Christine Rich: Meena, now that you have trained year-round for 16 years, did you ever think when you were young that you would be dancing the lead principal part in our ballet this year, Raymonda’s Dream?
Meena Jain: It became a goal for me the beginning of high school, but not when I was young.
Christine: What prompted that goal of dancing the lead?
Meena: It was something to work towards and look forward to. I wanted to have something to look forward to and a goal to push towards. It became more motivation than “just to dance for dancing’s sake.”
Christine: I remember when you were about age 9 you and your parents said you were quitting ballet because it was “boring” and for the next year you only took tap and acrobatics. What was that year like for you?
Meena: (smiles) It’s hard to remember but I did soccer but I didn’t learn anything from playing that sport. I learned so much more doing dance. I also saw my friends taking so much ballet and missed it.
Christine: So that turned you around? How did ballet become less boring?
Meena: I mentally understood that I was there in ballet class for a reason developing skills and I wasn’t wasting my time! I actually missed the discipline of ballet!
Those realizations added up to “ballet wasn’t boring… it was difficult” and once I understood I can work harder, it was no longer boring, and become a challenge I looked forward to. That challenge has served me well.
Christine: Did that challenge serve you in academics?
Meena: Absolutely. Instead of shying away from hard things, I face them.
Christine: So you’ve conditioned yourself to see a challenge as a growth opportunity. I remember in acrobatics when you were young, every time there was a new hard step to learn you would say…
Meena: “I can’t do it!” (laughs)
When I was little I was a perfectionist and couldn’t finish my homework. But then there was a shift…you just pushed me and made me do what I didn’t think I could.
Christine: That’s true! (laughing) It was good for you and now it’s not an issue.
As you look at young dancers here at the studio what advice do you have for them?
Meena: Keep dancing–take all the classes. Don’t stop when you’re little. Keep going so you have options. You learn so much more than dancing. You grow as a person. Get older (high school) before you decide to stop, but it’s so much better if you keep going.
Christine: Well said, Meena.
How can a parent best support their dancer child?
Meena: Not to listen to any complaints of their child and think its gospel true. Kids are going to complain no matter what and it’s the parent’s job to help them with their temporary feelings and look at the big picture of their development. Help your child see the positives and teach them to see long-term and that they have a responsibility to be at the class consistently. I see parents let their kids have a pass for this or that, or to do sports or to do summer camps and it doesn’t work short or long term.
Put your child in the CRS Excellence Program!
Christine: What do you look forward to in the future as you graduate from high school now?
Meena: I’m open to dancing and studying and creating my best path that incorporates it all.
Christine: What did you think when I plucked you out of Jazz I and put you in a super advanced contemporary duet that went on to win multiple medals at YAGP.org and competed in the national finals in NYC with the best dancers in the world?
Meena: I had no idea what was happening. I didn’t comprehend mentally the scope of it all. I was pushed to the max and just stayed in the moment of the choreography and just performed as you coached me. It worked out!
Christine: What did it feel like to be up on the stage winning medals?
Meena: It was exciting. I felt happy and proud. Actually it was the same excitement of dancing in the recital. But it was a high beyond the medal to walk into the theater’s lobby and have so many people recognize and acknowledge me for my efforts onstage.
Christine: What are your favorite memories of dance training here at CRS?
Meena: Late night jazz, all-cast ballet rehearsal all day, Picture Day, backstage, recitals, Clubhouse, post-recital party at Jupiter’s, selfies with friends, casual ballet uniform day, making eye contact with class mates during class and getting in a tiny bit of trouble, when Master teachers came, when Mr. Ben Vereen came, Student Choreography Project, “Dear Santa”, the acro dances and standing ovations…it’s all totally fun.
Christine: I did know that you were taking all AP (Advanced Placement) “Brainiac” classes at high school and doing a marvelous job of keeping up with that and 6 days a week of cross-training dance here as an Excellence Program member. Did dance here at CRS help you with your straight A’s for four years in high school?
Meena: Yes, DEFINITELY. The dance training here kept me so focused and I used every extra minute to do homework. I never messed around. It was an advantage not to have extra time, because I wouldn’t have achieved academically. I’d be like other kids…wasting the time.
Ballet, like all the other dance classes, is so fun and because it’s so hard. I love that focus and just applied it to school.
Christine: And you kept quiet that you were NUMBER ONE ranked academically for four years in high school at Central High School!! Wow!!
Meena: Thank you. (smiles)
Christine: What do you see in other kids at high school where they suffer because they never had a multiple-years, life-skills-building opportunity such as our dance program here?
Meena: Excuses. I see so many kids with excuses and feeling sorry for themselves (so many people in society do this) instead of taking initiative to correct their situation. That’s something I learned from you.
They aren’t able to get their work done or effectively or efficiently so. They have lots of drama.
You were always on us not to lower our standards to accept excuses. That has helped me. I think differently than school peers who complain they didn’t have time to finish their school work. I have learned here, I have to step up and take responsibility.
Christine: What else? What else has dance here done for you?
Meena: I feel that I am more of a leader. In school group work I become a leader and designate to others. I am confident in general.
That’s why you say, we’re learning more than just dance…we’re learning life skills.
Also from having private coaching from you I am better socially to be direct and state what I need and not shy away.
Christine: Remember the cottage cheese?
Meena: (laughs) Yes. [Inside joke]
Christine: You turned out to be such an accomplished dancer who can do it all…advanced ballet, pointe, tap, Jazz, Contemporary, lyrical, Modern, and acrobatics. I mean, there are not any ballet principals that I can think of who can dance repertoire ballet in pointe shoes and also do a running round-off, back handspring, back layout flying through the air! AND rank #1 of 300 students in their high school!!!!
Meena: It’s great! It’s fun and I loved the challenge.
Christine: I have been honored to have you here as a student these 16 years. I’m proud of you.
Meena: Thank you!