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My Dance Flatline

Ballroom Transformations, October 2008

Sometimes learning to dance means I have to pull it all together at once.  It is overwhelming and I think that I will never get it.

Right now, it’s time for me to stop being clunky with the steps and enter the dance with some emotion.  Emotion?  Is this rolling boil inside not emotion?  Probably, Rudy is talking about letting my body express my emotional connection to the music, to the feel of my body in motion, and to my initimate connection to Ginger.  Wow, that’s only a minor shift I need to make.  When are those brain machines coming that can automatically build a brain map to connect all of those things.

This is work, fun work, but work never the less.

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When I break through the "I can't dance" barrier

What does it take to break through the “I can’t” messages to really learn to dance?

My mind set just goes there.  After I watch a teacher demonstrate, my automatic message is, “No way, me do that?”  That’s my response every time so far.

For some people, I hear, they approach dance methodically and just know that if they learn the mechanics of how each step works, they will be able to do it.  For me, I get all that information jumbled in my sweet brain and everything in me says, “No way dude.”

I have learned that the only way for me is to do the simple “Butch Cassidy trick,” JUMP.  Not literally but the leap into every step is very real to me.  I have no idea if it will all come together.  I just breathe deep and try to keep my mind open.

This may be a kinesthetic way of learning, having to feel the totality of the move before it registers in my body and then makes its way to my brain.

As you can imagine, I have developed some special techniques to navigate through the twists and turns of my psyche.  Here are just a few of the ways I have tried that seem to help.

Starting with my most recent discovery first: when I hear that “I can’t” message, I mentally push the “previous” button and imagine what I felt right before the terror of “this is too hard.”  Most times, the feeling is the excitement of getting to learn to dance.  Then taking a breath is easier and more fun.

During class, this is what I have tried:

I watch the teacher’s demonstration and decide to remember only one little piece of it.  That way I do not get freaked about not being able to do it all.

I ask for another demonstration as soon as possible so I can take another little piece.

When the teacher breaks the step into parts and begins to teach it, I decide to remember one little piece of that part.  From the demonstration, I may just get the feeling of the first step and still not know how what to do.  I do not try to remember the whole part.  If I can get my arm up the first time and take the first step on the next try, I am happy.

During group classes, I position myself in the room where I can watch a man or a couple that move well.

I always surround myself with dancers who are better than me if I am learning individually social dance men steps or learning tap, ballet, or jazz.

If students are demonstating in a random order, I always go after someone who is better than me so that I can catch their enthusiasm and maybe remember what I saw them do.

I try never to be the last person to demonstrate.

I repeat the pattern we are learning as many times as I can during and right after class.  When I leave class, more often than not, the memory is gone.

At home, I have to improvise what the move might be like if I were to remember.  The best times are when I put on music and move freely and allow the move to recreate itself.

I arrange private instruction whenever possible or schedule a one on one practice session with another student who is better than I am.

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My first social dance-sink or swim

My first social dance was at 11 or 12 years old.  My granddad loved to dance and he was going to make sure I got a start.  So he took me to the local rodeo where the live country band played inside a chicken wire fence on a basketball court.

Granddad bought me a moviestub ticket and had them staple it to the collar of my shirt.  I was pretty terrified by this time.  But then he stood outside the fence and said, “Go on in there.”

“Do what?”  “You are not coming?”  “No, Go in there and dance.”

Dance?  I had never danced in my life.  This was something akin to the frontier way of teaching boys to swim by pitching them in the river and saying, “Come to Daddy.”  “Yikes!” is only the tip of the feelings that boil at that moment.

So I went.  I wandered shy and out of place through lots of young people enjoying the music and the dancing.  Many were real cowboys from the many ranches around our small town called Spur, Texas.

Granddad called me over to the fence for coaching.  “Ask that one to dance?”  “I don’t know how to dance.  What do I do then?”

I don’t know what happened then.  It seems like I obeyed and asked her and said something like, “I’ve never done this before.”  If that happened, there was an awkward moment when I kind of just stood there holding her in dance position wondering what to do next.

Maybe it was then that Granddad called her over to the fence or maybe Granddad coaxed the girl to go up to me, I don’t remember.  Anyway, he asked her to teach me the basic two step.

She did and away I went doing this side together step step clunky beginner two step.  I loved the music and moving to it, but the overwhelming feeling of this nice girl doing this for me, an out of place pre-teen who had no idea what I was doing, argh!

Whew!  That was over.  I stood around for a while, probably asked my Granddad if I could stop now.  “No, no, ask her to dance again.”  “Yeah right, this hurts.”  So I did and she was nice and danced with me again.

I did not know what to do.  So I stood around and asked her a couple of more times until she said, “Ask someone else to dance.”  That was it.  I had to get out of there.

Granddad’s ticket did not go to waste, but however short a time that was in the dance pen was way beyond what I could handle.

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Wish4-The International School of Intimate Living and Dance

My wish.  An International School for exploring the many intimate ways of living in cultures around the world.

The assumption is that people in each culture have discovered something unique about the transformational process of learning, relearning, and discarding old learning patterns.

The goal is to plum the depths of how different people have adapted their cultures to experience an intimacy with the learning and expressing of languages, dance, music, mathematics, architecture, business, and the plastic arts.

Incubating a methodology for such a school will be a process in itself.  The seminal questions for each learner and each facilitator are: What is the wisdom that I uniquely hold?  What wisdom do you have to teach me?  What help do I need to open myself to my own and your wisdom?  What help do I need to experience the excellence of each form of transformation and learning?

My wish is for activities and learning to be accessible to an entire community on a daily basis.  The school would function more like a business that people walk in to with their goals and concerns and they interact with a body of learners who are moment by moment discovering what it means to learn intimately about living and to manifest a productive, liveable world.