The Remarkable Remedy

Before I begin, I’d like to give props to Stefanie and her Valentine’s Day post that inspired me to write this one.  I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day, but I know the impact love can have on a person.  Dancing is my passion for a reason.  I love to move and melt into the music, but it’s much more than that.  Primarily, I love to dance because of the fellowship I enjoy with other dancers that share my passion.  Loving them while loving dance is one of the greatest joys in my life.

I used to watch “Dancing with the Stars” when I was younger.  One of the most memorable moments of the show was the video documentary they showed when one of the celebrities was eliminated.  They often said that learning to dance with their professional partner had changed their life, how they made a lifelong friend, etc.  It pains me to say this, but I was quite cynical back then.  I just thought they were acting and being sentimental just to increase their own popularity.

I’ve been dancing consistently for a year and a half now.  I started dancing when I was fifteen, but life got in the way, and I had to quit.  I began dancing again my senior year of high-school, and I haven’t stopped since.  At first, I just viewed this as a hobby, something to break up the mundane pace of everyday life.  As I got more experienced, the dancing got harder, but wonderful changes began to occur in my life.  I kindly ask for the reader’s patience as I go on a personal tangent.

Those who know me personally would describe me as extremely extroverted.  I can veritably talk your ears off given the opportunity, but that’s just small talk.  I find that I struggle with being vulnerable with people.  If I cry, I cry in private where no one can see or speak to me.  I remember when my first teacher, Victor, left while I was on summer vacation with my family.  When one of the instructors broke the news to me, I was heart-broken because I had studied with him for a little over half a year, but I felt like I had grown really close to him.  I put on an understanding face, the instructor left, I walked into the bathroom, went into one of the stalls, and began to sob quietly so nobody would come in.  Luckily, no one did.  Along with vulnerability, I wrestle with anxiety as well, which I’ve been medicated for most of my life.  I never thought that dancing would get me on the road toward healing.

I’ve mentioned my DP several times, but I’d like to give just a bit more information about him.  His name is Nick.  Like me, he’s very extroverted and goofy, but unlike me, he has this beautiful ability to trust and accept people at face value.  He’s the most genuine person I’ve ever met, and I wish I could be more like him.  Like most, I’ve dealt with some rejection in my life, and the judgements hurt.  When I met Nick, he took me under his wing and accepted me for who I was.  It stunned me.  Slowly but surely, the shield came down, and I invested more emotionally in my friendship and dancing.  I’m also not the most physically affectionate person, and the prospect of physical contact scared me a bit.  Dancing with my DP has changed that.  He seemed to realize I was uncomfortable when we had to start dancing practically smooshed up against each other, so he took it nice and slow.  Now, the aversion is all gone.  Along the same lines, I don’t like to initiate hugs.  If you hug me I’ll hug you back, but the feelings aren’t always reciprocated on my side.  Nick has become the only person outside my close family and friends that I actually enjoy giving hugs to.  I understand that it’s because of his wonderful personality and the fact that I trust him completely.

I’m not sure whether this goes along with the anxiety, but I also have trouble making eye contact with people.  This has been a problem for as long as I can remember.  I don’t know what it is, but looking someone in the eyes is very intimidating to me.  This won’t do because eye contact is a sign of respect.  One of the main criticisms of my speaking in my rhetoric class was, surprise, lack of eye contact.  DP doesn’t know it, but he’s been helping me with this, too.  When he’s teaching, I find myself putting in extra effort to try to focus my eyes so I can get that contact.  The prospect of eye contact with Nick isn’t intimidating either.

You see, ballroom is so much more than dancing.  It not only keeps me physically healthy, but it’s helping me maintain my mental and emotional health as well.  Of course, it’s not the dancing itself, but the people I dance with.  I may have focused on my DP, but all the instructors have that wonderful attitude that I so love.  Being with them is like being with family, and family helps each other, even if they don’t know they’re doing it.


4 thoughts on “The Remarkable Remedy

  1. Dancing is wonderful “therapy” in so many ways. I work though a lot of my issues on the dance floor as well. Just today on my lesson it was about breathing. I hold on to everything so tightly sometimes that I stop breathing. When I stop breathing, I stop moving. Sounds silly, but breathing is probably the hardest thing about dancing for me. It brings up a lot of emotion to breathe and move at the same time for me. I also struggle with eye contact. I used to be like you and couldn’t make eye contact with anyone, ever. I felt so scared, embarassed of myself, less than others. Now I can do it, but I really have to be present to make that choice. Also, it is a real challenge in ballroom to make eye contact with Ivan, but, luckily for me, Ivan calls me on it. I can’t hide from him, I swear! Even though I trust him, and understand what you mean about becoming more comfortable (like with DP), it’s still a process! Also, thanks for the shout out! I’m glad you were inspired to write more because I love reading about your journey. -Stef

  2. Alaina –

    I applaud your courage and your honesty. Thank you so much for sharing. I followed the link from Stef’s blog and got here – I’m glad I did. I understand about appearing to be extroverted but feeling insecure. People say I’m so friendly and open and to those who know me I have said that in reality, “I show the public everything that is nothing and nothing that is everything”. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that when I let people in a little more (or let a bit more of myself out) nothing earth-shattering happens. The world doesn’t fall apart – nor does everything suddenly change and become right! There was no magic moment where it all changes (at least not for me) and to be honest, sometimes I’ve let people in and been hurt. But overall, the more I’ve opened up, and let people see parts of me being human and vulnerable, the more I have also found joy, help, friendship, respect and bunch of other blessings. So lots of good with a few grains of sand. 🙂

    My one suggestion on the eye contact thing comes from 20+ years of teaching people to do presentations. Not everyone is comfortable looking people straight in the eye – so I always trained people that if they are uncomfortable with eye contact to try either of these tips:
    1) Look at the person’s “third eye” which is the spot in the middle of the forehead- considered a spiritual spot by some
    2) look at the top of someone’s head/hairline
    When you look at either of these most people will perceive you to be looking them in the eye and you will be more comfortable. Of course this is unless you are in closed dance position or that close to someone – in which case it’s hard to do either of these! LOL

    Hope that helps a little!

  3. Thank you Ellen and Stef, for your words of encouragement. It’s a bit of a relief to know that I’m not the only one who struggled with eye contact. I have a certain dance partner I dance with socially that calls me out on my eyes, and I really appreciate it.

    As for those tips, thank you very much for them. It’s definitely something I’ll try. I actually used the second one when I had to sing solos in high school. I also have ADHD, so when I actually am looking at someone in the eye, it’s harder to stay focused because I get curious about what’s going on around my peripheries.

The floor is yours now.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s