If you’ve missed previous chapters of this series, get caught up by first visiting here.

The Strange Crescendo

Something strange is happening to me at dance class. We were learning choreography, and I had a question. Oddly, the question was not: “Can you please show me that again a bajillion times slower as I am completely lost?”

The question was: “Is that rond de jambe on relevé?”

And my teacher said that yes, it was. I adjusted my dancing accordingly.

You see why this is alarming.

I’ve been going to dance class for six months now and getting used to being the crazy girl who has no idea what she’s doing. So used to it, in fact, that I didn’t stop to notice I somehow became the crazy girl who kind of, actually, might know what she’s doing. Sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong. Last night I tried to do a stag jump and every time I did, my arms would spaz out in completely wonky directions outside of my control. People laughed. I laughed. It was funny. That’s the kind of dancer I’m used to being. The spaz who is at least trying. She’s got that much going for her.

Two Left Feet Darling

But it turns out that the ‘at least trying’ part can add up after a while. I am not completely lost in my classes. I am clicking with choreography when we learn it, and let me tell you — that is absolutely the best part. Dancing when you know the choreography, when you can let go of thinking and actually put some heart into it, is the BEST kind of dancing. The sweatiest kind, the happiest kind, the truest kind (for me, anyway). It’s awesome.

But “sometimes kind of actually knowing what I’m doing” comes with a new set of problems, too.

Have you ever noticed how, in our culture, it seems like the most embarrassing thing you can do is actually try? With hashtags like #IWokeUpLikeThis and open mocking of celebrities who don’t hide the fact that they put work into their image, the people we idolize the most are the ones who, on the surface, don’t try at all for success. It just comes “naturally.”

Which means that trying and failing at anything is the ultimate shame. Doing something you’re obviously bad at can be played off as almost a joke; you have nothing to lose. I’ve been accustomed to being the non-dancer who’s flailing about at the bottom; there’s no risk of shame there, because everyone already expects that of me. I expect that of me. Now that my flailing has actually developed some skills, I find myself a little more nervous.

Learning to dance, as you’ve seen, is a lot of learning about life.

I’m not at the bottom of the class. I actually can do a pirouette. So when I fail (and I still fail, obviously, I’m only six months in) it’s more noticeable. It’s more embarrassing. It’s like each level of dance comes with yet another wall (whether real or perceived) of expectations and self-consciousness to work through. I thought this part would go away eventually. And maybe it will. But it seems like it will only adapt with me as I grow. In retrospect, isn’t that like anything we put real effort into? It takes risk. It takes work. The deeper in you get, the riskier it gets, because you have further to fall.

This column, too, has been a risk — and while the year is only halfway over, I think it’s time to go a bit further out on this limb. Learning to dance, as you’ve seen, is a lot of learning about life. The list of joys, hardships, awkward times, and delights is enough to fill a book, as they say — so that’s what I’m going to do. This will be my last column on the subject for Darling, but the book will still be growing all year and beyond. Feel free to follow the adventure on my blog, and definitely check back here next month for a special Two Left Feet announcement.

Oh, and one more thing — come on by Studio A to dance with me sometime, won’t you?

Image via Richard Douglas

3 comments

  1. I have loved everything about this column. It has resonated with me and my own dance journey so profoundly- thank you! I would love to come take class with you! Do you ever take the Saturday ballet class at 2 pm?

  2. Ohh! I love your reflections. Thanks for sharing! I have often felt the same way; hesitation rising as I develop more skills or share my aspirations with more people. It takes a lot of grace towards ourselves and courage to keep pressing on to new thresholds. Keep it up! 🙂

  3. We often worry about failing, like you said, and see it as a worse nightmare to fall in front of others. However, I like your reflection on taking risks and learning from your failures. Learning a new technique makes you learn about yourself, even if you fail over and over again until you succeed.

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