“I Will NEVER Be Able to Dance Like That!”
Actually, I honestly thought I’d never be able to dance at all! Never mind dance gracefully, on time, with some sense of fun, musicality, and a stylish flourish in my arms and feet! No-one was more surprised about all this than I was!! So, how do you know if there’s secretly a salsa dancer inside of you just waiting to get out?? If you’ve never danced in the past, or you tried and it didn’t go the way you had hoped, then how can you tell whether that silent hidden dancer is ready to come out and meet the world, or is even in there in the first place?
If you never tried to dance before, then perhaps you’ve never met your inner dancer. Perhaps you also never went to a dance class as a child or teenager, so you don’t even believe your inner dancer exists! And maybe you always feel super awkward, shy, and nervous anywhere within 50 feet of a dance floor, so it would seem highly unlikely that you’re harbouring a secret inner dancer… But I firmly believe, that as a human, if you can walk and count to 8 you are already fully qualified to attend a dance class!
And I’m also willing to bet there’s a salsa dancer in you somewhere. I’ve not been wrong about anybody yet! Of course, the only way to discover your secret inner dancer (and to test whether my theory about being able to walk and count is correct) is to get brave and curious, get out there, and give it a go! Inevitably, that means actually attending a dance lesson of some sort!
Now, people have lots of different objections to this kind of very practical experiment…! The one I hear most often is “I can’t go to a dance class, I don’t know how to dance, so I absolutely cannot go to a lesson! Maybe when I know a little more, I’ll go then….” I think it’s so important to remind people that it’s called a lesson for a reason.
We, as teachers, do not expect you to know anything at all when you come through the door! That’s the very reason why we’re here. It’s why we have a calling in the first place. Dance teachers are completely incapable of keeping their passion to themselves, they just have to share it with absolutely everyone they meet! Dance teachers also suffer from an undeniably deep desire to help you to learn how to dance from scratch, or from wherever you are on your journey, and then to keep helping you to learn and improve by building on the things you’ve already learned by also teaching you new things!
At the beginning of every school year, we don’t send children into their new year or class expecting them to already know everything on the syllabus. We expect them to be open curious little sponges and for the teacher to teach them and for them to know more by the end of the year, or the course than they did at the start. If our child, niece, nephew, etc came to us and said they felt worried and absolutely couldn’t go to school because they didn’t already know what would be taught in the lessons, we would tell them that’s exactly why they need to go, to learn and find out, because if they do go they’ll know all the things by the end of the lesson. And we might ask them how else will they learn if they never go to the lesson in the first place?
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As adults, we can see the incredible value in learning new information and skills from a kind, supportive and encouraging expert who will guide and help them, rather than them having to figure out everything on their own. So why do we, as adults, expect ourselves to already know how to dance before ever going to a lesson? And then use the fact that we don’t yet know how to dance as a reason to keep us from attending a lesson? If every dance student walked into the lesson already knowing 100% of the things we were going to teach, teachers would be obsolete and learning to dance wouldn’t be any fun! But thankfully, that is not the case, phew.
Dancing is a lifelong learning journey. In truth no-one ever actually gets to ‘the finish’ or ‘the end’ because it doesn’t exist! There is always something new to be learned by both students AND teachers. Teachers are constantly learning new things! And often, teachers love the opportunity to go to other people’s lessons and learn something new, we love being students! That’s the other incredibly important thing to remember about teachers and experienced dancers, they didn’t just wake up one day full of rhythm and skills! They started out in their first dance class exactly the same as you, not knowing a single thing and also not being able to dance at all. They had to learn.
So, the next time you look out on the dance floor during a class, or a party, a Latin night, social practice etc… and you watch the experienced dancers, and think to yourself, “Wow!! I’m never every going to be able to dance like them…” I think it’s SO important to remind you that all of those people were exactly where you are when they started. They too looked out at the experienced dancers and thought, there’s no way my body will ever move like that, there’s no way I’ll ever manage to dance on time, there’s no way I’ll ever be that graceful or understand how to do all that styling stuff with my arms, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to isolate parts of my body or do body rolls and waves, there’s no way I’ll be brave enough to ask other people to dance, there’s no way I’ll figure out this leading stuff there’s too many things to be aware of all at once and the list goes on.. and look where they are now.
There’s a really wonderful saying that I am constantly reminded of Every master was once a disaster!” And you know what, it’s so true, every experienced dancer or teacher started out as blank canvas, an uncoordinated, off-beat mess! And yet, with patience, practice, consistency, and enjoyment they learned, they improved, they found their own style and flow, they learned to dance on time, to lead and follow clearly and responsively. And after that they learned how to become playful and creative with their steps and the with the music.
They became the dancer you see today and that’s not the end of their journey, they will continue to grow and evolve as a dancer. So,if you can count to 8 and you know how to walk, and you stick with it, then you can go on the most amazing journey too, a journey filled with fun and wonderful experiences, a journey which helps you to find inner confidence and strength you didn’t know you possessed, a journey filled with friends you didn’t know you couldn’t live without and now that you’ve found them you’ve found your life is so much richer than you could ever have imagined, a journey filled with deep discovery and insights about yourself and your hidden talents, and ultimately a journey filled with the most heartfelt joy. I mean, who doesn’t want those things in their lives?
I always say the hardest part of any dance class the first time you go, (and sometimes even the second, third, fourth time…) is not learning the steps or understanding the music, or getting it right. Long before that, the hardest part is often walking through the door of the venue in the first place. Someone even said to me once, that long before they reached the door of the dance school, walking out their own front door was actually the hardest bit!
But there’s great comfort in that, if you can convince yourself to walk out your own front door and in through ours then not only have you already done the hardest thing you’re going to do that night, but there’s a wealth of treasure and reward to be found inside that door. For one thing, you’ll find an incredibly diverse and extremely welcoming group of super supportive and genuinely lovely people who will be nothing but excited to meet you and welcome you into their community!
For another, you’ll learn a skill that you can take with you anywhere in the world and that you can share with everyone because it’s always with you! What an incredible gift to have, and to share.
If you’re already learning to dance, keep at it. Dancing is the best kind of bug and when it gets us, we just can’t help but want to share it, so if you have a friend (or multiple friends!) who you know would benefit from more joy in their life, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want a little more joy and happiness…?? Then bring them along with you! Neither of you will regret it!
I wandered into a ballroom in the hotel across the road from my house one night and took part in a salsa class. It doesn’t sound like a life-changing event, and I was just as rubbish at the end of the class as I was at the beginning, but with one monumental difference, during those short 60 minutes, my life had changed dramatically, because I had fallen in love with dance. And I had stepped into a world of smiling faces, amazing friendships, incredible teachers and soul-tingling joy. And many of the wonderful things that happened in my life all happened because I walked through that door that night and met all those wonderful people. Anybody can dance salsa, you just need to take the first step.