Next up in SRL’s Core Values of G.R.E.A.T.E.R with have A for Appreciation. Appreciation is one of those words with multiple definitions—1) “a feeling or expression of gratitude” 2) “judgement, evaluation” 3) “sensitive awareness, especially: a recognition of aesthetic values” and 4) “increase in value.” While it’s easy to look at these definitions and deny that they have anything to do with a dance studio, the truth is all four of these definitions can and do apply in this studio. Between learning gratitude (for their opportunities, families, fellow dancers, etc.,) appreciating i.e. evaluating their own skills, cultural appreciation, and learning to see their growth as appreciating their own value—SRL dancer know that Appreciation is more than a thank you card. It’s the expression of respect, kindness, and self-love through hard work, dedication, and acknowledgement of others.
The first aspect of appreciation revolves around the idea and action of gratitude, a kind of buzzword these days. But Oprah’s gratitude journals aren’t just a trendy way to sell stationary—there are very real, proven mental health benefits to learning to find, express, and act on our gratitude in our day to day lives (including, of course, dance class!) Our dancers aren’t just in class learning steps (though they’re certainly doing that,) but helping each other learn and grow—just as someone has done for them, and they will continue to do for others. This community-focused gratitude includes their families and the time they sacrifice in support of their dancers’ dreams, appreciation of their teachers and their work, and, always, appreciation of their own hard work and achievements. Learning to feel this gratitude, show it, share it, and practice it can improve moods, lead to more optimistic thinking, improve social bonds, and even have physical health benefits!
The next facet of appreciation sounds like the opposite: “judgement, evaluation.” But in the dance world, we see the ability to self-evaluate as a skill that not only helps dancer become better in the studio, but to grow in all aspects in their life. This isn’t about judging themselves harshly, but rather the ability to self-reflect—whether it be about how much work they need to put in to meet their next goal in dance or in school (and one day, work,) or how their behavior affects others around them. Elementary and secondary educators emphasize the importance of children learning the skill of self-reflection for not only academic growth, but personal growth in their ability to be functioning members of society—it’s an expertise that begins to be taught as early as pre-school in order to see how their actions have consequences. It’s as true in dance as it anywhere else in life!
The next is clearer in Irish dance than perhaps any other dance discipline: cultural appreciation. While all dance disciplines have their own unique, cultural roots, Irish dance has kept an extremely high level of tradition in its dress, steps, and music that helps connect dancers around the world to Ireland’s historic customs and ethos. This has the positive effect of not only connecting them with Irish culture, but instilling in them appreciation for any other culture outside their own. The importance of opening ourselves up to different people, places, histories, and viewpoints can’t be overstated, and there’s no better lens to begin that journey through than the arts. Becoming part of the world, rather than just your part of the world, breeds empathy, opens minds, enhances communication, and allows you to learn! Irish dance and culture is only the beginning.
And lastly, we have the concept of appreciation when it comes to “increase in value”—something we tend to connect with homes, antiques, that kind of thing. So what does it mean for a dancer? At SRL, there’s no value inherent in your competition level, class level, etc., but rather in your own personal path, in setting realistic goals and working toward them, in doing your best and working your hardest. We see this version of appreciation as an increase in self-worth that comes from diligence and commitment, rather than the score the adjudicators hand down—winning is great, and we’ll always celebrate it. But knowing you gave your all is a more priceless victory—the kind that appreciates over time and contributes positively to a dancer’s self-respect and self-confidence.
Appreciation isn’t just a word, it’s an action we enact every day at SRL—from the way we respectfully treat each other, other cultures, and ourselves, expressing our gratitude for the incredible opportunities Irish dance and its community provides. But we haven’t completely covered how to be G.R.E.A.T.E.R. yet! Tune in next time to find out what that capital T is all about!
This post is part of a series. Read our last core values post, all about capital E Excellence, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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