A Life On Stage: In The Spectrum Of My Introvertedness

A Life On Stage: In The Spectrum Of My Introvertedness

My friend Steph and I don’t see each other very often, in fact, it may have been a year since we last had lunch together. She was in town for a few weeks and as her time is always in demand, having her to myself for a whole hour is precious indeed. There’s a lot about her journey that walked through the same pot holes of uncertainty that I did, and having learned of her story before my own unfolded kept me hopeful that I too would come out the other side wiser and more resilient.

Whenever I say that there’s a big part of me that’s an introvert, people usually react in disbelief. How can someone who has lead such a public life in the performing arts be an introvert? Surely that confidence is in all aspects of my life, and my persona on stage is just an extension of that? Steph has heard this so often that she’s lost count. To her, that persona or “game face” as she called it, is the medium to deliver her message. Her personal life, the one where she is far more guarded, is reserved for her closest friends and family.

The Gift of Words and Time

The Gift of Words and Time
If we learn from our mistakes, why are we so afraid to make them?

When we were younger, time felt like an infinite resource. We could go to sleep and feel like procrastinating didn’t have such a significant consequence. Growing up were still many sleeps away, and we still had parents and adults to worry about our futures for us.

Then one day we woke up, and one by one those life decisions are up to us to make. When we made mistakes, our parents or other adults are no longer there to bail us out. Welcome to Adulting 101.

Making My Someday Be Today - Lessons In Letting Go

Making My Someday Be Today - Lessons In Letting Go

It’s after 2am Thursday morning, I just got up to go to the bathroom. As I was heading back to bed, Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Learn’ pops into my head. I’m jolted awake and suddenly felt the need to write. Maybe it was because I hugged a lot of people last night - some people I’ve known for years, some just a few weeks. You usually only get to hug that many people on big occasions - like weddings, funerals or family reunions. I know because I’ve been to many of at two of those three.

Last night was our last show as a dance studio - and everything hereafter will just feel like a formality. The part of me who lived so much of my life as the teacher, mentor, friend, counsellor to those kids will begin to shift that energy into the next chapter of my life. Today it finally felt real, and the chain reaction of my decision to seek that energy is something that makes me both apprehensive and excited all in the same breathe.

My Life Is Mine

Whatever the life that you want looks like - make that someday be one day, and one day be a day you can wake up to. Number those days until you begin to live it. Taste it. Breathe it until you weave it into your DNA. Dreams are just words when we live with our eyes closed. Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear - you just have to start walking.

I am grateful now for everything that was. My life is mine, through the shit and the glory, I am grateful.

Understanding The Value of Your Teachers

Understanding The Value of Your Teachers

I look so goofy in this photo - full teeth, all out, no holding back kind of smile. The kind of euphoria dancers feel when they know something life changing just happened. My body couldn’t handle both workshops - cramps creeped in on my arches, then my ankles, calves...yeah you get the picture. I was in a room full of teenagers and this was one of those nights where my bones really felt their age.

# 45 The Stone and The Balloon

I knew I took the wrong bus, but I didn’t care. My head hit the pillow at 5am on Sunday morning, and I was up at 9am. It was a sunny day in Auckland, a long weekend, so I felt I should at least see some of the city. Not sightseeing, just be somewhere outside of the motel walls. Cas and I had driven up to Auckland on Saturday morning, and I get lost a lot. A wrong turn took us somewhere into Pyes Pa, but we eventually headed back into the right direction, adding a few more kilometres to the journey.

Sometimes getting lost is good for me. In my day-to-day where I spend the majority the time organising, planning, being in control - it’s the not being in control, and not caring has the greatest appeal. Eventually this bus took me back to where I needed to go, it was just the long way round.

On the Saturday night we watched the teens division of a dance competition called ‘Grounded’, presented by Triple8Funk. It’s new to Auckland, and the concept was brought to life last year in Melbourne. The concept is to have the competition within a theatrical format, with the main criteria as creativity. Last year’s theme in Melbourne was ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’, and this year it’s ‘Prop Masters’. How can a choreographer tell their story using their assigned prop?

The Sunday night competition were for the adults and pros. Not only was the skill level incredible, each piece was thought provoking, and some felt like an intricate social commentary. As time goes by, we wonder if there is anything new to discover, a new perspective on the familiar, and the answer is yes. Creativity is only stale when we stop evolving, when we stop pushing boundaries, when we keep old thoughts and ideas about ourselves as our safety barrier - a comfortable, worn out blanket. It serves its purpose, just. Creativity stops when we stop learning.

The idea of the stone and balloon piece came to me in two stages: Sitting in the theatre during the Saturday night competition, and on the bus killing time. It revolves around a bad habit of mine that I’m trying to overcome...hitting the snooze button.

That person that wakes up in the morning, hits the snooze button, begging for one more minute of sleep. But to sleep one minute more, means a minute less of the rest of your life, where you can be living instead of dreaming…
— fivefootronna

The stone represents the anchors of comfort, living in the same town, hanging out with the same people, staying in the same job. As for the balloon and string, it represents trying to overcome fear and the struggle to change. This helium balloon only has a finite amount of gas because time is limited. What are the anchors in your life, why are you settling for a bit of happiness, instead of being happy? I don’t want to give away the ending, but I know it will be thought provoking for many.

Someone asked me how you can love one person for many years, then one day wake up and not feel that same love for them? One conclusion I came to is that throughout our lives, we are continually evolving. Our priorities, our measure of success and happiness, they change too. Learning to adapt that love, to give it space and energy to move and grow with us, that’s what helps relationships stay together. Human connections aren’t stationary or rigid, and sometimes it outgrows even our own perceived expectations, of ourselves and our significant others.

Like the helium balloon tied to the rock, the elation of euphorical love is finite. There will be a time when that honeymoon period ends and we have to adapt that love, evolve it, as our lives change. At times it may feel heavy, and we may feel that the rock that once anchored us, is now a burden. Do we cut the string before we can no longer fly?

I’m learning how to undo bad habits, and doing my best to pick up better ones along the way.

P.S. I’ve been single six months this week, and the book is four chapters along. A few friends have had a sneak-peek and the feedback is that they understand my voice, which has given me the encouragement to keep going. There are so many raw ideas that just to be moulded into paragraphs, and that just takes time. So I will make time.

# 41 I Found My Humanity In The City

This was our accommodation in Guildford, a low socio-economic suburb in Sydney. It wasn't the prettiest, but the beds were comfortable and was never broken into during our stay. I look at this trip in gratitude that I see my blessings, not for what I have over someone else, but I am now able to move on with my life with an open heart.

This was our accommodation in Guildford, a low socio-economic suburb in Sydney. It wasn't the prettiest, but the beds were comfortable and was never broken into during our stay. I look at this trip in gratitude that I see my blessings, not for what I have over someone else, but I am now able to move on with my life with an open heart.

As I write this from my seat on the plane, I realise two things: The first is that I have become a hoarder of sorts. I hoarded people in my life, and some of those people are nothing short of being energy vampires. Secondly, I found my humanity in the city. I don't believe it was ever broken or lost, but I feel a renewed sense of gratitude that I couldn't have learned back home.

Before I left for Sydney, I resented the way my life has panned out and even though I felt happy enough, the resentment remained. Packing up the house became a painful reminder of what I felt I deserved, when it should been the greatest motivation to start over. Did I truly believe that I deserved to be in an unhappy marriage, no, neither of us did. Yet each time I walked through that front door, I focused on my have-nots.

So what changed me? The city. I could never live in a city for long, but I always meet people who challenge my perspective and change me for the better. The Universe always sends me to the city when I need to reset my priorities. My life has felt like a spaghetti junction of frustration and sub-conscious resentment, I have tried patiently to make sense of it so it can be untangled, but this trip made me realise I just needed to rip it all out.

This trip has consumed me for the last two months, trying to please opinions and being the voice of reason. I see now that I should have stood up for myself a long time ago, because no one else did, and I guess part of me blindly believed in the good in people As they say, opinions of you are like assh$@*s, everyone has one. Doesn't mean it defines who you are, it's just an opinion.

There was one night we couldn’t afford to stay anywhere, so we slept in the park...(sic) We are selling t-shirts so that our crew can eat today.
— Member of FMD Extreme Dance Crew

I was at a dance competition this week, and I sat on that floor, sleep deprived, I began listening to one of the dance crews talk about the struggle of competing overseas. This Filipino crew, like many others at this competition, faced the reality of eating very little that day, and even slept in a park one night because they couldn't afford a place to stay. You could hear a pin drop as we listened to the testimony of the strength of the human spirit. This crew would have slept five to a bed if it meant a roof over their head, instead of waking up to wet grass in the morning. Life isn't fair, but we also don't have to be blind to the realities of poverty.

FMD Extreme dance crew were selling t-shirts to help feed their crew that day. I felt guilty, as here I was, resentful that I had to pack up my things in a house that has been vacant for months.

I found my humanity in the city, in those piles of printed t-shirts, in the eyes of people living the grind of doing what they love. I ask myself
what fuels my passion, and I got my answer that night. Change. My superpower is that I have that ability to recognise and empower people to affect positive changes in mine and theirs. I know there are like-minded people who want to create stepping stones for positive change in my town. We will be connecting when I get home.

Recognising and walking away from toxic people is incredibly empowering and the best part is that it creates space for better ones to come along. And we can choose not to fill that void, instead, choosing to value and invest more in who are already there. Make peace with the reality that not everyone will love you, but those who do, keep them close and love them just as much, even more.

I leave you with the wise words of Sam Cook… a change is gonna come.

I could never unlearn what I heard that day. That my life wasn’t about what I could pack into a day, it was appreciating the blessings I already had, unconditionally.
— fivefootronna

# 27 Listen to understand

The hardest part of what I do is to listen. Especially to teenage girls frustrated at their mothers, and mothers at their wits end. We are taught words, and we all want to be heard, but are we just as ready to listen?

I am sometimes a bridge to the generation gap, growing up with strict parents, yet home was always my safe place to fall. It took me until my thirties to really appreciate my Mum. Sometimes we just agree to disagree, but there's no doubt she loves me unconditionally. I see the glass half full, and she's definitely old school.

I'm also careful that I don't lecture parents on how to raise their kids. That's not my place, but I genuinely care about them as people. We all do our best and that all anyone can ask for. I’m not a parent myself, and I don't know how to raise your child better than you. Just remember, it takes a community to raise a child, we're all in this together.

Here are some valuable lessons kids have taught me over the years…

Trust works both ways, and we will make mistakes

It's easy to judge teenagers and hold them account to adult standards, yet we forget how we were like as teenagers. Did we make all the right decisions with limited life experience? How much did we resent the feeling that no matter how much we tried to prove our independence, or being home on time, somewhere along the way we still manage to do stupid shit?

I've learned that if I believed the worst in someone, then sooner or later it will manifest itself to suit that belief. So I teach them how I want to be treated, and I help them to value themselves and others. I tell them straight up that if I can't trust them, I can't train them.

The World already judges them, be a safe place to fall

When people come to me with their problems, I will ask, “Do you want me to listen, or do you want help to resolve it?” Sometimes people just need a safe place to fall, to feel accepted, to be heard. I sit there and listen, cry with them, and give them hope. There's already Uncle Google for advice, just be the friend they need.

As a kid, if you wanted to say something mean to someone, you either had to say it to their face, see them at school, go to their house, ring them up or write them a letter. Dear Jane Doe, you have toe jams. From Me. These days you can't escape it, no wonder kids feel like they're caged in. In one way we encourage them to be individuals, yet they are also pressured to conform. Wouldn’t you be confused?

Anyone can be a critic, so be the rebel, choose to love them instead. The lecture can wait.

What is your measure of success?

There’s a time and place for pushing them to do their best, we all work hard for our money, so I totally get that you want to see where it’s going. What is your measure for success?

I posed this question to one of my dance crews, and their answers were simple and honest.

Me: What do you want to get out of this competition experience?

They all wanted to be more confident, to feel proud of themselves, and to know they gave it everything they had. Nothing about placings, or being better than anyone else, they simply wanted to feel like they could do something that was hard for them, and know they could do it. Isn’t that a good baseline for success? I think so.

Certainly I support all measures of success, because I know how much sacrifice and hard work it takes to get there. Not everyone can take first place, it doesn’t mean you should stop doing what you love.

Ronna Funtelar Thacker is a writer, foodie and dance studio owner.
A self-confessed eternal optimist and lover of crispy M&Ms, she shares her adventures and life learnings to connect, inspire and nurture self-love.

# 12 Be Ignited Studio presents The Discovery of Fire

Cas Whiteley performing 'Small Bump'.  Photo by Joanne Black Photography

Cas Whiteley performing 'Small Bump'.  Photo by Joanne Black Photography

The aim is to converse. But first I shall rehearse. No doubt I will stutter and confuse my verses. But the purpose, is to the speak to the masses. With dreams put to the corner, struggling with doubt, aching to fly.
— The Discovery of Fire 2015

I had a dream a few years ago that I was standing on the Little Theatre stage. I was all alone with a spotlight, looking out into an empty audience. Then as the lights warmed, seats began to fill and I could feel people standing behind me. The lights grew so bright that I had to close my eyes. When I opened them I was standing on the centre aisle of the theatre, looking back towards the stage - a stage filled with performers taking a bow. This was my reoccurring dream for a few years, and last week it became a reality.

Be Ignited Studio's first end of year show, The Discovery of Fire, was a story told by many voices. The theme of doubt and fear is pretty common, you get it in most dance movie franchises. We didn't want it to be cheesy and predictable, and instead have audiences feel uplifted and excited about life. We took out the storyline and used the music and dance to tell about the ups and downs of the studio, of feeling like a failure, the struggles to explain to people why it's ok to think and do things differently. I don't think this will never go away, but now that the show is over, we can focus on writing the next chapter.

 The studio had 30-40 dancers on stage over two nights, and overall I couldn't be more proud of everyone involved. On behalf of the studio, we want to thank the following:

  • Our sponsors: O'Hagan Home Loans & Insurance, Glassman & Locksmiths, Simply Graphics
  • Kelly - Lighting and Production (thanks for answering all my questions!)
  • Rose - Sound (ever so patient with all the mix changes!)
  • Cameron - Stage Manager
  • Theatre Whakatane - Lighting & Sound equipment
  • Glassman & Locksmiths for selling tickets
  • Charmaine Hands and front of house team
  • Gabe & Eli for coming over to perform
  • Kaitz & Jackson for performing and helping out backstage
  • Corazon - my Mum for all the amazing catering this year, being a super cheerleader for the studio and the ticket sales ninja!
  • Manny - my Dad, for letting Mum use the credit card to pay for the studio food haha
  • All the dancers, students, and supporters of the studio

The biggest lesson I learned from the show is that you don't have to walk your journey alone. There are a lot of people who want to help, and many don't know how to, unless you tell them what you need. It doesn't have to be money, it could be their time, lend a shoulder to cry on, give encouragement, or just honest constructive criticism. By working in a team we are accountable, and we also share the burden. 

The Discovery of Fire is proof that dreams do come true...like legit.

# 7 That moment

Our photo shoot for The Discovery of Fire poster promo. Photo by Emma Weber.

Our photo shoot for The Discovery of Fire poster promo. Photo by Emma Weber.

Last week has been a real eye opener, with some of the usual ups and downs of studio life and people in my life, but mostly because I got super emotional. The great thing was that after my big cry, I realised it was exactly what my soul needed to process the emotional chaos, and I woke up at peace with it all. I sat in my car alone, enjoying the twilight and serenity of the coastal lights.

By the way, above is the result of our photo shoot from Friday, and it summed up the fun and learning we've had this year.

On Saturday I went to a workshop called 'Living and Working in your Element', hosted by the awesome Steph Holloway. The workshop was a taster to her usual 4 session course, which helps people identify and design the life you love. She also wrote the book of the same name, and I was lucky enough to design it for her.

I have also decided to give slam poetry a go. I'm even entering my first ever slam in two weeks time, my friend and I are heading to Tauranga together. This isn't what I'm going to perform, but it was one I wrote this weekend.


Scared of missing out, being unwanted.
Of losing friends who I thought got it.

I was defined by their words
Because fear is a blanket that sooths you
Until the lack of oxygen turns into a smothering
And you don’t want to let go because it’s comforting
And in your lowest of lows
Fear, feels like a life raft.
— fivefootronna

The biggest lesson I was reminded of is that we can't force people to be in our lives if they don't want to be. We may feel hurt if we feel they are pushing us away, but it's ok. If they are meant to stay in our lives, they will, otherwise we can learn and grow from that experience.

Love yourself, and live life in love and light.

Much love and hugs