Dance Diary - In the Beginning
Here's the thing. I like being in charge. I'm used to being in charge. I'm good at being in charge. I'm one of those hyper competent good in a crisis be it on stage or backstage kind of people. I've spent years learning to be good at what I do. When I step on-stage and pick up a microphone I know what I'm doing. Even if it's an impromptu last minute didn't know I was going to have to perform kind of thing I know what to do. I've produced and taught and directed and run the zoo in various ways for a long time. I am happily accustomed to being in complete control of my world. That is, I was...until I stepped into a dance studio.
Of all the things that surprised me about this adventure none was more unexpected and more difficult to accept than the fact that I was suddenly a complete neophyte at something. That I had to let go of everything I knew for a little while and let someone else be in charge. Not only that but I was going to have to be abjectly terrible at something...in public. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of things I do not do well, but generally I try to do those things only in the privacy of my own home, with the shades drawn and Spouse and Spawn safely out of town. Yet here I was putting my terpsichorean flaws on display for the entire world.
And if that weren't enough...I discovered that all those bad habits I'd worked so hard to overcome as a musician popped up in my dancing. Rushing, anticipating, bad posture, incomplete connection with my partner - things I thought were long gone were merely waiting for me to take up dance so they could display themselves in all new ways. Sort of like that pimple that appears without fail on your chin prior to every major life event. There have been moments of pure pain where I wanted nothing more than to flee the building and collapse in a heap of sobs.
So, why do it? Why put myself though the humiliation of baring my two left feet to the world. Well, first of all, I'm stubborn. My mother used to say I'd argue with the devil if he popped up and said it was nice day. And while I've never quite understood exactly why that was a bad thing, she's right. Once I get my teeth into something I will not let it go until I've beaten it into submission. While some may see this as a flaw, I think it's actually one of my saving graces.
But beyond that I know that the only way to be good at something is to allow yourself to be bad at it. No matter what our level of natural talent when we set out to learn a new skill we have to go through that painful awkward phase where we aren't so great at it. This is how we learn. It's not easy, it sure ain't pretty but this is where we really grow. And if we do it right, as a bonus, we might learn a little empathy along the way.
I have been reminded that a bad class won't kill me. It's not a sign from above that I should quit. Bad days are part of the process. Learning something new, even something you love dearly, is not all unalloyed pleasure. It's hard, it should be. I have discovered I'm not happy unless I'm being challenged. The difficult days are the ones that force me to take a look at what I'm doing and adjust accordingly. I may go home and rant and rave and threaten never to darken the studio door again, but once I get that out of my system my pigheadedness kicks in and I'm back in class the next day determined to master the challenge.
Finally, being a beginner has vastly improved my practice habits. Put simply, if I don't want to look like Bambi on ice in class I'd better set aside the time everyday to practice. Wynton Marsalis said, When you practice, it means you are willing to sacrifice to sound good...time spent practicing is the true sign of virtue in a musician." There are other things I could be doing but if I'm serious about moving past my beginner status there's only one way to do it - through sheer cussed hard work. Fortunately that's another of my talents.