Countdown to The Royal Ball: 1 Week – Surrounded by Dementors

Wasn’t it just a couple weeks ago that I was finally admitting I don’t suck as a dancer? Well, the demons have exacted their revenge for being shelved. My private lessons this week may as well have been group classes with all of the dementors that joined me and Teacher (the demons hired dementors to find their escaped prisoner, get it?).

I went to Tuesday’s lesson already in a bad way. I hadn’t slept well the night before and felt like I was dragging all day. Then at some point in the afternoon, the anxiety started. So before Teacher even said hello, I was in freak-out mode. I spent the lesson half-focusing on what Teacher was telling me about Viennese waltz and half-focusing on not exploding in the middle of the studio. By the time I got home, I was sorely tempted to quit everything and hide under my bed covers indefinitely.

We actually made some progress in the lesson, even if I couldn’t process that positive note at the time. We figured out that the reason I would feel off-balance and/or chaotic in one of the sequences in our Viennese was I was straightening my legs too much and not rotating in my base to enable me to dance a tight circle around Teacher, as the step goes (sorry, I’m blanking on the name of it right now). This is huge! I’ve always felt out-of-control in this step and had the worst time practicing it on my own because I didn’t have my partner to hang onto as I danced. But now I felt more grounded and in control. Yay!

There was no celebrating though, only desperate clinging to reasons I shouldn’t quit everything and hide in bed, while the dementors pulled out some extra cozy blankets (yes, these dementors used blankets). I resisted their invitation, but the effort left me with a tension headache that lasted a full 48 hours. So I didn’t get any extra practice in between Tuesday’s and Friday’s lessons. On Friday, with my headache finally gone the night before, I was actually feeling decent and looking forward to my lesson. We were doing a double, for obvious reasons.

The double lesson started out decently enough. I was keeping a close eye on my anxiety while showing Teacher that I knew my Viennese choreography and could apply the technique tweaks we figured out on Tuesday.

At some point, the topic turned to my demons’ favorite – emotional expression. Teacher wanted to work on Foxtrot after Viennese, but we never actually got to dancing. The rest of the time was spent by me trying to not break down in front of Teacher while I tried to explain why expression was so difficult for me and by Teacher trying to encourage me and frankly telling me that I needed to stop holding back and just let go.

Just let go.

It sounds so simple. Just let go. Let go of the fear and doubt. Just feel the music and let your emotions come through. It’s easy.

But in these circumstances, it’s not easy. At least not for me. If I was in a dark nightclub or at a bar to see a rock band, I could more easily just let go and dance. I could move to the music without inhibition.

But there aren’t prescribed steps or specified technique for the bar dancing. I don’t have a partner that I need to communicate with throughout the dance. Plus, I don’t really care about the bar dancing. It’s just for fun and it doesn’t matter whether it looks good to the people watching or not. I’m not trying to connect with an audience and draw them into my dance journey when I’m rocking out to a cover band.

I have a major mental block when it comes to dancing ballroom with the uninhibited expression I can exude in a bar or club setting (although come to think of it, I haven’t been in that setting in a very long time, so who knows anymore). There is a very intense fear that takes over when I try to express myself in my ballroom dancing. I can even visualize how I want to appear, but when I try to actually do it, it never turns out how I envisioned and it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I try.

Teacher suggested I’m not pushing myself hard enough. I retreat after just a taste of discomfort or failure, and I give up too soon.

While my demons tell me not to listen, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he doesn’t have to deal with anxiety, I still pondered and attempted to unwrap the story I was telling myself about why I couldn’t get past this mental block. I came up with a few bottom line fears:

  1. I’m afraid to let go and give it my all because my all might not be good enough. What would I do if I gave it everything I had and learned that it still wasn’t enough to fulfill my dancing dreams?
  2. I’m afraid that I’m not strong enough to overcome fear #1.
  3. I’m afraid if I’m not strong enough, that means I’ve peaked. I don’t have the ability or capacity to grow beyond what I am, no matter how hard I try. Circling back around to not being good enough to become what I dream of being.

I realized that it may be true that I am holding back. To give it my all means risking it all, thanks to fear #1.  In my head, if I give everything I’ve got and it still isn’t enough, I will lose it all, which means losing dance.

Logically, I know this isn’t true (thank goodness I’m part Vulcan). If I gave “my all” and I still fell short of whatever imaginary measuring stick I was using to judge my dancer status, I would just return to training and try again. I’ve been strong enough so far to overcome many fears and I’ve continued to learn and grow. My current block is the latest in many limits and blocks I’ve had to overcome to arrive at this one.

My other problem is it is not in my nature to outwardly exude what I’m feeling in such a large way. So I have to consciously force the actions that create the expression to achieve the desired effect. That forcing wears on me, which then makes me more susceptible to the demons’ whispers.

We turned this coming Tuesday’s lesson into a double again. Teacher thought it would be helpful to spend more time dancing and expressing together. I try to practice and organize my styling and expression on my own, but the dynamic is completely different when you add another person. So we’ll see how that goes! Repetition of anxiety-inducing actions can definitely help numb the effect. Let’s just hope I survive the process. Whether I do or not, I have only one more week until my first competition of 2018!


10 thoughts on “Countdown to The Royal Ball: 1 Week – Surrounded by Dementors

  1. Amy @ TalkingTales says:

    My first teacher and I used to have long discussions about ‘letting go’ – it remains very much a push-pull between my private desire not to be noticed, dancing as an activity that naturally invites notice, and the rather confusing effect of my efforts not to BE noticed making me more noticeable (for the wrong reasons). I’m yet to work out a compromise. At this stage, I have to accept that I don’t have a performance persona that I can pull on and off… I just try to enjoy myself and everyone should be able to see that.
    Unfettered emoting or not, I’m pretty sure you’re gutsier than I am. I think you’ll be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TheGirlWithTheTreeTattoo says:

      Thanks Amy. 🙂 I have a similar push-pull struggle between wanting to avoid the spotlight and wanting to be one of those dancers that I enjoy watching so much. But those dancers don’t care about the spotlight and they freely share how the dance makes them feel to draw the audience in. I love that feeling as an audience member and would love to be able to produce the experience for others as a dancer.


  2. BCBallroomdancer says:

    I wish you the best of luck at the competition, I know you will do well, demons and all. Sometimes we just have to learn how to work with our demons instead of against them, strange as it sounds.

    You talk a lot about expressing yourself, and part of me wonders if you might be getting in your own way by focusing on the word and what it entails, for you (a lot of doubt, fear, and the worst aspect of dance). I wonder if rethinking and reframing the idea of expression might help. Instead of focusing on the idea of expressing and putting yourself out there, perhaps break it down to things that are less scary–what do you physically do to express yourself? Is it finishing lines, making eye contact, connecting with your partner? All of those things together make up expressing yourself, but what are the elements of expressing that is most difficult for you?

    Taken as a whole, expressing yourself may be overwhelming for you to think about, but maybe breaking it down a little, moving from the what to the how, might help bring it to a level that is not so stressful.

    Just a thought. I remember I used to get really freaked out about following, to the point I would freeze up. I kept trying to ‘let go’ and just let my partner lead me and stop worrying about doing everything perfectly and exactly as it was in the book. It was terrible. It took quite a while but eventually I was able to reframe the idea of following–that the failure was not in doing something wrong in a step, but the failure was in not doing what my partner was leading. It wasn’t an easy change, but once I realized that small change in thinking, suddenly it wasn’t about letting go and all the things I was scared of and stressed about.

    You got this. It may be just a matter of figuring out what works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amber says:

    Expression is the part of this whole process that scares and frustrates me the most – it’s very comforting hearing someone else feeling the same way! I love the way you put it in your comment – saying that you love the dancers who draw you in and you want to create that for those watching you. I feel the same way – I want to be someone that others enjoy watching but I also HATE the idea of anyone looking at me! So weird to be doing this sport when we feel that way deep down in our nature huh? I also feel like sometimes when people are telling me to “express myself” more they’re actually asking me to pretend to be someone/something I’m not. I hate that sometimes I feel like I have to ACT when I dance in order to be “good.” I’m not sure how to find that balance between being expressive enough to look “good” but still being myself. I feel like even more than technique that’s going to be my everlasting journey in this whole process!


    • TheGirlWithTheTreeTattoo says:

      Yes to everything you wrote! I’m coming to the conclusion that the “acting” is necessary until I feel comfortable in letting my own natural expression come out. I actually felt good about it at The Royal Ball! I was feeling strong in my dancing and that gave me the confidence to express what I was feeling.


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