Taking It One Thing At A Time

12/6/11

6pm to 7:30pm

Dance Lesson With Ivan

We start with East Coast Swing (ECS) and go through all the steps that I’ve forgotten since I worked with Ivan so long ago. It comes back rather quickly and one step even becomes easier as my instructor explains to me how I’ve been making it more difficult than it needs to be, adding an extra step and change of weight where it is unnecessary. Hmmm, that doesn’t happen anywhere else in my life…just kidding.

But hey, I’m feeling good because ECS is a happy-go-lucky dance to happy-go-lucky music and I truly enjoy playing the bubbly, cutesy lady role which easily matches my personality.

But the lesson is going to take a turn for the worse. I admit, it was my fault. I brought up the issue.

You see, while Ivan was gone, I investigated some group classes at studios around town. I found particularly challenging classes at Imperial Studio that are geared for competition dancers rather than social dancers. While doing the tango in the International Standard class I noticed that my heels were clunking, banging, and otherwise making a general ruckus while the feet of all the other students were as silent as a television on mute. Clearly I was doing something wrong and it was glaringly obvious to me during this class.

I explained the dilemma to Ivan and he began to show me the technique required to fix the problem.

So, I’m supposed to roll my foot, millimeter by millimeter as it transitions between any steps. Not only does this require nearly superhuman fine muscle control but it also requires very strong ankles, and feline-like balance. Do this while moving, stretching each step to just the perfect width, holding a perfect frame, facing the right wall at the right angle, to the timing of the music, while constantly changing direction, and staying in unison with your partner. Easy as pie… NOT!

As Ivan is demonstrating all this, I am amazed by the level of his knowledge, the facility with which he can perform each step, the gracefulness he displays with each movement. He’s been dancing since age five or six and I am in awe of how the years of practice that have culminated in this mastery of ballroom dancing – a mastery I am also seeking but fear I will never achieve.

Realistically, how could I ever catch up to that? I may have also been dancing since a young age but in very different genres and with over 10 years off during which time I gained the weight of an entire extra human being. Just the volume of knowledge he has assimilated alone would be enough to keep me studying for years, and that would be purely intellectual in nature. To actually embody the movements is a whole other ballgame.

I am almost in tears thinking such self-defeating thoughts. My biggest regret to date is that I ever stopped dancing. But I guess a person must give up things sometimes to truly discover their value. All I know is that I have lived life with dancing and I have lived it without dancing and with dancing is much better. I would never give it up again.

In any case, I am dancing now. I must choose to focus on this and move forward from where I am rather than rue the fact that I may have been somewhere different in terms of health if I had never stopped dancing. It is a pointless and depressing mind game based on a past that never existed. All that exists is now.

And in the now, I’m thinking about 1500 details as I try to do the waltz. I mimic the step Ivan does so gracefully, easily, and quietly in a jerky, forced, clunking manner.

Ok, stop! Sometimes I have to tell the negative voice in my head to shut up! Enough with the negativity! It is so easy to do and a very old habit that I used to practice in front of the mirror in ballet class. It is no wonder my brain wants to go there. But with my new awareness I can nip it in the bud.

I realize that I can’t focus on all the technicalities before me and it does me no good to get upset by my human limitations. But what I can do is focus on one thing. This empowers me because I can still improve, even if it is at a snail’s pace, even if I can only practice correcting one small detail at a time.

I can do this. Big sigh of relief! I can do this!

And I realize I’m not actually only working to master ballroom dancing. I am working to master myself.

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