, and visiting over a cup of coffee and a gluten-free doughnut. I hope that I've had the chance to see you in person, if you are reading this! But, if not, now is the time to come and see me in my first production of this Spring before I dive into a busy summer. 

I've been busy working with Zorongo Flamenco on "Garden of Names". Below is a link for tickets (and I encourage you to get them now!). It's been a really great experience for me to make connections again between Zorongo Flamenco and Flying Foot Forum, who are working together on this piece that they originally created in the 90's. Watching old videos of this performance, gleaning material from it, and seeing how the work is both transforming in the re-creation, and also how it is still relevant in our time, has been an invaluable learning experience. This piece is very theatrical, and tells a story, and you do not need to understand flamenco in order to understand the story or the emotions. 

If you have a little time to read a book that is deep but doesn't take too long to finish, please go out and find "Imagining Argentina" by Lawrence Thornton. The book is set in Argentina during the Dirty War in the 70's, and although it is fictional, it is full of truths. This is the story which Susana DiPalma, our director, has re-imagined for "Garden of Names". I just finished reading it, and wanted to share one quote with you, which refers to those that represent the government in Argentina, who disappeared thousands of people during this War. Perhaps you can see parallels in today's world...

“They can see everything they want to, but never forget that they cannot see beyond the distortion of their imagination where there is no color and everything exists in black and white. And that is why we will survive, because they do not have what is necessary to defeat us. The real war is between our imagination and theirs, what we can see and what they are blinded to. Do not despair. None of them can see far enough, and so long as we do not let them violate our imagination we will survive.” 

Recovering, or why I love my body workers

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Early November, I suddenly found myself experiencing a sharp pain between my shoulder blade and spinal cord. You'd think it was a dance injury, but I honestly believe it was from me stupidly not holding a phone with my hands and instead squishing it between my shoulder and ear. Of course. 

I decided to try a massage therapist my teacher recommended to me. (Thanks Karla!). He thought it best to try his chiropractor. But before I could schedule an appointment, the wind literally knocked me off of my bike in December. The next day my ribcage felt bruised, but manageable. Seven days later, while reaching up to adjust my rearview mirror, I felt/heard a POP in my ribcage and suddenly found it difficult to take in a breath. Explaining why I couldn't make it to dance class that night was interesting- "Well, I was reaching for my rearview mirror, and now I can't breathe, sorry I can't make it to class!" You can't make this up. Seriously, HOW?

When I finally got in to the chiropractor mid-December, she had a lot of work to do! But, one month, one more massage, and three adjustments later I am FINALLY feeling back to normal-ish. This all brings me to my point...

1. I love my chiropractor. I know some people don't believe in/trust them but I've been getting adjusted since I was small. I know what I feel like if I don't get adjusted, and I know what I feel like when I do get adjusted. I most definitely prefer the later.

2. A good massage therapist who really gets dancers is a precious gift. They can give you tools to take into your daily life that help you learn from pain and injury and become stronger and better.

3. A good chiropractor + a good massage therapist = a happy body. I am starting to see how my body workers tag-team issues throughout my body, and where one worker may fall short, the other can pick up the slack. Trying out different modalities has been helpful in finding ways to address different issues in my body, and to manage pain, discomfort, or immobility. 

So, have you thanked your bodyworker later? Or, do you need to find one to get started on your own recovery? I encourage you to talk to your friends to get recommendations. Word of mouth has always been the best way for me to find great people to work with me. I am grateful for the work they've done the past two months, and am happy to have them as a resource moving forward in my dance career. I hope you find a bodyworker who helps you to recover, or simply learn more about yourself!

back to the grind...

I have to sometimes wonder how many half-finished websites I've left in the dust over the years...

But here's to starting fresh! A new year, a new day. If one doesn't start, then you just won't get started, as I've been heard telling my clients and students.

So, here I start.