Trust Your Feeling, D-Wall

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You might wonder why I sometimes obsess over the personality tests and spend endless hours trying to validate who I am.  OK, maybe you weren’t aware that I do this, so there you go.  And, no, that’s not where this post is going but I had to set it up somehow.  I am all about the introspection.

A lot of it comes from one of my favorite thoughts which I may not be able to quote exactly but the general thought is that it isn’t who you are that holds you back, it is who you think you aren’t.

Let me couple that with a quote from Michael Jackson, “Thinking is the biggest mistake a dancer could make.  You have to feel.”  Somewhere in my dusty archives, I wrote about that quote but my point was that I’m paid to think and how can I turn that off.  I wrote a lot of stuff like that back in the day which is why I never go back.

So after all that set up, here comes the point.  I’ve been forced to challenge my perceptions of who I’ve always thought I was.  It is possible that I had gone as far as I could just using logic and life experiences and/or dance have forced me to tap into the creative side.  By denying that part of me, I never allowed it to fully develop but as it does, it may become easier to be more like the quote above.

OK, that’s still not specific enough so I am going to discuss what happened tonight at the studio but if I just jumped right into it, then it wouldn’t make as much sense.

We started with our mini-formation for Showstoppers.  Kid T picks some interesting songs and dances to choreograph.  Part of me now thinks they intentionally picked the teams this way because the four of us in this group happen to be the more advanced dancers and maybe they just wanted to stretch us in a small way.  I mean none of us do Lindy Hop and I’m the only one who does Peabody so it sure feels that way.

Well it starts with holding for three and then taking six walking steps and then breaking into a bit of Charleston.  I’m going to admit that I have a horrible time hearing the beat for that first part.  There actually isn’t a beat to start with which is why she wants us to count to three and then start.  Hilde keeps talking about something that starts when we are supposed to start the Charleston but I don’t really hear that and by the time I hear that, it is too late.  The demo is Thursday and this was our last practice so Kid T was trying to get us to do without her counting.  I really had no idea so I just made my best guess as to when to break into the Charleston and at some point, Kid T and Hilde were telling me “you’ve got it”.  Well, I really didn’t because I didn’t really “know” when I was supposed to start, but maybe I did “feel” when it was supposed to start.

Right after that, Hilde and I were working with OwnerGuy on our Waltz.  I will have to try and do another longer post just about the difference between pro-am and am-am because this is different.  I’m just struggling with coming up with the right words to describe the difference.  If I put aside my perfectionism and ridiculously high standards and just look at the fact that we’ve never done choreography as a couple and have only had five lessons.  And, we’ve not really had an opportunity to practice outside the lessons.  So, to give myself some credit, it is really coming together nicely.  I think it has the potential to grow into something really amazing.

Hilde hears the music and beat and she’s very musical and picks up on things right away.  It takes me longer and it is more of a struggle.  So this lesson was all about alignments and making sure I get certain steps going in certain directions so the look is right.  But that involved doing it over and over and over again and OwnerGuy basically said he wasn’t concerned about timing, so he wasn’t counting.  That is a difference between how he is doing this and how Kid T does things.  It leaves me feeling exposed because I’m trying to stay on time and I can tell when I get off because Hilde does something that tells me I’m off time.  Then I try to get back on and hope for the best.

At one point, I had done one of these and thought I was on the beat.  Well, I was on what I thought to be the beat.  We get done and OwnerGuy says something that I wish I had written down because it didn’t make any sense to me but it was something like we weren’t dancing to the beat but to the music.  I think he was saying that we had somehow stumbled into a way so that certain steps were aligned with parts of the music because he said something about dancing what I felt.  Hilde said something similar.  I decided to just keep quiet.  Hey, if they think that’s what I was doing, who am I to tell them differently.  But, maybe that is what feeling the music is like.  Your body just tunes in to something that moves it and you kind of go on auto-pilot and respond to it.

I really have no idea.  I know one of the last times we did it, he tells me afterward how we were off timing at a certain part but had saved it by the time we got later in the dance.  I had no real conscious knowledge of doing anything different.  I was focused on certain things but maybe that just gave some other part of me the ability to feel and respond to the music.  OwnerGuy seemed to think this was a good thing so I’m not going to argue.

Group class was salsa.  I don’t do salsa but Hilde dragged me into it anyway.  We ended up starting a step that felt very much like the beginning of a back spot turn from other dances.  So, I just finished the back spot and released Hilde into a free spin.  I had to adjust my move after that to pick her up but we made it work.  In other words, I was just making up a salsa step on the spot because it felt like what I should do at that moment.

No, it didn’t turn out to be the step Kid T was teaching and I have no idea whether it is even a legit salsa step but it actually felt more natural than the step we were doing.  I only did that with Hilde because we quickly caught on to what Kid T was doing.  If you’ve done a group class, you know there is endless repetition and different levels so some get it right away and other don’t.  If you get it right away, it can be boring doing the same step over and over again so I did start to improvise with her.   I would say it is because I don’t do salsa so I wasn’t really limited by any knowledge.  If you don’t know what the syllabus is supposed to be, it is easier to freestyle and make things up.  But, the bigger point is I was making stuff up in a dance I don’t do!  This was the clearest example of not thinking because I just kind of did whatever felt like the most natural extension of where Kid T stopped us in the pattern.  Weird.

Well that’s probably enough rambling.  I guess the thread that ties them together is that I should continue to trust myself more.  I’ve got more inside me than I thought.  When I don’t allow myself to get frustrated because I think I can’t find the beat or when I don’t tell myself that I’m not a salsa dancer, then maybe it does help free that part of me that can feel the music.  Again, it is about shattering that who I think I’m not which is what holds me back.

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