Mindful Dancing

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Many months ago, I stumbled across a site called “Happify” which claimed to have scientifically backed things to make you happier.  I found this somewhere in the middle of the troubles with Z and figured I had nothing to lose.  It is a website with a series of self help tracks and little games that are supposed to help you adjust your negative thinking and focus more on the positive.  And it is all backed by SCIENCE!  Naturally, I’m skeptical because that’s just who I am and I’m not going to credit it with anything and there were external forces in my life that have helped as well.

But I bring it up because one of the tracks was on mindfulness which is a new hot button thing.  Well, I don’t know how new it is but I did some research and it is all over the web.  Again, I’m skeptical and part of this was doing meditation to just focus on your breathing.  I couldn’t handle that.  I live inside my mind and it can’t be shut off so I would do other things while listening to some of these things and hope I could absorb something through attrition.

Because I’m not really all that into fine details, I’ll give you my high, high level overview of things.  (By the way, you can tell I work in corporate America – the use of high level overview is a dead giveaway)  The basic premise is you keep your mind in the present and pay attention to the detail of what are happening to you in that moment.  And, as things come up, you accept them without judging and without going back and pulling out the last 10 times something bad happened to you.

So, what on earth does this have to do with dancing, I’m sure you are saying right now.  Patience and I will get there.

Last night’s lesson with Kid T was our West Coast Swing routine and the Viennese Waltz.  The Swing went great.  The Waltz didn’t start out that way.  There is a part near the end where we do something that the Famous Franchise calls “the Butterfly”  I’m sure it is probably known by other names in other places but the Famous Franchise has its own language.  Basically, the man has the ladies right hand in his left and we start in open position.  Then, we sort of circle around each other closing together and then opening up.  I guess it can be vaguely similar to a butterfly flapping its wings.

Well, after that, I’m supposed to turn her and then we switch places and then we start off down the floor.  The problem was that the alignments weren’t right and if I turned her then, I’d be going off the dance floor and into the crowd.  I know this step worked just fine with the Body Double and even with Z but it just kept failing.  And the frustration level just started to rise and I could hear the Doubt Monster warming up to tell me how awful Showcase was going to be.  I should mention that as a lead, one of my greatest fears is screwing up the alignments and ending up in a corner without a step to get out of it.  Then you have to adapt, improvise and overcome which can be a little unsettling as it usually requires breaking the routine and then you have to figure out how to get it back or you just throw in a few moves that make sense and hope that the music stops soon.

But, something in me said “No, we aren’t going there”.  I tried to pull out of muscle memory where we had to be to start the butterfly and work backwards from there.  I had Kid T just work with me on that one part so we didn’t go back to the beginning and we first tried it to see what the alignment was supposed to be and then tried to make the step before that work.  At the end, we couldn’t make it quite work out but I was able to improvise the turn and do it slightly differently to keep things on track.  What was great is that we worked together to solve the problem.  There was no sarcasm, no cracks about me messing up, just two people trying to fix something.  A team – a partnership – like it is supposed to be.  We finished by looping it a couple of times and so I’m left with something that still needs improvement but we have a working version to get us through Showcase.  And the Doubt Monster never got a chance to come out to play.

I know this dance doesn’t move as much as needs to but I don’t really know why.  I suspect it is the connection because I’m still a little tentative with my movements since I really can’t feel her and I don’t think she can truly feel me to know how much I’m wanting her to move.  With the Body Double, we had that thing going all the way down the long side of the studio and I’m not there with Kid T.  From my observations, she is much more comfortable with the faster rhythm dances like Swing, Cha-Cha and Mambo and less so with the smooth dances.  The funny thing is that I’ve always considered myself more of a smooth dancer.  But a large part of that is that whole “you are limited by who you think you aren’t” issue.  The rhythm dances require body parts to move and I’ve told myself for so long that I can’t do that and that just translated into me believing that I was just a smooth dancer.  I know that’s now really just bull****.   I’m a dancer.  I can conquer pretty much any dance I want to.

One little dip into negativity here.  I’m a little pissed at OwnerGuy although I’m trying to cut him some slack.  When the Body Double left, he was all “I’ll be on some of your early lessons to make sure things are going good”.  By some, he must have meant one because that’s all he’s shown up for.  Kid T is enthusiastic and driven and does know a lot but she’s not an accomplished Silver dancer and we need a more experienced pair of eyes looking at us from time to time.  As I said, I’ll cut him some slack because there seem to be other things going behind the scenes that have kept him busy.  It still bugs me though.

A last little interesting tidbit from the lesson.  Somehow, my spidy sense was pushing me to talk to Kid T about Showcase.  I just wanted to lay out some expectations.  I told her not to worry that I fully expected things to go wrong and that not every dance would be perfect.  I said the reason I wanted to go was to get the feedback so we would know the big things we need to work on to improve the partnership.  She seemed relieved and said it was good I had that attitude.  I suspect Z has been in her ear about me freaking out if things don’t go right but that’s really not who I am anymore so I hope that helped.

I’ve told you I get little hunches about people and I have no way of knowing if they are valid or not but I’ll act on them until I get evidence to suggest they aren’t true.  With Kid T, it seems sometimes like there are things she wants to know but doesn’t want to ask.  Part of it is that she really seems driven to make this work and she wants to know that it is working but may not know how to go about assessing that.  So part of me things that I have to be more proactive in my communication like I did by bringing up Showcase.  That puts me in a strange place because volunteering information is not my style.  But she seems open and willing to listen so it may just be something I have to do.

We are 10 days from the out of town Showcase.  I feel better than I did last week.  I’m keeping my expectations low and treating this like a learning experience.  We need an opportunity to get out on the floor since that is so different from practice and that will be the last sign I need to know if this partnership is really going to work.  OK, I don’t need to put that much pressure on this.  We’ll go and get the feedback and that will give us the blueprint for where we go next.  I like the sound of that much better.  Ten Days.  It is about to get interesting here so stay tuned.

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