Check Your Ego At The Door

Although the breathing issues are still present, they have improved somewhat and I have been able to get back to some dancin’ with Ivan.  This is a very good thing, though I still missed class with Inna, Marieta, and Toni this week.

I’ve been mostly working on a performance piece for an upcomming showcase which was originally scheduled for February 24th.  Wouldn’t you know it but just after I sent out an email to my nearest and dearest friends and family about my very first showcase with a solo routine I got word that the date was changed.

I have to admit, I’m kinda bummed.  Yeah, they say that it is just rescheduled, not cancelled, and I will get extra time to practice my routine (and based on my lesson today I could use it), plus, my husband had a potential scheduling conflict so he was uncertain he would be able to come see me dance, but even with all these positives, I was still all geared up and excited for this thing that I had been working toward for a month to finally happen.  It knocked the wind out of my sails a little bit, if you know what I mean.

This was after my lesson this morning.

Now, as you know I love Ivan as my teacher.  He is just amazing in so many ways.  From his idiot-savant-type spiritual guidance to his knowledge of ballroom dancing and technique, and his ability to draw things out of me I didn’t know were there, to his capacity to see my potential, I just think he’s the cat’s meow.

But I’ve also mentioned that he has an intense side and boy was it out to play today.  You know what, though, I can also be very intense.  When I get focused on a task at work, for instance, I can become so set on that particular thing to the exclusion of others.  Intensity can be great, at times.  Today, however, on my lesson, I felt like when it came to my routine, I couldn’t have done anything right enough to please my instructor.

It sounds kind of harsh, maybe, but sometimes it is just what is needed.  I think it’s good to be humbled at times as a reminder of how much work there is left to do.  I have enjoyed many nice compliments on my dancing over my “career,” and even recently Nona, Ivan’s mother-in-law (Marieta’s mom) who is an excellent ballroom dancer and instructor herself, told me that I was was doing well.  I take that as a great compliment and acknowledgement of how far I’ve come.  Nona saw me when I first started dancing with Jeff back in August of last year, so she can see the difference.  She basically told me, “I don’t know what Ivan’s telling you, but it’s working.  You are looking great out there.”

Well anyways, today I needed to check my ego at the door of the dance studio.  Not that I’m like, an egotistical maniac, or that I think that I’ve “arrived,” or even that I walk around thinking, “I’m such a great dancer!” But with all the nice compliments lately, it’s easier to become complacent.  To think, “Hey!  I’m doing okay here!  I’m actually pretty good.”

But if I’m honest, I don’t want to settle for “good.”  I want to be great.  Also, I know good and well there are some major issues with my dancing…balance, being on my heels instead of my toes, my weight, my cardiovascular capacity and stamina, arm styling…just to name a few.  There is always room for improvement, as they say.

Well, anyways, I nailed the opening steps of the showcase routine and Ivan tells me “Perfect! Perfect!” This kind of feedback is what my ego likes.

It went well until the first spiral turn, which I always lose my balance while doing because I’m trying to do this arm thing and not look like a ballerina (which, when I do the ballerina arms, I can keep my balance….go figure).  So it started to downhill from there.

Then we did an underarm turn.  I freakin’ hate the arm on that – shooting my arm straight out.  I asked Ivan if there was something different I could do there.  We came up with running my arm behind my head but then like a minute later I did a turn with my arm completely down (another bad habit that occurs when I’m focusing on fixing something else) and Ivan was like, “You complain you want to do a different arm, but then you don’t even do the basic beginner arm styling! I prefer you do the simple movement and do it well than to do what you just did.”

Okay, feedback.  Okay, note to self, work on damn arms…wait didn’t I already know that?

Then I’m screwing up this walking turn thing.  I’m sure it has a name…spot turn, maybe?  Anyways, I’m giving Ivan a good frame, but according to him I’m not moving my feet enough and I’m leaning in with my upper body.

Okay, stop that.

Then on to sliding doors.  I’m doing the same leaning thing with my upper body in this step.  Ivan tells me to cut it out, to get out of his space.

Then on to this step where I go forward on my right and then flip 180 degrees, switch my weight, then step forward.  Again, my body is leaning sideways, I’m pulling on Ivan, making it difficult and sloppy and slow.

By the end of all this feedback (and more that I’m just not listing here), my brain was boggled and I felt pretty crappy about myself and my dancing abilities.  I mean, I’m still trying to remember the entire routine. It’s like 4 minutes long. So I’m not certain 100% of the time what I’m doing. And with uncertainty for me comes tensing up. So I’m thinking to myself, you not only want me to do the steps but execute them correctly, too?

I’m being facetious here! Of course I want to do the steps well! But this is a big bite to chew.

But you know what?  We danced the routine just one last time and somehow I was able to incorporate a vast majority of all the feedback I’d been given, and although I didn’t feel very good emotionally about it, I realized I’d actually danced it better, cleaner, and more on balance.

I’m grateful I have an instructor who can help me do that, even if it means my ego gets a little bruised.

At the end of the lesson another student entered the studio and asked me how I was doing.

“Pretty good,” I replied.  “But Ivan’s being a task master today.  We’re working on a routine for this showcase next week and I have a lot to work on.  Ivan’s making me dance myself, be on my own feet.  I’m like, ‘What do you mean, Ivan?  You don’t want me to hang on you?  That’s the best part!'”  We all laughed.

In all seriousness, though, I think it is such a gift to have an instructor who would rather risk bruising my ego and give me honest feedback as well as the means to correct some bad habits so that I may be empowered as a dancer than keep me dependent on him.  I just have to remember to check my ego at the door and embrace the feedback.  It got me some awesome results today.  My ego may not like the corrections or miss being told how great I am, but my spirit is glad.  And, I want to evolve into my best dancing self and I can’t let anything, not even my very own ego, get in the way of that.  I’m really grateful, too, that I just went with it today.  If my ego had really gotten out of hand such that I’d reacted emotionally and got all butt-hurt that Ivan was being more intense about fixing stuff today, it would have seriously gotten in the way and I would have missed out on the lessons and results.

It also made me realize that there is always more I could be doing.  I could be practicing more, and after today, especially on this routine, I think I will…in fact, I have a date scheduled with my friend Ivonne to do just that on Saturday.  Also, I have occasionally taken notes after my lessons to remember what we talked about or what I felt in my body or learned on the lesson but I haven’t done it for months.  That’s just lazy.  Today I immediately sat down and jotted down the main corrections.

But most of all, I was reminded that I am much more than my personality or my ego.  Yes, they are parts of me, vital parts, but they do not comprise the whole being that I am.  I was reminded that my ego may not like how things are presented sometimes but that when I can acknowledge that and yet still remain open to the feedback and find the value in it, I may benefit greatly in such a way that creates fantastic results.  Sure praise and positive attention feel great, but you know what feels better?

Improving.

Yes it sure does.

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9 thoughts on “Check Your Ego At The Door

  1. cc says:

    Turns were always a nemiess even when younger…but you prevailed then and will now…so excellent that you can see the positive in criticism not get your back up and pursue excellence. A wise lady once said to me, take everything as a compliment…so cricitsm is a compliment because it means that person cares, wants to make you the best. If a person offers no comment when one is needed to get on track, then that person is more focused on getting along and being liked, instead of being a true friend. cc

  2. Stef – another great post – it reminds me that I am not as gracious as you. Then again, my goals in dance are different – not to be great – but to dance for the enjoyment and to be the best I can be (while having fun). There have been times when I have “lost my jot” of dancing because of days (many over time) like you described – and I had to step back and ask myself why I was dancing. It is when I was able to define it for myself. And while I want to be pushed and to be challenged – for me ( and I always speak for myself only – you have an awesome relationship with Ivan that I envy!) I found there can be a fine line between there is a fine line between inspiring and demotivating me. While I don’t expect any instructor to be a mind reader – after 6 years, we do know each other well, and tearing me down is not the way to motivate me. Much of it is in how things are said- of course that is because I am an auditory person – so anything said to me repeats over and over and over and over in my head!!

    You may have heard the expression – EGO is really an acronym for Easing God Out – so in those moments when you find your ego taking over, it may be that you are trusting less in God (or spirit in whatever form you believe in).

    Sending hugs, and thanks again for always making me be reflective.
    Ellen

  3. loveablestef says:

    Thanks, Ellen. I always appreciate your comments. I agree, being torn down is not a way for me to feel motivated either. Ivan wasn’t mean or personally attacking me in any way when he said all this, he was just being very intense and seemed displeased. I just have to remind myself not to take it personally because it isn’t. I mean, it is meant to improve my quality of dancing, but it isn’t meant to make me feel badly about myself. And, it worked. I improved very quickly with that coaching. Part of me is like, why are you nit-picking me everytime! The other part of me is like, no! I like just laughing and having fun and feeling good. Either way, he’s just doing his job, and with the showcase coming up, he wanted to make sure we danced great. He was feeling the pressure, I think, because how his students do reflects upon him. Actually, I think he is/was more stressed about the whole thing than I was. And he seemed excited that we had more time to work on the routine so that I’d dance it better. So, I will.

    • Oh I did not think Ivan was being attacking – you have an amazing relationship with him and I know he is all about helping you in any way he can! As I said it was more of a reflective comment for me. I sometimes lose my “jot” also known as “joy” lol of dancing when I or my instructor get too intense – that is just me – I let pressure get to me too much in all areas of my life. Dancing is one of my outlets – so I try to keep it upbeat.

  4. LP says:

    New to your blog, but just wanted to say enjoyed the post! Sounds like you have a great teacher 🙂

  5. I agree: this type of criticism means your teacher is invested in your progress and believes you can improve. It’s a good thing 🙂

    On another note, I was at the California Open last night and saw Ivan and Marieta dance in the Professional American Rhythm Final. Wow! What great teachers you have. They were so much fun to watch. Great dancers and lots of genuine smiles (I was surprised to see that some of the professional rhythm couples, at least in the earlier heats, did not appear to be enjoying themselves). I was rooting for them! You are so fortunate to be learning from them 🙂

    • loveablestef says:

      I totally agree. They are not just fabulous dancers, but fabulous people. What you see is what you get – they don’t come more authentic than Ivan and Marieta. I count my blessings every lesson! I’m so glad you got to see them in person – that is so cool. Thanks for rooting for them since I couldn’t be there. They’re off to Las Vegas next in two weeks.

    • loveablestef says:

      Hey Paragon2pieces! I thought you’d like to know I shared your comment with Marieta and Ivan. Here’s what Marieta wrote back: It’s comments like these that makes it all worth while Thank you for the share and for being a part of it all :))))

      Thanks for making their day. -Stef

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