“No One Cares” with Anna Collins
Anna Collins talks to us about navigating her education, teaching, societal expectations and personal life all while dismantling the problematic classification of ‘It Girl’. In the face of juggling her social life, media attention and career, Anna is wise beyond her years. Sometimes you just need to let things go.
Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 21 years old. I’ve been in school my whole life. I went to York University for Dance education for 2 years and now I’m just about to graduate from the National Ballet School of Canada. I’m doing their teacher training program. Basically, my life goal is to teach ballet and to teach dance. That’s all I am right now! Dance is life.
You have been known to offer great advice. How does it feel to be in a mentorship role?
It’s very daunting at times. I kind of realized a couple months ago, especially when I am teaching little kids, their minds are like sponges and their worlds are so small. So they really hold on to every word you say to them. And every word you say to them affects them. We all know, we can think of experiences with our teachers and I’m sure we remember things so dearly that maybe the teacher didn’t know would make such an impact on a child. So I try to be very careful with everything I say and do. It can be overwhelming sometimes!
Who are your mentors?
My mentors are my friends and family and my sister (Petra Collins). When I’m really stressed or sad and I need some inspiration and some getting back down to earth I face-time my sister like.. 3 times a day. She’s my mentor in that way she can help me navigate tough times.
Your family seems very tight-knit, supportive and creative. How important is it to stay true to your roots and surround yourself with inspiring people?
It’s so important. As I’m getting older I realize that I don’t have to be friends with everyone, and try so hard to impress people. Surrounding yourself with the people you love and your family is so important. I’m in school all of the time too so especially now my time is so valuable. I don’t know if that sounds pretentious, I just have NO time for anything or for myself, so whatever time I do have I want to spend with the people that really really matter to me. My mom just got home from Hungary, she’s sleeping in the next room -and my dad and my boyfriend (Fox) and my sister, face-timing her all the time and my friends Jaqueline, Aurora and Izzy – my close friends. I feel like it kind of sounds mean to say that I don’t have to be friends with everyone. You just don’t have to and it’s an important and liberating thing to learn.
You do realize when you get older you can’t please EVERYONE. Your family will always have your back.
Well my life at school is trying to please everyone, so wherever I can relax on that is good with me!
Well, Ballet can be very strict in that way. It requires strict body control and can be very fixated on certain body types as well the ideal. You have to be super aware of yourself. How do you maintain a positive attitude and self-image despite this?
It’s hard because things are easier said than done with comparing yourself. My life is surrounded with thinking about what my body can and can’t do; always pushing my boundaries and looking in the mirror. Seeing all these beautiful dancers everyday, I think that talking to the people you love everyday really brings you back. Having them remind you about valuing yourself and having an appreciation for what your body can do. I catch myself in these negative thoughts and have to remind myself to change my thought patterns. It’s a process and you have to be very aware of how you are thinking. Being aware is the first step. It’s harder some days than others. You have some really good weeks and then some bad ones. Spending time with the right people is so important. I’ve had toxic friendships- they are not even bad people- just people making me feel like I have to question myself or my appearance but their behaviour of themselves. Other people’s insecurities can really rub off on you.
With that, how do you encourage young girls to maintain healthy expectations of themselves?
Like I said you have to be aware of how you are thinking. You have to catch yourself because we can get into waves of being self deprecating and comparing ourselves to others. Being aware and trying to change that thought. Even if it makes you cringe to give yourself a compliment in your head it’s really important to do. And to not walk by a mirror and just go to the first thing that you hate about yourself.
And you teach from 3 years to 17 years old. Can you see any sort of development?
Yes, and even with the boys it is very apparent. I teach a boys ballet class and it is very sad to see that someone can be very insecure with how they look. These kids are in awkward stages, going through puberty, their bodies are changing. It’s hard to deal with that. And when teaching dance, I make a conscious effort to not compliment someone on how they look, rather the effort that they have made. Saying “Oh, your leg looked really pretty in that extension,” isn’t adding value where telling them that they are working so hard, and they are almost there and always focusing on their effort rather than their physical appearance.
Do you have a specific philosophy or theory you apply to your teaching in order to encourage self-expression?
It is really interesting how different teachers can make a space feel. Not even dance specifically- for me it is really important to create a space where children or teens feel 100% comfortable to make mistakes. We have all had experiences with really strict teachers where we feel anxious when we walk into the room. I want to not be that way. I want my kids to be excited to come to class. I always say to make mistakes, and if you’re going to go for it, make a big mistake! Rather than making a small mistake and second guessing yourself too much. It’s how you learn. I always make sure when teaching a class to make a moment with every single person. I try not to single out the person who might be considered the best dancer – I want to focus on the ones that need the attention and to not have them sitting on the sidelines.
It seems like you really try to make your class like an inclusive team or family. We know your family inspires you greatly. How are you inspired by your family and the places you go with them? Like visiting New York, Hungary?
Anywhere I am with my family, I am inspired. Especially with my sister (Petra Collins), we travel a lot and I love to see the world through her eyes. I feel comfortable exploring different places with her. I just got back from Hungary, and it was so special and beautiful. My little cousins are so creative and are always making crafts. They aren’t allowed to use any electronics or watch TV, so they are always making things. They made this pillow for me! Seeing Budapest was so different for me, especially in comparison to North America. We are so involved in our phones and social media and well – They come from a communist country. They aren’t as wealthy and don’t have access to all of that and they just appreciate the little things.
On the topic of social media - What does it mean to you to be an ‘It Girl’ in an era of reality TV and oversaturation of celebrities? Do you ever struggle with maintaining a balance between ‘real life’ and social media attention?
(Anna laughs) I was really PMSing the other day and I had like a panic attack over social media and am still figuring it out because I have the same societal pressures as everyone else.
I guess it can be hard going through the everyday emotions, but under the public’s eye?
Well the truth is none of it even really matters!
Richard Prince basically stole an Instagram image your sister took, and sold it as art. In an era of remixes, graffiti, photoshop and free media content, where do you think the line between Art and appropriation is? Because really It’s kind of bizzare that someone could turn what’s almost so mundane to you into money for them.
There was actually a woman before him that basically did that same thing. Her name is Sherry Levine. It’s clear when something is being appropriated. I think we need to have some appropriation to be influenced by people and to make our own art but it’s different when someone is taking something and then calling it their own - that’s when there is a problem. Any young artist starts out being influenced by someone they look up to and maybe do a similar thing to start off. But then they can learn and then can put out their own image as long as they are not putting out something that isn’t there and calling it their own.
Maybe with Richard Prince that was his motivation? To really emphasize that.
I’m still undecided about the Richard Prince thing. There was also another artist, John Cage, who did a set where he walked out on stage, and sat a piano but then didn’t play anything. The background noise ended up being the art. I don’t know if that’s on the same line but it reminds me of that. Life imitates art – Art imitates life.
Do you think laws around copyright and privacy will need to change as our society evolves? Based on the fact that someone can just take your own personal social media image.
I mean I am not well read in copyright laws but I think we need to be more aware of what we put out personally and how someone might be able to use that. It’s scary to think we are just trying to share something on facebook with our friends but then FACEBOOK OWNS THAT.
You seem to have your path in life pretty figured out at a fairly young age. Do you have a personal motto or philosophy that you live by?
Right now it kind of sounds stupid, but my personal motto is basically – because we are all so focused on everyone caring what you’re doing, or everyone cares if I make a mistake- is that no one cares. My sister all time is just like “No one cares, just don’t worry.” That is what I have to be reminded of because especially in my program there is a lot of judgement and criticism all day long. I can get really in my head. I can be paranoid. So right now my motto is just “No one cares” – at least no one cares as much as you care about yourself. You know, when you are spending an hour before an event figuring out what to wear the bottom line is, no one cares that much. Take risks! Only you are your own worst critic.