One Step Forward, One Step Backward

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Subtitle:  Stuck in the Mud

I’ve not been in a very good place recently with dancing.  I thought after Showcase that we set some new goals and I thought that would help get me out of the rut I felt like I was in.  But the learning has been frustrating and now even going back to the closed routines I supposedly knew isn’t helping because I’m finding I didn’t know them as well as I thought I did.  All of which continues to feed into my general feeling that I’m actually going backwards.  It is threatening to become a real death spiral because my perception becomes my reality and that then becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy.  If there has been no progress, then why even bother anymore?  What’s the point?  Kind of an existential dance crisis if you will.

I did sign up to a Showcase in a locale not far from our part of the state but far enough away that they routinely host their own Showcase with some other studios.  We’ve gone before and it has been fun so they offered and I jumped on the chance.  But, it also appears Kid T is giving up on modifying the closed routines.  So there is new stuff in Waltz, Fox Trot and Swing but the other six remain the same.  I can’t help but think that the struggles we were having influenced her decision.

So we started doing the other closed routines again since we hadn’t touched them since Showcase back in May.  Yesterday, she finally managed to change a spot in the Viennese Waltz that has been problematic.  Not sure it is truly fixed but it seems to be moving in the right direction.  Today, we were doing Bolero and we got to a point where she stopped because I guess I was in her way.  So she starts telling me that I’m supposed to be turning my body towards her and I ask when that is supposed to happen and then come to find out that I was doing rock steps while she was swiveling which I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

Problem is I’ve been doing them for as long as I can remember.  I may have been told that or I may just have deviated at some point and never got back on track and ended up cementing the wrong thing in my muscle memory.  So now the “right” thing feels alien.  There is a metaphor that was used in management about feedback and likening it to a course correction on a ship.  If the ship is off by a degree, it won’t matter right away but if you don’t correct it, then, over time, the ship gets way off course and heads straight for the iceberg of certain death.  (No, they didn’t use the iceberg in their analogy but I think it would have been better).  Point being that if you see someone go off the rails, it is easier to correct it right then.  If you ignore the problem, it will be a lot harder to fix later.

Now, this is probably not really technically “wrong”.  I do get so hung up on the whole right/wrong thing when it comes to dancing.  There are certain things that are “wrong” like taking toe leads in Waltz or Fox Trot.  There are other things that aren’t wrong wrong but will just make the dance feel and flow better.  Of course, in the heat of the moment, I wasn’t able to make that distinction so I just heard that I was doing something “wrong” and had been for quite some time.  Which then just launched two daggers at my self-esteem.  First, it meant whatever system I had for learning the dances had failed me.  Secondly, it just added to the whole perception that I’ve been losing ground for the last year or so.

See, I kind of thought I was ready to move on.  I spent so much time working on frame and posture because I wanted that to be perfect and I cared less about adding new steps.  I know the technique isn’t perfect but I thought I had gotten to the point where I was ready to add some new things.  But then something like this happens and I wonder what other mistakes are out there waiting to be discovered.  What other things have I been screwing up for years.  I thought I had grabbed the pebble out the master’s hands but it was all an illusion and it is still in their hands.  It isn’t time for me to move forward.  Yeah, that might be a touch over dramatic but I’m just letting it all go here.

I did manage to talk with Kid T about these feelings of inadequacy and failure.  Not sure how I found the words but I did.  She allowed that when she first started working with me that she was also learning with me and was focusing on certain things.  Now that she is more familiar with the steps, there are other things that she is finding and feeling that can be corrected.  Its that damn infinite onion again.  I’m glad she said that but it also just added to the feeling that I’ve been mostly spinning my wheels for the last year or so.

Then, she hit me with the “but that’s in the past” and “now you know it” so why look backward.  I can’t tell you how much I hate it when I do something right once and a teacher tells me that now “I know it”.  No, I’ve done it once.  That is far from actually knowing it.  Its a little thing but it bugs me.  Because when I point that out it makes me sound negative.  Why look to the past?  I know I’m mostly about the journey and not often about the destination.  But you don’t want to look at the road you’ve traveled and realize that you were just going in circles for the longest time.

The only part of this that really irritates me though is I know that part of the problem is that Kid T and I were left on our own little island.  Every so often, OwnerGuy would check in to see what was happening but those “progress checks” were few and far between.  I needed a pair of eyes to watch and make those course corrections before we ended up heading for the middle of the ocean.

But I’m not going to turn this into another complaint session.  It is what it is.  Leave the situation, change the situation or accept it.  Or, if you don’t like something and can’t change it, then change your attitude.  Right or wrong, I signed up for more lessons so I’m not about to leave the situation.  I can’t force OwnerGuy to do progress checks.  That just leaves accepting the situation as is and changing my attitude.

And that would start with accepting that there has been progress.  My feelings are valid but not necessarily correct.  Nobody twisted my arm and made me stay in the studio once I decided to stop dancing with Z and then when the Body Double left shortly after.  I chose to sign on and I’ve chosen to re-enlist multiple times.  Yes, my growth curve was flatter than I would like.  I guess maybe I didn’t realize how flat until just recently.  And maybe this is the opportunity to actually get back on a positive trajectory.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.  That seems kind of silly since the teacher has been there all along.  But it is probably true that I haven’t been giving her a fair shot for a bit.  So, am I ready?  No, but I’m probably closer than I was before tonight’s lesson.



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