I have always loved to dance, but I haven’t always had the motivation and discipline to participate in a dance company. When I finally did commit to being a dancer, the experience taught me more than I expected about myself. It also gave me tools to succeed in other areas of my life.
One: Show up
My dance rehearsals often happen in the evening, sometimes beginning as late as 8:30 PM. I don’t enjoy exercising at night. I’m a total morning person. That’s when my productivity is at its apex.
For me, the perfect evening consists of winding down, reading or writing, and eating my dinner. Instead, because of rehearsal hours, I either eat a light, early dinner, or I skip having dinner altogether to wait for the conclusion of the class.
Obviously, this isn’t optimal given my preferences. There have been times when I’ve wanted to call it a day and skip out on attending the rehearsal.
Sometimes the voice telling me I shouldn’t go manifests itself as anxiety that I won’t do well.
I’m too tired to perform at the needed level.
I’ve forgotten a lot of the choreography, anyway.
That said, I still show up because I love improving my dance skills, and I don’t want to fall behind on the complex choreography. I often outperform my expectations of myself, and on the days when I really am having trouble keeping up in class, I’ve learned how to be flexible in the pursuit of progress.
I have never regretted attending class. In fact, the act of showing up and being able to participate further reinforces my faith in myself that I can overcome my exhaustion.
It also reminds me that I love dancing enough to be flexible with my schedule.
Two: Slow down
The finished product is just that. It’s been prepared and polished. Being a dancer means understanding that I’m often going to be really bad at the moves until I adequately practice them.
For our hip-hop song’s steps, I first found myself frustratingly lost while attempting to master the sharpness and quick pace of the moves. It seemed untenable to keep pausing five seconds worth of choreography to memorize those moves.
Instead, I discovered that the videos had a feature I could utilize to slow the moves down to half speed. That helped me enormously. Although I must have looked ridiculous and the music sounded like a contorted voice emanating from a horror movie, I was able to get the steps down solid.
All I had to do was slow down and accept what stage of learning I was really at.
Three: You know more than you think
I touched upon this above, but I’ll delve deeper now.
I often have anxiety that I’ve forgotten a lot of the routine, especially since there’s quite a bit of choreography to memorize. In those moments, I remind myself that neuroscience is on my side.
Dancing relies on procedural memory, and this memory doesn’t have to be available to your consciousness. if an amnesiac can remember how to play a song on the piano that he learned before his accident, I can trust myself to remember more steps than I give myself credit for.
At the beginning of this dance quarter, I had a particularly exacting dance routine to learn, and I begrudgingly missed the first class because I was sick.
I played catch up for the week after, attending all of the supplementary rehearsals. I believed there was a good chance I wouldn’t get the choreography down in time. These were all new steps, and I had just a few days to learn them.
I practiced as much as I could. When it came time to dance in front of our instructor, I didn’t miss a beat. Though she did say I could have shown more energy.
Note to self: Must work on stamina.