To look at how dance mentoring works for National Mentoring Month, we've asked a few of Leap 'N Learn founder Beverly Spell's mentees to give us insight into what it's like having her as a mentor.
Meet Allison Brandon. Her background in dance and music theatre led her to great successes, and she's recently returned to Beverly Spell's dance studio, The Ballet Studio, to instruct. Plus, there are some other very exciting plans in her future...
- Tell us a bit about your history with Beverly Spell. How long have you known each other? How did your relationship grow over time and how did the mentoring aspect develop? What’s your current connection to each other?
I met Ms. Beverly at another dance studio where I was a young student, and she was my teacher. When she decided to open her own dance studio, I followed her. I began dancing exclusively at The Ballet Studio at age twelve. That was sixteen years ago, so that’s how long I’ve known Ms. Bev. She allowed me to advance based on determination, dedication, and commitment — not age. I look back on my training at The Ballet Studio and remember dancing seven days per week! Sometimes I’d dance so much I’d sleep over at Ms. Bev’s house (which was near the studio) instead of going home. I remember thinking of her as a second mother, not just my ballet instructor.
During high school and college I was not able to dance as frequently at The Ballet Studio, due to my demanding school schedules. I attended many dance classes in college that were part of my curriculum as a performing arts major and I have to say it was clear the training I had surpassed the training of others taking those same classes.
I am currently an instructor at The Ballet Studio. I feel so blessed to be on staff at such a wonderful place. Ms. Bev and I are talking about the future of the studio. We are discussing the possibilities of creating a full performing arts studio that will offer students classes in music and theatre in addition to dance. It is a very exciting time in my life, and I owe that to Ms. Beverly.
- How has your involvement with dance and having Ms. Beverly as a dance teacher shaped your life?
My ballet training transcended into what is now my life’s work — the art form of musical theatre. I was able to land numerous lead roles in college musicals and went on to perform professionally as well. I’ve attended many dance auditions where I felt confident in my dance training because of the years I spent with Ms. Beverly. I attribute much of my success in musical theatre to my background in ballet. It is truly the base of discipline and poise that one needs to succeed in the business of performing arts. Beverly always expected a dedicated dancer. I saw many actors in my field struggle with what was expected of them — being on time, wearing proper attire, and following directions. I had a much easier time being an actor because I didn’t have to learn any of that. The best possible techniques in dance and in life were already instilled in me by Beverly Spell.
- What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from Ms. Beverly?
When I think of Ms. Beverly I think of class. She has a way of making you feel important and valued. She holds her head high at all times. She treats people like she would want to be treated, and she treats people’s children the way she’d want her children to be treated. I guess I’m saying she lives by the golden rule, and anyone who does that has class. She’s a rarity, and a treasure. I’m just happy to know her and be able to work with her and learn from her.
- What are your upcoming goals and plans? Are there ways that your relationship with Ms. Beverly will help you in these future endeavors?
Ms. Beverly and I have big plans to collaborate for many future years. Coming to work for her has felt a bit like coming home. I’m really excited about expanding the offerings of The Ballet Studio with music, theatre, and more!
- What do you seek in a mentoring relationship? What qualities do you find most helpful or inspiring in a mentor?
Honesty, respect, imagination, and humor are the things I look for in a mentor. I didn’t know that when I was younger, but at this point in my life I can pinpoint the qualities I like in others. I like to surround myself with people that encourage me to be a better person. These are qualities I strive to harness in myself. Honesty, in my book, is a must for any quality relationship. You cannot have trust in someone without honesty. Respect is a need, because even if your mentor doesn’t agree with you, if they respect you they will not scoff at your thoughts. Imagination is the key to seeing what is not yet there. A good mentor can see what’s possible, not what is only in front of them. Humor is just for fun! I think being able to laugh with someone builds a deeper relationship.
- What advice would you share to help other dance students or teachers foster a mentoring relationship?
As a student – being open to change, honest with oneself, and trying your very hardest is the best way to opening yourself to mentorship. If you can push yourself harder than others, you will be recognized as special and your teacher will want to take you to levels above where you already are. No one can do this FOR you. You are in charge of your own success. Openness to being taught new things is the key to that success.
As a teacher — treating a student as an individual, harnessing their interests, and being supportive of what is going on in their lives are ways into their hearts and minds. A mentor is more than a teacher. A mentor is a trusted guide. It is a big responsibility, but also possibly the most rewarding position one can obtain.
- You've also been on the other side of mentoring by teaching dancers. Can you explain a little bit about those experiences? What do you strive to do when guiding young students? What is your teaching and mentoring style like? And what is your favorite part of being a mentor?
I think becoming a mentor takes longer than I’ve been teaching. I have not consistently had the same students for long enough to call myself a true mentor. I do love teaching, and hopefully will have the same students for many years in the near future. I hope to be able to influence them and mentor them the way Ms. Beverly has mentored me. My teaching style is to get the work, technique, and point across to the kids in the most fun way possible. I LOVE making my students laugh. I know they appreciate it because they hug me at the end of class. I truly care about a child. If I think they are having a bad day, I will try to make them feel better. I know they know that about me and appreciate that. My favorite part about being a teacher is knowing I made a difference for the better in a child’s day. You never know what tiny moments will stick with them and impact them for the greater good.
A big thanks to Allison for sharing her stories, insight, and advice about mentoring. She holds a special place in our hearts, and we love the way she brings joy to her classes. We know she will continue guiding students to their full potential and happiness — and will be the same caring, dependable, and inspiring woman as she journeys into motherhood!
Tell us what you learned from Allison's interview — or just comment to tell her hello and congrats on being a soon-to-be mom!
Do you have a similar dance mentor story? Feel free to celebrate these stories by sharing them with our dance community below or on Facebook!
P.S. Check out Allison's original, hilariously awesome show The Bumpy Road — A Musical Journey Through Pregnancy with performances in Lafayette and New Orleans, LA next month. And do yourself a favor by going if you're in the area, or sharing it with anyone you may know that lives nearby!