In my early days of dancing I had an abundance of enthusiasm, but a shortage of confidence. I felt as though my heart was that of a giant trapped in the body of a mouse. I kept everything small. My arms were magnetized to my sides, my head bowed downwards, and my shoulders curved in. All the while, I buzzed around the dance floor like a floundering firecracker. I, like so many others I have seen, longed for that trick that would take me to next level. After searching, thinking, and overthinking, I finally found one of the least kept secrets of dance: stretching. I'm not referring to stretching as with warm up or cool down, though that surely has its value. Rather, I am talking about reaching for the stars. Reaching with your toes, your neck, your head, your spine, your arms, your sides, and on through to your fingertips. Have you ever seen a dancer who was so captivating you could not pull your eyes away, one of those dancers who has an unmistakable poise? If you look closely, you will notice them reaching. Towards what, you usually cannot see, but their chest and head are held high, their arms are outstretched, and their toes are pointing. Everything is engaged. I learned this lesson in a very tangible manner.
My coach at the time stood just out of reach and asked me to extend towards him. Once I had elongated as far as I felt humanly possibly, he took another step back and asked me to go farther, and so on. At times I felt as though I was going to split in two, but instead I grew. I grew in poise, strength and confidence. My dancing became bigger, fuller, and my expectations evolved.
If you are brand new or even a seasoned dancer, this can apply to you. For those just starting out with dance, try to begin by seeing how tall you can be. When you are in your dance lesson, practice, or just walking, imagine a string pulling up through your spine, into your neck, and out from the top your head to the sky. As you do this, your balance, control, poise, and connection will greatly improve.
There may not always be someone in front of us coaching us to reach, to stretch ourselves, or to see beyond the barriers we project. Thus, we have to set those goals for ourselves. We must look for something out of our grasp that will stretch us, and dance towards it. In my opinion, we reach for the stars not because we expect to catch one, but for the growth that comes from stretching towards them. Whether in dance or in life, growth is waiting for us just beyond what we think we can reach.