Yes, they are back. Well, at least one of them is. I shall give you more detail later but let’s just say I’m so excited to actually be working on something new.
But, there is one thing I must revisit based on a comment by OwnerGuy. See, I got there a little early so I was sitting and watching the lessons when he ambled over to see how things were going. He started talking about Boston as a possible comp since I guess Tex has just been bitten big time by the competition bug. He’s willing to go anywhere and spend any amount of money to dance. I probably should have told him that I wouldn’t be doing another comp until I had all the open routines but I just chose to be non-committal. He did say he wanted to tell me early to give me a lot of time to think about it which I do appreciate.
Then, he tells me that Kid T is going to start working on my open Rumba routine since they laid it all out the night before. Last thing he says to me is “you’ll have to keep an open mind.”
At some level, I understand his concern. Teaching me new steps that are above my talent level and outside my comfort zone has been a struggle in the past. I get that. But I guess what he hasn’t yet figured out is that so much of that was because of the personality differences between me and Z.
It is certainly true that there are those who have no problem with new challenges. Throw something at them and their first response is “let’s do it”. I’m not like that when it comes to dancing. Trying to learn something new, especially something physical like dancing, forces you to be exposed and vulnerable. You take the first tentative steps hoping you’ve got it right but your body betrays you and does something different or the step that seemed so easy when you watched the instructor do it becomes a confusing mess when you try. And, when I screw up, I feel stupid and I just naturally assume everyone is laughing at me. Yes, that is irrational but who says this stuff has to be rational.
If I’m going to do something like that, I need to feel there is a safety net around me. I need to trust that the person showing me this has my best interests at heart. That when I stumble, they’ll pick me up (metaphorically) and encourage me to go on. That when correction is needed, it will be delivered gently. I know this makes me seem fragile and needy but it is who am I. It is what I will respond positively to. It is what you need to do as an instructor if you want me to be relaxed enough to try something that I know is going to make me uncomfortable.
Now, imagine that all you get is the occasional sarcastic barb when something goes wrong. Imagine the instructor losing patience with you and just telling you to suck it up and do it. Imagine that you are exposed and instead of being supportive, the instructor rips into what you were doing or criticizes some other aspect of your dancing that falls short because you are concentrating on the new thing. For some people, this wouldn’t be a problem. Some people would enjoy that kind of treatment. Some people would give it right back and not have a second thought.
I’m not some people. Even though they may have been harmless and meant with no malicious intent, each jab took a piece out of my self-esteem and self-confidence. Each harshly delivered criticism began to feel more like an attack than an attempt to teach. Now imagine that happening over a period of time. At first, I convinced myself it was OK and that I could take it. But I couldn’t and it just kept adding up. Every time I would be exposed, instead of getting support, I got a shot to the body. I think before I even realized how much I hated that, my subconscious took over to try and protect me. So, when new things were offered, I would fight in any way I could. I would tell her I couldn’t do it and I would complain about how fast the step was or how some part of it was beyond me. I believe this was just a way to be an early defense mechanism. I would tear into myself first to soften the blow I knew was coming. Eventually, I would be worn down and I would get the step but the process took longer than it should and it was more draining than it needed to be.
The reality is that one teaching method is not going to be the best for all students. There comes a point as a teacher (or a mentor, or a manager), that you have to find what works best for that person and deal with people as individuals. Yes, it means that you sometimes have to adapt your personality to be truly effective.
Yes, I need to keep an open mind but it is easier to do with Kid T because her style is much more in tune with what I need. Of course, I still grumble when they introduce something I don’t really like but I’m more willing to try and I think the learning process is smoother because of the support I get.
So what is this routine, you may be wondering. Well, they are all about how I’m tall (I think I’m more average than anything else) and how I need to be standing taller and taking up more space. And I’ve got that strange introvert/center of attention thing where, there are times when I want people looking at me and there are times that I just want to melt into the surroundings. So they want us to start apart for an 8 count where I’m supposed to be standing tall and walking proud (with the appropriate Cuban motion of course). Its nothing more than two second position breaks but I’ve got no safety net and no partner to work off of so it is just me. Yikes! And that’s how is starts.
Then we come together and she does some spinny spins while I barely move and then strike another pose to support her as she lunges away from me. Then, we do some more stuff and I do something like a turn to come around her and then I’m supposed to strike another manly pose with my arm extended straight up while she moves around me. Oh, and while she’s doing that, she’s running her hand over my mid section. Mom, she’s TOUCHING me (flashback to childhood arguments in the car)
Oh, but the fun is just starting. She goes completely around me and then ends up with her leg wrapped around me and I lunge away supporting her with my hip and then I’m supposed to bounce her off.
And that’s just part of it. There’s very little actual dancing that I do. It is mostly poses and being there for her to drape herself over me. Yes, I get that is sort of what Rumba is supposed to be. I’ll have to block the inappropriateness of having to do this with someone who is young enough to be my daughter. (Again, what guy has this problem!) But the lunge is less awkward than having her run her hand over my stomach. Yeah, I’ve got my personal space issues to deal with.
So there’s some scariness. I have to be by myself and I have to deal with the nature of this dance which is something I’ve said I want to do. Yeah, its a bit of a stretch for me but I am really up for the challenge despite the little bit of complaining I did here. I really want to see how it ends up.