Although I’ve been going to class and practice more, I’ve been feeling rather ungraceful, slow, and inept. I’m not sure what’s going on, though winter blahs and desperately needing a vacation from work are surely playing a part.

It’s not that I’m thinking of quitting, but it is quite demoralizing to feel after each practice that I probably could have done better but didn’t have the energy and focus to pull it off. I’ve been coming home from practices and classes feeling like a phony, like maybe I’ve overinflated my own abilities in my mind and this is just life trying to keep me in check.

Of course, this self-pitying, self-defeating thinking is getting me no where. In my mind, I know that I’m getting better in class, that I can do a good job if I keep going to practice, and that if I keep on going I will find redemption.

A while ago, I wrote a post, Pearls of Wisdom, and promised to share some of the helpful and inspirational conversations I’ve had over the past few months. This seems like an ideal time– with deepest gratitude to the sources and my apologies for any misrepresentations of their words– for me to revisit some of them.

On balancing modern and salsa dance (which I am still doing on alternate days of the week and which I believe will continue to be part of my problem until I’ve mastered “flipping the switch” between them), I turned to my friend Kindra. Kindra has danced with a community modern dance troupe, done ballroom dance competitively, and a beautiful and highly capable salsa dancer. Kindra encouraged me to keep up my modern dance training, as it would help me with my release issues and make me a better overall dancer. As for the salsa, I should take a beginner ballroom class and focus on the technique and placement of the feet. She told me not to focus on the forms and patterns too much. This is advice worth taking. My re-aligned body is having trouble staying balanced in heels now.

Rob and I met up a while back to discuss blogging, writing and dance. I asked if I could pick his brain about the DC dance community and ways to develop myself as a dancer. Over the course of our conversation, he said something to me that has since become my mantra: Dancers don’t perform– they go to class.

There is so much meaning condensed in this one statement. Growing up, I played musical instruments, so I am well familiar with the old “practice makes perfect” adage. I think dance is ten times harder than playing a musical instrument because not only do you have to practice, but you have to be able to memorize and internalize things quickly. In orchestral performance you always have the sheet music to rely on. You also have a conductor and fellow section members as constant reference points. It also means that you can perform for hours, as long as you feel comfortable with your reading and interpretation of the sheet music.

In dance, the reward for going to class is all too brief and fleeting. Not only do you put immense quantities of (quite literally at times) blood, sweat, and tears to get things just right, but you also have to somehow commit all that to memory, and, come performance time (if it even reaches that stage) you must execute it with the proper feeling in your heart and expression on your face.

Sometimes I wonder if all those weeks or months of practice were worth it just to perform for 6 minutes. People who don’t dance don’t necessarily understand that. There are so many odds you are working against. And that is why it is all about going to class. Class is not a means to an end– it is an essential link in the chain, a chain of classes that you must continue going to. At the best of times, class is a meditation for me. Other times, like right now, it’s a struggle to get through with my pride intact, but I’m always glad I went. I would have felt worse about myself if I didn’t.

I’m going to stop here for now. These are the words that are inspiring me at this time. I’ll revisit some more pearls of wisdom when they become relevant in other ways.

As always, I appreciate it when my readers have their own thoughts to add. Any words of encouragement for the little rut I’m going through would be quite valuable.

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