If you're like me, you like to do things "right". The catch is, when we worry ourselves with doing it right, we tend to limit the channels of kinesthetic learning. Our bodies and minds tense up and become rigid, corrupting even the simplest movement into clumsiness. The simple trick to defeat this cycle is to allow ourselves to make mistakes. They truly are the pathway to getting past the clumsy and uncomfortable stage of dance to the confident, graceful and powerful side. Once we break through the wall of worry, dance can begin to feel like dancing.
As a dance instructor, I spend most of my time teaching, but I recently had the sobering opportunity to be reminded what it is like to learn something scary and brand new. Believe it or not, I didn't learn how to ride a bicycle until this last year of my life. Before climbing on my new bike, I tried to find out all I could about the do's and don’ts of riding, but finally the time came when all that was left to do was try it.
As soon as I fastened my helmet, all I thought I had learned vanished. My first attempts were cluttered with fear of making even the slightest mistake that would inevitably send me flying into a passing car, diving into the pavement, or simply looking ridiculous. In the trusted hands of my very patient husband who held tight to my seat, I wobbled through the crowd of 4 year olds who zoomed by with glee. After but a few minutes my hands had gone pale from the death grip I had on the handle bars and every muscle in my body was clenched tight, meanwhile the 4 year olds had moved onto mastering wheelies. I went away feeling defeated.
Then one day I decided I was going to crash. I gave my husband the okay to let go and I set off. Well, more like tottered off, swerving and staggering until I finally got enough speed to line out. For 15 glorious seconds I was riding a bike. Then abruptly a bush cushioned my fall after the curb broke my momentum. But I did it. Not only did I succeed at crashing, I also rode a bike! After this fateful crash, riding a bike became much easier for two reasons. Firstly, I found out what I was afraid of wasn't all that scary after all. Secondly, I broke through that wall that kept me from feeling what it was like to balance, to steer, and to peddle to the speed that would take me where I wanted to go.
Similarly, to get where you would like to go with dance, try to embrace the mistakes you make. Learn from them and get past them. The next time you are taking a dance lesson and learning a step, pattern or concept, try not to overthink it. Rather, find that balance between focus and feeling. With this approach, you will learn quicker, be able to connect all the aspects of dance more naturally (musicality, connection, balance and so on), and find the greatest enjoyment along the journey.