Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let's Face the Music and Dance

Celebrity Sightings, Random Acts of Elbow Violence, ABBA, Cupid, and oh yeah, Salsa Dancing
I can hardly believe six weeks ago Catherine and I launched this blog and pledged ourselves to 25 resolutions for 2011. This past Wednesday we were able to cross off the first goal on both of our lists. That’s right, we finished our first level salsa class! Tonight, our dance studio had an all-levels salsa night mixer. There was a lesson beforehand, followed by salsa, meregue, and cha-cha dancing (as well as something called “machato” or “machado” – we’re not really sure how to say it or spell it, and the closest thing I could find online is “maxixe”). The three hours of dancing marked the capstone of our learning so far and seemed like a good time to give you a bit of a taste for what we learned.

Well, before I finish that story, I should go off course a bit. Catherine and I have a game of spotting celebrity look-a-likes. I think it started when we were at the airport and thought we saw Sally Field. Today was an extraordinary day for celebrity sightings, quite possibly because I was in such a good mood. First, I saw Jimmy Stewart on the light rail. Then when we reached the dance studio, the instructor for the class looked like Liza Minnelli (and acted a bit like her – I thought she was going to break into song at one point). And finally one of the guys from our beginner’s class came and when I danced with him under all those colored lights and disco balls, he suddenly looked just like Robert Duvall. But I want to focus on the Liza look-a-like right now. She went very fast and kept stressing the lessons were for the intermediate class, which Catherine and I braved. I’m proud to say that for the most part, we kept up well. Sure, I had a few missteps and topples, but I was still learning. And then I had to practice with a partner whom I had never met before and, well, let’s just say I tried to do a spin and accidentally whomped him in the stomach with my elbow. And forearm. And probably some wrist too – it was so embarrassing! Luckily it must not have hurt or he felt sorry for me and my overflowing apologies, because he danced with me again later in the night too. Catherine also turned into a dance machine, having guy after guy ask her to dance. Afterward she said she was a regular “dancing queen” and you know what, I believed her. A lot of dancing is about confidence and release – having faith enough to let go and know you will be alright.

Earlier this week, I was talking to our friend Rachel, an avid swing-dancer, about how much I've been enjoying salsa. "It's a good way to let go," she said. "I mean, swing helps me give up control - you just have to follow." I found myself doing just that tonight. In fact, there were times when my dance partner would try to get me to do a complicated move several times in a row and on the last try, I just closed my eyes and stopped thinking. And it worked, no wayward elbows or tangled up wrists either! In fact, looking at it now, that’s really what I did in our usual weekly classes too. In the first few lessons, I kept trying to be in control. I wanted to make sure I didn't slip or take a wrong step. But as we went on, the more I let go and just trusted my lead, the better the dance went. I still had to know what I was doing and how to cover during a misstep, but it went much smoother. It was a great, liberating feeling – how wonderful to have enough confidence to let go!

Which brings me at last to my last point. I believe certain things (people, events, etc.) come into your life at certain times for a reason. Taking salsa recently has been a great way to dive into my 25 goals, and it’s also been a good way to loosen up those other white-knuckled grips of control I’ve had on my life. In case you are one of the very rare people out there who have yet to be bombarded by Cupid-themed advertisements everywhere for chocolates and diamonds and oyster dinners, let me tell you that Valentine’s Day is upon us. Technically, Monday is the big day, but everyone wants to celebrate Saturday - that's the purpose of Saturdays, after all. Now, I have been staunchly against Valentine's Day for the past few years. Not just because I’m still stuck in some rebellious phase, but because of some personal tragedies, none of which I should delve into on public cyberspace. Usually Valentine’s Day would render me useless; my time spent steeping in depression and isolation. But I digress. I've been very grumpy so far this week (par for the course), but my mood changed unexpectedly after salsa class ended Wednesday night. I logged onto my email after a dizzying last class (seriously, how many times in a row do you expect me to do an underarm twirl?) only to see more ads for Valentine's Day. I simply rolled my eyes and tried to ignore them. Then tonight I faced the same promotions as I got online, but this time something clicked. My mood change wasn’t just about finishing a goal. It was about letting go and having the self-confidence to find my way. If I'm ever going to relax and enjoy life again, I need to calm down a bit. Beating myself up about past failures and breakdowns isn't going to do any good in the present. I think I’m finding I have more confidence lately, in salsa and other areas too, and am starting to restore faith in myself. “Always keep your feet under you,” our instructor said tonight. Stay grounded, but keep moving. It’s hard to face those other 24 goals wondering if I’ll have courage enough to finish them all, but as salsa has taught me, I just need to face the music and dance.

End notes: 1) When she's not swing-dancing, Rachel's rockin' the world of publishing in her blog: Trac-Changes. 2) Also, a fun list of types of dances. 3) Yes, I used another Sinatra song for my title. This may become a theme. Be forewarned.

1 comment:

  1. Yes! That's so exactly how I feel about swing dancing, and the learning experience I went through about a year ago when I got hooked (and should probably re-experience, actually). It sound cheesy, but dance really is so much like life. Sometimes you can take the lead or spice it up by doing something daring, but there's so much to be said for keeping your feet under you, having faith that it'll work out, and going where you're moved to go.