Take Small Bites

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.
And everyone said,”You’re much too small,”
But that didn’t bother Melinda at all,
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a little girl should…
…and eighty-nine years later she ate that whale
Because she said she would!!! – Shel Silverstein

I have struggled with why I can be so good at certain types of relationships and not at others. As I was talking with a friend of mine the other night on IM, I was about to type in a bit of advise and immediately realized I should have been writing myself a note about it instead. It was “take small steps”. When I teach, I somehow intuitively understand the necessity of this. The history of a students ballet education is very important to their ability to perform things well. If they’ve had bad teachers, it shows. Many people came to me to help them fix difficulties they had because I was able to take them back to the place it started and re-teach it using small, simple lesson that they could easily grasp in an hour and then build on. I never, never expected them to be perfect, even after years. I was just satisfied that they did the best the could that day.

Someone who did the best she could every day

This is a great skill for a teacher and I have it in spades, but when it comes to applying it in relationships – I SUCK!  Ok, a lot of other people do too. Some people have an inclination to go back to where a problem started (I’m raising my hand here) and some people just want to deal with the problem at hand and ignore the rest (raise your hand if this is you). You know how it goes, you get into a discussion about one thing and it turns into some other monstrous thing. Then someone is yelling because the thing you started discussing “isn’t really the point”. The balance I learn from Ballet is that you must try to understand both the root cause and the problem at hand simultaneously. In other words, you need to understand the process and the problem. My problem – I don’t often take small bites when I have relationship difficulties to discuss with someone, and I don’t often give myself time to digest the information I get. “Technique–bodily control–must be mastered only because the body must not stand in the way of the soul’s expression.”~La Meri. Similarly, communication must be mastered so that it does not stand in the way of friendship and love.

Even swans have to maintain their fundamentals

There were students who came to me and were unwilling to go back to the beginning. They were ‘above’ or ‘beyond’ that and, god forbid, someone should suggest that they re-learn as something as simple as Plie. I could not teach them the 32 fouttes they had come to me to perfect until they understood that the foundation is their plie. “Plie is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master.” -Suzanne Farrell

When you don’t maintain your foundation what you end up with are injuries and crappy dancing that take all the joy out of the art. It’s the same with relationships. When you try and build on skill that you are not strong at you either struggle through with angst, injuries, and things you are really not proud of or, you fail completely. If you find someone who is willing to learn the basics of relating and communicating together with you, you will avoid a lot of injuries. You may find it hard at times but you will also find that still place of center more and more. Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun.” ― Mikhail Baryshnikov

The thing about a good dancer is that they practice the simple things every day, every class. I love dance as a metaphor for life, but there are other one’s too, like cooking, that can describe things in a way that words alone cannot.

Note to self: Take small bites. Chew.


(Ballet) Buns from allrecipes.com

  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons margarine
  • 4 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar


  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand until creamy, about ten minutes. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix and flour. Slowly add the yeast and water mixture and stir until smooth. Cover the bowl and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  2. Grease a 10×15 inch baking pan with high sides, or two 9×13 inch pans. With a spatula, scoop the dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Dust the top and roll or pat the dough into a large rectangle, about 12×24 inches. Brush dough with the melted butter or margarine. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over the dough. Roll up dough jelly roll fashion and seal edge with a little water. Cut the roll into 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices. Place snugly into the prepared pan. Let rise in a warm place for about 1/2 hour or until doubled.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
  4. While rolls are rising, combine butter or margarine, corn syrup and brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. When rolls have risen, pour the syrup over the tops of the rolls, letting it dribble down into the pan. Sprinkle rolls with pecans and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degree C) for 25 minutes or until golden brown.


“So, I think I would say, enjoy the process of learning to dance. The process of our profession, and not its final achievement, is the heart and soul of dance.”~Jacques d’Amboise


2 thoughts on “Take Small Bites

  1. Speaking of ballet, I loved it. I began in a very strict studio in the TriCities, and when my family moved to Oly I took up with Johansen, good but very different teaching style. I didnt know i liked the intensity of the strictness until it was gone. Just before I would have started pointe, something I had long looked forward to, I stopped. Should have stayed on!

    Anyhoo, Saff is going on 4 in June and it is time to explore her interests. She loves to dance and gets music and rhythm, which is really cool. She has a relative who is a professional ice skater so she thinks she wants lessons, but
    It’s in Tacoma so a little more challenging. Are you still teaching ballet?


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