10 Life-Changing Lessons from UNM Dance

As I work through the last two days of raising funds for UNM Friends of Dance with our Zumba Cardio Party, I’ve been remembering special words from the staff at UNM (University of New Mexico) that contributed deeply to my life from 1998-2002.

In paying tribute to some of my many professors, here are a few of my life-changing favorites:

Bill Evans, Professor of Movement Analysis: “Teach what you want to learn.”  He taught the value of diversity and listening to others, and that every student will give you more than you can share.

Ginny Wilmerding, Professor of Kinesiology:  Dancers should be experts in their bodies with near medical degrees.  If you have a passion and a need to learn challenging information to succeed in it, why not teach that portion with in a FUN way?  She made Anatomy and Physiology approachable, entertaining, and most importantly, meaningful.  However, the day she measured my pelvis and said, "Uh-oh.  Birthing is going to hard for you," I was not terribly thrilled.  Is that why I taught Prenatal Fitness for 6 years...

Eva Encinias, Professor of Flamenco:  Speak Up: if you find your feet you will find your voice in the world. She makes eye contact that looks into your soul, and makes you feel like the most important person in the world for those few seconds of conversation.  After speaking with her you walk away dazed, knowing that was the most generous experience ever.

Jennifer Predock-Linnell, Professor of Choreography:  Time for my first assignment on a dance show, my first listing in a dance program and I ask, “Can I include a few lines in the program about who I am?”  She looks at me over her glasses and says bluntly, “No bio.  You haven’t done anything yet.”  Being born in the generation with a sense of instant entitlement, my soul was crushed.  With gratitude, all these years later I think, “Am I contributing to the world and proud of what I'm doing?

Mary Anne Santos Newhall, Professor of Modern Dance:  You dance your heart out to hear her cries of “YES!” and “Ah-HA!” because when they come, they are genuine.  She wants more for you than you expect from yourself.  My first years of proud moments with own fitness students I would hear her joyous “Ah-HA!” cry in my head.  Wouldn't that be great if someone shouted that at you every time you did a great job?  "Mary Anne, I filed my taxes."  "Ah-HA!  Yeeesssss!"  We may all be more motivated...

Larry Lavender, Former UNM Dance Head:  There are open possibilities after college, with an endless workload.  In my final year I asked, “Where can I work now that I’m educated?”  He responded, “Go MAKE jobs.”  Back then I thought, “Seriously?  I just went to four years of college to be employable, and someone in Dance is not WAITING to hire me? Darn…”  And then I stayed in school for my Graduate Degree and often had four jobs at once.  Thank you, Larry.

Judith Chazin-Bennahum, Professor of Dance History and Chair of Friends of Dance:  Judy came to the hospital to check on me after my cancer surgery during my third year in Dance, but expected a completed Dance History final two weeks later.  She wins the award for least expected good cop/bad cop, and shame on me for thinking she would let me slide because she saw me at my worst.

From everyone at UNM Dance:  Never give up on others, and never give up on yourself.  I had a car wreck that ripped the ligaments in my right hand, so I did pushups on my brace to pass first semester.  I tore my ankles second year, so I choreographed on my knees for a month and I felt ridiculous.  Third year I had two months of surgery and cancer treatment between midterms and Christmas, and every teacher made me complete every test.

I was only 19 and I wanted to quit, and they all said NO.  Despite my medical ups and downs, UNM Dance gave me a scholarship every semester so I couldn’t quit.  I wish that for you in your life, someone that never gives up on you so you cannot quit on yourself.

Keeping dreaming, keep going, keep achieving… and don't forget to smile.
 XOXO - Megan