So it has been a week since I’ve seen Ivan. I don’t dance with him Mondays cause I work and then go to Marieta’s class. Usually I try to fit one in on Tuesdays but last week I took extra lessons so I needed to cool it down for financial reasons and decided that I’d do Inna’s class Tuesday anyways. Wednesday is class with Toni and work. Thursday, well, I tried. I really, really did. My husband and I went to go look at a house because we want to move and the traffic was atrocious. It doesn’t help that the Waste Management Golf Open is happening right now. So about 20 minutes before my lesson I knew I would never make it there on time and called Ivan. When I told him where I was he agreed and suggested we cancel the lesson and do a double on Saturday. It is weird how things work out like that. It was like I was “blocked” from dancing this past week. I only made it to Marieta’s class on Monday. All the other days I didn’t dance.
So Saturday about killed me. My breathing issues were rearing their ugly heads and I felt completely uncoordinated. It is amazing to me that just one week of not dancing can have such an impact on how I move, a negative impact that is. I didn’t seem to be able to make my body work properly, I couldn’t follow, I kept losing my balance. Sheesh!
Well, after maybe 20 minutes of moving things began to get better. We did Smooth dances then American Rhythm. Then the studio became chaotic-nutso (yes, that’s the scientific word for it). On Saturdays we usually meet at Dance Starz because the church space is used by Miss Laurie Schwimmer.
I have to admit, a part of me likes to be seen at the studio. It’s kind of cool that people will stop and watch when Ivan and I do a Samba. But I only like it when it is one or two couples around. When the place is bustling, it is a lot harder to stay focused. We can’t control the music, and it is difficult to move.
What I’m saying is that I’m spoiled rotten. Yes, I sure am. I usually get to have a dance space all to myself with an amazing instructor and control the music. So the benefit of getting a little ego boost of people watching me dance sometimes at the studio comes with the price that it will soon become chaotic, busy, and jam-packed.
Anyways, it was really nice when it was still early and Ivan and I were sharing the studio only with one other older couple. About that time, my friend Ivonne walked in. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think to ask her to video us dancing. I could have watched and seen how I was looking and then had the opportunity to correct some of my bad habits. Also, I could have posted a little video on the blog so you can see what my practice is like. Alas, no video. Maybe next time.
Although I was hopelessly out of breath and soaked in sweat, and Ivan stopped me every two steps to correct something, it still felt great to dance. I really like warming up by doing the smooth dances.
Tango was especially intense. Ivan placed my hips where I guess they should have been the entire time. I’ve not had them that close to his in the past and it initially made it difficult to move. I was told to “come behind him” after promenade. It was interesting. I instantly understood where I was supposed to be positioned because he physically placed me but it was weird that he finally chose to do that today. Why hadn’t he done it before? I mean, if he had done it on the first lesson, or something, it probably would have felt invasive. But it really didn’t on this day. It was great because I could feel kinetically what I’m supposed to do.
Sometimes Ivan can get intense. I see little glimpses of his “artistic diva” side who expects his students to “get” and then execute his corrections or steps in only a few tries. I guess I just laugh it off and can generally do what he wants out of me well enough that he’s satisfied. He only got “mama mia” on me, threw out a “Hallelujah!” when I finally got what he wanted me to get that one lesson when I started working on Latin.
Two things I notice. One, Ivan is probably this hard on himself (in fact I pretty much know that he is) in his own head when learning new things and executing them. Two, I don’t think he realizes how intense he is being in these moments.
It doesn’t happen so much with me, but I see it come out more with other students if I happen to hang around and obliquely observe him on a lesson while I’m packing my stuff up, checking my phone messages, that sort of thing. And, if he does go all “Oy vey” on me, I just laugh. Usually it snaps him right out of it.
Like today. He was intense when he just grabbed my hips and put them where they need to be for the Tango. But I thought it was great because I instantly “got it.” Then he chilled out becomming his puppy dog self but later the diva came out again. He was very disapproving of my arms. If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ll know that arm styling is one of my weaknesses. Also, I’m still discovering my inner artist. I aspire to be a dancer, not a robot, and to move embodying the music rather than to mechanically do a step. I often don’t know what to do with my upper extremities, especially when doing turns and so yesterday I was doing what I always do, what everyone else always does. If you watch a video of pro/am couples doing the Cha Cha, for instance, you see everyone pretty much doing the same steps with the same arms. It’s almost comic…and boring. I want to stand out (in a good way) instead. But here I am, on a lesson, practicing it the “ho-hum” way.
Here’s a video that demonstrates what I mean.
You can see the entire dancefloor moving the same way. I believe there is a way to do these same steps but make it look different, to have a different quality to them. That’s what I’m after…self-expression even in the context of doing the same steps as everyone else.
“You so beginner!” Chides Ivan. “Don’t dance so beginner.”
I just laughed. I knew exactly what he was talking about. He was in that intense mode, clearly dissatisfied and frustrated with my performance. But it just makes me smile. I’m weird, I know. Someone else would probably be offended. Like hey bud, how dare you tell me I’m dancing like a beginner. How rude!
But he’s right. In fact, I was frustrated with myself for the same thing. He just found a way to verbalize it.
Okay Ivan, I’ll try not to be so “beginner” any more.
But wait. Maybe I don’t want to agree to that. What about “Beginner’s Mind.” Isn’t that a good thing to cultivate?
“Beginner’s Mind” is a concept I learned about that basically suggests it is a good thing to approach any learning with the openness and willingness to learn like a beginner, regardless of your level of expertise in that area. It’s summed up in this quote from Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Here is a fantastic article that explains the concept eloquently and provides some tips on how to live using Beginner’s Mind:
I especially like the part about letting go of your expertise while also tapping into your innate wisdom. Hmmm, maybe both Ivan and I could stand to be a bit more “beginner.”
So, I guess, Ivan’s comment could be taken as a compliment, or at least a reminder that no matter how “far along” on the journey I am (or he is), there is always the ability to be a beginner.
So thanks Ivan. I’m so beginner. And is a good thing.