Students and Teachers

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Learning something new as an adult can be difficult. Taking on something that is out of your comfort zone and something you’ve never done before makes it even harder. Ballroom is like that. I came late with no previous dance or music background. Plus I have my assorted achy joints from the arthritis. I suppose I should give myself more credit for coming as far as I’ve come.

Teaching a bunch of grown adults to do something that is out of their comfort zone is hard. I look around and you see that most people who come to ballroom have had some success in their professional life and a lot of them are used to being the one giving orders. Now they have to take direction and usually from someone much younger.

So you generally get a random pairing of someone wanting to learn and someone being paid to teach. You’ve got personalities on both sides and a preferred learning style and preferred teaching style. Sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t.

Now, last night’s coaching lesson was all about new choreography for the West Coast Swing so it was pretty short on me doing actual dancing which is sort of OK. Still, it wasn’t the best experience in the world and it was all about clashing styles and personalities.

I don’t learn well by watching. I can but it has to be done slowly. Once you’ve gone beyond a few moves, I’m lost and can barely remember the first. Plus, if I have to focus on the feet, the arms, the body and all sorts of other things, then I just get totally lost.

I learn dancing best by being talking through a step and then doing it. If you want me to move in a certain way, then you kind of have to break it down step by step so I can follow all the parts. If I’m able to do that, then I can do it and see how it “feels” and that’s how I best remember stuff.

There’s another thing about me which isn’t related to learning style but it sometimes takes me a long time to process when you dump a bunch of stuff at me. So this guy is going through all this choreography and he’s doing it quickly because he’s got a limited amount of time and it all looks fine but I can’t yet wrap my head around it until I start to get into it. JoNY was asking what I thought and the honest answer is I don’t know yet.

There are times when something looks so cool that I want to do it and I get excited. But mostly, I’m just trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do and how I’m supposed to do it and whether I can really do it. So if you ask me how I feel, chances are the first answer you are going to get is negative. Its just the way it is. I need time to get into it and try it on and see how it feels. Then I can tell you what I think.

But while I’m thinking, I’m generally not going to appear to be overly enthusiastic. Of course, a lot of that is my personality type. We tend to keep a lot of stuff internal and maintain an even strain. Calm and disinterested on the outside. Lots of stuff churning on the inside. Again, I think this sometimes leaves the teachers deflated because they seem to enjoy students who are all gung ho and ready to go. Sometimes that’s me but most of the time it isn’t.

Another thing about me is that it takes time to get comfortable with someone although I will also say that sometimes I can get a real positive (or negative) first impression and that tends to color how I view that person. I’ve worked with this guy before and, since the break with Z, I had gotten this slightly colder vibe from him. Last night did nothing to thaw that.

I’ve realized that I need more support than I let on. I’ll respond best to someone who is more gentle in their corrections. It took several years with Z for me to see this and to understand that her style was just totally out of line with my needs. This guy brings a little of that vibe as well.

As he’s going over some of the choreography, he makes this comment about how I should be focused not just on the steps but how my body should be moving to the music. And there is no way he could realize that was just an arrow targeting all my insecurities. What do you mean move my body? No, I can’t do that. I’ll just look stupid. I’m too tight and rigid and can never be as loose and fluid as I need to be. Its why I think I’m better at smooth dancing. Maybe I should just drop this routine. I’m not sure I can do this. Yes, this is the inner monologue I was having just from that one sentence. Not that he had any idea that this was going on.

So we’ve got some new choreography for the West Coast. I’ve got all kinds of reservations about it and whether I’m going to be able to pull it off. But I’m also trying to be positive and give it a chance and see what I’m actually able to do.

I got what I paid for. Choreography for our routine that will kind of stand out. I guess I should just focus on that.

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