This is a public apology to all the street dancers of Vancouver.
Feel free to share it or keep it to yourself. I just want this message to reach as many of the people that I may have affected as possible.
If you’re a Facebook friend who has been keeping up with my posts, I don’t take back anything I have said about the scene being less friendly, open, and welcoming than it likes to present itself and would like everyone to believe, but I am writing this to address an issue that I wasn’t fully aware of until this evening.
It’s so important to me that I address this that I am writing this at 2am in the morning even though I have to get up at 7am tomorrow for work. So please, read the whole thing and don’t just skim it. I have no idea how long this post is going to be, but here goes:
I’ve always known that I get abnormally, excessively frustrated when I don’t get/understand what is being taught in my dance classes. It’s like I turn into another person — my whole personality changes. I become irritated with myself, desperately grasping for a kernel of understanding, because I know that if I don’t find it during the class, I will not get it into my head at all.
I know this is the case because I have been this way my entire life, for everything I have had to learn. I am an AVK (audio-visual-kinesthetic learner). This means that the only way I will “get” (re. learn) anything is by having something explained to me while I see it (have a model to copy) and do it at the same time. If any of these elements are taken away, I simply don’t get it.
Some teachers teach by making students stand and watch first while they explain and demo a move before they let them try a move themselves. This is fine for 90% of learners, but impossible for me, because my mind does not retain images. It doesn’t matter how many times someone demos or explains something to me if they do not allow me to do it while the explanation and demo are happening. My body is my memory, and a teacher that forces me to stand still and not copy is essentially tying my hands behind my back, plugging my ears, and blindfolding me, because my mind will not retain anything if my body is not allowed to take part in the learning process. If you’ve ever seen me at partner dance lessons and wonder why I take notes on every single thing, it’s because the act of writing things down helps me remember them. The notes themselves don’t matter so much as the act of writing does.
Some teachers do moves while getting students to copy them, without explaining what they are doing. This also does not work for me, because, even if I can copy the move perfectly while the teacher is doing it, none of the move sticks because I need the explanation of what we are doing, while we are doing it, to bring everything together. If I don’t understand what I am doing even though I can copy it correctly, I will not be able to do it again later. And I need the explanation to happen right when I am seeing and doing the thing being taught/explained.
AVK learner is the fucking most frustrating kind of learning style a person can have, in my humble opinion, apart from having a actual learning disability. Because it is so rare to find someone who is so dependent on the presence of all three factors in order for learning to occur, there are very few people who teach to AVK learners. In fact, during my last year of university, I even went to one of the counselors at my school, telling them that I suspected that I had a learning disability, because my difficulty with learning things was that paralyzing. I had no life during school because ALL of it was spent studying. I would highlight every word in my textbooks, except for the “and”s, “the”s, and filler words, because it was the only way I could remember the information I read. I did not take down just the key points during lectures — instead, I took down every word the teacher said, because writing down their words was the only way my mind would retain what they said. I have always loved learning but hated school, because of the struggle I had to go through to learn things. To make matters worse, I am a legit perfectionist. I quit working in the field of writing because I was too much of a perfectionist, and it was killing me. I couldn’t settle for good — my work always had to be amazing, even if it meant spending hours writing one article.
I have worked harder than anyone I know my entire life. I’m used to it, because I know it’s what I have to do to learn things that would take any other person three to ten times less time to get. I know I will eventually get it, because I always do: I graduated with straight As in high school (from what I remember), and a 4.33 GPA (straight A+s) and 4.125 CGPA (~A cumulative GPA) in university, despite having a brain completely averse to school-taught learning, because I would not give up until I got everything, no matter how much of my time or life it took to do it. I have always said that school made me half-crazy, and I quit after I earned my BA, telling myself I would never go through it again (though I did, for a month, to earn my TESOL certificate). I am not citing these numbers to show off: I’m giving them to show that I have always known that I CAN get things if I try hard enough, which is the mentality with which I have approached my dancing from the very start.
Learning to dance and taking dance classes was like going to school all over again. Except I had no experience in it at all and had to no idea how to go about it. I should mention that I have always been literally the worst player on any sports team I have ever been a part of (my entire team clapped the one time I got a serve over the net in volleyball when I was in Grade 7, because that was the first time that had ever happened), and I had ridiculously poor body awareness, coordination, and everything else that might have been useful for dancing. So anyways, I started out three to ten times worse than the average person, along with the most handicapping learning style possible. So, needless to say, starting out in street dancing was a very frustrating experience for me. I knew that if I didn’t at least get the feel of a move once in my body during a class that I could pretty much write off the class, because my body does not magically figure things out on its own through practice. Me practicing a move I don’t understand means my body getting used to doing a move wrong and incorporating the wrong feeling into my body. I fucked myself over for more than a year by drilling an arm wave incorrectly, because the wrong feeling wouldn’t go away, so that, for the longest time, I could not do an arm wave properly. I actually finally got the arm wave correctly for the first time yesterday, because it was the first time that a teacher has ever taught it the AVK way. Most teachers explain it once and then jump into doing waves quickly, but in the class I went to, we got to copy and drill for more than 40 min, and do the waves slowly. On top of that, the teacher was one known for being one of the best teachers in Vancouver for teaching and breaking things down. Thanks to the teacher’s teaching in a way that matched my learning style, I was able to learn not only how to wave, but to groove while waving, during that very class. The teacher even told me that my waving was good, when I had honestly wanted to give up on ever learning waving in the past.
I had not intended to write about any of that learning style stuff when I first started writing this post, but it was necessary, I suppose, to help you understand just how hard it is for me to learn anything, to hopefully help you begin to understand the frustration I feel.
Anyways, I am writing this post to apologize for the negative energy I have emitted as a part of my frustration. I did not now how strongly it came off and affected everyone.
I say things like, “I can’t….”, “I don’t get it”, etc. a lot. In my head, I have always meant these as “I can’t do this YET”, “I don’t get it, RIGHT NOW” even though I don’t say the words I bolded. A friend told me that, when I first started street dancing, he wondered why I didn’t just give up because I was so negative all the time. But I never had any intention of giving up, because my mentality was never about giving up. My words were me expressing my frustration over my learning style and how it was preventing me from learning like a normal person yet again. I knew what I intended when I made comments like I did, and it annoyed me when people told me to stop using such words as “can’t”, because I knew I wasn’t using them in a be-all-end-all sense.
But I never once stopped to consider the negative energy it was emitting to everyone else. And for that, I’m sorry.
During a dance class today, the teacher, who normally is pretty good about AVK teaching, taught in an audio-visual way – showing and explaining a move and then expecting us to do it afterward. None of the more experienced dancers who normally come to the class had shown up, and no one was getting the move that was taught properly, so I had no one to look to as a reference. Ironically, the move was one I already should have known how to do, but because of the way the move was taught today, my body fought against me doing the move properly.
I said, “I don’t get it. Can you let us copy you?” I elaborated, “I learn by copying,” wanting to explain the AVK thing, but my teacher told me I couldn’t copy because I had to figure out how to do it in my own body, so I did not get the kinesthetic opportunity I wanted. I apologized to the teacher at the end of the class, wanting to explain my “I don’t get it,” and learned that I had pissed the teacher off because, he explained, there was the whole class trying to get the move, and there was me already having given up on it, saying I didn’t get it. He told me he sometimes wondered why I continue to come if I always come thinking I’m not going to get it.
I had not at all been aware that that was the impression I had been giving off. In my head, I wanted to say, “I don’t get it – can you please explain it in a way I do get?” but it came across as “I’m never going to get this”, and this in turn pissed my teacher off.
I had a talk with a friend at Robson Square afterward, and he told me how my negative choice of words were viewed by others. It was eye-opening for me to hear, because people have always framed my choice of words as being about ME — how it will hinder my growth as a dancer, etc. (which I never paid attention to because I know how I intended to use the words. This was the first time anyone ever explained how my word choice affected other people’s perception of me (re. making them see me as someone who was always down on herself and believing she could never get anything). This was not how I viewed dancing at all, and I’m sorry to anyone I have pissed off/annoyed/frustrated/lessened the enjoyment of as a result of my frustration and careless word choice.
In fact, dancing has made me far less of a perfectionist than I used to be. I don’t care about having perfect technique and getting every move anymore — I really don’t. When I realized my AVK needs were not going to be fulfilled during the class I mentioned, I told myself, “It’s okay — I’ve learned this move before, and I will get it again some other day when someone teaches it in a way that I will understand.” And I actually did remember how to do the move later on that night. It’s been a very long time since I’ve actually drilled something now, because I instead just incorporate what I have learned that day into my freestyle dancing once or twice, to remember it as a part of my actual dancing, rather than some drilled technique that I later have to add in.
When I write my blog posts and Facebook posts now (including this one), I don’t agonize over my word choice and about making my writing sound perfect. I just write, edit for typos, (add photos, a title, and conclusion, if writing a blog post) and hit post. In fact this blog post started off as a Facebook post, but I decided to post it here because it turned out to get so crazy long that I felt like I might as well.
My friend told me during our talk that facial expressions are an important part of dancing when dancing for an audience because your face needs to be seen for people to feel the vibe you are feeling. He told me that one of the things he has to work on the most is looking up when he dances, because he normally looks down all the time, so that no one can see his face. I told him that I had just been dancing with my eyes closed and not looking at anyone — which is something I often do — because I dance for myself and don’t care about dancing for other people. He told me that that was fine, and that it was good that I know who I am dancing for. I felt really happy after talking to him and deciding to write this post of apology.
I have recently been discovering how powerful my positive (happy) energy is, and the immediate effect it has on everyone I interact with. It got me thinking recently about how powerful my negative energy must be, and the things I learned today have confirmed it. I’ve noticed that people pick up on my happiness even before I do, and I guess it has always been the same with my negative, frustrated energy. Even when I’m not aware I’m emitting it, everyone else is. And I’m sorry about this.
To anyone who has ever experienced and felt the full extent of any negative energy I have ever given off, I am truly sorry.
I decided as soon as I learned about the power of my word choice that I am going to try my best to use more positive words and find better ways to phrase, “I don’t get it,” and “I can’t”.
I am grateful to the teachers and friends who have made an effort to better understand my learning style to better accommodate me in their classes, as well as to every teacher who has ever put in extra time to me understand something, and to everyone who has had to put up with me.
I don’t want anything out of this. It’s okay if you still don’t like me and still don’t think very highly of me. I have accepted the fact that I have haters in multiple dance scenes. and I’m okay with this.
I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for the negative energy I brought (and sometimes still bring) with me into our street dance community.
I consider Robson Square my second home, I see many of you as friends, acquaintances, and people I greatly admire. I chose street dance over blues dancing (my primary partner dance style) for the first time this week by choosing to cancel on an event in the States that I had really been looking forward to attending so that I could be in Vancouver for the Vancouver Street Dance Festival to support and cheer on all my friends.
The street dance community is something I consider to be a massive and massively-significant part of my life, even if I don’t battle or watch battles (because I am too busy trying to fit my other dances and life in general in). I will try my best to bring only positive energy with me from now on.
I honestly thought I was a happier person — I was already happy when I wrote the post How I Got Happy by Giving a Damn About Everyone over a month ago, and my happiness has grown like crazy since then. I’ve been hearing so many comments about how happy I am from other street dancers that I thought everyone could feel that I had changed, but clearly, I haven’t changed enough. I am going to keep working on this, because being a more positive person who brings others good, happy energy, is something I want to be. And I will work hard at this.
Thank you for hearing me out.
Yikes – finally done at 5am.
Yikes again — finally done reading for typos and editing at 5:30am.
So why did I sacrifice pretty much all my sleep to write this post? Because I decided to write it after I had my talk with my friend at Robson Square, and as soon as I made that decision, I felt happy — so happy! — and I could feel it radiating out of me in my dancing. So I knew it was something I had to do, and now I have done it.
Sorry for the crazy-long post.