While ballroom dancing is my primary dance love, being in Maine without a dance partner has afforded me the opportunity to explore or revisit other styles of dance. In addition to a weekly Zumba class, I’ve been enjoying a weekly ballet class that is proving to be a challenge for my brain and body. When I saw the “adult and teen ballet” class on the calendar, I assumed it would be a class of beginner basics focusing on elements of ballet that would help anyone to improve posture and balance. The class went well beyond my expectations, to my surprise and then pleasure.
While the pressure to be perfect is absent, the class does not hold back on the sequences at both the barre and center. My memory is constantly challenged as the teacher briefly explains a long (in my inexperienced opinion) sequence and then has us dive in, ready or not. I usually screw up when I’m supposed to close in 5th in front or in back, and I rarely pirouette in the correct direction (if I manage to turn at all). I am undoubtedly the most awkward dancer in the class, with perhaps the adorable exception of a little girl who bravely shows up every week to plié with us old folks.
Being the most awkward isn’t a bad thing though. The only reason I’m awkward at ballet is because I’m at the beginning of that journey. I was just as awkward when I dabbled in hip hop a few years ago. For about a year, I went to classes and fought my upright ballroom posture through routines that were driven more by the feel of the song or the lyrics rather than an exact count or pattern. My hip hop teacher would tell me things like “that was pretty good, but try being less ballroom-y.”
In order to grow as dancers, or as humans, we have to stretch ourselves beyond what we’re comfortable with, beyond what comes to us as second nature. We have to be willing to be awkward. It can be uncomfortable, even painful, but what comes out on the other side is worth it. Expanding your comfort zone to include things that used to make you uncomfortable or scared boosts your self-confidence and makes it easier to grow even further. Those awkward hip hop classes where I only managed to get through about half the routine made it easier for present me to bumble through center routines in front of the rest of my ballet class without letting the mistakes bring me down.
What helps you get through the awkwardness is connecting with the curiosity or joy that made you want to try in the first place. For me, hip hop is fun. I love the music and the earthy energy and power in the movement. With ballet, I love the technical challenge and feeling the connection with my own body and balance.
Exploring different styles also allows me to connect with different aspects of my inner dancer, which is always beneficial for growth even when the styles seem dissonant. Hip hop actually helped me find my power and drive in Tango, which was my nemesis in Bronze. Taking Latin styling workshops helped me get more comfortable with my Foxtrot arm styling (my Silver-level nemesis). West Coast Swing introduced me to the idea of improvising within a structure, or adding your own flare to a predefined dance.
Even if one style is your primary focus, exposure to other dances can have so many direct and indirect benefits, from improvement to a specific dance to an overall increase in self-confidence. Who doesn’t want to feel more confident on the dance floor?
What styles of dance have you explored outside your primary style?
P.S. – Everything in the Practice Ballroom Dance shop is on sale through the end of the year!