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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why I write this blog.

When I first began learning to dance I found the most difficult thing was not learning the steps. The most difficult thing was getting past my own belief that I was never going to be a good dancer.  After all, I was already an adult (Belief #1: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks") and had never had a dance lesson in my life. On top of that, I had never played a musical instrument and couldn't even carry a tune. I was one of those people who only pretended to sing in chorus. And forget about clapping to the beat. I would wait till everyone else was clapping and then simply join in. (Belief #2: "You gotta have rhythm and I don't.")

Meanwhile my husband, Chester, had been a drum major in marching band in High School and had gone on to a music program in college. He had what I envied as natural rhythm.

So there I was in 1999, an adult with no rhythm and two left feet. Who else is out there with those same issues?

For some reason I thought dance lessons would be fun. So I signed us up. It was totally my idea. Something to do besides watch TV.

Turned out Chester's natural rhythm came in handy, but so did his innate sense of style and his ability to learn moves with lightning fast accuracy. He loved it. Soon he was the leader all the followers wanted to dance with. The trouble was that none of the leaders wanted to dance with me. Enter Belief #3 "I'm not good enough."

Then we went away to dance camp and Chester was put in a level above me (actually we were supposed to both be in that level but I had never actually been taught to follow, didn't know what any of the leaders were doing, couldn't grasp the new moves fast enough and got demoted...awwww.) Talk about an inferiority complex! (Belief #4: "I totally suck.")

So Chester kept getting better and I kept feeling worse. But he loved it. He excelled at it. So I was determined to become a better dancer. I made goals, I practiced, I went to class. Trouble was everywhere I went I carried around with me the belief that I would never really get any better. So even though I progressed, I was still convinced deep down that no one wanted to dance with me and that I totally sucked as a follower. In fact, when anyone tried to teach me anything, say in a private lesson, my mind was so busy telling me I couldn't get it that I couldn't even take in what the teacher was saying. I had no room in my clogged mind and made everything way more complicated than it really was.

Anyone out there have those issues?

It was only after a while that I realized that the biggest challenge I had in learning to dance was NOT my dance ability, or my learning ability, but getting past my belief that I would never be a good dancer. Since I'd already decided that subconsciously, I could never relax, never just enjoy myself. (Belief #5: "Dancing is hard and complicated.")

It was only after I realized that I was my own greatest critic that I began to realize I wasn't always the only one in class who was struggling. Sure, there were those who got things as quickly as Chester, but there were also those who got things even slower than me!

Then some guy told me he was afraid to dance with me because he was intimidated by the fact that Chester was my regular partner. So it turned out I wasn't getting asked to dance because the leaders felt inferior, not because they thought I was inferior! (Holy cow.)

I began to realize that my frame of mind was as important as my dance frame.

As a dance teacher, I see hundreds of students go through the same internal struggle that I did.  I see how it paralyzes them. So I created this blog to let them --and everyone--know that I know how it is. I've been there myself. It's not something to hide. It's something to uncover. So we can dance.

This past month, Chester and I had the privilege of teaching a Zen of Swing Dance workshop at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, NY. We spent the whole weekend working with students not only on dance moves, but on issues like these that get in the way of our ability to take in new information. It was an incredible weekend. And we got to see a group transform from people who believed they couldn't dance to people who believed they could. And were having a ball doing it.

I ran into two of them at Lincoln Center last week where Chester was performing with the Big Apple Lindy Hoppers for opening night of Midsummer Night Swing. These two people hadn't known each other before our weekend, and the woman said she'd wanted to go to Midsummer Night Swing for years but had always felt too intimidated. "Your workshop gave me the courage to come tonight," she said. "And it also gave me someone to come with. I am loving it!"

That is my goal for everyone and why I am so passionate about the Zen of Dance blog. Be in the moment, not mired in the mind. Follow this blog. And get into the Zen of Dance!

Four-week blues series in Highland on Wednesday nights starts July 2 
Four-week swing series in Kingston Monday nights starts July 7 (three levels available)
Four-week beginner swing in Wallkill Tuesday Nights starts July 8
Four-week blues series in Highland on Wednesday nights starts July 2
Summer class info:

Saturday workshop Nimble Feet in Kingston July 5 before our dance at Mac Fitness
Saturday workshop Beginner Swing in Newburgh 6-7:30pm July 26

Thursday, July 3, Swingin' Newburgh at the Brewery
Saturday, July 5, 1st Saturday Swing Infusion at the Mac in Kingston
Friday, July 11, 2nd Friday Swing Salon at Uptown Gallery in Kingston