When I did my review of Embassy Ball, I wrote about feeling like I was starting a new chapter in my dance story. The path was unclear and scary, but also exciting. There was talk of exploring my dancer identity and honing my message. I started new boards on Pinterest, one for ballroom dress inspiration and another for attitude inspiration. My brain was buzzing with ideas and new motivation to uncover more of my true self in dancing as soon as Teacher returned from Nationals (which took place the week following Embassy).
Then Teacher returned from Nationals.
We spent a lot of our first lesson after his return talking about Embassy and goals moving forward. We chatted about the solo practice worksheet I put together with his input (Teacher liked the final product!). We also watched the videos I had from the competition. My ego had sorted itself out and, while I was still a little disappointed in my placement, I couldn’t deny that I did my best dancing at Embassy and it felt great.
The little dancing we did on that first lesson focused on bits of technique that Teacher felt we should refocus on. He said at the next lesson, he wanted to start with me dancing all four Smooth routines on my own so he could watch and see what else might need work. Fine with me! I had just experienced what I thought was my best performance at a competition. Dancing my routines at the studio on my own should be no problem.
The next lesson was nothing short of embarrassing.
Seriously. I feel like I owe everyone an apology for my epic fail.
Maybe it wasn’t an epic fail, but it felt pretty darn close. I couldn’t make it through a single routine.
How’s that for a rude awakening? I think I made it through at least half of each dance, but it wasn’t pretty. Teacher didn’t think it was as bad as I was making it out to be, but another teacher made the harsh observation that maybe I would’ve placed better than 5th at Embassy if I had known my choreo. Ouch. To be fair, he did preface his statement with “can I say something mean?” and I said “shoot.” Straight to the heart.
I got the point. If I had known my routines better, I would have felt even more confident at the comp. Having that extra confidence in my choreo combined with my improved technique would have made me feel more comfortable expressing and styling. It’s a good bet that the girls who beat me at the comp performed better in those areas. So who knows?
Teacher focused on the positives and moving forward as usual. He insisted what we were discovering was a good thing because now we could address it. I was still an excellent follower, which is why I didn’t falter at the comp. Now shoring up my choreo knowledge would help take me to the next level. We were moving into the next chapter; this was just the path we were taking to get there.
I didn’t buy it. I went home upset and frustrated. I felt like I let myself down, not to mention Teacher and everyone who supported me. I should know these routines! We’ve only competed with them THREE times this year!
Ok, I recognize I was being maybe a tad hard on myself, but this was feeding right into my demons’ hands. I felt like the fraud I was always afraid I would be revealed to be. I was supposed to be practicing. I should have been reviewing these routines until I knew them forwards and backwards. What the foxtrot have I been doing? Bullshitting my way through?
I recorded Teacher dancing my steps of each routine and spent over two hours working through each one last Sunday. By that point, I was just plain mad at myself. I wanted to give up a few times during my practice. I was fighting between wanting to prove I wasn’t a fraud and wanting to say ‘fuck it, I’m done with you’ to this girl who clearly didn’t put in the effort before so why should I keep trying to help her (her being me…I know, it’s confusing in my head when the demons get active). I completed my practice though and had a much stronger handle on the routines by the time I went home.
Wednesday was my next lesson. I could dance about 95% of everything on my own (Teacher claimed it was 98%). Huge improvement with just a couple hours of hard work. I was still mad at myself though because the next thing that was revealed was I didn’t know my timing for tango or foxtrot and a few places were fuzzy in waltz. We spent most of the lesson slowly going through the timing of foxtrot.
The demons were having a jolly ‘ol time. Steps and timing? Aren’t those things you learn when you first start dancing? It’s always good to review the basics, no matter how far you advance, but I was feeling more like I flunked out of the advanced class and got placed in a remedial one.
That brings us to today’s (Friday’s) lesson. Teacher had me dance through the routines on my own again to start us off. I still blanked on a few spots, but got through all four, more or less. Next up was tango timing and then we worked on leg action to finish. I was fighting myself the entire time. I couldn’t seem to let go of how disappointed I was in myself. I should have practiced more. I should have reviewed our routines more consistently. I shouldn’t have slacked off no matter what else was going on in my life. I shouldn’t be “wasting” lessons reviewing things I should have had down pat nine months ago.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda. The past is the past, and the solution to silencing my demons is obvious – practice! If I felt like I didn’t do enough before, then I should just start doing enough now. The hardest part is getting out of my own head and not beating myself up so much. Teacher and I have been focusing on other things, like my technique and performance quality. I’ve improved in those areas a lot. So it’s not like I haven’t been working.
If this is the new chapter, it’s off to a rough start. Teacher said to just think of this week as hell week. It was a grind and not fun at all, but I made it through. So now we can move forward. I’m not sure I’ve made it through yet, but maybe another couple hours of choreo review will help.
It’s funny timing that I should introduce the solo practice worksheet and find out the next week that I apparently need to be putting in more practice than I have been. At least I have a guide! I’m trying to shift my mindset and look at the bright side. I’m in the process of writing the full Solo Practice Guide and now I have even more motivation to put theories into action and find out what works and what doesn’t.
Another bright side – this chapter is just starting. The hero always emerges from the dark woods into sunlight at some point. I just gotta dance toward the light! With the correct timing, of course.