Destroying Confidence in One Easy Lesson

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I don’t know what the qualifications are for being a coach in the Famous Franchise world. I’m assuming some level of self interest in wanting to travel to different studios and work with strange students. Obviously, some level of dancing ability. Not sure what else goes into the equation.

There’s this stupid old idiom “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. I’m not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean since those who can had to be taught by someone. Being able to teach someone a skill is a gift and just having the ability is no guarantee that you’ll be able to share that with someone else.

Two paragraphs in and I should issue a disclaimer. Different people have different needs and respond to different styles. So what works for one may totally flop for another. My experiences last night are mine and not necessarily a reflection on this particular coach who may be a good fit for others. For me, this was easily the worst experience in many years. It cut open a lot of old wounds that I thought were closed and, at the end of the night, I just wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there. It certainly left me less enthusiastic about dancing and questioning a lot of why I even bother.

This is going to be one of those stories where I’m betting the words themselves are not going to be sufficient. I will try to describe last night but most of it was feelings, emotions and inner dialog which doesn’t always neatly translate to this blog.

We had made the decision to work on the Rhythm dances since that was this ladies specialty. JoNY originally wanted to work on Mambo and timing and I totally nixed that. Timing is either something I get or I don’t based on the song and the sound system. If I don’t get it, then trying to spend 45 minutes trying to get it would just lead to extreme frustration. I’m one of those who has to feel it. If I don’t and you try to force me, then all the defense mechanisms kick in and I start over thinking and doubting myself and nothing gets accomplished. Besides, I usually had good timing with Kid T so I know I’m capable. I’m also not alone in thinking that the sound system at the new studio is inferior to the old location. Could be rationalization but I’m blaming external factors for my inconsistent timing and that is not something I felt a coach could help.

So we agreed on Cha-Cha and Swing. Specifically, I wanted to get some pointers in the fast, syncopated parts of the Cha-Cha and some pointers on our first Swing step. As always, you can’t always get what you want and, sometimes, you don’t even get what you need. The coaching lesson goes off on tangents based on what the coach sees and wants to correct.

We did also work through the Waltz since I foolishly agreed to do a demo at the studio Open House tomorrow. It was a rare moment of confidence that made me sign up but, also, studio demos are kind of my speed right at the moment.

In between lessons, there was a Master Class lead by the coach. Personally, I think Master Class is just fancy words to make it seem like you are getting something special to justify the extra cost. Truth is that these things are usually a 50/50 shot at walking away with something useful. It was Rumba because Rhythm is a dancer and that is also her specialty. I strongly suspected she was going to pull the technique card and have the group class spend a significant amount of time doing bending and straightening and I didn’t want to pay money to limp out with an aching knee so I skipped the class. I used the time to write down all the new patterns since we’ve refreshed everyone since the last time I did this. My suspicions were proved to be correct so I felt good about sitting out.

Again, I know that technique is important and I know how these dances are supposed to be danced. I also know that certain repetitive movements inflame the arthritis leaving the knee a throbbing mess. And this is not something I can push through. It will hurt until it decides to stop hurting. Well, it always hurts but it is the level of pain the eventually decreases. I wish I had a fully functional knee because I know that would make my dancing better. But you dance with the body you have and that means dealing with my limitations. Yes, it probably means that I get overly cautious at times to protect the knee but I’m also not a professional dancer and there is no reason to do this if it causes pain and discomfort.

Anyway, I’m supposed to start my lesson and JoNY is still on the floor working with Tex on something. This is a constant source of minor irritation for me because I’m paying extra for this coach and we don’t get started on time because someone wants extra from the group class. I the coach looking at the board to see who her next victim was and she figured out it was me and comes over to talk with me while I’m waiting for my instructor to show up. First thing she starts in on is why wasn’t at the Master Class. Um because I didn’t want to be there. Well I ended up telling her about the knee and why I didn’t want to attend. Might as well just get that out of the way right at the beginning.

JoNY finally makes her way over and we discuss the plan for the night and I get the “show me your cha-cha” and we are off and running through the thing. First thing out of her mouth is that she’s glad I told her about the knees because that’s where she would have focused and now she knows I was protecting them.

This is a good and bad situation. I am glad that she seemed to understand my situation but it just reinforces a point that keeps running through my head. The more advanced the figures get, the more they are going to rely on technique and the more they are going to involve other parts of the body. A chain is only a strong as the weakest link and my knees are the weakest link of all. So if all I’m ever going to be able to do is a half a**ed version of these patterns, is it really worth the effort to continue. Maybe yes in the studio where it doesn’t matter but why put them on a floor in front of judges who are just going to see what I can’t do and give me the same feedback over and over again. Feedback that I can’t fix because there is only so much that this knee can actually do. Vicious cycle that I can’t break out of so what is the point of staying in the cycle.

Now, granted, this is just my inner dialog based on her first comment which might have set a tone for the lesson. But she talked about how I could learn to be a better leader just by using my body more. Good point but as much as tried to follow her, I couldn’t figure out how to make my body do what she wanted me to do. It does no good to have someone just say “do this” when you can’t figure out HOW to make it happen. I just kept trying random things and, every now and then, I’d stumble across something that worked a little better than I had been doing. JoNY would react – maybe she felt something or maybe she didn’t, I have no way of knowing. I also have no way of duplicating what I was doing that was right. Couldn’t distinguish “right” from “wrong” which means anything I was doing was just blind luck which can’t be consistently replicated.

I don’t react well to situations where I start to feel completely lost. Like I have no idea what the coach wants and I don’t like flailing away and failing time after time after time because I don’t know what the hell you want me to do. Then, the pressure of being observed and judged and the consistent failure just leads to the flop sweat which makes the entire thing even more awful. My flight instinct takes over and I just want to run out the door, get into my car and drive away from the studio at the fastest possible speed. Then, I look at the clock and realize we are only ten minutes into the coaching lesson and this circle of hell has so much more time left.

The whole body rotation thing was the theme of the night and we did parts of the Cha-Cha. I’m not going to say it was all bad because there were parts where somehow it made more sense than other parts.

And, there was something else as well. I absolutely know that I’m sensitive to criticism. I am also especially sensitive to being laughed at or feeling like I look like an idiot. This is probably why I’m all about the self-deprecating humor because if you can make fun of yourself first, it takes some of the bite away. (Actually, it doesn’t but it is my defense mechanism). So, this coach had the practice of exaggerating certain things I wasn’t doing optimally. To the point where if that’s what I really looked like, then I have no business being on the floor and I really should just quit. This is also a thing Z used to do a lot. So, seeing this coach do that, just opened up a big a** can ‘o’ worms. I don’t know if that is supposed to soften the message and maybe it works for some people, but, for me, it is nails on the chalkboard type of stuff. I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve got some level of skill. Yes, there are still lots of things for me to learn and I get that I’m not going to do everything perfectly. But I don’t look like what you were showing me. I think I deserve a little more respect than that. This is supposed to be a lesson where you teach me things not a comedy routine where you can make fun of me and make me feel like I’m stupid and hopeless. (As I said before, a lot of this is emotions and inner monologue and probably doesn’t sound as bad as it felt)

At the end of the lesson, she made me try to parrot back some of what I had been told. Seriously?!? I was a mess. I was frustrated from not being able to grasp what she wanted me to do. I was full of doubt from her “examples” of what I was doing wrong. My brain was mush from all the stuff she kept saying. I did what I could to hit the main points and then, thankfully, the lesson was over.

And for this, I paid extra.

I do know that I’m going to have to tell both OwnerGuy and JoNY that this was not a successful coaching lesson. I can’t get into all of this detail because I can’t possibly explain all the still waters running deep inside me. But I can give them some highlights of why this was not my cup of tea.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Damage was done but we have to wait for more of the smoke to clear to do a full assessment.

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