Monthly Archives: November 2014

Conflict Resolving

Yup, there is going to be conflict in our world. Whether it be with your family, romantic partners, professional partners, or yourself, we are going to experience conflict at some point. Sometimes great things emerge from conflict. Sometimes relationships are destroyed with conflict. However you slice it, conflict is an important part of life.

Why do I suggest this? If we bottled up all of our feelings and never confronted ourselves or others, things would get rather uncomfortable. Think of a time when you were upset with someone and you tried to keep your trap shut about it. How did that work for you? Did it make your stomach turn? Did it make your crazy for days? The more you tried to burry it and not think about it, did it just keep knocking at your brain until you paid attention?

Not dealing with things that bug you in a relationship will lead to a great deal more bugging than you bargained to receive. Sometimes we see it as easier to just walk away and let it go, but that is more often not what happens. The above happens and it is such a waste of energy. One of the best things that happened in my life was a change that made my mental energy reserves be fragile. It is a frustrating state to experience and it doesn’t seem to be going away after 2 years. The silver lining of it is that I have no ability to waste my energy on anything that doesn’t deserve the energy.

To what does that lead? Well, if something isn’t sitting right with me, I speak up right away if I can. There is no point in me stewing over something someone said or did to me that I didn’t like if they are someone who is going to remain in my day to day life. I may step back rather than have a knee jerk reaction, but I am going to address it as soon as I can. Then it is off my mind and they can deal with their side of it however they like. I have spoken my peace and can move forward. If I don’t stand up for myself, it will stick with me for a long time and then I feel resentment toward the other person. That is not their fault. Often the other side did not even realize that their offense was that big of a deal or had that great of an effect. Setting them straight allows for healthier future dealings.

How does this apply to dance? In this realm, we have to have a fairly thick skin. We are putting ourselves out there whether at the competition floor, studio, stage, or company event. By working with others whether a partner or group, we are putting ourselves out there as well. With that vulnerability, someone giving us a sideways glance can be enough to offend or hurt feelings. Having the courage to clarify allows for extinguishing a heated situation quickly and allowing yourself to move forward quickly so as to not waste precious rehearsal time. Don’t make yourself sick dwelling on the small things. Address them quickly so you can move forward and maximize your energy for the good things in your dance life.

Of Men and Mice

When interaction with other humans happens, no matter how awesome things have been to date, there is bound to be conflict at some point. How this conflict is handled speaks volumes about a person. How it is handled when you have to continue to deal with the person speaks even more.

In the ballroom world, there is often a male dominating attitude towards partnerships. This is news to no one in this realm. It seems to come out most in the least accomplished dancers in the mix. I am not sure if it is a need to prove manliness or just insecurity while being lined up and judged against others. It is palpable at times and I have experienced it first hand throughout my history with this group.

The domination can come out it in subtle ways that are ignorable at first, but eventually add up to a detrimental amount. Sly comments about the girl not following, being heavy, not being sexy enough, not being feminine enough, being too aggressive and the like are usually the start of the domination in these insecure men. Small putdowns to break her spirit a little at a time seems to be what is happening – whether consciously or not – it happens a lot. From there, it can turn into putting down a partner within a group, yelling at a partner in private or on the dance floor, walking away from the partner during practice, etc.

We have all seen it. If you are a female in this realm, you have likely experienced it first hand. Why do we continue to let this BAD behaviour continue? Is it because those we learned from modelled this BAD behaviour so we think it is just part of the game we have to play to succeed in this field? Is it because there is a shortage of male partners in the dance world and so we will take what we can get no matter how BAD the behaviour? It is because we are supposed to just shut up and listen and be a good girl? All these justifications seem like b.s. to me. They seem like justification of BAD behaviour because we don’t have the energy to fight and try to change the realm to be a healthier place. Often when we speak up, we are in a position to lose our partner, so having a voice carries risk.

Beyond the BAD male behaviour, I see BAD behaviour on our side of the partnership as well. It is often starts as a defence mechanism. Then it can turn into passive aggressive behaviour because if we don’t actually vocalize our malcontent, then we can’t get in trouble for our description of the problem. I also see descent into a pissing contest of who can behave the worst.

Who wants to work with someone who is going to undermine you then state “but we’re supposed to be a team”? I often see little team work when this BAD behaviour creeps in. I often see a broken spirit dancing with a demon trying to make it through x number of months she’s promised herself to win some trophy she has convinced herself will bring her happiness if she can just stick it out.

We ladies of the ballroom need to ask ourselves why we put up with this. We need to ask what we are going to do about it. We need to ask ourselves if it is worth it. If this were a romantic relationship, would we stick it out or would we walk away before our spirit is intact. The men of our ballroom world need to stand up and say that this behaviour is not ok. I know many of them would interrupt a man berating a woman on the street, but they turn a blind eye when it happens within the walls of a studio.

We want to bring a new and younger generation into this world. These young people are part of a generation that is finally starting to see women as equal to men. If we bring this new generation into the studio and the actions state that women are far lesser than men, is this something that will help build our community?

It’s time we start working with our dancers with the attitude that women are equal to men, that their experience is valid, that their ideas are valid, that their worth is valid. This will lead to a generation of partnerships that are stronger because both partners feel respected. This will lead to a generation of female dancers that do not put up with abuse in the dance relationship. This will lead to a generation of male dancers that will only be able to keep partners if they act like decent human beings. Doesn’t that sound like a better future for ballroom dance than propagating the past and present relational behaviours?

Get to the Bottom of It

It has been an interesting experience being invited in to teach technique to some companies. The interesting part is the fear of disinterest in technique. Every new session seems to breed this fear and I find it fascinating that this is a concern. Technique is like a slow burn that changes and develops through the class. It is not going to be exhilarating like a fireworks explosion, but the way that the burn shapes over the hour is mesmerizing.

I haven’t had anyone complain that they are bored in class. I have witnessed many think they know more than they do. More recently, the classes I have been welcomed into have given into the discomfort, set their egos aside, and gone with the teachings of the class. This has been refreshing for me and a release of anxiety for the directors of the class that their students are most definitely not bored out of their minds. Rather, I see them more intensely engaged than in other more exhilarating classes.

It is wonderful to see the bodies and minds trying to absorb the information being demonstrated. The watching of my body’s use of the information, watching their own body not quite get the information, then return to gaze at my body to cue themselves about what they are being asked to do. I see little chatter in these types of classes which is usually a sign of external focus. The beauty of technical classes is the ability to switch that focus internally. Trying to get your body to morph and grow into a better more coordinated mass of flesh.

Often, the concepts introduced are foreign to the participants which seems to help them engage more. Walking their brains and bodies into left field then connecting the information back to home base where they are comfortable is usually a lightbulb moment on their faces which is lovely to see. When the lightbulbs don’t come on, there is usually questions that come out from the group for clarification. Questions of insight that I never see when the exhilarating classes are taught. Insight from an internal place of knowing that they are not getting the sensation that has been described to them. Insight that they don’t feel natural or look natural like as demonstrated and they want to know how they can make themselves look more like that. Those internal searchings make me elated because it is so obvious they are connecting with their body in a way they haven’t been guided or able to before.

When a mind is able to make that deep of a connection with the body, change happens quickly because the mirror becomes less of a reference point and the internal dialogue between the body and mind are able to take over. From there, the questioning of how dumb do I look is often lost as well and the room gets quiet and meditative. That quiet often translates into the dancing and these people are more interesting to watch as the show comes from a deep internal place rather than an external look at me showing.

Body of Unacceptance

Maybe it is an age or maturity thing, but I have started to look at my body differently. In previous years, I looked at my body as something I had to perfect. A project that I had to undertake and work on everyday. I pushed it to the point of injuries. I pushed it to the point of over-fatigue. I pushed it to the point where it felt angry and irritated. I took it for granted that I was going to be a machine and was invincible. That it would be amazingly flexible and strong no matter how hard I beat it up.

I now look at it as something amazing in the context of what I can produce from it when I train in something new, when I am asked to move a way I haven’t before and can feel new muscles activating, when it changes due to a different type of training. It amazes me everyday when I have killed my training the day before and can feel new muscles fatigued or achy.

I have been fortunate to not have sustained any career altering injuries in my dance training. In fact, the older I get, the more beautiful my dancing is. Likely this comes from maturity of experience in life as well as the body getting smarter. When I hear my younger and older counterparts complain about their bodies, I wonder what happened. With the heaviness of training I put myself through all these years, I guess my body should be feeling more worn out like the rest of my colleagues. However, I feel the opposite. I feel stronger, more coordinated, and sexier than ever. I can actually now look in the mirror and think “wow” rather than examining for the flaws.

My acupuncturist told me that in some tribes that have been studied all over the world, there are groups where the elders can outdo the younger tribe members in physical endeavours. They are of the mindset that age makes us better athletes. This seems contradictory to the beliefs of North Americans where we see age as being a hindrance to our physicality. Is this because it is because we have been indoctrinated to believe that aging is a weakness and thus makes us weaker or are we just genetically programmed differently? I fear for those who I hear complaining that they feel a decade or two older than they are physically because of how their body complains. Is it because they actually have permanently damaged and worn out their body? Is it because they subscribe to the belief system that age makes you weaker?

I honestly thought when I was a decade younger, that I would be retired from the level of dancing I do by now. I grew out of that belief about five years ago and my body seems to have gone along with the concept. It seems to want to believe that age is making it stronger. I am not saying by any means that I am able to abuse my body like I used to. Maybe I am smarter in my training and my body is responding greatly to that? I don’t know. When you find yourself saying your body feels old, try to work on changing that thought pattern and see what manifests itself in your physicality. It may surprise you.

Never Take it for Granted

One thing I have learned over the years is to not take anything for granted. Not my friends, not my made family, not my health, not my career. The first time I realized I was taking my dancing for granted was in university. A month out from a near and dear to my heart performance, I slipped on a patch of ice at 630 a.m. I felt my foot twist in an unnatural way and heard a large crack before my feet were in the air. I landed hard on my shoulder in the snow. Once I realized what happened, I tried to assure myself that I was wrong. Maybe my shoe made the big crack. Maybe my joint made the sound.

As I lay on my side, I decided to assess the damage to my leg if any and I hoped the latter was true. I put my hand on my ankle and moved my foot up and down. As I did so, I felt my bones swish past each other. In my brain’s state of shock, I figured maybe this was normal since I had never done this assessment before. I decided to check my other ankle. I put my hand on it and moved that foot up and down. Nope. That ankle’s bones certainly did not swish past each other. SHOOT!  Through all this, I was having a conversation with myself that this was all my imagination. That I could probably get up and walk just fine to the building I was laying beside in the snow. After feeling the difference of swish between the two sides, I decided maybe it was best that I asked for help.

A young woman had seen me go down and came over to assess the damage as well. She told me it was likely not fractured, but to stay put and she would get some people to help get me into the building. While waiting, I kept testing the swish factor to see if it would go away. It did not. She came back with two big boys who carried me into the building and plopped me on a bench. They peeled my pant leg back to reveal an ankle the size of a grapefruit.

I was taken to the hospital and the damage was assessed via x-ray. I had fractured my tibia and fibula. They tried to reduce the fracture, but the one bone would not realign as hoped. Surgery was required and I tried to argue with them about it. I was not going to have surgery. I was too terrified to give up that control and let someone else operate on me while I couldn’t be a participant. In my state of shock, there was no way anyone was going to convince me. Hours later, they got through to me that I wouldn’t walk if I didn’t get the surgery to realign the bones properly. I felt strong armed into doing it, but their logic eventually seemed sound.

The first person I called was the partner that I was supposed to be performing with the next month. I sobbed as I tried to explain to him that I had messed up so badly. I was so sorry that I had broken my ankle and failed him. I was sorry that they were going to have to do surgery and that the bones wouldn’t line back up the way that they should and that I wouldn’t be able to walk properly on it let alone dance if they didn’t do the surgery. I was just sick that I had let this boy down in such an unthinkable way all because I didn’t see the ice on the side walk. I felt so responsible and so scared that my life would change. That my ability to dance might be affected.

It took a long time to recover to be able to fully walk again. The first week I was allowed to put pressure on it with the cast off, I was desperate to get to normal faster than they had predicted. In pushing the rehabilitation guidelines, I ended up tearing the scar tissue and ended up with an ankle like a grapefruit again. Originally, I thought it was infection, they figured it out when they enquired how hard I was pushing it to be normal. So I was set back another couple of weeks.

I can tell you that I always believed movement and dancing would be part of my life. I had never questioned it, been actively thankful for it, or guarded it with extra care. Not until that day when it looked like it could all disappear. It was the thing that made me feel most whole in my life and I had messed up and maybe taken it away from myself by not watching my footing. I vowed from that day forward, if I could dance again, I would be thankful for it everyday. I would be thankful for every partner who I got to work with. I would be thankful for every teacher who took me on. I still try to maintain this attitude. Even when days are tough, I am still thankful that I have dance in my life because it could disappear in a split second. If it did, I know that I have given it what I could in my life.