Getting Dance Pictures

Getting Dance Pictures

I have a tip for all of you moms of dancers.
No, it’s a plea.
You’re going to assume it’s because I’m a dance photographer that I wrote this. That it’s to get more money in my pocket. But no. Part of the reason I am a dance photographer is because of this very thing.
My request: order pictures of your children dancing each year.
It doesn’t matter if they didn’t like the costume that year. (Actually, that’s a point in favor of getting that particular picture. They’re going to remember how much they hated that particular costume anyhow, so this way you can all look back in 20 years to see if it was as bad as they remembered)

When I was in ballet, my studio didn’t do pictures. I’m not sure if others did at that point or if it’s because it was a small studio (we started in her basement for the first few years). But that means I have so few pictures of my time in ballet and en pointe.
And as much as I am loving being in ballet now, It’s not the same as when I was 12 and had dreams of being the next Maria Tallchief (her height inspired me tremendously).

So make sure your kids go to photo day. If you don’t do it for them now, do it for them when they’re moms and their kids start dancing and they realize that they’ve joined the generation of dance moms and that their dancing days may not be over, but will never be the same.

Tooting Your Own Horn

Tooting Your Own Horn

For some people, it’s as natural as breathing to talk about their passion. It seamlessly fits into every conversation and they become known for the thing they do.
For the rest of us, though, it feels like we automatically become a used car salesman if we try to mention what we love to do.

(Case in point: My children have been taking music lessons privately for 2 1/2 years. A few months ago I mentioned that I was going to teach a photography course. She had no idea I took pictures!)
There really is someplace in the middle for the rest of us.

I need to be completely honest here. This is something I’m working on myself right now. I don’t have all the answers.

But I also feel really strongly that it is important for people who know us to know what drives us. Dancers need to dance. But if people don’t know you’re a dancer, they’ll never give you those opportunities to dance. And you never know who might have a connection that could change everything!

Here are some subtle ways I’ve come up with to let people know what drives me (some days that means photography. Other days it means dancing.)

  • t-shirts with fun dance-related phrases (I have one that says “Dancers Are Always On Pointe” that I wear all the time)
  • fun travel mugs (I have one like this. It freaks me out to see “my lens” in the sink, but I love it)
  • Looking for opportunities to mention something about taking pictures. Not in an obnoxious way, but when it’s a natural thing to include.

I don’t start with “My name is Charla and I’m a dance photographer. Do you know anyone I could take pictures of?” but somehow I ended up with a conversation with a realtor at an open house, and 5 minutes after “how do you do” I was telling her about my Always A Dancer project and recruiting her into it. It was truly authentic, though. (when someone says “I’ve been dancing since I was 3. It never leaves you!” it would be inSANE not to follow up with the project about THAT VERY THING!)

I would love more suggestions for this list. What else can I do, or what do you do, that introduces your passion in a genuine way? Share your thoughts on Facebook or Instagram!



I have a draft of a blog post, all about how I’ve decided to push myself to a new and scary goal: to get to a full split.

I intended to hold onto it until I got to the full split, at which point it would be a huge celebratory post about how you can achieve whatever goals you put your mind to.

But right now I’m not feeling quite so optimistic.

I wasn’t very flexible as a kid. I never quite nailed my splits, though I worked on them week after week. (and therein is the problem: I didn’t practice them, or stretch out at all, between ballet classes. Doing them on Tuesdays and Saturdays just wasn’t enough!)

I wanted to get to a split, but I didn’t get there. I’m not sure how much of it was my body making it difficult, and how much was the fact that I didn’t practice it other than during class.

So I decided that this would be my summer. I would stretch out daily.

I recruited my kids (well, two of them: the oldest is struggling with flexibility too) to coach me and do it with me.

For the first few weeks it went great. We stretched daily and I was noticing progress.

But after 3-4 weeks, I started noticing that my hamstring was hurting if I stretched daily. So I would give it longer to recover…which messed up my rhythm.

Now I’m stretching every 2-3 days and giving my body time to recover…but last night I was disheartened to realize that I’ve lost some of my flexibility.


So now, here I am. Late July, definitely more flexible than I was when I started in early June, but nothing like where I’d hoped to achieve at this point.

I would love your comments and stories. Is this something you’ve struggled with in the past (or you still do now)? Or is there something else that you just feel like you should be able to do, but for some reason it’s a bigger hurdle than you expected? What are you doing to overcome?

I’m asking you to inspire ME today!

Simple Beginnings

Simple Beginnings

I bought my daughter a tutu when she was 1 1/2 because all toddler girls should own a tutu.

She adored it. She wore it all the time.

Then when she was 2 1/2, she got a leotard, skirt, and ballet slippers for Christmas. She adored those, too.

So when she was 3, we put both girls in ballet class. My eldest loved it, but my middle child was a little overwhelmed, so we let her drop out after Christmas.

The following school year, she was ready to jump back in. This time, she stuck with it.

The teacher had the other girls in class look to her to remember their steps in the recital dance. She was that confident.


…then we took a year off while we had the house on the market and moved 1200 miles away.



When we started dancing in Kissimmee, she joined ballet like she’d done in Buffalo. But when she tried a hip-hop class, something clicked. She was immediately in love.

Then, she tried tap during the summer session, and that was a magical experience too!

So when we let her try as many dance forms as we could possibly cram into our schedule this past year, she ended up choosing ALL of them. She was in 7 classes each week (thankfully overlapping with at least one other sibling).

…conclusion (it’s about time, right?) : my daughter is a dancer.

I don’t know what style will end up being her absolute favorite. I don’t know where she’ll take it and how far it will go. Maybe she’ll pursue it as her profession, and maybe she’ll decide at some point that she needs to head in a different direction.

but I suspect that, no matter what, dance will continue to have a portion of her heart for all of her life.

Why do I think that??

Because I’m her mom, and I’m exactly the same. No matter how long it’s been, ballet still draws me in.

So, as you get ready to start this coming school year, deciding on classes and schedules, try to let your heart lead. Obviously we all have limitations (schedule, budget, etc), but if there’s one thing being a dancer and dance mom has taught me, it’s that you can’t decide with your head what form(s) of dance speak to you.

What classes are you (or your children) doing this year? Keep the conversation going on Facebook or Instagram!



As dancers, we know the importance of grace. Even in a “grounded” dance form like tap or hip-hop, there’s still an element of grace. I’m coming from a ballet background and it’s all about grace (and strength and control), but I love that it permeates all styles of dance.

It’s easy to forget that there’s another kind of grace, though, and it’s one that’s every bit as important.

This week I’ve had to remember to show myself grace.

I’m really good at showing grace to others. Letting them off the hook when life gets crazy. But I’m not so good about showing myself that same patience. I get frustrated. I’m disappointed and annoyed.

This week is one of the busiest weeks in my photographic year. Sunday I took pictures at Dance Central. That means that I had hundreds of pictures to sift through, edit, and print. Tomorrow I start taking all the proofs to the dance studio and showing the parents and students and collecting orders.

Last year I realized that I needed help on the next part (showing myself grace, level 1.0). I hired a friend who was better with details than I am, and she helped me get all the pictures cropped and uploaded to the printer. This year I’m doing the same, so that part will stay sane.

But there’s an added twist this year.

I got sick.

It’s not a bad one. Just a head cold. And seriously colds-wise a super-basic one.

But with it: a nasty cough. The kind that keeps waking me (and my poor husband) up all night long. All. night. long.

So I’m tired. Fuzzy. Touchy. And I still have to get normal life done in addition to getting everything ready for the big reveal.

I’ve had to force myself to slow down. To not expect that I’ll get absolutely everything done, and to be okay with that.

This is such a hard lesson for me, as a Type-A person, and a mom, and an oldest child (a.k.a. perfectionism is a constant struggle). But I know I need to show myself the same grace I’m so willing to bestow on others.

So may this encourage you to show yourself the same grace. If you can’t do it all today, that’s okay. It’s not a bad thing to let yourself slow down. You’ll be stronger coming back out of it.

Hanging up your dance shoes

Hanging up your dance shoes

It’s the end of the school year. It’s time for recitals. Not only is it a celebration of all we’ve learned in the past year, it’s also a time to re-evaluate. My kids are talking about what classes they want to take next year, trying to decide which ones they want to take while I hope we can spend fewer nights driving to the studio.

It’s also a time when we evaluate if we like where we’re headed. This is the time when most people change dance studios if they decide their current one isn’t working anymore.

But even bigger than that, it’s also the time when we evaluate if it’s time to take a break from dance entirely.

…let me tell you a little story…

One of the hardest decisions I made in my life was when I was almost 15.

It was then that I realized that my ballet, clarinet, and honors classes were all hurting because I didn’t have enough time to focus on all of them.

I knew I had to choose something to drop, and ballet was the only choice that made sense. I could get a music degree if I wanted (which I did end up doing), but I was going to be too tall to make it as a dancer (I knew I didn’t have it in me to shoot for prima ballerina). It was a long drive many times a week, and I knew dancing was the hardest financially on my parents.

So I hung up my pointe shoes. It was so hard to do. Ballet was my life! It’s the reason I chose to take French as my foreign language (now that I live in a very Hispanic area I’m wishing I’d chosen Spanish, but that has nothing to do with the story).

I honestly don’t remember if I had any hopes of returning to dance one day. I danced here and there during the next many years, being a part of the church Christmas presentation in college and little things like that.

I taught ballet for a semester at the school where I was teaching music in Istanbul. It was a wonderful experience and it rekindled my love for the grace and precision of the dance form. I remember a panicked email to my ballet teacher: “How do you teach pas de bourre?” It was so ingrained in me that I didn’t know how to go about explaining it to my class full of eager dancers.

I came back to the States and took a ballet class at the same studio I’d grown up at. It was a level harder than my sister or I had gotten to before so it was a stretch, but we loved it.

When I put my daughters in ballet class, I had no intention of getting back into it myself. I loved it, and hearing the music made my heart leap, but it wasn’t the right time. Nor was it the right time last year, when I decided to give tap a try.

But this year, I took a chance and tried ballet. And I’ve loved it. It’s been a challenge (my body does NOT always think I can do the things that my muscle memory wants to do again), but it’s been completely worth it.

Why am I telling you the story? Because I know how it feels to stop. I know how painful it is to make that weighty of a decision.

But I also know that it doesn’t have to mean forever.

Maybe you’re at a fork in the road. Trying to decide between studios…or particular classes…or maybe you’re wondering if it’s time to take a break from dance.

As much as I truly believe we are Always A Dancer, I also recognize that it doesn’t mean we’re taking classes every week of our lives. There are seasons for everything, and if you feel like this is a season to focus on something else, I want to reassure you that it’s okay.


I’d love to hear your story or thoughts. Join the conversation on Facebook or Instagram! (or email me if you want to share but feel it’s too personal to post on social media!)