When You Can’t Hear the Music


“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

First, a confession: I did not go to the studio for my Sunday solo practice today.

I woke up with a headache, which was actually an encore of the headache I had all day on Friday. I suspect it’s the result of a combination of things; unfortunately, the trigger menu for my headaches is quite long.

I thought I would just go later in the afternoon instead of doing my usual morning session. It’s early evening now and I haven’t gone. The headache has only lessened to the point that I can look at my computer screen without squinting.

When I get headaches, I typically go to the studio anyway. Dancing usually helps relieve the pain. If you caught my recent livestreams on Facebook though, you know I’ve been having a rough time on the dancing front too. Choreographing routines has gone from fun to frustrating. Over the last 2 months, Teacher and I have only had just over 5 hours of lesson time together. Rough drafts of Waltz and about half of Tango are done. The problem with rough drafts is they change. A lot.

I ended up in a bad place mentally after I spent last weekend’s practice working on Waltz and then Teacher changed most of it during Tuesday’s lesson. I left that lesson understanding less of the Waltz than I did when I arrived. Revising big chunks of choreography is all part of the process, but that leaves me with a new challenge. The 45 minutes I have with Teacher is not enough time to choreograph something new or revised and allow me to understand it enough to practice it over the weekend.

I reached out to Teacher a day or two after our lesson. We had gotten someone to record us going through the latest version of the Waltz, and after the first wall, I had zero clue what I was doing. I was just trying to put my feet where Teacher told me to. I thought maybe I’d understand it better when I played back the video. Nope.

I can see the steps I’m taking, of course, but they don’t make any sense to me. I don’t see dancing; I just see steps. After feeling like my practice time was wasted the weekend before, I didn’t feel confident about what I should work on this weekend. Should I just not bother practicing choreo until we had a more finalized draft of the routine? Was it nothing but styling and technique drills for me for awhile?

Teacher advised me to focus my practice on the pieces of the routines that I understood, like that first wall of Waltz. Makes sense. Then I’m more rehearsing than trying to teach myself, which is what practice should be.

I’m definitely feeling the lack of time to teach and learn though, and I suspect Teacher does too. Since we are developing routines to use at competition and not just learning the dances to learn them, there is a sense that we need to rush to get through as much as possible in 45 minutes. At the same time, there isn’t a rush because we don’t know when that competition will be.

Teacher seemed to be in rush mode this past Tuesday, and when I was already having trouble understanding the previous version of the Waltz, I quickly felt left behind as he made modifications.

You remember the Peanuts cartoons?  When the kids spoke, they spoke English so the viewer knew what they were saying. When the adults spoke, all you heard was “wha, wha, wha….” You could infer what they said by how the kids responded, but you really only got half of the conversation. That’s kinda how I felt at my last lesson. I heard things like spiral turn and chasse, which I recognized as dancing movements, but then it was just “wha, wha, wha” the rest of the time. There were even moments when Teacher was trying to tell me what I should be doing and I had to tell him I didn’t understand what he was saying at all, and so he had to demonstrate. It would turn out to be something as simple as lifting my back leg, but it was all Peanuts adult characters to me.

Nietzsche’s quote came to me as I was thinking about how I was going to structure my solo practice today. It dawned on me that maybe I was having so much trouble because I couldn’t hear the music, meaning I didn’t feel or understand the flow of the movement. It didn’t make sense to me, so in a way, it seemed insane.

“New level, new devil.”, as a wise woman once said! After Embassy Ball, I was more than eager to jump into the next challenge of Open. The enthusiasm has been turned down a bit by this first big hurdle, but that doesn’t mean I stop trying. I just might need to take a break one weekend to take care of my head. Hopefully, this coming week, I’ll start hearing the music and be able to join those dancing.

Thanks for visiting the Girl with the Tree Tattoo!  Please share with your friends, and if you need help adding some structure to your dance training, sign up for the free Solo Practice worksheet!


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