Lightbulb Moments – Rising in Waltz and Dealing with Doubt

I’ve decided to start a series called “lightbulb moments.” These are the moments when something “clicks” in your head and you finally understand whatever your teacher was trying to convey to you. Maybe my moments will be things that were obvious to you, but who knows, maybe sharing them will help someone else with their own lightbulb!

So how does a ballroom dancer change a lightbulb?

Direction, and then rotation! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)


I had two lightbulbs today!   The first was during my private lesson. I was having trouble with my rise in waltz.  I was maxing out my rise at the same time that my feet were coming together. So I’d end up dropping right away when my teacher wanted me to linger and rise even a little bit more before lowering. I was working on keeping my knees bent a little instead of locking them as I straightened/stretched up and that helped draw out the rise. But I was still lowering too soon, my teacher wanted more rise! But I felt like I didn’t have anything else to rise with! Aarrggh!

The missing piece turned out to be my ankles. After I brought my feet together as I rose, I needed to push into the floor more to lift up through my ankles. Kinda like when you go up in a forced arch in ballet where you’re balancing on your toes. It isn’t a lot, but I could really feel the extra linger at the top of the rise when we danced. Yay, progress!

The second lightbulb came during tonight’s practice party. They made the party like a series of practice rounds. They did alternating rounds of rhythm and smooth and then talked a little in between about things to remember or focus on with each style. I’m blessed to dance at a studio run by professional champions and finalists. At one point, Mr. 4-Time Undefeated Smooth World Champion himself was talking about dealing with stress at competition. It struck a major chord with me because I had serious mixed feelings about my last comp (see False Summits Part 2) and stress and anxiety are old friends of mine that never miss an important event like competition. I asked him what he does when he’s not feeling great at a comp and the negative voices in his head start getting loud. How does he make them shut up? Some things he told me I already knew and try to practice, like ignore them or tell them to fuck off because you can do this. And when you’re preparing for a comp, do practice rounds so you get used to dancing all of your dances in a row. The less “new” at a comp, the less stress. The lightbulb came when he told me that through all of your practice, your body develops a baseline for dancing. You strive to dance better than that base, of course, but on the bad days, you won’t go below it. Because your dancing knowledge works its way into your muscle memory, and so even if you’re not feeling well, your body still does basically what it’s supposed to do. The thought that my body won’t let me sink to level of “pathetic loser” was very reassuring and helpful for me, because that’s usually what the demons in my head are chanting. Lightbulb – even if I have doubt in my mind, I can trust my body! And the more I practice and do rounds in the studio, the deeper the muscle memory becomes. Brilliant!

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