Admitting I Don’t Suck – A Dancer’s Quandary

It’s not easy to admit when you’re wrong, and even harder to admit when you were wrong about completely sucking as a dancer. It’s weird because it’s like you’re humbling and boosting yourself at the same time. “Ok ok, I was wrong. I am a good dancer.”

I found myself reluctantly admitting that during last week’s lessons. After venting about Standard Foxtrot last week, I spoke with Teacher and clarified that the technique, like frame and footwork, is not different between Standard and Smooth, but it gets put under a microscope in Standard because there isn’t much else going on! So what was “great” in my Smooth wasn’t so great in Standard when you took a closer and longer look at it.

This shift in my reality (going from feeling strong in my technique to doubting) made me feel deceived. Whether it came from me or someone else, I felt like I must have been lied to before I started learning Standard. My technique was my foundation. No matter what else needed work, I knew I could rely on my strong technique. To find out that was not the case derailed me and triggered my anxiety big time. Anxious people do not like not knowing. Gray areas, ambiguity, and a general lack of information are where anxious people’s nightmares are born.

Now, I can handle not knowing if I know what I don’t know. For example, I knew I didn’t know the Standard patterns. That was fine because I could see the path I needed to take to get to where I would know. In this case though, I didn’t understand what I did or didn’t know and because of that, I didn’t know what I needed to do or where I needed to go or where I was to begin with.

Getting thrown into this state of unknown was, to put it mildly, upsetting. Thankfully, Teacher has been training me long enough to know what I needed to hear in order to get me back on track. He kindly pointed out that my technique was still solid, but it was natural that I would falter a little in applying it while also learning new patterns in a new style. It’s a lot for my brain and body to handle, and as it turns out, I’m human (shocking, I know).

Admittedly, I needed to hear the exact same thing from a second person before I recognized how ridiculous my anxiety was making me act, but the point is I calmed down and was ready to work. For my first lesson last week, we started over and slowly went through what we had done in International Waltz. Taking things one step at a time helped me see what I had already figured out and helped clarify what was causing confusion.

Our second lesson was a double per my request (1.5 hours instead of 45 minutes), but Teacher decided it was time to revisit Smooth to reinforce what I already knew. There was a catch though; we were focusing on arm styling in the shadow section of our American Waltz routine. You all know how much I LOVE arm styling and expression (not)! I had been working on styling during my solo practice, so I felt generally prepared to show Teacher what I could do. After showing him what I had planned to do with my arms, Teacher challenged me to add some expression, as in some real emotion, to it. It’s no fun watching a dancer with a blank (or in my case, worried) face. You want to connect with them, so you almost become a part of the dance.

So while Teacher stood against a wall and watched, I danced our shadow steps, doing my best to style my arms and show some semblance of emotion on my face. After I did that a few times, he added a new challenge – I had to do the same thing but make actual eye contact with him with the goal of drawing him in with my dancing. You know, like you would do in an actual performance.

Ugh, really? He was poking the anxiety bear big time with that one, and right after I had just gotten it back to sleep! Teacher was paying attention though. Just as I was reaching my limit, he said we were going to move on to dancing the American Waltz routine together. Dancing together really forced me to admit I didn’t suck as badly as I was claiming. Not only was my styling looking and feeling good, my technique felt solid again. We also gave my American Foxtrot a look, and Teacher said my technique in my least favorite dance had improved! All that walking backwards in my solo practice paid off!

So ok, fine, I was wrong. I don’t suck. I’m a good dancer.

And to show you I’m not just saying that, I’ve shared a clip of me dancing a Foxtrot at my last competition on my Instagram page.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time my anxiety gets the best of me and I am way harder on myself than I deserve, but the brilliant thing about ballroom is I’m not alone. I have my partner to believe in me when I have trouble believing in myself. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m still a good dancer.

Happy dancing all!


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