Reflections on dance and life #3

Dead space

The period of stepping away from salsa, absorbing my mind with different things provided a much needed perspective shift.

Months on, unsure how my health would stand up to the next lesson, but determined (with permission from my doctor) to try just one. The thought quietly crosses my mind if I dance now at this fragile state of health, I may be doing damage that robs myself of the ability to dance later for who knows how long.
But I cannot say no. I can’t face the loss of dancing from my life when so much has gone out of control. When I have had to give in to my body and let it run my life. When work tells me I cannot return to normal hours.
At the time it felt like a waste of a lesson, I made no milestones & we worked on my arms again for the sixth lesson in two years. Yet in hindsight it was a very significant lesson.

I went in having given up salsa in my heart, I was so sick of being pushed and pulled and not fitting in. I try to explain to him I don’t want to do salsa but he is scanning the playlist and doesn’t seem to hear me. I haven’t done any salsa since my last lesson in August, having been sick with the dreaded lurgy ie glandular fever. I complain about the lack of salsa scene here, I don’t know why I’m bothering even trying because there are no performance opportunities here or competitions. The ballroom scene has 3 pro couples in Tasmania, an expert teacher who is a national judge and socials every single week!
It’s too late…the clave starts playing and I cannot say no to his outstretched hand even though I know my salsa will be in some sad sorry state of disrepair.
I’m off balance everywhere…“The floor is so slippery!”
“Is it?” playful look in his eye.
Hm I think he means I’m not using my feet. So I put some more stomp into my stompers and find that indeed the floor is not so slippery after all…! Over a few minutes my body slowly remembers and my dancing improves, he is pleased with my quick ‘recovery’ as he calls it. Me too, was expecting weeks to get it back.

My homework is to use every opportunity I can to do cupping styling with my arm. Even though he has taught me this movement before, I don’t use it because I can never see where to use it with our leads. he showed me how to find the spaces to use it and it’s easier now I just have one piece of homework. Something to be said for working on less goals at once.

It was a significant lesson because although at the time I didn’t give it any attention, I found something had changed in me. There was freedom of movement in my hips, I was less a frozen icypole! Yet I hadn’t DONE anything. No salsa in months! This time, there had been no training my body with physical practice at home. Yet here I was seeing results.

Interestingly my instructor didn’t comment. Maybe my technique was shite; maybe he didn’t want to draw attention to it knowing how ridiculously sensitive I am. All he did was briefly stand me in front of the mirror and push my ribs side to side, saying, “Now we need to start freeing up your rib cage / upper body”. I didn’t realise he just gave me one of the very tools I needed to go to the next level in my dancing.

I knew I could do it, body movement, I can remember after my cousin dragged me along to my first salsa lesson (“to meet boys!”), dancing around like loonies to Latin music in her trashy one bedroom unit, discovering my body movement. And now, I use it every time I practice alone in my lounge. I just have trouble letting it out to play in public. I needed to learn to trust that my body knows what to do, to be less fearful, to take risks.

In the physically dead space of illness something had changed within me. My self-trust. And it flowed through my dancing, bringing my body movement from the invisible to the visible.Overthinking, mellowing and fixating on the many wrong things about my dancing was keeping me stuck in a cycle of negativity that I could not work my way out of no matter how much I tried, thought, reflected or blogged about it. I had no idea that my progress would lie in the stopping of all these things. In the rest. I find myself letting go, my dance progress becomes less important to me, I stop taking it so seriously.

This bitch of an illness provided a well-timed break, a break that I would never have chosen for myself.


Ballroom classes – in a studio with mirrors. Now I can see myself. Strange. Why am I different. I do what I feel is movement – leg action, hip movement, arm lifting. Yet I look up and see barely anything, the barest trace of movement. So used to this silent squashing am I that I’ve forgotten what it’s like, that the tiniest of pushing outward feels so loud yet is so small. These closed lines are written deep. Why do I look and feel locked in a strange body that is so uncomfortable. What is this massive disconnect between my mind and my body. The distance. This body feels like a stranger to me. I’m not at home and it shows. I feel locked.
Years of hatred, believing myself to be ugly, telling myself to disappear, to squash down, to be invisible, have settled deep right down into my bones. Carved out these stilted lines. This person who doesn’t know how to BE.
I leave class feeling I am this awkward and heavy thing. This thing, this body I carry with me attached to me is so devoid of any life. It is dull and dead. The others have this lightness, a bounce and energy to their being, their dancing. I try and mimic it but I feel a dead weight.
As I slowly sift through this new journey of forgiveness that keeps cycling back on itself, I realise I’m the only one left, the one left waiting.

Dear dance teacher

Ugh. Sadness. Where’d it spring from?
Wanting more. From my teacher, my salsa dancing, my city.
Cue the: Why am I bothering to do this, monologue again. Now my social dancing is solid so why not stop here as some social dancing is all Launceston has to offer.
More more MORE!
How do I stop wanting more?
Why do I hate wanting more?

Dear dance teacher,

I hate the inequality with us. Student-teacher. I’m the one going through hella-emotional rollercoaster on my dance journey which you have probably seen a hundred times before. I’m the one vulnerable while you could be detached for all I know.

When you hold out your hand to ask for a dance, it says so much. Others do it hesitantly or flippantly or insecurely. You put your whole being into it, it’s open, it says, I want to dance with you. Your hand waits there for me until I reach out and it’s like an embrace, like you’re bringing your whole presence right into your hands. That’s how I feel and I know you do this to everyone you ask, even when you must be exhausted after days of teaching or when you don’t really like the person you’re going to dance with. You’re a good actor and I don’t know how much I can trust you – my dancing is taking me deeper. And I feel like I’m out there in the deep water alone, not really sure if you’re there with me, involved, invested.
What does all this really boil down to? What is this uncomfortable feeling I have?
I can’t handle the one sided. Being the one who is doing all the vulnerable stuff.
I hate feeling like this.

Ohhh, bingo. There it is.

This situation is familiar to me.
That cold shock of realisation like a slap in the face or getting drenched by an unexpected wave – they don’t care about me as much as I care about them.
Having to walk away after you’ve invested so much emotionally to someone who you didn’t realise remained detached all those years. Eventually you realise the desire of wanting more from them will never be met. It is unequal, imbalanced. Ensue the walking away, pain, letting go.
It’s not you dance teacher, it’s me. Still carrying my wounds. How do I let go of the fear surrounding them?

So that’s why I’ll keep dancing…discovery.

C.D.W.M.E. Come Dance With ME!

So when I say I have a big salsa weekend coming up…now you can see why. Emotionally exhausting.

Change my internal tune
Wear what I want to wear
Make up a routine
Engage in foolish dancing with others XD
C.D.W.M.E !
(Come Dance With ME?!) lol a cute reminder for myself every time I salsa, which nicely captures the heart of all my goals. To help me be mindful to not fall back into old patterns.

Having these goals has slowly helped drag me out of post salsa slump.
I see now that each goal is tied to issues that come from rejection and devaluation of the self.
In other words, self acceptance and valuing who I am would increase my confidence and ability to embrace others; would create a positive internal tune that radiates out; would help me to be free in who I am and in my body; would create a safe place within for me to try and take risks from; would allow me to wear what i like instead of hide myself.
Of course that’s all theory, the actual living it out is the tricky part…

#1 Convoluted journey of a dancer: My dance goals

Slowly more people in my life are getting to know that I love to dance salsa.
You think it’s some frivolous thing?!
You’re WRONG!
As in dance, in life. Dancing brings up many personal issues for me. Hopefully reaching these goals in dance will expand through my whole life.

Change the tune of my internal world
Last time i got a lot of feedback from my instructor about openness & embracing towards your partner. Of course it wasn’t in those professional words it was in the poking fun at me every time he could feel I was secretly thinking, “i don’t want to dance with you” or “please don’t do *that* move!”
Turns out it’s not so secret!
He is very perceptive at reading the anxieties in my body language. And them being so often present means maybe that’s all he gets from me. They are a mixed muddle of: I’m so big I’m not used to taking up all this space on the floor. People are looking at me. I don’t want this to be any more than a dance.
These are all damaging my dance connection!

He has showed me that my dance partner may intuitively pick up on what’s going on inside, it shows in my body, my attitude and my energy. Is this why I am sitting out more dances than i’d like to every social? My energy, my aura? O_o Didn’t except salsa to bring about this new age language… 😛

I have to be aware of what I’m feeling and to think: “I want to dance with you” “I’m going to make you want to dance with me”.

He also kept saying to open my chest. And his favourite expression: “Titties to the wind”.
Physically speaking my chest is closed because my pecs are tight because my hobbies include hunching over a sewing machine, piano, drawing, reading.
But also this kind of posture comes back to confidence, and wanting to withdraw from the world. Both these as well as being open towards other people and embracing them, have been life long battles for me.
So I guess it’s fair to expect progress to be slow.

Also at this lesson, which was a few months ago, I took a video of us dancing… But that’s enough psychoanalysis for now 😛

Post salsa depression

I can’t stand post salsa depression. I just can’t shake it! This is when I imagine living in Melbourne for a year so I can go to regular classes that keep building me up.
Or maybe the grass is always greener.
It’s silly anyway because our small scene here actually suits me, I can slowly build trust with the committed regulars and work on my personal blocks.
To think I have to go through this again in November makes me wither! I can’t stand these highs and lows. I think being a highly sensitive person magnifies it for me, I’m looking around at my other salseros wondering how it is for them, are they seasoned at this, does it diminish over time. And this is from a small scale social! How would I cope at a congress or festival? I hope to get good enough to go, one day.

For my next lesson in November I want to prepare a short shine routine. Something that shows I’ve been working on my energy and musicality and body movement. I have many videos of myself salsaing in my lounge room and most are bleh but some parts are Ooo! How do I do that again! I want to find my own style that is sincere to me. I’d love to do a contemporary routine to work on my emotional expression too.

Times like this I always wonder, would I be brave enough to move away, I can’t bear the thought of being a nurse forever. Of course I’m only a nurse for part of my life. But I only intended to stay nursing for a few years. Now it’s difficult to stop.
What will be more difficult, to stay or to go?
I feel the lure of creativity in me and I wonder what I might be missing. The thought of pursuing dance makes my compassionate nature cringe. I’m dead sick of myself right now being so self absorbed with all this dancing business! Let alone if I pursued it, or singing or designing etc heavily.

Salsa slump

The high of the salsa weekend is over. Feeling weighted with the challenges that I face ahead. I am gentle and cautious and this is how I am with everything in life. Then I see on facebook, “Tango classes start today!” zomg Tango is perfect for me! Focus on footwork, technique and less body movement. Finally somewhere I might fit in.
Everything i pursue in life, my personality is the bane. My parents growing up: “Cooorn! Come on Corn!” Grade 2: Courtney is very quiet I’d recommend involving her in group sport or dance. Grade 6 netball “Courtney plays with her personality. She needs some aggression.” Singing at church: Give us more, more of you, more movement, more expression, more. University I’m about to fail my final year of nursing: “We don’t want to change you we just need to draw some things out from you”. Too cautious, too meek, too slow. In my piano: Be more experimental, take risks. In contemporary dancing: Run faster, jump higher, swing further. Now it’s happening in my salsa. Just let go, be free, take risks.

I have a block in my life. And it’s rearing it’s head again, in the area i used to get so much joy from. Feeling blue. So I go to Tango, hoping for somewhere I won’t be pushed and pulled.
And it’s perfect. *contented sigh* Refined and elegant.
Ten minutes into class “What training have you done when you were younger? I see your footwork, is excellent”. I hated that bloody jazz ballet in grade 2 but maybe it’s paid off! Here I can be a beginner again and progress will be easy. Stroking my ego. Repairing my confidence. Presumably the future of Tango will hold greater challenges for me, but for now it’s a safe space.

Why didn’t Alex tell me I’m a Tango dancer! Now I can’t wait to dance it with him.