Welcome to my weekly update in my ever-winding effort towards terpsichorean perfection. Unfortunately, there’s not really that much to say as far as my dancing goes. We made some changes here and there to our routines for the upcoming competition I’ll be participating in on the 24th of this month. My Smooth is coming along quite nicely, and the plan for next week is to work on Rumba. My lesson may have been pretty normal, but it brought up a question that’s been a constant presence in my dancing. It concerns confidence and mental balance.
It began when Tommy was trying to teach me a more open style of dancing for Smooth. By open, I mean that I spend less time in frame. I’ve spent many months practicing and perfecting my frame in Smooth with Nick, my previous teacher, and with Tommy. So, opening up in dancing is very new to me. One notable example is the promenade with developé in Waltz. It’s one of my favorite moves because it takes after ballet. In a developé, the leg develops, stretches upward in a very beautiful fashion. It is slow and demonstrates great control and strength on the dancer’s part. The promenade with developé I am most familiar with involves the man pushing the lady forward with his right hand, which is on her back. Then, she develops with her left leg, I believe. Tommy recently taught me a new, more difficult version of this move. Instead of his right hand supporting my back, he’s using that arm to make a beautiful line of his own. That means it falls to me to balance even more, and since my left arm is not currently connected to him, I have stretch it diagonally upward to create another line. In addition, I have to go on relevé to make myself look taller while turning my head to the right so I can counterbalance. It quite intimidating to me. My slight nervousness and lack of confidence must not have been as well hidden as it normally is because Tommy decided to address it. It was one of those brief, but rare heart-to-heart talks I have with my teachers. Now, all of them have taken their dancing and teaching very seriously, but they all inclined towards light-heartedness with a liberal sprinkling of goofiness. On the rare occasion that they did get frank and serious, I was all ears. This was one of those times. He told me he saw potential and talent in me, that I had hidden talent I needed to harness. He also told me I had to believe in myself, believe I could pull off the steps I needed to learn. He would not give me more difficult steps if he believed them to be out of my reach. And herein lies the pressing question: Just how do I believe in myself appropriately?
Don’t get me wrong. I think inside the deepest part of myself I know I have talent. I would not pursue dance so ardently if I did not believe I possessed talent. In my opinion, talent is the tiny, but crucial beginning. The educator, rhetorician, and orator Quintilian once said something along these lines: “A man can work as hard as humanly possible to be a great orator, but if he lacks talent, he will go nowhere.” This is going to sound horribly cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway. Talent is like a fruit seed. If you want results, you need to have it. Once you realize you have that seed, you plant it and work your butt off to produce fruit. I guess that’s what the equally cheesy “talent-is-only-one-percent-of-the-equation” saying means. If you just let the seed sit in the ground nothing will come of it. That’s where the work comes into play. Again, I would not practice on my own, write a blog about dance, or even dance at all if I did not believe something would eventually grow from my efforts. Still, I believe there are times when you need to outwardly express confidence. All those champions of their craft knew they had talent and showed off their skill with gusto. I long to express confidence, but I fear descending into arrogance. In the past my lack of confidence has led me to overcompensate into big-headedness. The converse seems equally treacherous to me, too. I do not wish to have a confidence that borders arrogance. It’s a fine line to walk, like a tightrope. If the way to unlock my best potential as a dancer is by believing in myself, I will continue to try to seek a way to walk that line.