Work or not work? It’s a decision that many women struggle with—or ponder hardly at all. Though some women declare they will never work again—I’ve seen many return to the workforce out of unanticipated necessity, fate or unfinished business.
Unfinished business definitely played a role in Monica Kridler’s return to work. From the ages of three to sixteen she danced and dreamed of an illustrious on-stage career. Just before she was scheduled to attend the School of American Ballet in New York City for summer study, the Ohio native injured her back. From then on she could only dabble in dance, so she kept an unwavering positive attitude and found other artistic outlets. She majored in Art History, founded the first week-long Fine Arts Celebration at her college, worked at Ohio’s highly regarded Blossom Music Center, and chaired many fundraisers as a volunteer in the arts. Through it all she had the confidence, discipline, posture and grace of a dancer.
Then the former dancer became a wife and mother. For many years as Monica raised her family she considered “work” a purely volunteer endeavor. She was very happy giving many hours to her children’s schools and helping her husband’s arts management initiatives. She demurred when one of her childhood friends—a fellow dancer—tried repeatedly to lure her to work for a National Dance Institute inspired company focused on underprivileged children in many urban areas. By all accounts this opportunity appeared to be a perfect fit: it sounded right, but it didn’t feel like the right time. She said no, but not no forever—and continued to volunteer.
Through her childhood friend, Monica admired the dance program from afar. It was not something she could dismiss as a possibility, and several years later, she felt drawn to give it a try. At this point, Monica’s three children were ages 11, 14 and 17, and she felt their growing independence gave her more freedom to work. She began training to be the co-teacher for a dance studio’s educational program in under-served urban schools. The program uses dance to empower children and instill academic and personal confidence. For eight years she taught 15 classes a week—taking care of her own family and a growing family of 400 students.
Last year Monica decided she was ready for an even bigger challenge. She established an LLC in partnership with the dance studio—and decided to fly solo. This move was a personal and professional “grand jeté”–a leap of independence that gave her the freedom to deepen and broaden the program on her own.
The discipline Monica had applied to her early dancing years was now intensely focused on growing a dance-related business she named Momentum. The motto for her program is “excellence at the speed of dance”, and her contagious enthusiasm (see video) inspires children to be responsible for themselves, respect others and take good risks. “When children go to their required Momentum dance class,” Monica explains, “they feel successful and smart—and they go back to their classrooms primed for good learning.”
Excellence at the speed of dance applies to both the children and Momentum’s founder. By 2013, Momentum’s 10th anniversary, Monica will have doubled the size of the program (from 400 fourth grade students to 800), financed the expansion through her own fund-raising, managed a staff of 8, created a summer camp, and started a pen pal project to get dancers from various schools to communicate and use their writing skills. Each year she choreographs a major production starring all her students—and this year, the mayor of Columbus as well.
When Monica was the age of her students, she dreamed of being a famous ballerina. Though that dream was sadly interrupted, her return to work gave her the chance to settle unfinished business. Many years and many accomplishments later, she found a way to feel that thrill of performing
“by giving children whose lives are so upside down a chance to be admired in the spotlight and dance toward success.”
- Never say never: life has many twists and turns that could bring you back to work.
- Find ways to dance toward your true passions both in life and in work.
- Keep a positive attitude: know that when one door closes, a different door–in the same place–could open.
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