Gelsey Kirkland teaching at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet. Photo by Kyle Froman, courtesy of Dance Teacher.

If you could thank one dance teacher in your life, who would it be?

Let him or her know tomorrow, Tuesday, December 1 for National Dance Education Organization’s “Thank A Dance Teacher Day,” a social media giving campaign. Last year's campaign saw nationwide participation, and NDEO has upped its goal to $5,000 this year. Display your appreciation on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with an “unselfie”: a picture of yourself holding a sign that gives your mentor a shout out with the hashtags #ndeothanks and #ThankADanceTeacher. Or, post a video with your words of gratitude and your best dance moves. To spread the love, tag your friends and challenge them to nominate their own inspiring teachers. Then, donate to NDEO’s Thank A Dance Teacher Day Fund for every teacher you’ve thanked. Proceeds go towards teacher scholarships, research, publications and other initiatives that strengthen our art form by empowering its educators.

The holiday season, which kicks off with the gratitude of Thanksgiving and closes with New Year’s optimism, is synonymous with giving. For dancers, it’s also synonymous with Nutcracker, and it’s the perfect time to thank our teachers—from the faculty who spend their evenings herding mini mice and bon-bons to devoted Sugar Plum and Cavalier coaches. Though tomorrow’s Thank A Dance Teacher Day will go viral, the campaign goes through December 31.

Find more information and detailed instructions on social media posting here.

Thank A Dance Teacher Day "unselfie." Photo courtesy of National Dance Education Organization.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue. For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Even during busy Nutcracker season, remember to practice gratitude. Here: Pacific Northwest Ballet, photo by Angela Sterling.

As a dancer, you have a lot to be thankful for, starting with the fact that you’re doing something you love every day. Though the spirit of gratitude is in the air at Thanksgiving, it can get lost in the stressful whirlwind of Nutcracker season and holiday family obligations. But remembering to be grateful pays off. Here are just a few health benefits of gratitude that can serve you well all year long:

Sharpen your mind: Research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that adolescents who were more grateful not only had higher overall satisfaction, but also higher grade point averages. Focusing on the positive may be just what you need next time you’re tackling a new role or struggling with difficult choreography.

Sleep better: A study in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being found that students who wrote in gratitude journals before bed felt less worried and were able to get a better night’s sleep. If anxiety strikes the night before an audition or performance, try jotting down a few reasons you’re grateful to be a part of it, instead of counting all the ways you feel unprepared.

Strengthen friendships: Research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science linked gratitude to higher levels of sensitivity and empathy towards others. Next time you’re competing for a highly-coveted role, think of how lucky you are to have peers who are as passionate about dance as you are, and who challenge you to do your best. It may help you better understand their perspective, too.

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