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?

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Height & confidence

dance-2954461_1920I’ve felt uncomfortable with my height for much of my life. In elementary school I was slightly taller than my classmates. By junior high and high school I hit a growth spurt and was taller than all the girls and most of the guys. As a quiet, introverted teenager, the last thing I wanted to do was stick out. I spent a lot of time slouching and hunched over because I wanted to blend in. But as time continued, and I entered my early twenties, I found close friends who loved my height and would tell me so. They were encouraging and never said things that made me feel awkward about being tall.

Being tall definitely comes with its challenges. To this day, I’m still approached by strangers asking how tall I am. I’ll usually reply with “it’s a secret”. I’ve heard “how’s the weather up there” more times than I can remember. I’ve been asked if I play basketball countless times. I have to bend over while showering because the shower head is usually at shoulder level. My legs are too long to take a comfortable bath. I smack my head on a lot of things. Shorts, dresses, and skirts are too short. And the list goes on.

But being tall also comes with many advantages. I love how long my legs are and I’ll wear heels if I want to feel classy (just not all the time because I like being comfortable). I can reach everything in the grocery store, including the stuff on the top shelves. I can see over most crowds. People can’t look down on you if you tower over them. People also take me more seriously since I command attention with my height. I’m still a bit self-conscious even now. But I’m working to improve my posture and stop slouching.

Last night I attended a Cha Cha class. Towards the end of the evening I was dancing with the instructor (who is also wonderfully tall) and he made a remark I appreciated. I usually hunch over when I dance, so he told me I needed to open up my chest more and stand up taller. He said that being tall, I’ve usually looked down on people (physically) because of my height. But he said that isn’t my problem and I don’t need to feel ashamed of how tall I am. It was a good reminder to be confident. I don’t need to let the insecurities of the past colour my life now.

Have you had similar experiences?

5 things I learned from dance class

persons-768597_1920Today marks the final week of waltz classes this month. Overall it’s been a good experience. The first lesson had me overwhelmed and frustrated. Fortunately the following two went much smoother. I’m looking forward to class tonight and I’m already thinking of what dances I want to learn next. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from dance class.

1. Lower your expectations.
For both you and your instructor. Especially if you’ve never done it before. At my first waltz class I had the unrealistic idea I’d be able to learn each step perfectly with minimal practice. Unreasonable, yes. But welcome to the mind of an introvert and perfectionist. After that first class, I gave myself permission to make mistakes. It became my goal to learn as much as possible each night. As a result, each class was more enjoyable and I had a lot more fun.

2. Embrace the instructor.
While you do this physically when you dance haha, I’m referring more to their style of teaching. My first waltz instructor was very intense. He spoke fast, moved fast, and expected a lot. My current instructor is the exact opposite. He’s laid back, makes lots of jokes, and ensures everyone is comfortable. He spends a lot of time on the little details. Neither way is wrong, simply different, and you can learn from both.

3. Do hard things.
Walking into a dance class full of strangers is terrifying. I still have to psych myself up for a lesson even though I love dancing. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone helps you grow. Embrace challenge! The confidence, discipline, dedication, and perseverance you develop will help you in all other aspects of life.

4. Take care of yourself.
If you aren’t used to dancing, the new movements can leave you stiff and sore the next day. Fortunately my legs are used to worse abuse than dancing (I’m looking at you dead lifts and squats) so they were okay. But it was a good reminder. I need to be more deliberate and proactive about taking care of myself. I need to get enough sleep, take active rest days, stay hydrated, stretch daily, and practice good nutrition. My mental health also needs to be more of a priority.

5. Enjoy!
Learning is fun, something I’ve rediscovered through dance. But I’m always looking forward to the next step and often miss out on the NOW. I’m learning to stop, breathe, look around, and take note of what I’m feeling. Time goes by fast. I don’t want to miss out on all the wonderful, little details that make life so beautiful.

What’s your favourite hobby or activity?

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?

 

In love with dance

architecture-2597556_1920A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my first dance lesson. It was a very positive experience and I was looking forward to the next one. We had our second private lesson last week and it went even better. Both my friend and I were able to practice both on our own and together, which helped immensely. I also had plenty of alone time before our lesson, which helped me focus, and ensured I wasn’t overwhelmed during our class.

We met up with our instructor a few minutes after arriving at the studio. He asked us to show him what we had practiced, and with a bit of trepidation, we did. We threw a few moves together, but our instructor could tell we were a bit nervous, and the lesson soon moved on.

As we danced, our instructor gave us a few pointers on how our feet should move while doing the basic step and the importance of keeping our steps small and controlled. Once we were feeling more confident, he lead us through several new turns, kicks, and spins. We practiced each move with our instructor, as he switched between lead and follow roles, until we felt comfortable. Then we practiced with each other. We spent the entire class dancing and we learned a lot. Our goal had been to be able to dance by the end of our lessons, and we definitely achieved that.

After the lesson concluded, we headed our separate ways, but not before making plans to practice together on the weekend. We met up on Sunday and reviewed the steps we had just learned. After an hour or so, both my friend and I felt confident enough to run through our “choreographed” moves as well as improvising on the fly.

We also chatted about how much we enjoyed the experience and where we wanted to go from there. We’ve decided to look into group lessons in the area. We’ll continue learning east coast swing and two step, but we also want to try other styles. I’m really looking forward to learning even more! I’m so happy I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried dance, it’s so much fun 🙂

How has your week been?

Learning to dance

green-2559003_1920Yesterday was my first dance lesson. I met up with my friend for coffee, then we headed over to the dance studio a few minutes before our lesson was set to begin. We had signed up for an introductory package that included two private lessons and a group lesson. At the time, we hadn’t decided on a specific dance style. But upon meeting our instructor, he suggested we try east coast swing and country two step. Due to the versatility of both dances, we decided to go with those.

I’ve learned a little bit of jive in the past, but the steps in east coast swing are bit different and took some getting used to. However, both my partner and I picked up the basic step fairly quickly and moved onto a few moves. This is where things started falling apart. When you take two people with limited or no dance experience, and teach them to how to move in a completely foreign way, it can be quite the challenge. However, we definitely improved as the lesson progressed and the steps we first stumbled at became easier to perform. Having a relaxed and patient partner made learning easier, and as we both have a good sense of humour, there was a lot of laughter. We also had a really funny and encouraging instructor who kept things light. We wrapped up the lesson with country two step, which I found the easier of the two. By the end of the lesson, we had a good foundation of both dances, something we’ll be able to build on in the future.

I had never assumed dancing would be easy, but I think I underestimated how mentally draining it was. But having an awesome partner and an encouraging instructor made the whole experience so much fun. I’m really excited for our next lesson. But in the meantime, I really need to practice the steps so I’ll be more fully prepared to learn new ones next time. I can already see how addicting dance can become and I want to keep learning more!

Have you had similar experiences?

Escaping the comfort zone

tango-190026_1920Last month, I wrote a piece about introversion and the comfort zone. It’s a wonderful place but nothing grows there.

One of my goals this year has been to embrace change and go after personal growth. I want to take more (calculated) risks, push myself outside my comfort zone, and take advantage of new experiences. I’ve also been working to spend more time with people that energize me, and less time with those who are toxic or draining.

It’s been a positive year so far. I’ve been learning to say no to things that offer no benefit (or if I have no energy). But I’m also saying yes to new experiences. The newest and most exciting experience to come is attending ballroom dance lessons with a friend this summer. I’ve always wanted to learn to dance, yet never had the push to actually sign up. I’ve learned a few basics and several line dances (in school and summer camps) but I’ve always wanted to go further. I’m so excited for this opportunity (and I can definitely use more flexibility and grace).

So here’s to trying new things and going on new adventures. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes 🙂

What’s something you’ve always wanted to try?