Another dance lesson, another life lesson. Just a typical day at the studio.
Let me give you some back story. I use self-deprecating humor a lot. I do it at work all the time mostly with my group to poke fun at some of my own shortcomings – like my horrendous writing (some days I do feel sorry for them when they bring back a draft and ask me to decipher some bit of scrawl) and the fact that I can’t keep track of when people are out of the office. Considering I have to approve all time off requests, you would think I could devise a system to know that person X was taking Friday off but it has eluded me up until now. But this is a harmless use of the method because it allows me to show that I don’t take myself that seriously and who wants to work for someone who can’t laugh at themselves.
I do a lot of that on lessons as well but something just clicked last night and I realized that the whole tone of what I say about myself is different. In most other situations, it is lighthearted and the kind of back and forth that guys will do. My group is mostly women so I have to beat them to the punch. But on lessons, I’m mean and cruel to myself. It is less self-deprecating and more self-destructive. I really don’t know where these thoughts come from (well I have theories which I explore in a bit) but on so many occasions, the very first thought that pops into my head is strongly negative and not in a good way. Fortunately, I’ve gotten much better at keeping those thoughts to myself rather than just blurting them out which has gone a long way towards improving my lessons. I hope that have gained some recognition that I can work towards banishing these thoughts all together.
Much of this stems from comments about how I look doing a particular step. In general, the pattern is that I get a positive comment about some physical aspect like yesterday when they were talking about my new vest and how it will make me look tall and slim. At times like these, the very first thought that always pops into my head is something negative about my physical appearance. Can’t give you an exact quote but the general tone is something like “yeah, right like I’m ever going to look that way”. Or I get shown a step that involves some kind of hip movement and my go to thought is “I’ll never be able to make THAT look good”. I really can’t control these thoughts and I don’t know why they are always first in line but they are.
The good news is I was actually able to push them to the back of the bus last night. I was working with Z and a coach who is also a good friend of hers. We were focused on the open swing routine which is a thorn in my side simply because I’ve talked myself into believing that I look silly doing certain parts. But, by being able to ignore that nasty little negative voice, I was able to be open to her suggestions and we made serious improvement to many parts of the swing routine.
There is a spin I do and, as a guy, I’ve not had a lot of need to worry about spins and things like spotting so now, ladies, I do feel some of your pain. She changed it so it was supposed to be more of a neck roll where I keep Z’s arm and wrap it around myself rather than doing a free spin. I watched her do it once and Z forced me through it once but when I tried it, I ended up doing some kind of loop over her head which was WRONG. Naturally, I started to get all freaked out cause I had no idea how to make this work. The coach looks at me and says “I like that better”. I tried to go into a discussion of how I wasn’t trying to do what I did that I was really trying to do what she showed me and how I had seriously FAILED at it. But then she says something to the effect that my body was doing what felt natural and it is usually better to go with something organic rather than trying to force the body to do something that isn’t natural. In other words, in this situation, I wasn’t WRONG and I hadn’t FAILED.
Later, there was a part where we are in a double hand hold and we are supposed to do some kind of shaking of the booty. While I certainly remember a song by that name, it is not a move that I ever felt comfortable with so I just didn’t do it. Well the coach noticed this part and clearly it isn’t acceptable for me to just stand there so she changed it to some kind of hip rotation. Well I’ve talked about my lack of hip motion as well so I again was going to the unhappy place but something in me just said to give it a shot. Maybe the success of the earlier part of the lesson had me pumped up but I did it and Z loved how it looked so that part of the routine is now fixed. There were several other parts like this where she was tweaking things by adding more movement to what I was doing. At one point, she even had me looking in the mirror and mirrors are not my friend because I always think I look dumb (see there’s that mean ugly stuff coming to the surface). But, for whatever reason, I was able to push that all aside and just be open to the suggestions and I think the routine is 100% better and I now actually have a level of confidence about performing it.
Dancing competitively is all about being noticed. You have to do things to make people want to watch you and they have to be bigger and bolder than the things I do at showcase because the target audience at a comp is the judges. And I’ve been told by many coaches that I do a great job showing Z off but they have to see more of ME. I guess that makes sense since we are supposed to be partners. I have to admit that I’m not always comfortable intentionally drawing attention to myself with something like dancing where I don’t feel as confident in my own abilities. The negative thoughts I send to myself about my image clearly don’t help because all they do is make me want to push myself into the background and become invisible and that clearly isn’t the answer. The first smooth vest I got is vanilla and a little boring which is why Z wanted me to get this new one which is going to draw some attention to me. (There may be rhinestones in my future, I can’t confirm or deny that they won’t be in the final design) But last night showed me that I need to push through those thoughts and just be open to trying the suggestions and not worrying as much about looking silly. I don’t expect that I’ve got this totally beaten as my pattern is regression from time to time. But if I can keep things in check and take a routine I didn’t like and turn it around and have it include some hip movement, well then maybe I can beat my whole negative self image in time. Either way, I expect there will be some interesting stories along the way.