Everything started in August when someone from the dance classes proposed that we go to the Italian Open, a West Coast Swing Dancing event in Milan.
Back then I wasn’t very sure if I should go; I was more likely not to. Why was that? I had various reasons: I have been taking dance classes for only one year and I wasn’t prepared well enough to get the most out of the workshops, I wasn’t confident enough, it was too expensive, etc.
The decision for me to go or not came the evening we established to go out and talk about the event. I went there having in mind that I would not attend. I only wanted to have a pleasant evening with the others. At one point there was a call out: who was going and who wasn’t. After my teacher said something – I don’t remember exactly what – I, unconsciously or impulsively, or probably both, said that I’m in, and that was it. I usually try to keep my word so once I said yes, I could not let the others down. Although at that moment, I felt like I didn’t want to go, and I kept feeling this way for a couple of weeks afterward.
Meanwhile, I participated in the Citadel Swing, a West Coast Swing event in Timisoara. Since I felt great there, my confidence in dancing increased. So, I started accepting that going to Milan was not a bad idea at all.
So I went to the event. It consisted of several workshops and lots of social dancing in between. At the workshops it was fine. I managed to do the presented patterns well enough for the first time. Even though there was still work to be done in order to perform them as required, I was relieved to see that the level was suitable for me.
Then there was the other part of the event: social dancing. This part was supposed to be easier, but unfortunately, it was not all honey and sugar. I knew my dancing skills lacked musicality, but only there I realized how important that was. I felt the lack of it in every single dance. All the girls I danced with were able to listen to the music and play with it; but not me. I could only focus on sequencing the patterns I knew without any variation, and I felt that many times it restrained the girls in a way, and it probably did.
I felt frustrated and the fact that every single dancing couple I was watching was dancing “musically” was amplifying the feeling. But I did not give up. I got two pieces of advice which I have to thank for. One came from my teacher who told me that during dancing I have to listen to the music and to focus on my partner, to try to offer her a pleasant time. I was listening to the music but I took only the beat out of it and ignored everything else. That was a crucial mistake on my part. The other piece of advice was from a friend of mine who had previously participated in this event. He told me that I have to dance as much as I could with as many girls as I could. So I followed his advice; besides getting refused, nothing bad could’ve happened.
With these things in mind, I continued to dance. I must admit that I had good dances and not so good ones, but during all of them I could spot my weaknesses and I tried to correct them. I also participated in the Jack and Jill competition and had a great time on the floor, even though I knew that someone was evaluating me.
During the last afternoon, after all the workshops, the shows, and the awards were over, we went downtown to see the Dome and to eat something. I felt so exhausted that I could hardly concentrate on anything. I was beside myself, airplane mode, for a while.
Then we came back to the hotel, it was the last evening party. I was still in airplane mode, not in the mood for dancing anymore so I only sat there. At one point an idea came to my mind: why shouldn’t I start watching the others, steal some patterns, and write them down? I felt like the evening was lost anyway. So I started looking at the others and writing down as well as I could express some patterns I was seeing. There was a lot of improvisation on the floor and it’s for sure the fact they were listening to music was certainly helping a lot.
I decided to have one last dance and then go upstairs. The music piece began, I invited a girl, went to the dance floor, settled in a closed position, and started dancing. Something was different than before. I could focus on the music, choose the appropriate patterns, and improvise in between. At one point I even found myself counting the phrases, which was “wow”. Then I invited other partners to dance and got a confirmation that things were going in the right direction with my dancing, the one I knew I was missing before going to the event.
There is still a lot of work to do, but I feel that I have made a big step by attending this event.
This is my approach to learning. I always try to get the most out of it but without the feeling that I struggle to obtain it. Keeping my focus on what the teachers are presenting does everything.
Most of the time, I take baby steps, learn the basics, and then build upon them. I find the weak parts and strengthen them. In programming, I usually start with basic courses that reach higher levels of complexity gradually. This is probably because I’m too lazy to try to understand complex things directly. I admit it’s sometimes boring, but until now this approach was very fruitful for me.
Besides the Italian Open, I only once had such amazing progress. The other one happened while writing my diploma paper as I managed to create a 3D auto-focusing camera. Back then, I was ready to tell my teacher to go chase himself when he told me the theme. So skeptical was I. In all the other cases the small but consistent progress is what drives me to go further.
Have fun dancing!