For all intents and purposes, Stacey Tookey is a Disney princess. Her voice is like honey as she waltzes around the classroom exclaiming words of encouragement, she sees the best in all of her dancers from the front row to the back and she’s absolutely beautiful. I mean, come one! Who get’s to have a kid, hip surgery, years of wear and tear from dancing and still maintain eternally lovely lines that rotate into perfection?
What’s more? She creates a nurturing environment in her classroom where dancers feel comfortable as they navigate challenging combinations and complex emotions. No matter what you’re going through, dancing with Tookey is good for the soul.
Here are four takeaways from her class at Broadway Dance Center this past week. I hope they inspire you as much as they did me!
1. Bring good energy to class.
As we transitioned into group rounds after learning the choreography, Tookey asked the class to be aware of the energy they brought to the floor. “I respond to energy,” she said. “We all do because we’re human and that’s what drives us. So step onto the floor with good energy, no matter how insecure you feel. Come forward and say, ‘I’m Stacey. I’m here. I’m terrified, and I don’t know the choreography. Let’s do this.'”
2. You have to want to be seen in order to be seen.
After pointing out and praising the movement quality of a dancer in the back of the room, Stacey asked her to lift her eyes off of the floor and connect with the audience. “You don’t have to stare me down like a creeper,” Tookey said. “But you have to want to be seen in order to be seen.” The room erupted in praise. Her choice of words made the concept click in these dancer’s minds. She was telling them to be vulnerable and let down their walls of insecurity so that the audience could feel something from them.
3. Don’t dance for the approval of others.
Stacey says teaching the youth today has shown her how damaging the need for outside approval can be on young dancers. “This generation is in a different headspace because their lives are constantly critiqued,” she said. “They’re so worried about what others think of them. I’ve seen a real shift in body language, in performance quality and in the reason why these kids dance. Too often it’s about getting a video to post that will get them a lot of likes. I want to create a safe space so students can start believing in themselves from the inside, and not wait for someone to praise them online in order to finally realize that they’re beautiful.”
4. Dance because you can.
Before the last run of class, Tookey took a moment to talk about L.A.-based professional dancer Deanna Mondello, a beloved member of the dance community who was recently hit by a drunk driver and killed. She solemnly reminded them of the gift it is to dance. “This last time, I want you to do it because we’re here, and we’re present and we can.”
Tookey, left, with Hilton.
Stacey’s class was one for the books this week. As a rule, everyone should take her class as much as humanly possible. Like I said—it’s good for the soul.