Ballroom Dance Journey

Hi everyone, hope life is great for you all ūüôā A little update on what’s been going on in my life: the past week has been very study-heavy. I took the SAT math subject test over the weekend, and I feel confident that my diligent preparation allowed me to perform well. That’s the last of the college entry standardized tests I’m taking, so I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders. On the down side, dancing has been slowing down as of late due to academic pressures and college apps. I have not danced in one entire week, which feels pretty crappy. Yesterday afternoon, as I was strolling along the levee to my favorite thinking sanctuary, I had the chance to¬†engage in some self-reflection.

My first question to myself was, why exactly did I not dance for an entire week? The simple answer is that school is priority right now. With SAT math, lots of in-school exams, and college apps, I barely have time for anything aside from academics. Looking deeper, however, I realized¬†such a fact can just as easily be used as an EXCUSE, a SCAPEGOAT, for not dancing. It is true that academics is my priority, especially during this critical period of testing. But the question becomes, am I using studying as a way to get out of dancing? After all, I know from personal experience that if one wants something badly, one will make time for that something, no matter how difficult the circumstances. This is the same girl who, less than a year ago, would wake up at 4:55 a.m. each day before school to practice dance, go to the school dance studio at lunchtime to practice some more, and come straight home from school to practice rumba walks on the small hardwood floor area of our living room. And now? I couldn’t even bring myself to get off my butt and practice¬†for an entire week. What had changed?

The answer is quite simple, actually, and I’m sure many of you guys can relate. Let me use the analogy of a romantic relationship. When you first meet someone and fall in love, it’s new, it’s exciting, it’s thrilling! In the beginning, all you can think about day in and day out is this one person whom you believe is “the one”. You’re in that honeymoon phase where you and your significant other are attached at the hip, drooling over one another. Everything is so perfect, so you decide to get married. As the years pass, however, your relationship takes more work. The initial flurry of passion and excitement has faded. But you still love this person unconditionally, and you learn to accept this person’s many flaws.

I realize this is not the perfect analogy, but it gets the message across: I was dating. Now I’m married. As we all know, it is very easy to begin something, but very difficult to commit to the very end. I fell in love with ballroom dance that Valentines Day of 2015. It was so exciting to try something completely new, something I had great potential in. I had found a sport that filled the void that losing gymnastics had left in me. I had found my new niche.

When you first go into something, whether it’s a learning a new sport, a new instrument, a new language, there’s always that initial excitement, which can give rise to blindness and naivety. You don’t fully realize what you’re signing up for until you actually start. When I first began dancing, I had very honest aspirations of becoming a world champion latin dancer one day. I TRULY believed I could do it- not just because I knew my gymnastics background had given me an edge, but mainly because¬†the fiery PASSION drove me to push myself to do things no “normal” person would do.

After the initial honeymoon phase of laughter and “good job’s” from my first coach, the real work began. ¬†The more latin dance I learned, the more I realized how much I DIDN’T know. In a sense, latin is more difficult than gymnastics- there are so many intricacies among the bodily movements. It is a highly conceptual art form that requires intense concentration and YEARS of repetition before one can truly internalize the dance. In short, IT GOT HARD.

Now, allow me to clarify: I love the challenge of latin. That’s what makes the sport so meaningful, exciting and fulfilling. However, my high aspirations to reach the top in the dancesport world coupled with my competitive, impatient nature gave rise to FRUSTRATION, SELF-DOUBT, NEGATIVITY. Practice became frustrating instead of fun and enjoyable. I wanted so much in such a short amount of time… Thus, I hit my first mental/emotional roadblock on my ballroom dance journey. I continued to practice like hell, but the enjoyment was replaced by negativity and frustration.¬†My impatience to become a great dancer ended up slowing my progress rather than hastening it. Without the enjoyment, practice becomes a chore.

So what got me out of this low point in my dance journey? I began preparing for my first competition. My new coaches strongly urged me to get out on the floor and compete, as competition gives you a strong incentive to practice hard, thus accelerating your growth as a dancer. After two and a half months with my new coaches, I competed at my first competition, Embassy Ball, and got second place in my division. After that first competition, I was hooked. I was hungry for the competition, the performing, the incredible energy on the dance floor.

And where am I now, one month after my first competition? Well, after the competition, my passion and motivation had grown EXPONENTIALLY. After getting out in the public eye and performing after a three years hiatus, I had found the side of me I had lost during the darkness between gymnastics and latin: the PERFORMER. At this moment, however, school is my priority. After college applications are over, I will be able to devote a lot more time for dancing. Right now, though, is time to focus on college essays and exams ūüôā

So until next time, dear readers!

~Bel ‚̧

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