If you follow me on social media, you got a sneak peek of today’s blog post. Yesterday, I asked if my fellow dancers were planning on returning to their regularly scheduled dance life as soon as it was feasible, or if they felt like they were entering a different chapter of their dance story. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Pre-pandemic, my dance life was focused on competition. 2020 was set up to be my most ambitious competition season yet. Four and a half months later, I’m asking myself whether that focus is still true.
The pandemic has marked a transition time for me. It started before things shut down actually. I was leaving the dance studio where I had trained for nearly eight years to join Teacher at his new studio. I was prepping to debut as a pro-am student in American Rhythm and as part of an amateur couple in American Smooth. Then a spunky little member of the coronavirus family decided to make other plans.
Plans changed, but the transition continued. Just in a different way. I grieved like so many others over the loss of our old reality. What I did next was less common: I said goodbye.
Now, pre-pandemic life feels like another lifetime, like thinking back to being in high school. I am such a different person now than I was back then. If I ever went to a reunion, I don’t think anyone would recognize me. In just four and a half months of sheltering in place, I’ve gone through yet another change.
The old reality identity has been shed to reveal a new reality me. Unfortunately, when you make a transition in Life, there is no clear entrance to the new chapter with a greeter ready to hand you a map and a guidebook. There is a period when you are releasing the old, but you don’t have a firm grasp on the new yet, which can make you feel lost and out of control.
Going through this period recently had me worrying that I had lost my passion for dance. I wasn’t eager to jump back into competing. I didn’t feel the urge to take more than one lesson a week. I was ok missing out on all of the great online workshops. Did saying goodbye to pre-pandemic life include saying goodbye to dance?
The answer was no, and then came another question. Considering it could be another year or longer until I feel it’s safe to compete again, am I going to spend that year just waiting around for that unknown future competition date and taking my once-a-week lessons? Or is this new chapter an opportunity to explore other ways to continue my dance journey? What are those other ways?
Maybe sheltering at home for four and a half months has just given me too much time to think and reflect, but when I thought about picking up where I left off with my competition goals, it just didn’t excite me the way it did before the virus came to town. The current reality me was looking for something different, which then had me asking myself what competing meant to me before.
Ballroom dance competitions provided the challenge I wanted to push myself as a dancer. They were clear checkpoints along my journey to assess my progress. I loved that performing at a competition required all aspects of my dancing to be on point. I loved the mix of athleticism and artistry. And yes, I enjoyed the actual competitive element. Receiving that external validation via good placements was the cherry on top of everything else.
Maybe it’s a side effect from not having to appear a certain way for anyone in the past several months (my dogs don’t seem to care what I wear or if I put on makeup), but the importance of external validation has plummeted for me. I think about spending months preparing to dance at a competition for a few minutes and having someone else tell me if I was good or not, and I’m like “why?” And then what? Prepare for the next event where someone else decides if I’m good or not?
So if/when I compete again, dancing for the results is definitely out. I’ve spent too long working in yoga pants and still producing great results to continue believing I need to show up in a way someone else approves of in order to be successful.
I started to also question my use of competitions as goals or checkpoints along the dance journey. Each competition just led to another competition. I did move up levels as I competed. That was valid and rewarding progress to track via competition. But what was it leading to ultimately? I couldn’t see myself competing in pro-am for the rest of my life.
Like I said, this pandemic has given me a LOT of time to think and reflect on my dance journey. 😉
One conclusion I’ve come to recently is the current reality me needs to dance for a greater purpose. Dance is a way to connect with people and to connect with myself on a deeper level. Dance is a way to communicate and share an idea or message. Dance is a way to inspire and motivate.
I’ve been on this path already. For years, I’ve shared my dance journey through this blog and my books in an effort to inspire and motivate. I believe this transition period is just leading me to the next level. When I prepare for a performance in the future, it will include thinking about what I want that performance to mean for me or my audience.
It’s another way of asking “why am I dancing?” Am I dancing to win XYZ competition? Am I dancing to boost my self-confidence? Am I dancing to raise awareness about a particular issue in the world? Am I dancing to bring joy to others?
So many possible reasons to dance. Maybe I don’t see myself competing for the rest of my life, but I could spend my remaining days exploring all of those reasons.
Have these strange times altered your reasons for dancing?