First, you need to read (or re-read) William Morris’s beautiful blog post, “She Dances“. Trust me. You have five minutes to spare for that. Grab a tissue.
…/hands out hankies
Are we all back? Have we dabbed our eyes and are ready to continue?
Now here’s why I had you read that (“I told you that story so I could tell you this one…”): that school that he talks about, the Driscoll School of Irish Dance? Well, they recently moved to a location close to my home; and since the Morrises are in our neck of the woods three times a week for classes, we’ve been trying to have a more-or-less weekly Extended Honorary Family Pizza Dinner with them on Fridays. And a couple of weeks ago, over pizza and bruschetta, Michelle–the Mom–mentioned that DSID was starting an adult class for ultra-beginners, and she’d signed up. She showed me the new shoes she’d gotten, and was excited if a little nervous, and I thought it was all terribly nifty and was appropriately excited for her.
And then I went home and thought about it. “I’ve never had a dance class,” I thought; “maybe I should consider signing up”.
‘Cause, y’know, what the world really needs is a buffalo hopping around like she thinks floors are sturdy enough for all that.
But the more I thought about it, the more appealing the idea seemed. I mean, really, what’s the worst-case scenario here–that I hate it? That I’m terrible at it? That I break my damnfool neck? It’s not like it’s a “dance flawlessly or the entire world gets nuked” situation; if it turned out not to be for me, then I could just, y’know, not do it anymore. No harm, no foul. So I signed up.
The first class was last night at 7:00, and because I’ve got some significant Trust issues and Change issues and “OMG NEW THING IN A NEW PLACE WITH NEW PEOPLE EVERYBODY PANIC” issues, I spent most of the afternoon in an increasing state of fear; by the time class actually rolled around, and I was there in my workout pants and my oh-god-it’s-too-bright-almost-lurid-isn’t-it turquoise t-shirt and my sneakers-but-oh-god-everyone-else-is-wearing-ghillies-and-I-am-the-weirdo-already, I was frankly considering running away and joining the circus while there was still time.
Michelle was gracious and enthusiastic (if also a bit nervous), and she introduced me to some of the other folks in the class, which helped–and Michelle, if you’re reading this, thank you. But you know what also helped? When I walked into the dance studio, Katie (the dancer from the blog post above) smiled and did a little finger-wave. And it reminded me of “She Dances”, and it all kinda settled in for me at once: this is a school that was completely and totally ok with having a student sit under the table for three weeks. The teacher wants you to learn and have fun, because she’s teaching something she loves and wants to spread that love around, and she is not even a little bit interested in being judgmental. Heck, she told us several times during the course of the first class that as long as your feet end up in more or less the right place at more or less the right time, you get to say you’re doing it right. Which is good, because that was about all that most of us could realistically muster.
So last night I went to my first-ever-in-life dance class. I did not die, I did not puke on anyone, I did not fall over or cause others to fall over, and I did not get all the steps right. I did not break through the floor, I did not shatter any mirrors, and I did not discover that I am immediately competition-ready with a bit of minor tweaking. I was a completely ordinary student–one wearing a larger shirt size than everyone else in the room, but otherwise ordinary in every way.
And y’know what? It was so much fun. Like, hordes of flocks of scads of fun. Like, I’m already looking forward to next week (my knee would like to express its dissent with that statement, but my knee can go jump in a lake).
And aside from a (very) basic knowledge of a few basic dance steps, I also came away from class with a renewed understanding that while I can’t deny the cattiness of Society at Large, when you shrink down and examine the microcosm the vast majority of the judgment you encounter comes entirely from within your own head. I talked with one of the other dancers about this after class; she said that she hoped nobody was watching her because she also was not an instant dance prodigy, and I told her that while I hoped it wasn’t offensive to hear this, during the class she completely fell off my radar except as a cylinder moving through space that I probably should try not to hit, kick, or otherwise damage. I was focused on myself, the teacher, and the mirror…and that was it. I didn’t have time to judge anyone else, because I was busy trying to hop-two-three and what-was-that-crap-crap-something-two-three-four in time with the music.
So today my plan is to hunt around online and see if I can find some good dance shoes, and maybe see if I can’t find some videos so I can practice during the week, and spend some quality time trying to really let the non-judgment lesson take hold.
‘Cause, y’know, really–if the teacher, who has been at this for a very long time, says I can do it, who am I to argue? Ain’t nobody judging me but me–and my inner demons can go jump in the lake with my knee.