Thursday, December 15, 2011
Private Lesson with Ivan
There are two ways to learn something: repetition, reptition, reptition and emotional invovlement. The cool thing about having an emotional reaction while learning something new is that it creates transformational change. This means that a person can make a quantum leap in a matter of seconds if they are willing to tolerate how uncomfortable all that emotion can be.
Although I have experienced both types of learning during my years of dancing, sometimes the only way to really "get" something is to repeat it 1000 times. And sometimes one type of learning translates into the other. Such has been the case for me in ballroom specificially in terms of changing my weight completely from one foot to the other. I don't know how many times I've heard my instructors tell me, "You're not on your foot," "You are between your feet, that's why you can't move," "You have to change your weight completely." Literally it may have been 1000 times so far and I anticipate I will hear it for the rest of my dancing career.
Each time I hear the admonition, I process it intellectually but somehow this doesn't translate into my body. If I stay completely present and focused on this one aspect of moving right after I've been reminded of this "bad habit" I can overcome it. But it requires a lot of attention. I get easily distracted by all the other pieces of information I'm processing.
So theoretically, the fact that I must change my weight completely before I take the next step is something I "know," but based on results (often harsh but always fair) I don't really know it at all because I don't always do it.
But I had a little breakthrough today. I finally heard the message with all of me. It was one of those moments of arriving at the same place and knowing it for the first time. Here's what happened:
Today we again worked on the Latin dances (yay!). During the lesson Ivan was throwing so much information at me, my brain was overloaded. It was like it hit capacity and then nothing he said made sense. My brains had become scrambled eggs!
But it felt familiar. I haven't felt this way in a while but I did feel this way when I first began ballroom. The memory jog made me realize some specific reasons I now want to do the Latin dances - they are the same reasons I started dancing again in the first place.
Firstly, they will heal my body. I am going to shrink because I have to to be able to do the jive (I'm tired just thinking about doing this dance.) Also, I'm going to have to have strong legs and core to hold myself properly for the Rumba and Cha Cha. In addition, my cardiovascular system will improve efficiency so I can make it through the Samba.
Secondly, I will get the opportunity to channel pieces of me that I've never let out completely. Sassy, Sexy, even Angry Stefanie will be invited to join the party. You really can't fake this in Latin. I can kinda get away with being a "nice girl" in American Rhythm, but in Latin I will have to be a woman.
Finally, they provide the opportunity to be a beginner and to face a different set of challenges than I face in American dances.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm a creature who likes comfort. I like being good at things. I like it when things come easily. I don't like messing up. I don't like it when I don't catch onto something right away.
Or so I thought...
You see, those things feel good for a moment or two but the feeling fades away. Things just mean more when you have to work for them.
I see that on a deeper level, I love the challenge. I love stretching myself to see how far I can really go. I love rising beyond what's expected. There is no better feeling than pouring my entire self into something. It is exciting.
I just have to get used to the idea that I must let go of being "good" which is comfortable so that I can be "great." That is the scary part - the part that feels like being a trapeze artist without a net!
Because I am in this new beginner space the dynamic with my teacher has also changed. Usually he tells me something or shows me a step and I am able to make it happen in a very short time. But with this new style and new steps and my brain becomming scrambled eggs, it is taking a little while longer to "get" things. I think Ivan must have noticed it too. Katie and Marieta have both shared that sometimes when they are working on a new step that isn't coming easily or quickly a relieved Ivan will say, "Hallelujah!" when they finally get it. Well, I got my first "Hallelujah!" like "Finally!" today and it felt great! (Usually I get, "Ole!" when I do something right and he's happy with me! lol.)
But you know what, it is okay. I love being flooded with more than I can absorb. I love that my instructor is sharing information with me so abundantly. Even if I only absorb just a little bit, drop by drop, over time I will become a deep pool. I refuse to put the pressure on myself anymore to become this overnight. Besides, what fun would that be? I'd miss the entire journey!
So even amidst being inundated with information, I finally "got" something beyond just the step.
We were working on spot turns in which require me to get completely on one leg then turn. I wasn't getting it. I couldn't maintain my balance and do this little swoosh with my foot to make the next step pretty. Ivan broke it down for me.
"Whenever you slow, or can't turning it is always a weight problem."
Yeah, I know! I now have both a mental problem and a weight problem! But what he really meant is that the problem is that I'm not moving the weight of my body where it needs to be. It's something I've heard a million times, but the million and first time I heard it today produced a breakthrough!
I finally (Hallelujah!) committed my weight to one leg then the other. I finally (Hallelujah!) completed one movement before starting the next. I did all this while holding my spine straight.
Suddenly, transformationally, things became easier and more controlled. The repeition had reached a tipping point and became transformational change. Instantly Ivan was able to lead me in an under arm turn with one finger! It felt like velvet effortlessness. I was on my own two feet, dancing myself, carrying my own weight and placing it properly. It was a magical moment of confidence and centeredness, and dare I say it, perfection.
I think it will take a few more repetitions to fully integrate this into my muscle memory but now that I've done it once and know what is possible I will be able to find it more and more easily over time. Soon it will become second nature. It will be a good habit that I have cultivated.
Now that I've told you my story it's your turn. You see, believe it or not, this blog isn't just about me. I am curious as to the experience of other dancers out there and believe there is enormous value in sharing our experience. I want to invite you to an ongoing dialog about the process of being a dancer. This conversation on my blog so far has been pretty one sided so I thought I'd ask some questions of my readers and learn a little more about you.
We all have a story and every story is worth voicing. I'm interested in hearing about it. So, to kick things off, I have a few questions.
Is there something you have heard over and over in your dancing practice or your life that you know intellectually but doesn't translate into action? Why do you think that is? Also, did you ever have a moment where things finally "clicked" and if so, what happened when it did? How did that make you feel?
I can't wait to hear what you have to share!
Ole! and Halleljuah!