Wednesday, June 25, 2014

That moment when...Shelby Thoms

That moment when...

Amidst the craziness that has been my past few months, competition season as well as other side effects of workaholism, I lost a part of my support system and family slightly unexpectedly. In the first weeks and months of grieving the loss of this woman I focused on her selfless love and support. She treated me like family, despite not being a blood relation, and encouraged and supported all my endeavours, especially my artistic ones. Her love of music and dance and her willingness to express her enjoyment were often shown in her own ability to sing fully, dance wildly, and cry without hesitation when something moved her. This is something I will take with me always. 

Shelby Thoms in Susan Kendal's work Cumulonimbus and the Fable Keepers

As things have settled in my life and I have had some more time to reflect on how I can allow what she gave me inform my life and work, I know that her encouragement style will be key. So often in dance it’s about getting it "right". My teachers have demanded of me, I have demanded of my students, and I have demanded of myself to be better more diligent and ever faster. As part of the competitive dance world, I have heard endless don’ts and can'ts, paired with a strive for growth that often comes paired with negativity. As a result, I have started to try to add more encouragement into my work. When correcting my students or giving critiques as a judge, instead of saying “your supporting leg is not turned out” I’ve changed to, “keep working on turning out your supporting leg”. As a dancer I am trying to speak to myself in a more encouraging way also, challenging myself to try new things and not reprimanding myself when I don’t get something right away.  I am constantly asking myself and finding new ways to encourage growth, not demand it, both in myself and in my students. 

Shelby Thoms in Susan Kendal's work Cumulonimbus and the Fable Keepers

Judy was a huge part of my childhood and teenage years, when having support, love, and encouragement is so important. When I look back on her role in my life, that is all I see. Now I am in a role as a teacher where I am a huge part of many girl's childhood and teenage years, where my support, love, and encouragement  can change their experiences and course. I want my students to look at me and see the pride and joy that I saw in Judy when she saw me dance. That’s what knowing and losing Judy taught me, something I will no longer take lightly. It is truly amazing how someone can continue to make you a better person, even in their absence.

Simcoe Contemporary Dancers, Company Member, Shelby Thoms, reflects on life as a dance teacher and artist.

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