How I Got Happy by Giving a Damn About Everyone

**JOY** **JOY**  **JOY**

Lately, I’ve been feeling like a laser gun firing happiness at people. I don’t know about everyone else, but this is how it’s felt from my end.

I feel liked I’ve transformed into a different person in the last week and a bit, and it all started when my friend told me that I stand out, which got me researching about auras and how they work. My friend told me that I’m the kind of person that people notice when I walk into a room, walk down the street, or just get in people’s general vicinity. And before he’d even told me that, just two weeks ago, a completely different, non-mutual friend had had to let me know (because it was so out-of-the-ordinary) during a lindy event that she had known when I had entered the room and walked past her from behind, even though she hadn’t seen me, and even though I hadn’t been to that dance in more than a month. She’d “felt” my arrival. At the time, I’d simply thought it was interesting. But from other comments from other people in the past, and from talking with others about it in the attempt to confirm whether or not this is in fact really the case, I’ve come to accept the fact that I really and truly do have a very strong presence.

The event that really made me believe was a Canada Line train ride I and my friends took, where we were talking and laughing the whole way. There was a little boy on that ride, standing beside us with his bike, with his dad, and I’d seen him looking at me, but I’d thought he was looking at our entire group because we were pretty loud.

“Nope,” my friends confirmed. “He was staring at you the entire time. And kids don’t lie.”

Older people will do things to act like they’re not looking, but kids will openly stare.

I used to be super-negative and frustrated about my dancing because I thought that my experiences were my own and mine to suffer alone. I thought that I was just another person that no one noticed and could just ignore. Now that I’ve learned that I have a particularly powerful aura, I’ve become a lot more positive and happier, and not even on purpose. It’s like, the knowledge that I can impact so many others without even knowing it has made me a nicer, friendlier, happier person that I can honestly say I like, because it feels good to radiate this positive energy that makes everyone feel happier.

That very evening, following my experience with the kid on the train, was the first time I felt this radiant joy filling my entire being. I had left my friends so I could attend a monthly fusion dance, where I could feel happiness simply exploding from my body. And it felt like everyone I talked to, danced with, or communicated with that night couldn’t help but get a little infected by that energy. i saw so many big, genuine smiles that night, got so many sincere positive comments, and got asked to dance like crazy, even when I was working the door for an hour, where it is unusual to get asked to dance at all. I couldn’t have had a bad dance if I had tried, because every dance feels awesome when you are that happy. This was reflected in pretty much every lead I danced with making a comment a cut above the generic, “That was awesome.”

I posted on Facebook about the event later that week (I’ve been posting dance updates on Facebook rather than on my blog for a really long time now, because I’ve been too lazy to write actual blog posts about my experiences):

“I have taken to smiling when I partner dance. Not fake, plastic smiles, but big, genuine smiles.

A lead mentioned I must be happy because I was smiling while we were dancing (when I responded to his question about why blues had fallen in priority — due to its ability to make me miserable), and I responded, “I’ve decided to smile when I partner dance because it makes me happier and my leads happy.” In fact, I hadn’t ever consciously decided on doing such a thing, but I guess I had subconsciously.

I bumped into a lead friend at the Canada Line platform yesterday and had a conversation with him about presence and auras. He had been my very first dance at FUSE on Friday, and he told me he could feel my bubbly and happy energy, and that the dance was awesome even though it was his first one and he hadn’t even warmed up, and he had a terrific time all night, filled with positive energy. I have no idea if it had anything at all to do with me, but if I can help make someone else’s dance night awesome, then so much the better.

I had to stop dancing blues because it was making me too unhappy, and me miserable is the complete opposite extreme of me happy. And if you’ve seen me at my happiest, then you can imagine what misery means to me.”

In response, a friend commented:
“I agree with the random lead from Friday. I think you might have been my first dance at Fuse too – I hadn’t expected to lead so early on – but you were super happy and smiling and it was a really wonderful dance. Thank you!”

I know three people that shine with the happiest of auras that make everyone happier when they are around — I can’t help but feel happy just by seeing them. I am not one of these special, vitally important people, but, it’s knowing that I can be that kind of person sometimes that has made me change.

The thing is, I don’t think I have changed for myself, but for the knowledge of my ability to affect others’ happiness. It’s okay for me to be miserable if I’m being miserable by myself, but I don’t want to bring others down with me.

So it’s not like I go around pretending to be happy and putting a fake smile on face, thinking I’m some kind of super-hero that spreads happiness.

^ not me.

^ = not me.

Rather, I feel like I am becoming a genuinely happier person, grateful to know I have friends who genuinely like me (including those genuinely happy people), and happy to have survived my bout with negativity.

My friend told me he purposely prevents himself from reaching those highest states of happiness — of pure joy and unbelievable happiness — because he knows they will always be followed with a crash that is just as strong.

I’ve experienced and will probably continue to experience both sides of the coin, but I’m not going to be cautious with my happiness. If I’m going to be happy, I’m going to experience happiness to its fullest.

Because happiness is life’s greatest gift, and I’ll be damned if I let my fear of the crash deny me the experience.

It’s like my dancing — two weeks ago, my dancing the entire week was garbage, and this week, it has — no exaggeration — been the best it’s ever been. I’ve had so many of my biggest click moments in the last week — things I have been working toward from the very start and could just never get — come at me all at once. I could have stopped dancing after that draining and miserable week, deciding to take a break to recuperate, but I just kept dancing through it, and the happiness of this week erased last week away.

Happiness is greater than — is stronger than — misery. And to me, feeling happiness in such a pure, unadulterated form is worth it.

We live in a society where people feel guarded with their happiness, because we are afraid that others will take it away. This is justified. Some people see a happy couple and feel spiteful and hateful and think about all the reasons why they shouldn’t be together, because, deep down, they are jealous of their happiness. Some feel sad or depressed because they don’t have this kind of happiness themselves. But the genuinely happy people see these people and feel happy for them and their happiness. Yes, this is a weak example that has holes in its logic, but I don’t really feel like racking my brain for a better example right now, so this will have to do.

True happiness is having so much of it that you want to share it with everybody. Guarded happiness will never feel as good.

I was so angry in my last post (Too Much Hate: Can We Really Dance Like No One’s Watching?), because I couldn’t understand how people could go out of their way to steal people’s happiness. I understand people not going out of their way to make others happy, but to make it your business to take innocent happiness away is just about the wrongest thing you can do.

It’s funny, because I just typed in, “How I Got Happy” into Google to see what was already out there on the topic, and got back a book called A$$hole: How I Got Rich & Happy by Not Giving a Damn About Anyone & How You Can, Too.

And that’s how I got the title to this post.

Finding that title was like a click moment: I wasn’t happy when I didn’t give a damn about anyone. And when I posted my last article, I really hadn’t given a damn, about anyone.

But now I do give a damn about others — because I’ve felt misery so purely and intensely so many times and so often now that I can’t even count the number of times I have been reduced to tears or to blinking tears back in public, all dance scene induced. And if I can’t prevent people from feeling this kind of misery, then I would at least like to contribute to getting them as close to the dancer’s high as they possibly can, so they can at least get a taste of the “happy” extreme.

It’s this — this giving a damn — that has allowed me to feel happier than I’ve ever been.

I’m not saying that this is your route to happiness, but it was mine.

Happy dancing is the best dancing of all!

Happy dancing is the best dancing of all!

 

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Too Much Hate: Can We Really Dance Like No One’s Watching?

Dance like no one's watching, even if they are.

Dance like no one’s watching, even if they are.

I am sickened.

I am repulsed.

I know that I can be a bitch and that I can be mean and that I can be too blunt and that I can be unfriendly and that I can be downright unlikeable (heck, I don’t even know if I like myself). But I don’t go out of my way to hurt people. I don’t go out of my way to discourage people from doing things they enjoy just because they aren’t good at it.

It shocks me just how hateful people can be.

Today, I discovered just how much hate I have surrounding me. I’ve always known/suspected it was there, but now it’s been confirmed, and instead of feeling embarrassed or sad or humiliated or depressed or mortified by it, at first I was neutral and thoughtful about it. And now, after having some time to think about it, I am just plain mad.

My friend told me that, when I first started dancing, people — complete strangers — would come up to him and ask him, “Why are you encouraging her?” I was so bad that they wanted me to quit. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t quit. They had no idea who I was, and yet they went out of their way to try to get me to stop dancing. They didn’t personally know me or my friend, but still felt that *I* was their business. And they weren’t even ballsy enough to do it to my face — they had to try to go through my friend to do it, even though he hid this information from me until now because he didn’t know how I would take it. And I had it confirmed that people were the exact same way when I started solo dancing. I have had, and still have haters in every dance scene — EVERY dance scene. That, I am okay with. What I’m not okay with is the fact that people would go out of their way to try to stop a person they don’t even know from dancing. That they would take the trouble to go that far with it. The reason why my friend even told me this was because he’d asked, “Why did you even start dancing anyway?” and I’d said, “Because it was fun.”

I honestly think that I liked dancing more when I was horrible at it than I do now. The happiness I have lately been feeling while dancing was the kind of happiness I felt when I first started partner dancing — ballroom, salsa, swing, etc. — it made me SO happy to dance these dances, even though I didn’t know what the heck I was doing (and how could I have, when all I had were 30 min worth of beginner lessons for each?!).

Every summer, free dance events bring new beginners out every single week. Heck, every day, dances bring out enthusiastic new dancers. And the great majority of these dancers suck. How can they help it when some, like me, have never, ever danced before?

What. the. fuck.

This is not okay to me. Maybe I am the exception because I “stand out” and just particularly suck at EVERYTHING until something in my brain finally clicks and I finally get it, but I am disgusted to think that this could be happening to potential new dancers everywhere. The average person would simply curl up and die after hearing about even one person dissing them like this, but I don’t think I would have. It would have just made me even more determined to get better. But I am the exception. How can people be so cruel that they are able to do shit like this? WHY? I really want to know what drives people to go the extra mile to discourage others.

I have sucked at every dance I have ever taken on. Belly dancing, ballroom, salsa, swing, tango, west coast swing, kizomba, zouk, lindy, blues, fusion, hustle, hip hop, funk, popping, locking, house, waacking, breaking (dunno if I am missing any?). It’s almost unbelievable how bad I was at EVERYTHING and how hard it was for me to learn anything at all. I sucked so exceptionally that I had haters like this. And I had to experience the hate almost all within the same 1 to 2 years because I was taking on all the dances at the same time.

And I don’t suck anymore. I worked my ass off to get the simplest thing that every other person would pick up easily. I mixed up every dance and still mix up my dances. Just yesterday, a friend commented that my house looked like salsa and tango, and I looked at my reflection and fixed it right there and then.

If I knew who the people were who tried to get me to quit, they would immediately go on my blacklist, along with some incredible, most-sought-after leads who are so full of themselves that they think it is okay, or in fact their right, to fuck with a person’s feelings and make them feel unworthy of dancing with them. GET OVER YOURSELF. You had to start out somewhere yourself — please check your ego long enough to remember how you felt. I would rather dance with a nice person than a superb, but supremely arrogant, dancer.

I don’t think dance scenes can make me miserable anymore, after what I’ve just learned, because I don’t think they can have the power to hurt me anymore. Just prove yourself to be a person like this to me, and I won’t respect you enough to care about how you choose to treat me anymore. 

I’m going to make even more haters from this post. I’m going to lose more “friends.” I’m going to have people talk shit behind my back while not saying anything to my face. And I don’t give a fuck anymore.

I have my handful of friends who have stuck by me through my Canada Line craziness (if you don’t already know, I practice dancing on public transit and random public places, mostly the things that I most suck at) and all throughout my transformation into a legit freak pointed and laughed at on a regular basis for my decision to dance like no one’s watching, even though they are. I can say that I have friends who have proved that they support me and stand up for me without me having to be fake and changing who I am so they will like me. Can you say the same?

I’d rather know who my real friends are than surround myself with friends who only like me when I don’t suck at things and when I have to change who I am in order to fit in.

If you enjoy doing something, please keep on going. Please don’t let others make it their business to make you feel so bad about yourself that you have to quit. If you want it badly enough, you can find a way to do it, and even if you can’t, people don’t have the right to take away the happiness you derive from a simple activity. Don’t give them the power to do shit like that. Tell them (in your head, if you must) to fuck off and leave you alone.

To learn to dance like no one’s watching is a powerful, powerful thing.

Sorry and not sorry for all the profanity. It gets the point across.

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Dance Dance Revelation

aha-moment

Had a revelationary experience today that really helps me understand myself and how I approach dance and life.

I went to my weekly hustle dancing session today and had perhaps the worst partner dance connection I have ever had, period: I couldn’t remember the basic step when I started and kept continually losing it and the count, my arms were doing a funny swaying they’ve never done before, I had no follow-responsiveness in my right arm, my arms wouldn’t go directly over my head for spins, and I couldn’t follow any of my leads. Even with 100% patience and support from every lead, who explained moves step by step and in detail and corrected every little thing I was doing wrong by both demonstrating and explaining how to fix the problems in my steps, I couldn’t follow anything. I was a worse follow than someone who’s never danced before.

I was frustrated and slightly panicked, because I can’t recall my following ever having been that bad before, aside from maybe a west coast swing dance I attended directly after a salsa dance, that I unknowingly spent trying to dance west coast swing with salsa feet, which I failed miserably at.

So anyway, there were ten minutes left to dance, and I called out for help — for one last desperate try to fix my appallingly bad connection.

I asked if we could go back to the very basics, and my friend told me to close my eyes.

I did, and suddenly, I could follow again! — even the new move another friend had spent 15-20 minutes trying to help me get, that I still couldn’t get smoothly by the end. I asked my friend to try it with me after I had opened my eyes, and he told me he had already made me follow it two or three times while my eyes had been shut!

Closing my eyes fixed my connection by forcing me to focus on the connection, rather than focusing on the steps. My friend told me I had been backleading to compensate for bad leading, but I told him I hadn’t been intentionally backleading at all — I had just been desperately trying to figure out how to follow at all.

I tried shutting my eyes while dancing the last two minutes with another lead, and I was able to follow another move I hadn’t been able to follow all night, despite having three leads patiently trying to explain it to me and help me get. You have no idea how relieving it felt to get that connection back again!

^ how I felt

^ how I felt

My revelation from this near-traumatic experience was this: my body becomes incredibly wound up when I get frustrated. I can’t pinpoint exactly what changes, or where, but it massacres my connection and my ability to dance. The worse I get at dancing, the more worked up I become, which makes my dancing even more terrible.

I started my first dance caught off guard, not remembering how to do the basic step, and in trying to recall how to make my body do it, I did not establish an appropriate connection with my lead. When I remembered the general step, I focused on performing that basic step rather than focusing on building a connection with my lead. The more I became aware of how badly I was following because of our poor connection, the more my following degraded, as I tried desperately to remember how steps were performed, rather than simply listening to my lead.

And so it continued for almost the rest of the night, where I was too worked up to feel what my leads’ fingers were telling me, or to feel the beat and listen to the music.

Closing my eyes enabled me to stop focusing on trying to learn steps or remember how to do old ones, and instead let me concentrate 100% on connecting with my leads and listening to what their connection was telling me.

relax

Staying relaxed in the face of frustration is everything!

Every time I have had painfully bad dance nights, it’s because something happens that really flusters me. For example, I jump into dances I have not danced for a while without taking the time to reorient myself, and, if I’m still figuring out the frame, basic step, feet, etc. in the middle of a dance and can’t get moves right, it flusters me and ruins my technique and dancing for the rest of the night.

This week, I had danced lindy hop, blues/fusion, and tango in between this week’s hustle session and last week’s.

That night in Denver when I fell into pieces because I felt like I couldn’t connect with anyone? It all started with one dance with a terribly, terribly bad lead whose leading was so bad that he gave me the lead for the last half of the dance. His following was even worse than his leading, which frustrated me to death because I had world-famous dance teachers sitting directly behind me, and I couldn’t help but think of how bad they must have been thinking my leading was if they had happened to be watching. I lost my state of relaxed happiness, and it deteriorated as the night progressed, making me less and less connected with everyone, until I hated myself for not being able to figure out why I couldn’t feel a good connection with anyone I danced with.

This also explains my difficulty with learning new partner dance moves (and dance moves in general). When I get paired with a slower lead who really doesn’t get the step at all, I start to panic. And when I panic, I stop feeling the connection and start to focus desperately on trying to learn the step. In contrast, when I get a lead who feels like he knows what he is doing, or is calm and confident enough to make me feel like we will get there, I relax, get connected, and learn the move quickly.

I was able to learn how to follow tango leg wraps in one hour at DFX because I had a calm, patient, and competent lead to figure them out with — you should have seen how mind-blown and excited we were to have unlocked them! Also at DFX, I was able to do crazy Z-axis moves I had been too freaked out to get during SFF, because my group had a professional dancer/acrobat and very competent, confident group members who made me feel like I could I trust them and kept me calm enough to learn and perform everything.

It’s frustration, panic, and desperation that hold me back the most, in life and in dancing.

It’s when I learned to stop worrying while dancing with dance teachers that I was able to start having awesome dances with them. It’s only now, that I have started panicking less during my solo dance classes, that I have started learning and absorbing at a much faster rate.

It’s funny, because I was just thinking the other day about how dance is the thing that has really taught me how to relax, in the same way that yoga and meditation do for other people. I realize now that I still have a long way to go.

Anxiety, fear, worry, low self-worth, perfectionism — characteristics that have defined me for the entirety of my life — are all things I need to work to diminish to make my dancing and life better and more enjoyable for myself.

I’m going to work on taking the time to breathe, collect myself, and stay calm, positive, collected, and happy.

relax

So, even at my most frustrated, it all comes back to telling myself this.

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Dance Connection: What on Earth is It??

ballroom-dance-connection

What is this special dance connection, and does it really exist?

It’s the best part of partner dancing, that makes all other dances pale in comparison. It’s a one-of-a-kind connection you can’t hope to attain with anyone else. It’s what we dance for, and makes dancing so highly addictive. It’s those indescribably good dances that lift the dance experience to another level, make us go, “Wow” and stay with us as unforgettable experiences.

Is dance connection any one or all of those things? I don’t know anymore.

Dancers: What do you mean when you talk about “dance connection”? Can you please describe, in your own words, how you experience it, and what you think it is?

Do you believe that connections between two dancers exist that are profoundly “special” and can’t be replicated?

I discussed this with a fellow dancer on my way to Rose City Blues and back, and concluded, both before and after, that I don’t believe that dance connections like the kind I have described above exist for me.

Don’t get me wrong — I have had my share of mindblowingly good dances and leads I will always enjoy dancing with, but I cannot honestly say I have ever reached that unique connection that people dance for.

I used to believe in that connection. I used to believe I understood what it was and had experienced it, back when I first started out dancing.

Now, I think I was just naive and inexperienced. When I was new (and this applies to all my dance styles), I was a terrible dancer, but there were always one or two leads who were so good at leading that I could follow them without even knowing what I was doing and have a marvelous time, and dances I felt were special. I believed I had a dance connection with these leads. In hindsight, these connections were almost always one-sided. My lead was not having the same brilliant time I was having. Sometimes, we would both come out of a dance saying, “That was awesome,” but I don’t think they were “special” awesome, for both people, though it may have felt that way for one side.

I’ve been on both sides — where I have a dance that I felt was insanely awesome and my dance partner probably didn’t (based on them rejecting me for a later dance), and where I have thought the dance was okay while my partner wanted to keep me for multiple dances.

ballroom-dance-young-couple2

Creepy or comfortable?

During my RCB chat, my friend told me that one-sided dance connections could exist and still count as dance connections, but in my mind, a dance connection should be mutual for it to be real. If one partner is having an amazing time and the other partner isn’t, is there really a dance connection there?

I’ve had friends tell me of dances where they didn’t even speak the same language and could only communicate through the dance, and that it was all they needed, because the connection was so intense. I’ve had a friend who danced with the same partner for an hour straight because the connection was that good.

If one partner is having an amazing time and the other partner isn’t, is there really a dance connection there?

At the same time, I’ve heard from someone who had the best connection with a lead right off the bat, but the lead went and took lessons from an instructor with a very specific style. The next time they danced, they couldn’t dance together anymore because the connection was just completely gone. His dancing had changed too much, and their styles were no longer compatible.

As I improve my dance technique and expand my dance vocabulary, I find I have more and more truly (and mutually) awesome dances with many, many leads, to the point where people who I used to believe I had special connections with just feel like another nice-to-awesome dance.

dramatic-dance-pose

Can you dance like this without being attracted to your partner in the slightest?

In my experience, the concept of connection seems to have shifted to the technique I am best able to connect to, more than to some profound deeper level, involving emotion and whatnot. Of course, how comfortable I am with my partner also comes into play, as I am more likely to let loose and dance like me with a partner I dance with regularly and who I am not intimidated by. (On a side-note, how much do physical and sexual attraction play into your concept of being connected to your partner?)

This is not a “boo-hoo” post about not being able to connect with anyone, but rather, an “I want to understand” post to give me better perspective on elusive “dance connection.” I used to go out dancing hoping for just one or two of those special connections to make my dance night a truly amazing one, but now I am so spoiled with so many awesome dances every dance night, that I can’t tell anymore what makes a dance special, and if such special connections do exist.

It seems to me that the more advanced and experienced you are, the more you can adapt to different leads and follows, and the more you can connect with everyone. And if connection is something that can change and grow, and is something we can work to improve, then is there still a “higher” connection that exists that doesn’t depend on ability at all?

I don’t know, but I will never stop working to get better and better, so that I can connect with more and more people and share more and more mutually magical dances! 🙂

dancing-on-skates

What separates super-fun dances from “special” ones?

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Too Many Dances

Too-many-choicesYou know you’re tackling too many dances when you’ve started getting lectured by both your instructors and friends about the need to just choose a few dances and stick with them. I know they’re right, but I just can’t do it! I like too many dances, and get bored too quickly and easily. And, if I leave a dance alone for two long, I lose everything I worked so hard to get.

Here is why I do the dances I do and why I can’t bear to let go of them:

Partner Dances

Blues/Fusion — my favourite partner dance, and the one partner dance I still actively work to improve (aside from hustle). The connection is the best, and good micro = my favourite. I can’t decide whether I like blues or fusion more, but in Vancouver, we combine the two, so I don’t really think too much about the distinction. Fusion is awesome because it lets me bring together elements from every dance style.

Beautiful blues/fusion -- my favourite partner dances!

Beautiful blues/fusion — my favourite partner dances!

West Coast Swing — the partner dance that offers me the most freedom to do whatever the hell I want, and insert the most style and personality into my dancing. I’ve had some truly spectacular dances here, where I’ve really gotten to connect with and move to the music while still staying with my partner. This is my favourite partner dance to watch, because of the enormous amount of room for musicality and creativity on the part of both partners.

west coast swing miles and tessa

You can do so many things with West Coast Swing!

Salsa(/Bachata) — my most competent partner dance, and the only dance for which I have had progressive lessons and lessons at intermediate and advanced levels, which makes them the only dances where I actually know what I am doing and reasonably understand signals and techniques. I love salsa spins and bachata dips! 🙂 A good rueda is also super fun!

salsa-spin

Those spins! The hips! Signature salsa. 😉

Argentine Tango — This is been my favourite dance numerous times, though actually going out to dance it has soured my feelings and kept me from returning numerous times. I feel like I could fall in love with this dance (and probably already have, in the past), if I were only given the chance to practice and get the feeling of tango ingrained in me. Every time I start to get it, I lose it all over again due to dancing it so rarely and getting so few dances when I do try to go out, so each time I dance it is like starting from scratch. I’ve pretty much cut this dance out. It’s quite depressing, because I like it so much. 😦

argentine-tango

The most difficult dance to do, and mot difficult scene to break into.

Swing — I like the energy and excitement, the crazy lifts, tricks, and solo movement. If I knew how to do more, I would probably like it a lot more, but I only know the basics and follow what I can. I would love to learn more of the advanced moves.

lindyhop

The most energetic partner dance, for sure! With the triple step, swing dancing can replace a workout!

Ballroom — I like the variety that keeps a night of dancing entertaining. My favourite has been (dunno if it still is) a good Viennese waltz, because I find the speed thrilling (to have covered the length of an entire floor in just seconds, and wonder “how did we end up here?” 😮 ). Also, I’ve only ever followed it once, but I really like the bolero. Again, I only know the absolute basics of mst of the dances, but it’s fun to follow a good lead and learn new things along the way! 🙂

waltz

Ballroom is an excuse to dress to the nines, and has the most gorgeous lines.

Hustle — This has been really good for teaching me better dance connection, and it’s great how connected it is to street dancing. I haven’t gotten enough chances to social dance it to really get it into my body, but it’s fun.

the-hustle

So much history in street dance, but I can’t find any street dance-related photos to put up.

Zouk/Kizomba — Zouk was at one point my favourite dance, and I really want to get those hypnotic kizomba hips!

zouk

Zouk wins the prize for the craziest head styling. Kizomba takes the cake for the most hypnotic hips. I used to love the connection of zouk, until I discovered the even better connection of blues.

Solo Dances

Waacking — my favourite dance to watch, and the dance that feels the best and most comfortable to do. I love how much character and energy is involved!

waacking

So much character, fun, and excitement in waacking!

Popping — the dance I find the coolest to watch, especially animation, waving, gliding. ticking, and strobing. This is the street dance style that frustrates me the most, so I spend the most time drilling and training to try and get it. I’m still offbeat. :/

Popping

The most (intentionally) awkward and awesome dance. This is the one that gets me in trouble on the Canada Line all the time. 😛

(Nuvo) Burlesque — my favourite dance to do, because it feels fantastic, and I love it. There actually is technique involved, and the choreo is always effing awesome.

nuvo-burlesque

Nuvo burleque — my favourite!

Belly Dancing — the first dance I ever started taking progressive lessons for, though I was never serious enough to get any good at it. This was the dance that introduced me to isolations, though I was super-lazy about practicing them. I learned shoulder shimmies from this! I love all the hip movement, and the choo-choos!

belly-dance_1

Belly dancing = my first dance.

Hip Hop — the first solo dance I ever got serious about practicing and drilling. Consequently, the down groove feels more natural to me. Hip hop was what got me started with free styling. It will always hold a special place in my heart because of this.

hip-hop-dancing

Down and angry is how I do hip hop.

Soul Grooves — the grooves that feel the best to my body. A soul groove was one of the first and only grooves I’ve ever done properly, with the right look, and was the first one I was able to correct on my own, by practicing with my reflection on the Canada Line.

grooving

Soul grooves feel sooo good!

Funk — I am still not at all funky, but I would like to be. The grooves are fun and happy. I used to try to use them in my free styling when I first started, but don’t really use them anymore since they don’t feel like a natural part of my dancing.

this_is_funk

That would be cool, to be funky.

Locking — I only just recently started taking locking seriously, and am now struggling to correct a lot of the technique I used to do completely wrong back when I was just taking classes for fun and not practicing. Lockers always look the happiest, and the speed is crazy. It’s getting more fun now that I am getting used to it and can start to follow faster choreography.

locking

Everyone confuses locking with popping, and I don’t know why, because they are so different!

Top Rock/Breaking(Groundwork) — also essential to my free styling, because the majority of the cyphering I have done has been through toprock/breaking. Learned a lot of important concepts and really like the footwork. I still don’t have the right look or feel though, unfortunately. I also like the groundwork, but don’t have the time to really build up my strength for it.

toprock

So much to explore in toprock alone!

Dance Hall — More cool ways to move my body. A lot of them remind me of belly dancing, but with a different feel. I really want to get jukin and ticking.

Dancehall-Dancers-Dancing

Jukin!

House — I still don’t get house, but the up feeling feels good, and the dance looks so happy. I’ll keep trying and hope that it will one day click for me.

house-sponge-bob

Couldn’t find a good photo of house dancing, unfortunately. It looks a lot cooler and happier than this!

All of these dances offer different things, and I can’t pass up opportunities to do them. As a result, I am mediocre to bad at many of the dance styles, but I still haven’t made any decisions to commit to any.

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The Curse (and Blessing) of Sucking at Everything

hooray_you_suck_yellow_chick_pom_pons_black_bkgd

The more new things I try, the more I see how much I really and truly suck at everything when I start out. While most people are average and can at least pick up new things fast and get the general concept, I am the one who just doesn’t get it.

As a result, I’ve spent most of life avoiding new activities.

It wasn’t until university that I actually started pushing my comfort zone and letting myself be the slowest student in the class, again and again and again.

I thought about this while walking home today, and came to a revelation that I think begins to scratch the surface of my learning style, and why it is so exasperating.

It shed new light on something my old capoeira teacher told me, that has helped me survive and battle on whenever I have felt like I will never get something that everyone else but me seems to get:

“You take longer to learn things than other people, but when you get it, you can do it better than most of them.”

Over the three years that have passed since he gave me this assessment, I have come to put more and more stock in what he said, though I simply accepted it without trying to understand why that would be the case.

I thought about it today, and I think it’s starting to make more sense, for the following two reasons:

 

Reason #1: Body before brain

Most people can grasp concepts pretty quickly, so they can get the gist of a move and keep pace with the lesson, even if the execution is not all that great

I, on the other hand, usually don’t get the move at all. I think it’s because of the following.

I learn in a two-step process: my body needs to get the feeling of the move and internalize it, after which my brain can start analyzing and remembering the movements.

I hypothesize that, when visual learners see a move, their brain immediately starts analyzing and breaking it down and translating the move to the body. In contrast, when I see a move, it goes completely over my head. I can’t begin to grasp what I just saw unless I mimic it and let my body figure out what just happened, after which my brain will finally begin to work out what the move entails.

This means I take twice as long or even longer to learn something than everyone else who is learning with me. This also means that I might be able to copy a move (correctly) while an instructor is demonstrating it, but won’t be able to even remember the move at all, how it works, or how to start it, when left to my own devices. Even if my body starts to get it, it’s a whole different process to get my brain to understand it. This is where the verbal explanations are imperative for my brain to make the connection.

But it’s important to note that verbal instructions will also go over my head unless they accompany a visual demo and I am allowed to follow along while they are taking place.

Well-intentioned people who ask me to “watch before I do” don’t understand the extent to which my body learns before my head. I need to try, and apply, before my brain is free to think.

In a sense, then, I guess, I need to work on my multi-tasking.

I need to get my brain to wrap around concepts while my body is figuring them out, rather than always having to wait for my body.

I remember a moment yesterday during toprock when I was literally frozen on the spot because I had absolutely no idea what came next. I had to have the movement demonstrated and explained while copying it to get “unfrozen”. This was because my brain hadn’t started working yet.

Because of the way I learn, I pay much closer attention to precise technique, pay attention to and ask about how a movement should feel, and just ask a heck of a lot more questions than everyone else does. I crave corrections and feedback and details, all in an effort to get my brain to finally “click.”

I am usually beyond frustrated when the click doesn’t happen at least once, because that means there is no way I will get the move unless I get another opportunity to be taught it.

However, when I do get a move, it becomes natural and effortless and lovely.

 

Reason #2: The sole upside of sucking

Because I’m usually the only person in the class not to “get” a move right away, or am only able to get a taste of what it feels like to do the move properly at the very end of the class, I practice like hell to get it.

It’s easy to let moves slide and forget about them when you get them and can keep up with everyone else, but when you suck as badly as I do at new things, it makes you work twice as hard to get them so you don’t fall behind.

Most of the things I am best at and that come most naturally to me now are the things I sucked at the most and worked crazy-hard to get, though I forgot about all the hours I put in until I have to learn a completely new move and have to go through it all over again.

Every drill I have done for the past 16 days has been based on something that frustrates the hell out of me because I can’t get it, so I think I would say that much of what has driven my improvements in dancing has been simply my annoyance at how much I suck when I have to learn anything, and my frustration over not being able to learn at the same pace as normal people.

It’s a curse and a blessing, I guess (though more of a curse, from my perspective). 😛

I’ll leave you with a different take on sucking. 😉

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Why I Dance

Robson Square Sunday Afternoon Salsa

My first happy memory of dancing: Look — I’m even smiling!

Why am I still dancing now that my dance class challenge is over?

What started off as a challenge to not completely suck at dancing has transformed into something much bigger and more important.

After a year of dance classes and social dancing, dancing has become a lifestyle.

I feel like something is missing when I go a single day/night without dancing. I would consider travelling for dancing, just to get a taste of how other cities and communities interpret a dance. I want to get better at different dances to better appreciate the intricacies and special characteristics that you just can’t understand until you really “get” a dance.

I “hear” music for the first time, and all its various components, and am finally starting to be able to interpret it on my own and dance with myself.

Many people start dancing because they want to meet someone. While that is perfectly valid, I started dancing for myself, and still do.

Here are the factors that do (and don’t) keep me dancing:

I DON’T dance
-to look cool
-to show off
-to meet guys
-to find a boyfriend
-to be “better” than others
-to perform
-to enter competitions

I DO dance 
-to have fun
-to make new friends
-to meet people from all walks of life, of different ages and backgrounds, sharing a common passion
-to gain new skills, constantly learn new things, and open up new worlds my mind was previously closed to
-to constantly improve — my dancing, self-esteem, confidence, social skills, coordination, bodily awareness… and the list goes on
-to explore different cultures
-to discover new ways to move my body
-to discover new ways to appreciate music
-to keep my brain stimulated and body active
-to expand my creativity in new ways
-to expand my mind
-to be able to lose myself in music
-to forget stress
-to discover insanely good connections with other dancers
-to discover how to connect with myself and the music and the floor, without the help of other dancers
-to learn how to really listen and communicate, and add my own input in a way that flows and jives, and does not interfere
-to try things I always believed I couldn’t do, and find out that I CAN
-because it makes me happy

So I’ve told you why I dance — Why do you dance?

why dance?

Why do YOU dance?

 

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