Since I’m trying my darndest not to think about books whenever I can get away with it (MA exam in nine days people… AH!), I realized that it’s time to talk about one of my favorite hobbies that I have managed, against all odds, to make into a profession.
For those not in the know, I teach Ballroom dance at Arthur Murray. Dancing has been a life-long passion of mine (though has always taken a back-seat to theatre and its accoutrements), and ballroom has ducked its head in and out of my life ever since I got to do a workshop with Sid Grant during my undergrad. In another one of those right-place-right-time moments, I secured myself this job last June and have been happily training hard ever since.
I could wax poetic about the awesomeness of dance and how much ballroom has added to my life until next Tuesday, but as brevity is the soul of wit I have boiled it all down into the following list which I am entitling “Ballroom Dance and You” or “All I Ever Needed To Know About Life I Learned in the Ballroom” or “Eleven Quick-and-Easy Life Lessons Learned from Ballroom Dance”. Enjoy!
1) Communicate clearly, succinctly and at the right moment. When you speak, use just enough force to get your point across, but not so much as to be overbearing. When you listen, listen with your entire body. Be open to whatever it is that your partner (in dance or conversation) is going to say and willing to react accordingly.
2) Poise. Things in the ballroom change at the drop of a hat and you never know what is going to happen. People move around you and you need to adjust yourself so as not to run into them. You never know what your partner may lead. You must be ready to go into anything at any moment. Being stuck in old habits will just lead to getting stepped on.
3) Never turn down an invitation to dance. So your feet hurt. So you’re grumpy. So you’re tired. It doesn’t matter. You never know when the last dance may be and you never know when the music may end. If you love it, just do it! Don’t let anything stand in your way.
4) Anyone can learn anything given enough time, diligence and effort. Some things will come more easily to some people than others, but don’t worry; they have their weaknesses too. Don’t let the learning process of others curtail your own process. If you’re stuck, work harder. You will get better. The harder it is, the more practice time you will need. Just keep cracking.
5) There will always be someone better at it than you are. There will also always be someone worse at it than you are. All this means is that they’ve been doing it longer (or for less time). Don’t let it get to you (or go to your head).
6) New muscles hurt to work and new movements feel weird before they feel normal. Rely on your mentors to tell you that you’re doing it right for the first few times. Memorize the pattern and watch yourself in the mirror. Do it until the weird feels normal and the muscle soreness goes away. Then do it a hundred times more. If it hurts, you’re probably doing it right.
7) No blood, no foul and sorry’s for when I’m bleeding (or crying). Don’t waste time apologizing unless you really really need to. Don’t let the little things get to you. And for god’s sake don’t be afraid to lead steps just because you stepped on my foot once or twice (unless you did it really hard). You’re not going to learn if you never practice.
8) If it looks graceful and easy, it’s bloody difficult. Don’t let the pros fool you, it’s a long hard road to ease and elegance. But totally worth it.
9) Learning to smile through the pain builds character. No matter what you’re feeling, adapt, overcome, and don’t let it stand in your way.
10) Looking good takes diligence, time and effort but damn who’s that hottie in the mirror? Learn to do makeup and hair, figure out what you should wear, have several nice pairs of shoes, and whatever you do don’t leave the house without mascara. Brush your teeth several times a day to freshen your breath. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Take care of your hands and nails, people do look at them. Pedicures. Especially during the summer. If you look good, chances are you’re going to feel good too. It won’t solve all of life’s problems, but it certainly helps.
11) Always buy (AND WEAR!) nylons with re-enforced toes. Especially when you’re teaching newcomer class.