NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION UPDATE
You may remember earlier this year that I wrote a blog post about my new approach to making New Year’s resolutions. Instead of making a resolution with the intent of “fixing” myself, I decided to set a goal that would boost my confidence. This alternative approach to making my New Years’ resolution was inspired by a quote from Chelsea Handler. “Confidence is like being scared $hitless…Pushing through it, and then you get confident. And it goes back and forth all the time. I’m kind of always scared $hitless.”
Her quote resonated with me because it illustrates the fact that confidence is a journey, and it’s in the moments that we push ourselves to do something outside of our comfort zone that we grow. While it may be nerve racking and painful at times, the reward is ultimately worth it.
With this perspective in mind, I set my resolution. One thing I have wanted to do my whole life because it always looks so fun is to dance. However the thought scared me $hitless since I’m terrible a counting in my head and remembering choreography. Therefore, to conquer my fear, I chose to take a dance class so I could learn a choreographed dance that I would eventually have to perform in front of an audience.
The first dilemma I had was figuring out which dance class to sign up for. Not only are there many studios in New York City, but also I had often heard that many of the “beginner” dance classes were actually made up of students who were fairly advanced. It was important to me to find a dance class that wouldn’t be an intimidating learning environment. Thankfully, a friend recommended a studio, called PMT Dance, to me that was more friendly to absolute beginners. So I signed up for their 10 week beginner hip hop performance workshop.
On the first day, I was a little nervous and unsure of what to expect. The class began with the instructor asking for each of us to introduce ourselves and share how much prior dance experience we had. As we went around the room, I quickly realized that I was still the biggest newbie. Pretty much everyone had prior hip hop dance experience, and I definitely did not. My stomach dropped a little bit. What had I gotten myself into? I hadn’t taken dance since the eight grade, and it was ballet - aka not really the most relevant experience.
While the first day mostly feels like a blur now, what I do remember clearly were the isolation and groove drills we did for warm up. Grooving and isolating are the core foundation of hip hop. Doing the simpler drills helped build up my confidence since they were mostly focused on repetition. I thought to myself, If we just do the same thing over and over again, I can do that! However, as soon as another layer of complexity was added onto the drill such as arm movements to complement the leg movements, it felt like I was being asked to pat my head and rub my belly at the same time.
Taking this dance class taught me so much about the process of learning and the importance of patience. Before almost every dance class, I had to practice the choreography on my own since I wasn’t picking it up as quickly as others in the class. It would have been easy on the first day of class to look around and say everyone here is better than me at dancing, I should just give up. In order to avoid that thought trap, what I really need to ask myself was why were they better than me? The short answer because they had more experience. For those with more experience, it was easier for them to pick up the choreography since they already knew how to do the movements that comprised the dance combinations we were learning. For me on the other hand, not only did I have to learn what the dance movement should feel and look like, but also I had to practice memorizing the steps. Over time, I came to realize that once the individual steps became muscle memory it was easier to remember the choreography.
The instructor and other girls in my class were nothing but supportive, which I appreciated so much. If I ever had questions about the mechanics of the dance moves they were always willing to help. A few classmates recommended that I try taking drop in classes at different studios throughout the city. They told me that when they first started taking hip hop they took a bunch of drop in classes in order to master basic movements and learn different choreography styles from instructors. This went to show me that it took them hard work and practice to get to the level they were at.
The dance we performed was broken into three parts and three different songs. It took me forever to learn the first part of the dance, but by the time we learned the moves for the third part I was amazed at how much faster I was able to pick them up. Since the style of some of the movements was similar to the first part, they already felt familiar to me. Ultimately what helped as well was drilling the entire dance over and over again until it became muscle memory and I could tie the movements with the song lyrics.
When the final performance came around I was so nervous. What helped me the most was that I no longer had to look at myself dancing in the mirror when we faced the audience. I know a little counter intuitive since you would think that would make me more afraid, but the bright lights helped. Suddenly I found that I was committing more to the movements and not overthinking them as much. I think my biggest hinderance during the entire process was doubting myself and the fact that I could learn the choreography. As my instructor would often say to me in class, “I know that you know the dance, don’t think so much and just commit.” She was right, I had practiced the dance so much it was ingrained in my memory and body. I was going to have to trust myself if I was going to make it through the final performance. Once I focused on committing to the movements rather than going through them half heartedly, I began to see a big difference in my performance.
Ultimately, this experience taught me more about self confidence than I originally anticipated. What I hope you can gain from this post is that it’s important to be patient with yourself when you’re learning new things. Practice and time are necessary things and there is no replacement for them. Often I find that I want to be instantly good at everything, but usually it doesn’t work that way. However, if we never give ourselves a chance then we might give up on something that we have the potential to be good at and really love. Or even in the case that we aren’t the best, sometimes having an activity we love just for fun is fine too. Society constantly tells us we need to the best, but I've learned that it's better to silence that message so we can enjoy life.