What are Words For

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It seems that I’m stuck in a bit of a rut complaining about my latest lesson.  Not that I want to keep that string going but I do have to say a couple of things about the one last night.  First, I need to put a couple of points on record:

  • My current instructor has gotten far more out of me than I would ever have expected.  Despite our somewhat volatile relationship, there has been real progress and many lessons have been all positive.
  • You are only hearing my side of the story.  While it is true that I’m a pretty brutal self-critic, I suspect I do leave some things out.  She would likely have rebuttals to everything I’ve said and with reasons for why she said and did the things she did.

What I’m really wrestling with now is whether her style is the best for me at this stage in my dancing life.  I’m sure that reading these posts feels an awful lot like watching someone in a bad relationship (think the Carrie Underwood song “Good Girl”) and I will freely admit that other instructors who have commented have made some very good points and they describe teaching methods that sound very good to me.  I’m just not ready to toss away the years and progress that has been made although it may certainly become necessary.  After all, this is supposed to be fun and I’m spending a lot of money for this.

Last night we were working on the Viennese Waltz routine since the closed routine was changed before Northstar and it still isn’t automatic for me.  I have to add that I had a late meeting at work and there were other things on my mind.  But there was a two-step group class right before my private lesson taught by our newest instructor.  She loves to teach and it shows.  She’s another loud extrovert but she keeps things light and fun.  Even though it was a step I didn’t quite have, it didn’t bother me a bit because she was also very supportive about the mistakes that were made.  It is what a group class should be.

When we started the lesson, there was a newbie couple on their first lesson in one corner of the floor.  So Z carved out a space with a chair and told the other instructor we just needed an L and that we’d work around them.  I took that to mean that we needed to give the newbies some space – after all who likes someone zooming by you when you are on your first lesson.  If you’ve never danced before, it could be scary to see someone coming at you and you really don’t know that they can control where they are going.  Well things were going fine and we did one of many practice runs and I got near them so I cut the next move away from them towards the center of the floor.  Yes, it wasn’t following line of dance but its a lesson and not a comp and there’s a difference with going around another couple doing the same dance vs trying to navigate around a new couple and instructor who are moving kind of erratically and randomly.  There was some space but the table and chairs were between us and the new couple if I took the path on line of dance and I’ve gotten grief for running her into chairs before.

She stops me and asks why I cut it the way I did.  Since I can’t answer questions very well at the spur of the moment, the first thing that came to mind was “I didn’t think I had enough room”.  Not exactly the whole truth but when pressed for a snap answer, that is sometimes what happens.  She goes on to tell me that of course I had plenty of room and then launches into a discussion about how I needed to “fight for that space” and how going back across the floor could lead to more collisions and how that would freak me out because it always freaks me out.  To be clear, I had no problem with the point she was trying to make, but her delivery really set me off.

  1. First, if you wanted me to try to navigate around the newbies and stay on line of dance, then just say so.  Don’t make this some kind of secret test that I clearly failed when my impression was to stay away from them as much as possible.  So right away, I thought I was doing the right thing but she had different expectations so it felt like a failure.
  2. Second, why bring up all the freak out stuff.  Why make this personal?  All you had to say was that whenever possible we need to stay on line of dance and on the outside of the dance floor.  If you couple that with telling me that you want me to practice floor craft, then that’s what I’m going to do.  But you make it personal by bringing up my freak outs and it really makes me shut down and all the good of the lesson quickly fades away.  I know in her head she might be trying to help me but why point out my shortcomings?
  3. Lastly, and most importantly, if you want me to try something different, then you better be prepared for me to make mistakes and fail at times.  That means not making fun of me if we happen to hit something or someone.  If you want me to squeeze through a tight spot, then it will take practice for me to understand just how much room I need and how to make it work.  It won’t be perfect 100% of the time and if you expect that and don’t make it safe for me to fail, then I’m always going to be uptight about trying and will always take the safer choice.

Perhaps I’m being a little over sensitive here but it started to take me down the bad path.  I felt the weight of her expectations pushing down on me.  I can’t lead as she expects.  I’m going to freak out and freeze up out there.  Why did I ever agree to go on this road trip.  Why am I doing this?  I don’t want to do this.  That last one kind of smacked me upside the head a bit.  You know from my earlier post that I was really keyed up about the road trip and suddenly I was thinking it was going to be a disaster and I was looking for a way to get out.  The good news is that I pushed this feeling down so it didn’t completely take over but I did spend a lot of time on my way home thinking about the evening.

So why didn’t I say anything to her?  Because I was too emotional and the words would have gotten stuck in my throat.  What would have come out would have been confusing and disjointed and she would take it the wrong way.  “I thought you wanted me to teach you these details”.  I’ve tried to say that I don’t have any problems with what she says but it is how it is delivered that sets me off.  But that becomes a difficult conversation to have.  As a manager, I know that people respond differently and you do have to change your communication style to deal with different people but that takes a little self-awareness to accept that your way isn’t the best way, or the only way or the right way.

Again, there was a lot of good stuff in the lesson.  She does push and toss a lot of stuff at me and we did work on and improve some things.  But all of that fades into the background and all I’m left with is some of the unpleasant feelings.

At this point, it doesn’t make sense to jump ship since I want to do the road trip next weekend and showcase is after that and I live for those days.  After that, OwnerGuy and I may need to have a serious talk.  Going to another studio is an option although my city does not have an abundance of choices.  An independent studio might give me an opportunity to do more comps and if the pricing is like this upcoming road trip, then that’s a good thing.  But being in a place with a fairly large Famous Franchise group has some serious advantages.  Nothing beats the price of a showcase and it is local so travel and lodging aren’t an issue.  I can do 40-50 entries for half of what the upcoming road trip is going to be.  I know smaller studios have this type of event as well but there is something about having a big group in a room which I don’t think I’d get in a smaller studio.  I think I could work with the Statue although I don’t know if she can really give me the pointers I need since she doesn’t compete and she’s not yet fully into Silver.  It might be that I have to scale back working with Z and pick up lessons with someone else and maybe ease into a full transition before the next showcase.  I would have to deflect all the obvious questions from the rest of the studio but, in the long run, finding someone who is more supportive is probably in my best interest.  I had even considered simply giving up dancing on the ride home but I then remembered the fun of the Two-Step lesson and I know I don’t want to stop.  So changing instructors seems to be the best option – unless things turn around between now and Showcase.  I hate change so it is not easy to consider ending this but I think the writing is on the wall – I just need the courage to read it.

One comment

  1. My partner said something to me once about his own dance journey that really stuck with me. He was talking about why he’d made some of the choices he did (choices that maybe, to me, without having lived his life, didn’t make a ton of sense).

    “I wasn’t going to let anybody or anything take away my love of dancing,” he said. “Not even myself.”

    That’s really stuck with me – I’ve let that happen a few more times than I should have; both by letting other people take it away from me, and taking it away myself (which I suppose at the end of the day is exactly the same thing and exclusively my responsibility).

    I certainly would not presume to try to tell you what you ought to do; it’s a tough situation, no question about it. And it’s easy to armchair quarterback and toss out opinions without knowing the full story. So I’ll just say – good luck! And I’m glad that you didn’t run into those new people 🙂

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