I’ve always wanted to send my baby to dance lessons. Despite struggling to live in the dancers world myself, it can be a very critical and harsh world to be in, which can be hard if you don’t have a self esteem that is or near enough bullet proof. I always wanted any babies I had to dance, providing they enjoyed it they could go as far as they wanted. I think there are so many benefits to doing dance classes.
But something happened today. Something small. But I am now doubting whether I want to send my daughter to dance lessons.
I’ve only recently started doing ballet lessons, after not doing any dance at all, for years. I always loved ballet, but it wasn’t my bodies natural dance. It has been hard, depressing, heart breaking. I am struggling. I expected to be heavy, slow, inflexible, and weak. I wasn’t ready for the shocking realisation that I would be as bad as I was. My co-ordination seems to be lacking, my arms have a mind of their own, I can’t remember routines easily and I find it near impossible to switch a routine from right to left or vice versa. I cry after every single lesson. But unbelievably I am actually enjoying it. Well I was until today.
The teacher made me feel like an idiot. Doing a jump sequence across the room, if you know me you’ll know that jumps are, well, were my thing, I was at the back of a group of 3, one of the women in front of me is another of the dance teachers, so if you get stuck you would naturally look to see what she was doing. I was dancing away, about half way through I suddenly realised I was going a different direction to the other 2, I automatically assumed I was in the wrong, it turns out I wasn’t, but it all went a bit to pot. The teacher in front of me, apologised for going wrong, I wasn’t even aware it was her that had been wrong, I thought it was me. The teacher of the class then ‘told her off’ for apologising, because we shouldn’t have been copying her. Any kind of singling me out in a class mortifies me, good or bad. But bad is worse.
Now the teacher was correct. Copying shouldn’t be encouraged. But I wanted to defend myself, tell her that I wasn’t copying, I wasn’t watching this other teachers every move, but when I realised I was the only one going to the right, and the others are going left, its natural to assume you are wrong!!! Also being aware of the dancers around you is not a bad thing. You don’t want to be so absorbed in your own world that you hit/kick/crash into someone. If this had been a routine on stage and I was the only one going to the right, I would inevitably have been the one in the wrong, and should adjust what I was doing to match the others – in a stylish way obviously! But at the end of the day, we are an adult ballet class. Many are new to ballet and do not have confidence or strength yet in remembering routines, so naturally you look to the others in the parts you feel unsure about, or when you have a complete mind blank!
Now I know this moment is nothing. Its nothing to anyone. It won’t be anything to me. But its the feelings that came with it, that will probably take a long time to shake. I am not at this class to be a dancer again,or even a mildly good dancer. I am not interested in perfecting my technique. Its nice and reassuring to feel my body finding moving more natural again, and being able to use muscles I haven’t in years. Improving is fun. But I will never be good enough. I will never be as good as I was. I am not there for that. That would be foolish. I am there because I loved dancing. I want that back. I want to re-establish my mind body connection that got robbed so many years ago. I am there to have fun. Being however gently berated for copying, whether I was or wasn’t isn’t helpful. This moment has brought back the feelings of years of believing that I was inadequate, that I would never be good enough, that I was worse then everyone else.
I don’t want that. I don’t want it for my daughter. So should she go dancing?
I don’t know. This could just be my own issue. I never had a great self esteem, I took on board every criticism from anyone in anything so incredibly personally. The problem with dance as an art form is that you are the art. If someone doesn’t like it, they don’t like you. Your pirouette isn’t good enough, that’s your body that’s not good enough. Your choreography, that’s your creative mind that’s not good enough. So its entirely you. Its incredibly difficult. Teachers/other dancers/critics throw out these digs and there’s not much you can do about it. Constructive criticism is one thing, improve your grand jette by doing this blah blah blah. But throwing out digs for copying etc isn’t helpful. Turn it into something useful, not something embarrassing. Even something as simple as saying if your unsure ask to go through it again before we do it, or have faith in yourself you were right!
Do I want my daughter to be so personally attacked on a weekly basis. No. But on the other side I want her to be able to take on board criticism. Hopefully I can help her to cultivate a self esteem that is less fragile then mine. Because dancing is fun. It was my life for so many years, and selfishly I would love her to know a little bit of me through that, and for me to know that little bit of her. For her to make lifelong friends like I did. To feel the sheer terror and the buzz, the natural high. I would never push her to dance it if she hated it. But she has to try it to know. That time is fast approaching. She can start in as little as 2 months.
So I have a decision to make. Yes or no Coco? I love you, I don’t want you to get hurt, I don’t want you to feel like I did and still do to a lesser extreme. Your battles may not be the same as mine, but if they were I don’t think I could forgive myself. So, the question remains, should I let you dance? Should I potentially send you into that world that can be so warped and crushing but wonderful?
Inside I think I know the answer. We shall find out soon.
Tonight its going to be a bigger cry then usual, with a bigger glass of wine and many more nicotine mints.