It’s okay to make mistakes.

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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The hardest part is showing up.

Photo by Don Labit Design.  Jewelry by NakaRali.

Photo by Don Labit Design. Jewelry by NakaRali.

So, this summer, I:

  • went to Maine to teach some workshops;
  • started a new day job, where a lot more is expected of me;
  • took a family camping trip to Yosemite; and
  • got married!

I hope I am forgiven for being relatively absent from the dance studio (and this blog) for a few months.  I’ve had a bit going on.

I admit: It’s hard to get back to the dance studio after a hiatus.

But good gracious, it feels good!  It feels good to move my body in these ways that are so familiar. It feels good to connect with my community again, and it feels good to sweat and pulse and breathe with other dancers.

Here’s what doesn’t feel good: I’ve lost some technique. I’ve lost some sharpness. I’ve lost muscle in my upper back. I’ve even lost some language — my first class back, I couldn’t remember the name for Circle Step!  And I’ve been doing this for over a decade!  How embarrassing.

While it’s awkward and weird to come back after a hiatus, it just highlights for me the importance of regular technique practice.  Those of you who are teachers, how often are you able to work on your own technique?  Those of you who are advanced dancers, when’s the last time you went back to Level 1?  When was the last time you took a private lesson?  With the summer over, it’s a nice time to come back to basics.

Moral of the story: Get your butt back to class, especially if you’ve been away for a while, or have lightened your dance practice for the summer.   We have to take the time to focus on these things, or else we lose form and technique. Come back. The dance misses you.