8 Things I’ve Learned from Dance

dance-1138553_1920It’s been about a year since I first stepped into the dance studio. I was an awkward beginner with little dance experience. Since then I’ve developed into a slightly less awkward dancer with slightly more experience. It’s been a journey full of sweat, hard work, and sore muscles. But there have been so many positive things too. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned from taking ballroom and latin dance classes.

1. Embrace the process
Learning anything new is hard. You’re put through situations that aren’t mentally or physically comfortable. But don’t fight it. When you accept the discomfort it doesn’t necessarily make it easier. But you can see how each step contributes to making you better. It’s all leading to self-improvement.

2. Making mistakes is okay (and normal)
With dance, you’re learning to move your body in completely foreign ways. You will eventually mess up your footwork or step on some toes. Mistakes are a normal part of any learning process. So try not to get too frustrated. The only difference between you now, and what you can become, is time and experience.

3. The value of discipline
It’s not easy to show up each week and put in the work. It takes sacrifice and dedication. You might not feel like going. I usually don’t, even though I love to dance. This creates positive habits and contributes to building the discipline needed to achieve your goals.

4. Increased social skills
Partner dance provides an excellent opportunity for social interaction. Firstly, dancing is a great icebreaker. Secondly, both of you are interested in dance, so you can skip the small talk and jump straight into an animated conversation about your favourite dance style. This is especially great for an introvert who loathes small talk.

5. More confidence
I used to walk with a slouch, trying to take up as little space as possible. But over the past year, I’ve noticed that I’ve straightened up, and not just when I dance. I feel surer of myself and am more likely to contribute to group conversations. And I’m excited for the continued growth.

6. How to push out of the comfort zone
Taking my first step into the dance studio was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know if I’d have a partner. I was afraid that I’d mess up and look dumb. But we’re capable of so much more than we think. Taking that first step, regardless of how hard it was, was totally worth it. I’ve made new friends and learned a lot. The positive feedback has encouraged me to push myself even more.

7. The importance of self-care
Dancing uses a lot of muscles you don’t normally use. As a result, you end up with tight and sore muscles after most sessions. To avoid injury, you need to take care of yourself through foam rolling, gentle stretching, hot baths, massage, etc. It’s equally important to make sure you’re well-rested and have quiet time before and after dance class to prep and unwind.

8. How to be vulnerable
Dance encourages you to express yourself through movements and styling. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to “let go”. As a reserved person, it took a long time before I felt comfortable enough to try latin dance. And even longer before I felt comfortable using arm styling and hip action. Embracing discomfort and expressing yourself honestly helps build connections and confidence.

What are some things you’ve learned through a hobby or sport?

An introvert performs

theater-1477670_1920When I first signed up for dance lessons a year ago, I never thought I’d be performing. In fact, if you had told me that, I would have walked out. But as time shifts, so does our perspective.

My dance studio puts on a showcase twice a year. One in June and one in December. It’s an opportunity for private dance students to perform in front of an audience. But there are also several group dance routines to showcase different styles.

I originally signed up for samba because there wasn’t a showcase piece planned. But after a few weeks, our instructor suggested we perform too. Although hesitant at first, I began to consider it. I would be performing with 10 others, so I wouldn’t be alone and that helped to assuage the anxiety a bit. While the idea of performing was still scary, it was starting to look doable.

Eight weeks flew by and suddenly, it was showtime. That evening I arrived early at the venue. I chatted with a few people I knew to stave off the pre-show nerves. Then I headed to the ballroom and took my seat.

I was a bit jittery as we waited to be announced. But as soon as the music began, my nerves melted away. It was so much fun! I was able to really enjoy the moment. Then it was over and we were bowing and heading back to the foyer. High fives and smiles met us as we walked back through the door. I’ve never had that much fun performing before.

After changing into something a bit nicer, I headed back to my seat in the ballroom. I got to enjoy the rest of the evening stress-free. I excused myself soon after the show ended and drove home. It was a lovely evening but I was feeling pretty burned out. I savoured the silence in the car on the ride home. Fortunately, I had the place to myself the next day which allowed me to recharge and unwind.

How is your week going so far?

More dancing? Yes please.

pretty-woman-in-field-820477_1920When I first started looking into dance lessons I had two objectives. Learn waltz and foxtrot. That was it. I wasn’t interested in other ballroom styles and latin dance seemed intimidating. Unfortunately, you can’t always find classes for two specific dances and nothing else.

So I signed up for a rotating drop-in class instead. They taught waltz and foxtrot once a month. But tango, rumba, and cha cha classes were also mixed in. As a result, I was “forced” to try other dances. Learning a completely new dance from scratch is a challenge. Sometimes even the way you walk is different. But as I progressed I started feeling more comfortable. Waltz and foxtrot are still my top two. But I’m currently in love with tango and cha cha is a new favorite. Each dance has it’s own personality. It’s exciting to discover all the differences to each style.

I often hold myself back from trying new things. Sometimes it’s because I’m scared or unsure. Sometimes I don’t feel like it or don’t have the energy. But I’ll never grow if I don’t push outside my comfort zone. Embracing new things in dance has lead to increased confidence in other areas of life too. As an introvert, I still need to ensure I have the necessary energy. But if I’m organized that’s not an issue. I just need to schedule quiet time both before and after to recharge.

Last week my dance instructor threw out a few suggestions for upcoming dance classes. Instead of instantly writing them off, I sat down and thought about it. After a few days of deliberation, I signed up for a samba class that begins this week. It’s completely out of my comfort zone but I’m still looking forward to it. Who knows, I might gain a new favorite dance in the process.

What’s something new that you’ve tried?

The joy of dance

girl-1258727_1920I’ve been taking weekly dance lessons at my current studio for five months. It’s been such a great experience and I’m so glad I stepped outside my comfort zone. But even now, I still get twinges of nerves as I’m driving there. Perhaps it’s not knowing what material will be taught. Or not knowing if I’ll have a partner. But it’s always been worth it each time I make the effort to go. Dance has been such a wonderful and fulfilling part of my life.

Last night was a lot of fun. We were learning tango (American not Argentine) with our usual instructor. One of my newly-acquired dance friends was there so we partnered together. But we also switched partners with the other two couples who were there. Since there were so few of us, this meant we got a lot of individual attention from the instructor. He gave us advanced feedback for styling and footwork.

We had another hour of practice time after the lesson. My friend and I danced a few songs before he had to head home. I had started practicing some basics on my own when the owner of the studio walked over. He spent the next few minutes dancing with me. All the while explaining the history of tango, some of the dynamics with the footwork, and a few areas to work on. He also corrected my posture and explained where my weight should be sitting. It made a huge difference in how each step felt. It was a lot of fun and made me feel excited to practice.

I also spoke with my instructor that evening. He mentioned I should be able to move up to the next level of classes in a couple of months. This was encouraging as I’ve been doing solo practice on my own (huge shout out to Katie’s blog: The Girl with the Tree Tattoo for tons of helpful content on solo dance practice). I’m also planning to take a couple of private lessons once I’m back from my trip. This should help to improve my frame and technique as well.

Have you ever tried dance? What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Reminders to recharge

boat-1483365_1920I’ve been reminded of the need to recharge twice this past week. A week ago, I attended a group waltz class. The last time I attended a dance lesson I had plenty of quiet time before and after. Unfortunately this time was different. I had a busy day at work interacting with both clients and coworkers. I drove home and sat through a one-sided conversation with my roommate as I ate dinner. I was only able to carve out a short 30 minute break in my room before it was time to drive to the studio.

The lesson itself was a lot of fun and the instructor is fantastic. I had to practice with an assistant for part of the time. Now I’m a complete beginner and I understand there’s a lot to fix. But the assistant kept stopping the dance to correct me. We’d dance three steps, they’d stop, correct my form, continue a few more steps, stop, correct something else, and the cycle continued for 10 minutes. Now I can only focus on changing one thing at a time, that’s how my mind works. Trying to incorporate all the changes became extremely frustrating. As you can imagine, I was relieved when I got to dance with the actual instructor again.

Then a couple of days later, it happened again. My roommate told me they wouldn’t be home until 10 pm due to work. I was excited for a quiet evening alone. I arrived back home that day, puttered around the kitchen, and settled down with my laptop. I had a few things planned but my main goal was to relax and recharge. One hour into my quiet time, I heard a key rattling in the lock. Frustration washed over me. My roommate didn’t work that day after all. She tried to make conversation but I ended up retreating to my room for the rest of the evening.

I realized I hadn’t been taking the time needed to recharge. I was overwhelmed and getting burned out. That’s why I reacted so strongly in both situations. It also reminded me I need to be more intentional about scheduling in the quiet time I need.

How’s your week been?

My first waltz class

people-2595846_1920Yesterday, I made the last minute decision to attend a beginner waltz class. By myself. My dance partner has been sick, but since I’ve been missing dance and will be away for a while, I decided to go for it. I reserved my spot and paid for the class after work, a few hours before the class began. Then immediately started second-guessing myself. What was I thinking? While the studio welcomes both single dancers and couples, I was pretty sure I’d be the odd one out. I even sat in my car for about 10 minutes in the parking lot, psyching myself up enough to go in. I kept reminding myself that I was flying to Asia in less than a week. Yet dance class seemed more intimidating at that moment.

I still ended up walking in about 15 minutes early (as I hate being late). A salsa class was in session when I arrived, so I wandered around the reception area for a few minutes. It was an inviting environment, filled with warm and rich red and brown tones, which set me more at ease. A few minutes later, the owner of the studio introduced himself and gave me a short tour. I then got to check in and said hello to a few who had arrived.

It was then time to walk into the studio. We met our instructor, then had to introduce ourselves (really, why is this still a thing?). After the introductions, the lesson began. As expected, I was the only person without a partner. However, this meant I got to dance with the instructor the entire time, which was one of the best things to happen. Getting personalized instruction from a professional was fantastic. He critiqued everything: my form, my steps, and my frame and it made a huge difference in my movements. It also didn’t hurt that he was taller than I, very handsome, and had a pleasant accent I couldn’t quite place.

The only stressful moments came when I had to demonstrate new movements with the instructor. Things my body had never done before in my life. But as long as I focused on his movements, I was able to follow decently well.

I still have a long way to go, and a lot of dances I still want to learn, but waltz is definitely a new favourite. It was so much fun and I left with a smile on my face. I can’t wait for next time!

How have you broken out of your comfort zone?