I Never Would Have Moved to Maine Without Ballroom

Hello from a dripping wet, soggy Maine! The rain arrived Friday night and has kept us drenched since then. Good thing I got the lawns mowed earlier this week. #ThingsISayNow

The rain has made for a cozy, relaxing weekend, except when the dogs need to go out. Even then, it’s not too bad. They don’t care about getting wet and I have bright blue rain boots and a solid rain jacket, so who cares? I took it a step further yesterday afternoon while the power was out briefly and decided to have some fun (see below).

A fellow ballroom dancer shared with me that she’s appreciating how all of the intangible skills that have come out of her dance training, like increased self-confidence, ability to work through challenging dance moves, learning to win and lose gracefully at competitions, have translated well into “real” life. She saw the additional value gained out of all of those expensive private lessons. I responded that I agreed completely! Without those “side effects” of learning to ballroom dance, I never would have moved to Maine.

I remember walking down a corridor at the Tropicana in Las Vegas during the 2014 Holiday Dance Classic. I was in regular clothes and without any ballroom makeup. A woman watching over a little retail kiosk in the corridor asked me if I was a dancer there for the competition. I said, “yes, I am!” She said she could tell by the way I walked. I can’t remember where I was going, but I floated the rest of the way, grinning from ear to ear. Being recognized as a dancer without any obvious signs, like wearing a competition dress or having rhinestones glued to my head, was the biggest compliment anyone could have given me.

Flash forward to 2018 or 2019. I was in Orange County outside a movie theater. The theater was in a big outdoor shopping center and as I watched the crowds stroll by, a couple caught my eye in the distance. “They look like dancers,” I thought to myself. As they got closer, I realized they were none other than Victor Fung and Anastasia Muravyeva, Standard champions!

Part of learning to dance is re-learning how to walk. It sounds silly to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, but you really do have to re-learn how to move your body in basic ways. Perhaps a better way to put it would be you have to unlearn bad habits formed by a general inattentiveness to our movements. If someone who has not had dance training was just walking down the street or standing in line somewhere, would they pay attention to what their hip was doing? Or shoulder? Would they be aware of where their rib cage was relative to their pelvis? Of course not. They’re just walking down the street.

Through our training, dancers learn to pay attention to details like these and at some point, it becomes ingrained so even as they’re just walking down a hotel corridor or through a busy shopping center, bystanders will notice that something is different about the way they move.

Facing challenges in dance, whether it’s difficult choreography, disappointing results at a competition, or inner demons whispering lies, gives us the mental strength and skill to face challenges outside of dance. Working through self-doubt and learning to own my place on the dance floor helped give me the confidence to own my place at work and go for opportunities that I would have let pass by before ballroom. I learned how to keep going after getting tripped up on something (like the edge of my dress right in front of a judge!), which helped me work through a fear of failure. Without that fear controlling me, I could go for something I wanted and trust that even if things went awry, I was capable of pivoting and moving forward.

Ironically, through ballroom, I learned how strong and capable I was as an individual. I also experienced how partnering my strength with another’s could produce something beautiful that was greater than the sum of its parts. I’ve always relied on myself, but ballroom showed me the value of having support around me as well. That support was key as I grew more into my authentic self. I was on a journey of personal development and self-discovery, but I wasn’t alone.

All of this growth – the increased self-confidence, decreased self-doubt, discovery of inner strength, and courage and self-trust to venture into the unknown – made my move to Maine possible. All through high school and college, I yearned to be a part of the dance teams or clubs I would see flyers for, but I was always too afraid to show up for the auditions. I didn’t believe I could ask anyone to help me show up either. Decades later, I felt called to pack up my entire life and move it from one corner of the country to the opposite corner. I tackled each hiccup or challenge with the knowledge and trust in myself that I could figure it out or find the support I needed to get through it. The fears and doubts were still there, but thanks to ballroom, I knew how to keep them quiet and settled because I had done it so many times before in training and at competitions.

I never would have moved to Maine without ballroom because without ballroom, I wouldn’t be the person who I am today.


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