Dance with fear

Since my teen years, I’ve always wanted to learn to dance, you know, like club dancing, out there doing your own thing. But, I was always too shy to get out on a dance floor, or any floor, and shake my groove thing. Yeah, I’m a product of being a teenager in the 70’s. For a brief period of time, when I was about 17, I did go to a local disco tech. They had specific, alcohol-free hours just for teens. I believe the age-range permitted to enter was 15-17 years old. I was dragged there by a very persistent friend and to this very day that friend remains the only person to ever get me to dance in public. But, oh how others have tried and tried, and failed and failed. Heck, I wouldn’t even dance when I was home alone, with all the curtains drawn, doors locked, and the lights off. Regardless of my persistent friend’s belief that I, too, possessed the ability to cut loose under the sparkling mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling of this disco tech, I would only mimic someone else’s moves, mostly hers. I had no moves of my own. Nothing original. No “dancing with” or “feeling the music,” like they always tell you.

Now fast forward a couple decades or so, the year is 2002, I’m 41-years old and had been divorced for several months. It was then that I started going to a country-western bar with my very good friend, Dianne. We would meet there most every weekend night and we’d enjoy watching all the people shaking their stuff out on that dance floor. I actually met my current and forever husband at that bar. Ladies, there are good men in bars, though I’d never have imagined meeting one there. I only went to hang out with Dianne. Anyway, I admired the crowds of happy dancing patrons, even the truly goofy-looking ones, for they all shared the courage to go out there and have a ball. I so wished that I could be that brave. Of course, being that we were all in a bar, a bar that served alcohol, it maybe could’ve been that “liquid courage” working on those dancers. Coincidentally, I’ve yet to find the correct dosage of liquid courage that’ll make me do it. Truth be told, I haven’t tried very hard to find it either. Still, weekend after weekend, there I would sit, watching and sometimes envying the fun being had by all of those brave people. Oh, many times I’d have the urge to run on out and join the party, but my overwhelming fear of making a complete fool of myself would always stamp out that urge and I’d remain seated. Then, one night there I was, elbows on the table, my chin resting on top of my folded hands, yet another night of watching everyone dance up a storm while I stayed put, motionless. I’d had enough. I braved up and…no, I didn’t go out there and dance, but I did make myself a promise: “Before I turn 42, I’m going to go out there and shake my stuff!” Well…did I do it? Show of hands, do you think I did it? Did I? Why, of course not!! I’m now 57 and still haven’t done it.

More recently, in 2017, I suffered from excruciating pain caused by a pinched nerve in my neck. I tell ya, I think I’d rather give birth ten times, without an epidural or any other type of pain medicine! It was relentless, constant, never easing, and nothing provided relief. Thankfully, I signed up with a wonderful physical therapist named Chad. During our sessions, we’d always talk and shared a lot of laughs. I can laugh through pain, I’m tough like that. I get that from my father. That clinic sure was a fun environment to work the kinks out of your body. In one of my sessions, I shared with Chad the details of my anti-dance plight, of being too big of a chicken to just go do it and how I’d broken a promise to myself several years earlier. I don’t remember how many therapy sessions I had before I was released and virtually pain-free. I continued the exercises at home and they finally stopped that last little bit of discomfort.

I did miss seeing Chad and went back weeks later just to visit. We chatted a bit and I told him, “I still haven’t gotten out on that dance floor.” He said, “You just need to go sign up for dance lessons at Arthur Murray. Just do it.” Hmm..”Yeah, okay,” I thought while kind of mentally rolling my eyes. But, when I left the clinic, Chad’s words were playing on a loop in my head. Arthur Murray. Arthur Murray! ARTHUR MURRAY!! As luck, or fate, would have it, I was driving through the fairly large city where Arthur Murray just happened to be located. It was a busy time of day and traffic was very heavy. I drove straight through the downtown area with no idea why because I usually avoid that area at all costs. Then, I saw it. There in the distance was the road which leads to the road that would take me to Arthur Murray. I was in the left lane of the very crowded two lanes leaving downtown. As that right turn was approaching, getting closer and closer, cars bumper to bumper in both lanes, I said, “Okay, fine! If this crazy traffic opens up and allows me to get over in the right lane, I’ll make that right turn and go sign up at Arthur Murray.” I’ll have you know, that the traffic in the right lane literally opened up at least two car lengths long. The universe was like, “Here’s your sign!! Come on over!” I was stunned. I’m sure my mouth gaped open in disbelief. Well, this is sometimes what happens when you challenge the universe.

I arrived at the dance studio, walked in all brave (ha ha) and actually signed up for lessons. You don’t want to irritate the universe, after all, especially when it opened a door of opportunity for you that was two whole car lengths long. I scheduled my first lesson for the very next day. I was so nervous. When you hear “private lessons,” you picture you and the instructor in a room or studio alone, don’t you? I know I did. But, you’re in a large studio with other students who are with their own instructors. There are a lot of eyes in there. I made it through that lesson and drove home with the rhythm and count from my first dance still playing in my head. When I first started, my lessons were only once a month and it’s a bit more difficult to learn dancing with that interval.

As of today, it’s been a bit over a year since I started taking dance lessons at Arthur Murray and have increased them to once a week. I think I’ve had a total of 21 lessons so far and at each and every one of them, my instructor has suggested that I “start coming to the group classes” so I could get more practice. I was nervous enough toying with the perimeter of my comfort zone with just the private lessons and he wants me to join a group?! Then, one day a couple weeks ago, I decided “I’m just going to do it! I’m going to the group lesson for the hustle dance.” It was an advanced class for the hustle, too, but it was the only one available for me to jump on while I was feeling so fearless. Something pushed me to do it anyway. I was all courageous and daring when I asked the instructor if I could attend regardless of my current abilities and coordination. Surprisingly, she allowed me to stay. Well, you remember when I said my fear of making a fool of myself overpowered all my urges to shake it on a dance floor? Going to this advanced hustle group class was the very best thing I could’ve done for myself because making a fool of myself was exactly what I did in that class. I’d spin the wrong direction, step on toes, miss the cue to rotate to the next dance partner (you change partners frequently in a group classes), and I’d sometimes hold my partner’s hands too tightly. I looked like I’d been spun around about a 100 times and then unleashed onto the dance floor. I totally made a fool of myself. But, you know what? I survived. I wasn’t thrown out of the class. I wasn’t banned from Arthur Murray. For the past forty-something years, perhaps I could’ve been dancing if I’d only gone out there and made a fool of myself sooner.

So, if there is something you really want to do in this life, but you are being held back by the fear of looking foolish, I say to you:  Do it anyway!  Do it now!!  Go to the next higher level class like I did, dance like a buffoon, look that fear right in the face and say, “You don’t scare me any more. I faced you and I survived.” It’s liberating!  You may be wondering if I have yet to shake my bootie or my groove thing out there all by myself. Not quite yet. But, I am getting closer! I’m currently learning how to shake my hips in couples dances. I didn’t know mine would or could even move that way. I’d always thought it had to do with being limber or flexible. Did you know, that truly has nothing to do with it? It has everything to do with your knees. Your knees control you’re hips. Wow! Kaboom! Mind blown.

Side note: I had my weekly dance lesson today and we practiced a lot of turns and spins. I get dizzy very easily so those are a challenge, but that’s beside the point. My instructor said, “Every time I spin you, you pop.” I don’t hear it, but he does. He said it sounds like it’s coming from my shoulder. Now, when I go to my lesson next week I’ve got to ask him if we can invent a dance called “The Spin and Pop.” LOL! Stay tuned…

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