Going to the Roots


I’ll be honest.  It’s easy for me to get too comfortable when it comes to dancing.  It’s essential to recognize the extent of your talent, so you can use it as a baseline for improvement or encouragement when needed.  But, you have to keep it in perspective.  “Yes, I’m pretty good at this, but I have to keep at it.”  That’s certainly a tightrope to walk.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m extremely happy with the state of my dancing right now, but I can’t rest on my laurels.  One can’t progress if one is sitting and basking, right?  In light of this, I realized something on Friday that I wanted to share: dancing with beginners helps keep me humble.  They serve as a constant reminder of several, important things.

1) It takes guts to step out.

This just isn’t for dance.  Whether it’s moving to a new place or going to this semester’s classes for the first time, it can be frightening.  I remember being extremely scared at the prospect of walking into the studio with a single instructor manning the place at 7:00 p.m.  In fact, I almost wimped out.  Mom took it upon herself to knock some sense into me.  Once there, I never looked back.  I still haven’t.

I can see my former self in new dancers easily.  That’s why I always try to encourage them if they start to wilt.  They’ll often apologize too frequently for their mistakes, or repeat how “bad” they are while remarking on how good I am.  I reassure them that they aren’t “bad”.  If they need more, I say “You aren’t bad, just new.”  As for the compliments, I thank them and tell them I practice constantly.

2) They remind me of how far I’ve come…

I see beginners and realize I’ve made great progress.  I think back to the time when I was in their shoes and how grateful I was—and still am—for all the teachers that encouraged and helped me when I was cutting my teeth with ballroom dance.  Looking back helps me empathize with them.  That way, it takes the focus off me.

3) …and how far I have to go.

I’m not very old dance-wise.  I’ve only been dancing consistently for three-and-a-half years.  I’m amazed. In that short amount of time, I’ve gone from strictly average to securely intermediate. I can dance in closed position, which takes a good amount of physical coordination and cooperation.  My posture has improved vastly.  I’ve developed a better sense of femininity.  The list could go on.

Yeah, I’ve done all that.  That’s nice, but it’s all a process.  Beginners remind of that each time I see them bumble their way through steps.  I still bumble my way through steps.  Whenever I try a new one, it’s a chorus of perplexed noises and uncertain movements.

4) Patience is a virtue.

This is a good life skill, especially if I want to be a dance teacher.  It’s good that I have to constantly remind myself that some students are still new.  It forces the selfish side of me to shut up so the charitable side to take over.

5) Slow down!

My love for dance translates into energy.  Often, I move too fast when demonstrating with an instructor.  I know it aggravates me when teachers speed through the material and refuse to slow down.  I need to extend that same courtesy to others.

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