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.