Panic Attack

Imperial Dance Studio

International Standard and Latin Group Dances


I arrive at the studio with water and Gatorade in hand (I’m prepared this time!) expecting another butt-whooping.  Trust me, I did get one, but it was a little different pace today as Igor instructed both classes and it was my first time having him as a teacher.

We work on the Waltz.  Igor moves gracefully across the floor demonstrating various steps, proper swing action, and finally creates a small series of figures for us to dance.  We do a natural turn (I think that’s what it’s called), and then some move that involves brushing my legs and feet together (no idea what it is called) and then stepping forward, then a reverse turn (I think), and then disaster!

This move I certainly know the name of….it is my nemesis!

duh duh duhhhh (menacing music)

The Heel Turn.

Okay, listen.  I’m no expert in International Standard dances.  I learned (and I use this term loosely here) all of ’em in about 2 weeks, maybe in 5 lessons spread between all of the dances, and maybe 2 of them touched on the heel turn specifically.  I learned them for the competition in San Diego since I was competing in so many heats.  So anyways, I’m not comfortable nor practiced in them.  I just kinda move as best I can they way I think I’m supposed to based on how it looks on other people.

So here I am in class surrounded by all these amazing students, some of whom just returned from kicking butt at a competition in Vegas (congratulations guys!), and I am being asked to do a heel turn.  One of the basic figures in this style of dance, I know, but not one that I’ve figured out.

I begin to panic.  I almost began to laugh uncontrollably.  Instead, I swallow hard and ask the instructor, “Excuse me, but, um, how do you make that turn?”

Have you ever jumped into a situation without knowing all the information?  Or taken on a task which turns out to be more than expected?  Well, taking this class feels like jumping off a high diving board into a pool of water.  In this moment of sheer panic it feels like my stomach has dropped through the floor while a stone has suddently lodged in my throat.  In this moment, I don’t think I am up to the task.  What am I going to do?

I do what I can do which is take a breath.  In this breath I remember that I really don’t know what the bleep I am doing.  I just don’t have the much experience.  My brain is primed to launch that “mental problem” program but this time I am aware enough to pull the plug before it gets too far.  I remember that I’m a baby beginner in this arena.  I remember all the stuff I wrote about being kind to myself in moments like this.  I remember that it is okay to mess up, look stupid, be wrong.  I remember I declared I was willing to accept these prices to get where I want to go.

So I chuckle to myself and do my best.

But the interesting thing is that even through I’m struggling, and falling, and off balance, and really not making the move look anything like this:

the instructor tells the class at large, “Good job.  Beautiful.”

I don’t believe him for a second!

I know that I’m not doing it right.  I know I am doing it so wrong.  He makes it look so easy and effortless, but I’m clunking around, sometimes not even know which direction in which I am supposed to clunk.

Wait a minute.  Didn’t I just make a case for how inexperienced I am at all this?  Why am I now making judgements as if I knew anything about this?

But I’m convinced.  I’m a failure at this heel turn thing.  I just can’t do it.

So anyways, we conclude our lessons and he says at the end, again to the class in general, “I am impressed.  You guys did well.”

I am on the precipice, ready to jump into the abyss of negativity when a small voice halts me.  I am about to negate his comment, assume he is referring to the other students in the class but certainly not to me because all the evidence I’ve gathered about myself during this lesson in my sick head with my “mental problem” program says that I’m in over my head, don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m doing it poorly.

I have been indulging in the comparison game.  Not only comparing myself to others in the room, but to the professional teaching me, and the “perfect me” in my head that I can never measure up to.  I notice that for me, sadly, there is something comfortable about feeling that I am “less than” others.  I choose the devil I know rather than risk actually feeling good about myself.  Now isn’t that interesting?

But then the voice whispers, “Why not be impressed with you just as much as anyone else?”

It is kind a ridiculous if you think about it.  Why do I assume I’m excluded from any postitive comment automatically?  Why not believe the best about myself?

Maybe the movement I am making, as awkward as it is, is stellar for someone who has had as little experience as I have had with it.  Isn’t this a valid possibility?  Wouldn’t making up a story that went like this serve me better?  Since I’m making it all up anyways, why not make up a good one?

So my new story goes like this – I’m doing great.  I’m showing up and taking on a big challenge.  I’m hanging in there and doing the best I can in the moment.  And because of all this, I’m going to get better, and stronger, and most importantly, more comfortable with myself.  The heel turn, it will come in time with practice.  There is no need to worry about not getting it just now.  And you know what, my instructor said he was impressed and that the class did beautifully.  I must be doing something right!  Hey, I’m doing some things right!

I don’t know about you, but this story makes me feel encouraged.  I now feel like I can face the next challenge that comes my way.  Good thing I figured it out because I have another lesson tomorrow!  Woo Hoo!  Details to follow.

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