Hard Truths and a Cloudy Future

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A couple of years ago my Famous Franchise studio started an exclusive club kind of like a frequent fliers program.  Keep a certain number of lessons on the books, come to two lessons a week and there were some perks that normal dancers didn’t get.  Its a win for the studio since even though you don’t have to pay for the whole thing at once, it keeps you coming because who’s going to give up that many lessons.  And with the minimum, you burn through them quicker.  The perks haven’t exactly worked out as advertised because too many people wanted to join up – guess they did a great job promoting it.

Well I was informed last night that I’ve come dangerously close to the minimum and that means another trip into the little room where OwnerGuy pulls out a dance plan and we talk about what I want to be when I grow up as a dancer.  And he tells me how much I’ve improved and so on.

Funny thing is that I’ve been having some serious thoughts about this same topic.  I even allowed myself to think about life without dancing.  Sure, this does a lot for me but it is an addiction and I have to ask whether the high is worth the pain.  You expect some growing pains as you stretch outside your comfort zone but this hits at so many of my insecurities that those days I drive home in the middle of a self-induced funk are no fun at all.  I am trying to change and I think there have been improvements but I don’t know that you really can totally change the way you are wired and I’m actually getting kind of tired of beating up on myself.  I didn’t choose this selection of genes and/or background or whatever has influenced me up until this point so why should I continue to berate myself for not being able to magically transform into someone else.  Doesn’t make sense to do so.

But on the plane ride back from vacation, I plugged into my music and just got lost in it.  And dancing is just a way to express that side of myself.  Didn’t know I needed to express that side but I do and so a future without dancing is not for me.

So where do go.  I could get back on the medalist track and start up again by learning new steps and trying to check out of a level like most of the students in the studio.  The big positive to that is it would give me that tangible sense of accomplishment that I struggle to find.  When you can check off a step, it just makes it obvious that you’ve done something and that you are moving forward.  Several downsides though.  First, my ability to use those new steps would be limited.  I’m not going to start up social dancing so it would just be at studio practice parties and I’d have to find people to lead and those numbers are limited.  And if you don’t use something, I lose it so I suspect the learning curve would be frustrating.

Why am I not interested in social dancing?  First, I’m spoiled.  I’ve danced too long with pros and they just feel different (and not in a dirty way).  It comes down to connection.  That is something pros work on and use.  The Statue is actually the best at this.  I always feel a little resistance coming from her and so we have a much stronger connection and it makes the whole lead/follow thing easier.  And, now that I know what to look for, when it isn’t there, it is obvious.  Have you ever tried to lead a swivel when the lady won’t use you to work off of?  Yeah, its not great.  Clearly, there are amateurs who get this but not so many at our studio.  Well, why don’t you just go out and dance at other places?  Yeah, I’ve thought about that but the concept of going to new place and then having those awkward moments of trying to have a conversation while dancing while trying to figure out what steps to do is just a bit too much for me. I’m not using my introversion as an excuse or a crutch but it is a big part of who I am and I have to face that fact.  I spend a lot of my day at work fighting against that type and then trying to extend it after work would wear me down.  Maybe someday a group from the studio will go somewhere giving me an opportunity.  But, by myself, have to say that is just not a road I’m ready to go down.

Well there is always the Showcases.  I have no idea why I love performing so much.  There is just this side of me that every now and then wants to say “look at me”.  Doesn’t happen too often but the thrill of doing the solos at Showcase is just an indescribable feeling.  Learning the steps is tough but there are times it doesn’t feel like work and I’ve been able to loosen up just a bit.  I do have to temper that because it has taken me awhile to get to this point and it is partly because I see so many of the same faces at these events that it starts to become a safe and comfortable environment so I can be freer to wear costumes and do some things just for the entertainment value.  I’ve said I’m not a big believer in horoscopes but sometimes they get things right.  I’m a Leo but on the Cancer/Leo cusp which I’ve seen as someone who can appear shy one minute but they are stealing the spotlight the next.  Yeah, that’s kind of me at Showcase.  And even though I get critiques at Showcase, it isn’t really all about the posture and timing.  I can put on a good show for most of the crowd even if my posture isn’t perfect and I’m slightly off time.  Wherever I go, Showcases remain in my future and I’m going to do as many solos as possible.

Then we come to the competitions like the one I’m going to next week.  This seems to be a logical next step from the Showcase but the stakes are much higher.  While the audience will watch, your primary audience is the judges.  (I know I should be thinking the same thing about Showcase but I’m not).  And the judges really, really care about posture and timing which just happen to be two things I continue to struggle with.   That just really feeds the demons and insecurities because if my posture isn’t good, then I must suck and why am I even doing this and so on and so on.

But the dancing and judging is really only part of the picture.  You’re taking me from a safe environment and dropping me in a big room in a new city surrounded by a bunch of people I don’t know.  Others would take that as an opportunity to make a whole bunch of new friends.  For me, it is terrifying and it always causes me to shrink back and then I end up beating myself up for not conquering those fears.  Again, I’m not trying to use my introversion as a crutch but I don’t think I’ve really grasped how tough it can be to fight against that and I need to not beat myself up for not being able to magically change what is an essential part of my make up.

Adding to the stress is that these are always “themed” parties.  For me, that just smacks of forced fun and it doesn’t feel natural.  Again, if I was in a safe and comfortable place, I’d have no trouble joining in (I’ve started wearing costumes for Halloween at work and its a blast).  But this is all people I don’t know and all that goes through my head is trying to fit in.  It is high school all over again and not wanting to be relegated to the losers table at lunch.  So I stress over what to wear and how best to fit in while cursing that I can’t just be strong enough to say “screw it”, I’m wearing whatever I want to.  First world problems – I get that.

So all of this floats through my mind in the lead up to these events and it just spills out.  Yes, I can be something of a drama queen at times.  I’ll own that.  I’d like to think I’m getting better but you know I just need a certain amount of hand holding.  There are times when Z is up for that and there are times she’s not.  So I reach out for support and it isn’t there and that’s when we spiral out of control.  She asks me to do something new and I’m sorry but I sometimes need to be told that I’m doing it right and when I’m greeted with silence, I naturally assume I’m screwing up and stop and that’s not what she wants and off we go.

Could I get better and improve my timing and posture?  Of course.  There has been improvement and there can continue to be improvement but at what cost.  A couple of coaches that have come in have left a strong impression that I should be doing more.  Kind of like the quote from Shall we Dance “Ballroom is all or nothing”.  I’m not saying I don’t work hard.  I’ve got the callouses on my feet and a worn out pair of dance shoes as proof that I’ve done a lot.  But since this is about truth, I’m just not driven enough to make competitive ballroom my only activity which is sometimes what I think these coaches want.  But I have other things that I enjoy doing.  I could have worked around Z’s schedule and gone into the studio on Saturday for an extra lesson but I wanted to spend the day with my wife and plant flowers around our house because it makes me feel good.  I could spend more time practicing but, after losing one of our dogs, I now see one looking at me and I want to stop and take some time to play with him.  They don’t ask for much and I don’t want to ignore them.  It is about choices and consequences and I’m just not going to go all in on this competitive stuff so should I really continue to do these?

Working on technique is work for me.  It is nowhere near as fun as learning steps for a new routine.  Part of it is because I’m asked to move my body in ways I don’t understand and then it gets frustrating when I can’t make something happen.  I can’t always feel the difference between what is “right” and what is “wrong” so I lack the ability to self correct which is why I can be inconsistent.  And there are so few “a-ha” moments when it becomes clear why you are doing a certain step a certain way.  I don’t get a tangible feeling of success because I don’t always know when I’ve done something “right” and the line between right and wrong seems so fuzzy that it is hard for me to really feel good about myself even when I do something “right”.

At the end of these events, I’ve generally had a good time and there is something about going to this little fantasy world but the time leading up to it is rough.  I don’t really know if that particular high is worth the pain.  I still need to push to find my potential but I’m finding that these comps aren’t always the best option.  I thought I would get a real idea of where I stand but that hasn’t happened – I’ve questioned the good marks I’ve received while believing the bad ones because they seem more “right” to me.  On the other hand, I’ve got this part in me that doesn’t want to quit and walk away because I’ve invested a lot of time in these open routines.  I’m hoping to have a clearer picture of where to go once I get back from this little adventure.  Could I find a middle ground?  Is it worth going to these events just for the experience.  They are pricy and I don’t know that i can justify that.  But if I try to push myself to do well then it sets up those unrealistic expectations and I’m not sure if I’d be doing it for me or to validate the comments I’ve heard from the coaches.

Well this could be an interesting conversation with OwnerGuy.  I think I know the right path and I also know I have to dial it back a bit.  Going there as much as I’ve been doing is not sustainable over the long term.


  1. There is improvement and then there is just change. I think dance is meant to help transform you into more of who you are, not into someone else. Yes, there are days that are stressful or uncomfortable or just not fun, but you should still be able to look forward to the next dance thing, be it a lesson or party or whatever, not dread it. You figure out what is best for you and do that, don’t let OwnerGuy or anyone else pressure you into doing more because that’s what they want or what they think is best. Especially if you put out all this money for these extra perks that they haven’t delivered on!!

  2. Wall – I get where you’re coming from. I, too, realize I’ve been spending too much time at my studio. I hurt my knee about three weeks ago and have not danced since…and I’m finding out how good it feels to have time for other things. Do I want to quit dancing entirely? No, but there is no need to maintain my status as a two-lesson a week member of the Century Club, either. There is something about that “in-group” thing that does not sit well, anyway. And, like you, I know I’ll never be the dancer I want to be. It’s just not physically possible. So, I’m going to take a much more relaxed approach from now on. I’m going to dance for fun. If improvement happens, terrific. If not, that will be OK, too.

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