Since embarking on a career as a musical theater actor, I've been holding myself back because of my fear of dancing. When I go into dance class, I feel self-conscious not knowing the technique, not being able to retain the choreography, and feeling a bit like a dancing elephant from Fantasia.
I've written about repairing my relationship to dance before, and I'm still working on it. I came to a realization the other day -
Dancing is fun.
For years I've treated classes as medicine for my lack of skill. I signed up for a dance work study only to find that the classes left me feeling humiliated, and I couldn't keep up with my self-imposed four-class-a-week schedule. While in class, I'd intensely focus on retaining as much as possible so that I would "learn to dance" faster and be more proficient at dance calls.
Last year I took what was labeled a "beginner" class, but quickly progressed past my level of knowledge in the warm-up. The teacher was not supportive and instead of showing me how to do the moves correctly, he focused on what I was doing wrong. There were only three students in the class, and they were doing splits. I could hardly touch my toes in the pike stretch. I walked out of the class feeling defeated and embarrassed.
I thought, "If I can't get through the first twenty minutes of a beginner's class, then what am I supposed to do?"
I stopped going to class and avoided auditions that required a dance call. Problem solved!
A few weeks ago a friend invited me to take a belly dancing class. Belly dancing has never been on my short list of dance styles I wanted to master, so I took the class for the experience and not with any end-goal in mind.
As I'm in the class trying to shake my booty at what felt like the speed of light, I was surprised to find myself smiling. An ear-to-ear kind of smile that left my face hurting. I was having fun in the moment. I didn't worry about what foot started first, or if I was exactly following the teacher. I felt free to move my body. Once I let go and used the dance to express how I was feeling, I got the combo. I couldn't believe it. I was actually enjoying myself in a dance class.
Bolstered with new confidence and perspective, I've started going back to class with a much lighter approach. I've found classes that are on my level with kind, supportive teachers. Instead of feeling like I'll never be a dancer, I feel nurtured and empowered to learn.
I had a blast at my tap class yesterday. Not only did I feel like I was cleaning up my technique, I remembered the combination! I did it perfectly the last time through, and it felt like a victory. I was able to relax and finally remember that I love to dance.
(image courtesy of the Disney Wiki)