“I can’t. I have dance.”
I’ve said some version of this statement more times than I can remember. I’m not the only one. Apparently, the phrase is common enough that people thought it was worth putting on a t-shirt! Or a sweatshirt, or a tank top. Search “I can’t I have dance” on Amazon and you’ll get 20 pages of results.
A fellow ballroom student commented on my last blog post, asking if I ever found myself arranging or even rearranging my schedule around my teacher’s availability and withdrawing from things and people I would normally spend time with, just so I could get my dance fix.
The short answer is “uh, yeah!”
Dance, whether it’s ballroom or another style, is the kind of passion that can be all-consuming. When we’re not dancing, we’re thinking about dance. We find ways to relate every topic of conversation to dance. Our lessons in the studio stay with us and affect how we perceive the rest of the world. Our social circles might even shift as we spend more time with our dance friends than the non-dance ones.
The question is, is that a bad thing? Is there a point when your love of ballroom can go from healthy passion to unhealthy addiction? I realized I touched on this topic last year during the Write 31 Days challenge when I did an article about finding a balance between ballroom and “real” life. I decided to not reread that article before writing this one to see if my opinion has changed much in a year!
When I first started taking private lessons, ballroom quickly consumed me. I took my private lessons, went to almost every group class and never missed a practice party. If my teacher needed to reschedule, no problem, I would be there. It didn’t matter if it was a last minute change or if I had to rearrange or cancel other plans.
The studio was also a great place to escape from my problems. “Real world” problems didn’t exist inside those walls, just music, dancing and smiles. Of course, you can’t avoid problems forever. Even today though, the studio continues to be a place where I can at least take a break from them.
I did try to strike a better balance between ballroom and “real life” as I realized that I would go weeks or even months between seeing non-dance friends, despite the fact that they lived close by. Thankfully, I am blessed with family and friends who are very supportive of my ballroom pursuits and are just happy to see me happy. But I also realized that ballroom wasn’t just a hobby for me; dancing was part of who I was and something I wanted to pursue as far as I could. Add a reawakening of my writing passion and a happy coupling of the two pursuits and now we’re talking lifestyle change, not just a schedule adjustment.
Another issue I want to mention quickly before I forget is the respect of time between a student and a teacher. Yes, as an enthusiastic ballroom student, my life pretty much revolves around my dance lessons. But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for my teacher to switch our lesson times around willy nilly because he knows I’ll go out of my way to be there no matter what. He has as much of a commitment to me to keep a lesson time as I have to him. There needs to be a mutual respect for each other’s time.
Sometimes I worry that you’ll get sick and tired of me writing the same solution to almost every problem, but I’ll risk it. I think the key to managing your ballroom habit is balance. Ok, maybe you are at the studio almost every weeknight for private lessons or group classes. Are you making time for other things or people in your life on the weekends? Maybe you were invited to a friend’s event but said no because you had dance. So, next time, accept the invitation even if you have to miss a practice party or a group class.
It’s also a matter of being clear on your priorities. For me, my private lessons get high priority because I’m paying more money for them and they have a set time every week. They’re already on my schedule, just like work or a doctor’s appointment. But I also try to operate on a “first come, first serve” basis. If I make plans with someone and Teacher asks me if I can reschedule my lesson to the same time, I say no because I already have something on my schedule.
If you’re filling your schedule with as many lessons, group classes and parties as possible because you’re trying to get the most out of your ballroom investment, you may find it easier to balance ballroom and the rest of your life as time goes on and you advance as a dancer. A lot of group classes are geared toward beginners and so you may find that you don’t feel as compelled to go to every one when they don’t present as much of a challenge. Of course, it’s always good to review your basics! But you don’t need to review them five nights a week.
My life has changed quite dramatically since I started ballroom dancing, and as I’ve gained, I’ve also lost. Not everyone who was in my life pre-ballroom has stayed. Activities I used to participate in have become a thing of the past. But I’m ok with that because I feel I’m doing what I’m meant to do.
I met up with someone recently who I hadn’t talked to in over a decade. They thought the ballroom dancing and writing pursuits were pretty cool, but then they asked me, “So what else do you do for fun besides the dancing and writing?” My first thought was, “Is there anything else?” My second thought was, “Why would I be doing anything else?” These two habits leave me feeling happy, productive, and complete. Besides, between the day job, dancing and writing, my life is pretty full! I don’t know if I could fit in other regular activities if I wanted to. I found it interesting and amusing that someone else might look at my life and think “that’s it?”
I might be going off on a tangent, but now I’m thinking about the challenge of trying to explain or justify spending all of my free time on things that aren’t earning me a living. Passion gives us a very specific, singular focus. Some people are lucky enough to be able to make a career of their passion. For the rest of us, pursuing a passion outside of our career often gets interpreted as just the pursuit of a hobby. Maybe ballroom is just a hobby for some, but it’s way more for me. I don’t think there is any doubt left about that for those who know me, or at least follow me on this blog. For those that don’t know me as well, I don’t think it takes long for them to see this truth, even if they don’t entirely understand it.
Well, I finally went back and reread last year’s post on this topic. There were a lot of similar points about balancing priorities and making sacrifices. I just had a bit of a lightbulb moment though. I keep talking about finding a balance between ballroom and “real life,” but for me, they’re one and the same. I haven’t turned ballroom into a career (yet), so I still maintain a separate job. But it’s a job, just one aspect of my life. I think what I’ve been really writing about, and am just now realizing, is balancing ballroom and what is considered “normal” life. In a “normal” life, the main things dictating your schedule are work and home (family) obligations. Hopefully, you also have friends and activities that you enjoy. But work and home come first.
Well, for me, my ballroom and writing get top priority. Work pays the bills, including those related to ballroom and writing goals, so it gets some priority as well. But even when I accepted a position at a new company a couple months ago, I told my new boss I needed to maintain certain hours so I could get to my standing private lessons. He agreed and even said half jokingly that he knew this was just a day job for me and my life’s work was in other things. Truer words could not be found.
I think if you’re starting to wonder if your ballroom habit is getting unhealthy, the first thing to do is ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. Is it because someone else is telling you it’s unhealthy for their own selfish reasons? Or is it your own little inner voice telling you that maybe you need to take another look at your priorities and make sure things are staying balanced? If you have a gut feeling that you’re getting a little too obsessed with ballroom dancing, then just back off a little. Reevaluate your priorities and find a balance that keeps you happy and dancing without feeling like you’re neglecting other important parts of your life. Just like with any new addition or change, it will take some time to adjust.
Setting a schedule has helped me stay balanced. Obviously, I have a specific schedule for work. I have standing private lessons. There are certain weeknights reserved for writing and others reserved for dance practice. For me, I also need “do nothing” time to recharge, so I make sure I leave room in the schedule for that as well. I try to stay flexible, so I’m still at least somewhat available for time with friends or family that doesn’t involve dancing. Although I admit, there isn’t much of that time.
Keep in mind that some things may have to give. We only have so many hours to work with. My non-ballroom priorities mean I might not be in the studio practicing for the hours and hours that I hear are required if you really want to advance as a dancer. To that, I just have to shrug and keep doing what I have found works for me.
Maybe there are people who raise their eyebrows at how much time and money I spend on ballroom dancing when I’m not currently pursuing it as a career. Then there are others who might think I’m not spending enough if I really want to be a dancer. I’m sure I could also find people who think I spend too much time on writing and not enough.
No one knows how to run your life better than you. If ballroom is an important part of that life, then it deserves to get some priority. How much priority is up to you!
As always, happy dancing!