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Behind the Curtain Blog

NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.


From Plies to 5Ks: Self-Care for Dance Educators

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Emily Enloe, Dance Educator at Oakbrook Middle School in South Carolina. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

Like many educators, COVID-19 accelerated my tough daily load of teaching. I struggled with turning my program on a dime to meet new COVID-related protocols while remaining focused on what was important—the students and their needs. Although the changes gave me some time and ability to experiment in new ways with my dance program, it also took a toll on my mental and physical health. After being stuck at home during quarantine with limited outlets other than creating bad habits, I found it hard to break some of those habits once school and work became “normal” again.

Cut to August 31, 2021 and during my usual morning duty station at school I step down, off a bus, and tear my right calf muscle. As a dancer and a teacher, I have faced lots of bumps, bruises, and injuries in my time - I even broke my middle toe once while teaching a battement to a group of 7th graders. However, this injury was by far one of the most painful and debilitating I have had to face to date. Coupled with the accelerated feeling of burnout brought on by COVID-19, I knew I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle to keep not only my health but also my emotional wellbeing.

A photo of a woman running in a race

So began my journey to start running in March 2022, just a few short months after feeling like my calf was back to what I could consider normal. To be fair, I have never been a runner or played organized sports. Although I enjoy various sports, I was also that person who always said “If you see me running, someone is chasing me.” However, I was unhappy with how I looked in the mirror….and as a dance teacher, I had to see myself in it almost seven hours every day. I also felt pressure and anxiety from school that could not be eased solely by talking about it. I needed to exercise more and figured running was an easy way to start. All I had to do was walk out my door and follow the roads or sidewalks. There was no driving, no traffic, no certain hours for a specific class…just moving my body freely when I had the time.

Those first few loops around my neighborhood were hard, physically and mentally. I figured as a dance teacher the transition into running should be easy to pick up, right? Definitely not easy. I remember setting my fitness watch that first day and I ran down the street, feeling like it had been two whole miles. I looked down at my watch and realized I had gone only about 500 feet. Nonetheless, I told myself I was going to stick with it. I was able to appreciate the outdoors (when it was nice), listen to music or podcasts I would never normally give myself the time to enjoy, and I wanted to get better.

Whether it is because I am a dancer or a teacher (or maybe the oldest sibling), I tend to be both a perfectionist and a little competitive. Often those skills are of great use in the classroom and on the dance floor. However, I rarely used them to focus solely on myself. Running has allowed me to do so. I did not want to be the person who was out of breath after a 500-foot jog or who looked like I was being chased by a wild bear. My timing and my technique could improve, just like if I was studying a new dance style. So, I began to run more throughout the week, even after a long day of teaching. Or maybe I ran more because of a long day of teaching. I joined a gym down the street so I could have access to equipment or run in the air conditioning instead of the 90-degree heat and humidity that is a summer morning in Charleston, SC. I talked about my journey to my coworkers, who encouraged me along the way. I told my sister about my goals, and she supported me by becoming a running partner - though to be fair, she and my brother have always been the runners of the family. That’s also when I decided to sign-up for my first 5K race.

My sister had also never done a 5K race and was excited when I got into running since we could hold each other accountable. With the flat roads and nice weather, Charleston has no shortage of 5K races throughout the year, and we decided to sign up for one that was labeled a 5K walk or run, with a fun party held afterwards. It was not for several months so it gave us a goal and time to work, holding us both to a plan to run and train after hard days at work.

A photo of Emily and another woman, smiling standing in front of a lake.  They are both white woman with baseball hats on.

Fast forward to October 2022 and our first 5K arrived. We were excited, showed up early, and wore all the gear to make us feel like real runners. Pushing ourselves to not stop running during the 5K, we finished that first race together in 38 minutes. It was a feeling of tiredness and enjoyment that is difficult to explain, but I am sure is familiar to many. We completed a goal we set, and we were not the last to finish. Since then, I have completed at least four additional races including one 10K finish.

It may not seem like much, but the ability to complete a 5K multiple times has become a way to focus my energy on myself in a healthy way. We hear many preaching about self-care and often encourage our closest family and friends to follow a self-care practice, yet as teachers we rarely take our own advice. My journey is proof that self-care is possible. Find a friend or family member to support you. Use the talents you share daily with your students or coworkers on yourself, too. Make a goal. When you cross the finish line, remember to enjoy the moment of self-care you gave to yourself. And then do it again because we all deserve it.

A headshot of Emily, smiling against a black back round.  She is a white woman with light hair and dark eyes.

Emily Enloe (EdD, MEd, BA) graduated from the University of South Carolina-Columbia with her BA in Dance Education in May 2010. During her time as an undergraduate she was awarded a Magellan Scholar award for research in dance and videoconferencing as well as the Richard Durlach Excellence in Dance Education scholarship. She has taught middle and high school dance in Columbia, SC and Charleston, SC for the last 12 years. In addition, Enloe was the Graduate Mentor for the Dancers Connect program housed through USC-Columbia’s Dance Education program from 2010-2014. The Dancers Connect program was an undergraduate practicum experience for dance education undergraduates that provided free dance classes to middle and high school students in the Columbia community. Working with this program earned Enloe the 2012 NDEO Elsa Posey Graduate Student Scholarship. Enloe is also the Past President for both SCAHERD and SCDA, the SC state associations for dance educators. She earned her MEd in August 2013 from USC-Columbia in Early Childhood Education and graduated with her EdD in Leadership from Charleston Southern University.

Photo Credits: Featured Photo Featured Photo by Brian Fancher, Running Photo by Anna Enloe, last two photos courtesy of Emily Enloe


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