In a Level One class I was teaching a few months ago, I had a new-to-me student. Let’s call her Ginny. She was excited to be in class, almost giddy. She’d taken a few classes elsewhere, and was really excited to be in class at FatChanceBellyDance®. She did a really nice job with the technique.

But when it came time to dance in formations, she balked and stood apart from her group. “I don’t understand what’s going on,” she said, “I’m afraid I’m holding them back.”

After a little coaxing, Ginny rejoined her group and went with the flow. By the end of the class she had gotten the concept of the lead change, and was smiling again. I was so very, very proud of her.

It can be really hard, learning new things as adults.

Our egos get in the way. We feel frustrated that our bodies won’t move in the same way as the teacher’s, or our fellow students’. Our brains get full and our feet won’t move in the ways we want them to move.

And we feel embarrassed with our own pace of learning. We can’t quite get a step right, or a formation change. Our own shame tells us we’re not good enough to dance with the other students, so we decide to step back rather than focus on what we’re there to do: learn.

This has happened to all of us, once upon a time. It’s certainly happened to me. I still experience that feeling sometimes, and my goodness, how incredibly frustrating: It’s so very, very hard to cultivate beginner’s mind about something when you’re supposed to be good enough to teach it.

Take this out of the studio for a moment: when was the last time you tried to learn something that you knew you weren’t going to be immediately good at? Me, I’m starting to do more bootcamp-style fitness classes, and BOY do I suck at ’em. I can do moderate-intensity exercise for hours in the dance studio, but ten minutes of high-intensity cardio and I feel like I’m dying. This stuff is really hard.

I’m also learning a new piece of software for my day job. I don’t understand some of the concepts that this software is based on, so when the documentation uses certain words, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Frustrating! Makes me want to throw the computer out the window.

This isn’t limited to adults, of course; I can’t tell you how hard it is to teach my favorite six-year-old to ride her bicycle when she’s so afraid of falling. But she’s got to be okay with failure if she’s going to learn anything. And so do we.

Tell me: what elements of ATS® are hard for you?

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5 thoughts on “It’s okay to make mistakes.

  1. When I was a beginner in ATS®, I had days where my mind went totally blank when I tried to lead and I would end up stuck in a loop, doing the same move. The syllabus seemed so vast, I thought I would never fully understand it. Then one day, it all suddenly clicked and came together. I understood how I could resort to my default moves in one of those ‘brain fart’ moments. Like anything else, it is simply a matter of time and perseverance. I still have ‘brain farts’ even now, but this is an improvised style, we all have days when our tribal, runs amok. Even the ladies who taught me and I look up to have those days! The key is, to not beat yourself up over it and NEVER feel like you have let anyone down when you do make mistakes. In fact, there are no mistakes, there are just things to learn from. It is all about how we carry on with our heads held high, smiling, as if nothing happened. That is how I came up with the tagline for my dance school back in the UK. “If all else fails, smile and shimmy!” … It works in every day life too 😉

  2. I think my lightbulb moment for this was watching a performance Wendy had done (I think with Sandi and a Sister Studio dancer?) that she had posted. I watched it before reading any comments, and my only thoughts were “wow, what a lovely performance!” It was only afterward that I read what Wendy had written about how she’d had a ‘brain fart’ moment and only done a few different moves for the entire song. The beauty of ATS is that if it’s done well, you don’t have to pull out all the tricks for it to be beautiful 🙂

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