If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I have a love/hate relationship with foxtrot. I’m always just a little off in understanding that dance. Things never go quite right. Steps constantly elude me. It’s maddening.
At the same time, foxtrot seems so fun! The music, the slick moves, it reminds me of old Hollywood and great dancers like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. But for whatever reason, this cat isn’t so cool when she tries to foxtrot. Foxtrot is my ballroom nemesis.
Now it seems a new villain has come to town: cha cha.
Today’s lesson started off well. Teacher introduced bolero, which means we have now spent at least a few minutes on all five of the rhythm dances. My brain started to smoke a little bit when he started talking details about how and when I should be pointing my toes. But I did ok, knowing I would just need to practice.
Then I insisted that we cover cha cha too because I had a chance to practice spins while salsa dancing on Friday night and I thought I would show improvement in the 1.5 spins in our cha cha routine. Silly me.
The first attempt wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible. Teacher went over a few technique points and the demons in my head were quick to recognize that he already told us these pointers last week and the week before. So why wasn’t I applying them, stupid? I was eager to try again. We just started at the step leading into the spin instead of starting from the beginning. Not great, but not terrible again.
We drilled the spin over and over, and I continued to do not great, but not terrible until finally I almost fell over. Literally spun myself so off balance, I nearly landed on my butt. I’m not one of those people who just fall though. I contort my body in any way possible to prevent the complete fall. So I didn’t land on the floor, I just did a lot of embarrassing stumbling. While I rubbed my back where I felt like I strained it a little while not falling, Teacher gave me a few more suggestions and had me try again. More stumbling. And again. Even more stumbling to the point that I had to put my hand down on the floor to catch myself from falling yet again. Right in front of another one of Teacher’s students too.
That was it, I was done. I said I wanted to move on to something else, that was enough cha cha. But Teacher wasn’t through. He didn’t want to stop on a bad note. Darn it, Teacher, why won’t you let me just pout about it?
He had me try just 1 spin (as opposed to 1.5) on my own, while he watched, so he could assess what was happening. He saw it in my first try, but had me try two more times to be sure. By this time, my chest was getting tight and I was being very careful not to start crying.
I can’t remember half of what Teacher said in those last 5 or 10 minutes; I was too distracted by the anxiety building in my chest. But I also remembered this article I read on mindset earlier in the day (the link is on my Facebook page, if you want to check it out). It talked about dancers with a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. The fixed mindsetters (we’ll pretend that’s a word) would get frustrated or just give up when faced with a challenge in their dance. They would find excuses as to why they couldn’t do it. Growth mindsetters would recognize that with time and practice, challenges could be overcome and there was always something new to learn. They would listen to critiques and advice on how to improve.
I didn’t want to be fixed, I wanted to grow. So I asked Teacher to repeat the smaller drill he wanted me to try. He could see that I wasn’t engaging my core when I tried to spin and so my body was swaying big time as I went around, which threw me off balance. His little drill was to help me feel how my core should engage. Repeat a few times and then try the full spin.
I still fell off balance, but less this time and forward instead of backward or to the side. Teacher said forward was ok, he was happy with forward. At that point, it was hard to believe him because my demons were chanting “you suck, you suck!” and the anxiety in my chest was still threatening to reach up and squeeze tears out of my eyes. But I didn’t cry, not even after I got in my car and drove home. “You suck” was a fixed mindset, I needed to focus on growth.
I’m not completely there yet. Part of me is stubbornly frustrated about how whatever I try to practice doesn’t seem to make a difference in my lesson (I also kept dropping my chest while we were dancing, despite all the “stuck-up” walks with my dogs). I know I just need to give myself more time, but I’m impatient about seeing progress. I have this expectation that I should pick things up right away. I know it’s ridiculous but I’m still finding it difficult to let go.
The good news is I have another chance on Friday! Teacher and his pro partner aren’t leaving until Saturday morning for this weekend’s comp, so I’ll have my second lesson.
Watch out, cha cha, I’m coming for you.