Wishin' and Hopin'
Within the last two weeks, I have plunged headfirst back into the deep end of my theatrical career. It has taken, perhaps, a full five years and a lot of personal growth for me to acknowledge that (1) my education in theater is far from over, (2) I need feedback and input from other humans, and (3) these other humans are not there to critique me and tear me down, but to be my team, my backup squad, my support system.
Sometimes the most impressive revelations are the most obvious ones as well. For years, I have been very resistant about getting into dance class. Oh, I would enjoy it plenty if I ever made it to the studio, but finding the time, paying the money, and putting on the tights were always huge obstacles. I used to attribute this to my inherent laziness, which I now realize is one of the great myths of my life.
I think the real reason for my avoidance was anxiety and expectation. I have been enrolled in dance classes since I was four years old. I danced all through high school, college, and grad school as well. But for whatever reason, I was never quite up to the level I should have been for the amount of time I spent in class. I probably didn’t understand my body very well, I’m a little clumsy by nature, we often spent the hours designated for ballet rehearsing pieces for our performing company instead of emphasizing technique. But I do have some nice lines and a certain amount of presence and grace—so every time I walk into class, it’s hard not to see this wasted potential. Something squandered by a lack of dedication, a lack of attention to the finer details such as where to put my weight in a relevee or how exactly to relax my ankle in a simple shuffle. And I think that sense that I could be there, that I am almost the better dancer I want to be, is so unnerving that I would rather avoid those mirrors altogether. As a child, even as a teenager, I never felt anything besides joy when I danced. When my family was out of the house, I used to put on the CATS soundtrack and dance my little heart out around the living room (I would probably still do this if I had a living room big enough for leaping).
So it was not without hesitation that I got to class a couple of weeks ago. After class, I was discussing process and progress with my teacher. And I realized how simple the answer is: I just need to get to class. It doesn’t matter if I “should” be better than I am. It doesn’t matter that I never know how to rank my dance abilities on a scale of 1 to 10. It doesn’t matter if I need to build up my ankle strength and act as if I never heard the words “double pirouette” before. I am exactly where I am in skills and abilities. Until I accept that as true, I can’t constructively move forward, because I’ll always be focusing on the end result instead of the foundational skills I need to get there. I’ve seen it in yoga. I’ve seen it in singing. Practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t have to click today, or tomorrow, but someday it will. And I don’t have to force that shift mentally, I don’t have to will it into being, any more than I have to will myself into a full camel or a locked out leg.
Silly, right? I talk about this every day when I teach. But when the full force of my own words and ideas actually hit my heart, I realized how powerful it is to understand the idea on a really personal level. Planning and dreaming aren’t going to cut it. Luckily, consistency and dedication will.
*photo credit tracywburgos.typepad.com