Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Dance Because

Dancing always brings me joy (with a few exceptions) and I become a broken record if you hear me talk about my experiences. Last night I had an incredible night of dancing because it involved so many dances (belly dancing, tango, bachata, salsa, mambo) with some rare surprises. It inspired me to write this entry as a tribute to dancing. There's no particular rhyme or reason to the order, I just wanted to share.

I dance because ...

  • its fun
  • its active
  • its such a high
  • its beautiful
  • it social
  • it brings me joy
  • it makes me smile
  • it enriches my life
  • it provides me with adventures to share and write about
  • it takes me out of myself: to follow a lead and listen to music and experience the purity of that connection
  • it helps me to just BE
  • it makes the trivial troubles of the day disappear
  • it makes my serious troubles easier to deal with
  • it give me so much positive energy
  • I can be renewed and energized
  • my mind and body are one with the music and the lead that I'm dancing with to make magic!
  • it cures my sinuses and helps me breathe
  • when I dance I can't be mad for very long
  • I can take flight: float, glide, spin, sway, shimmy, skip and play with someone else, in harmony to music
  • I can be bring out anything that's in me: 
  • I can be sassy
  • I can be sexy
  • I can be flirty
  • I can be goofy
  • I can be smooth
  • I can improvise and make something with someone else to a song that's playing in the background
  • I can interact with people just as passionate about dancing as I am
  • I can see good friends
  • I can meet new friends
  • I can have fun with total strangers
  • I sometimes encounter praise from unexpected sources
  • I get compliments from my peers and people I respect
  • dancing is a metaphor for life and many a hard lesson can be learned through dance with less dire consequences
  • I have stories that I can share about things that can happen out on the dance floor
  • I have electric connections that make my hair stand on end
  • I can be in the arms of some "hunky guy"
  • I love the hugs
  • I know that there's so much to learn: different dances, different styles, the music, the history
  • even when I have so-so moments, they are over in a few minutes, easily replaced by something better
  • I can, with someone else, create movement so in tune with music, its just too cool for words
  • amazing connections are such a pleasant surprise when dancing total strangers
  • amazing connections can potentially blossom into something more
  • I can close my eyes and still make magic
  • I can help someone else pick up their day
  • I can show someone else how much fun they can have
  • I can feel like a rock star
  • I learn something new about myself
  • I learn something new I didn't think my body could do 
  • I learn about how to deal with people
  • I learn to communicate without words
  • I am free to express myself, be myself
  • I can just be me without judgment: let go, feel, react, respond, create new energy
  • there's just nothing quite like the high it can give when everything is just right
  • I believe that if everyone danced, the negative energy in the world would have nowhere to stick to. 
  • I love it
  • its just a part of who I am.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gratitude Break 07-26-2010

Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation. ~Brian Tracy

In my life, I have a lot to be grateful for and I make it a practice to at least once a day, think of something to say "thanks!" for. Every now and again, a public acknowledgment of what those things are is my way of giving greater thanks to the universe for all the unexpected and wonderful things that happen.

This past few weeks have been particularly stressful for various reasons. There was nothing major or life threatening. I just noticed that I was getting upset about things that I would normally have a higher tolerance for. My patience was as thin as tissue: random, unrelated events were inconvenient and irritating. A veritable "pain" in {insert the appropriate body part here}. These events interrupted the normally flow of life that I have. Its like feeling turbulence on an otherwise smooth ride and that turbulence generating a nagging worry that something worse could happen. I found myself stressing out more than necessary and working hard to make sure it didn't.

A few things happened in succession over the last few days and just like "That!" I'm back on my smooth ride again. The fact that this realization happened on a Monday, the start of a new week, the beginning of a waning full moon.... coincidence?

Anyway, the point of this post is to share what I have to be grateful for so here goes:

In the wee am hours of the weekend, an old friend who is happily married with kids found me online and we chatted for a bit. He recently went through knee surgery which was keeping him up (otherwise, we wouldn't intersect much at night, given that we're on opposite coasts). I commiserated on the knee having been through the same ordeal. We got to reminiscing and as he tells me how much he enjoys reading about my daily adventures, he reveals that when we first met, he had thought about asking me out. I laughed (virtually) and confessed that when I first met him, I had a mini-crush but I thought he was unavailable. He then told me that in the time when we first met, he had come to decision that he needed to be with someone Jewish and shortly after making that resolve, met his now wife. I joked about it saying that someone Chinese doesn't exactly qualify as Jewish and he said that I definitely have some "Jewish" in me. For some reason, this whole conversation just made me smile. I guess no matter how old the admiration or what the current circumstances are, when someone you like reveals that they like you too - that always feels good.

Jet Skiing - A First
I went jet skiing for the first time and had so much fun that despite the loss of my favorite pair of sunglasses (it jumped off my face mid-jump and I couldn't let go to catch it because I was hanging on for dear life!) I was unphased. In the past that one incident alone would've put a damper on everything but what happened was the opposite and it was really quite refreshing. Instead of dwelling on it, I promptly forgot about it, and had a blast watching my niece and her cousin (6 and 5 years old  respectively)  laugh and enjoy their turns on the jet ski!

A Totally Unexpected Outcome
Recently, I discovered that I bought a fake product from a bad seller. I took the time to try to fix it with some help (no go!), work with the manufacturer (who told me it was a fake), contact the seller (who, was clearly no longer a seller in good standing) and check policies about sellers (the guarantee had expired). I realized that based on all that, I wasn't going to be able to get anything back as compensation for a broken fake. I was making my last call to give feedback on the seller and follow-up when the representative I spoke to gave me the best resolution possible: a one time exception resulting in me getting a brand new replacement, from the real manufacturer with a net of no extra cost. BONUS!!!

Another First
A student and enthusiast of a dance called Kizomba, I was helping my teacher out at a workshop. It was a small class and we got to work one on one with everyone there. I got to dance and help some folks figure things out for themselves. All in all, a great time. At the end of the workshop, I received some money from my teacher for helping out. I realized that this is my first "official" dance teaching gig since I was paid to help teach. WOW!

Always There
I was drinking my ice cold vanilla latte on this wonderful sunny Monday as I was heading back to my office. I was feeling pretty good about being given a discount even thought it expired yesterday when I realized what a wonderful weekend I had just had, listing in my head, all the things that made up the weekend. A large part of it was the time I spent with my sister and extended family and it dawned on me right then that I will never be afraid of being alone as I grow older because I've been blessed with additions to my family and an extended family that will always be there for me (in addition to the wonderful friends that I have).

The Tumbleweed Effect
You may be surprised to see me write this as I am normally quite grounded in science and technology and not likely to be seen as "holistic" at first glance. I am very much a believer of what I've referred to as the ultimate karmic reality: "what comes around goes around".

So - if you fill your life with thing that you are happy to do and be with and be grateful for, then the universe conspires to keep you there, rewarding you with more of the same, often times in ways that you will not anticipate.

The universe as a whole, leans towards happier balance so that despite some of the bad things that can happen, there is always something that will offset it to put it right again. Some people only see the negative and thus choose to live in that space, blind to the positive things that do happen.

Why? Given a choice, be grateful for what's good: live in the good space and see what unfolds.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Step By Step

Social dancing, while fun, can also be a source of stress for the beginner dancer. For me, dancing is such a joy that when I started to social dance, I didn't have any problems progressing from my 1st set of classes into having it be such an integral part of my life.

No matter what happens with me and dancing in the future, I will always be an advocate for it. Dancing in any form has much to offer. If you have any inkling at all about the potential that dance can have in your life or are even curious about the pure enjoyment and joy it can bring, I'd like to help push you along.

So what's stopping you?

"I can't dance because...."
  • I'm a klutz
  • I'm too uncoordinated
  • I have no rhythm
  • I don't want to make a complete ___ of myself
  • It looks hard and I don't have time to invest in it
  • I don't want to
Here's the simple answer to everything except "I don't want to.": Dancing can be as basic as walking to a beat. So, if you can walk, you can dance.

OK, fair enough, you may not buy that but if you're still reading, I'm assuming that you have some interest in it already and have taken 1st steps. You may be contemplating taking it up again or are just plain curious. Here's some advice or things to consider as you start. My hope is that it helps you discover how fulfilling and wonderful social dancing can be: to grow and connect with yourself, movement, music and the world around you. If not, at the very least, if should be mildly entertaining ;)

BREATHE and Remember "Why am I doing this?"
What starts out as the reason to try something new can vary from person to person but to sustain it, the reason has be something worthwhile.

For me it was curiosity and then by golly, I had so much fun, I was hooked.

You've probably started because of one or more of these (or variations of these) reasons:
  • its always been on your list of things to try and now, the planets are aligned or you have time or its just next door
  • you saw people dancing and said - hey! that looks like fun, I wanna do that too
  • a friend (or friends) urged you to join in and you're finally giving in or open to it and say "why not"
  • you're new in town and want to meet people while doing something active
  • you're interested in someone and you know that they dance so you're thinking if you learn to dance, that would be one way to get to know them
  • you're seeing someone who loves it and want to be able to share a dance with them without looking like a total spaz... not to mention how much he/she will appreciate it (MAJOR Bonus Points!)
  • YOU want to look THAT GOOD [you've seen some performance, you tube video, random dancing through a glass window, at a club, on the beach, etc.]
  • you've broken up with someone that dances and want to show them up "see what you're missing? Yes, I've gotten to be really good at this."
  • you love the music and would like to groove to it
  • you're ready for something new and different that's active an involves other people and isn't too expensive
So, whatever got you to start, you have to eventually find something worthwhile to continue it. If you find yourself stressing over this new activity take a moment and breathe to remember why you're doing it in the first place. If the relieves your stress great! If not, then read on and see if the other tips help you relieve that stress.

Patience, Grasshopper.
Often, the biggest reasons someone takes themselves out of the path to social dancing "nirvana" (or any new learning nirvana) is themselves: you are your own worst enemy. It boils down to you being your own harshest critic which is totally stressful and not much fun. How can you learn something new (keyword - new and therefore unfamiliar) when you're constantly judging yourself? In the beginning, you gotta turn that critic off! Duct tape that critical mouth shut and focus on staying open to learning. Remember the joy in discovery? That's what you want to focus on. Keep it in perspective, especially for the 1st 6 months or so. Its not going to happen overnight.

When you find yourself being overly critical of yourself - STOP.
When you find yourself getting impatient for results - STOP.
If you feel silly - LAUGH and SMILE
If you make mistakes - its yours, own it, correct it for the next time
If its not what you thought  - that's alright, now you know better.

All in good time grasshopper!

 [In case you're wondering "Patience Grasshopper" comes from an old TV Series back in the 70's starring David Carridine called Kung Fu. The protagonist is a shaolin monk whose master would always give this advice to help the monk as a boy, cope with everything that he had to learn.]

It Starts One Step at a Time 
This is metaphorical and literal at the same time.

People often bite off more than they can chew when they are eager to do something. I'm suggesting you go smaller than that, and take a NORMAL pace. This is so true for anything that involves movement and body coordination. TAKE SMALL STEPS. You're learning new movement patterns to what is likely new music so don't get ahead of yourself. When you take a step, stay balanced with you're weight underneath you. Big steps will get you off balance. Its all about keeping your feet under your body . One of the biggest mistakes a beginning dancer can make is to take HUGE steps in the beginning. Not needed. Think about getting from A to B in the calmest way. Stick with your natural stride and stay balanced.

Metaphorically speaking its a well used cliche: you need to be patient with yourself and take things one step at a time  Set yourself up to succeed and establish a reasonable expectation when you're first learning to dance. You can feel progress with each step, and even if you have to adjust your stride, at least you're still making progress. As you get more experience and figure out the best way to learn and your body just has the movement down or the music is starting to get under your skin, you'll make bigger strides and the satisfaction you feel will just grow from there.

Find the Right Teacher
Not everyone learns the same way so if you're stress is associated with the person that's teaching, learn from someone else! All it takes is the right person to learn from and BAM! you're in it for some time. Not everyone that teaches is a good teacher. If your not happy with who you're learning from, don't let that stop you from what could be one of the most fantastic things you'll ever do. Spend a little time to research on other options, go out and talk to people in the scene. If you see someone who you love to watch dancing, ask them for their advice (politely, not in a stalker way). I find that if you begin with "I love the way you dance!" and then follow-up with asking them for who they would recommend as teachers, that's usually a good start.

Place no blame on you or your teacher: you can't be mad about something you didn't know about before you started doing something. Did I confuse you yet? If you're problem is that you're not learning from the right person - it's not your fault, or theirs for that matter. Things just didn't fit. If you hold a grudge, what good will that do you? If you put yourself down, even worse! Take a breathe, remember why you're dong this and try to find someone else to learn from.

Practice Makes Perfect
Dancing is a complex learning: its not just about steps, its about music, counts, rhythms, step patterns and working with someone else who's going through the same thing you're going through: learning something new. The only way to get really good at it is to do it a LOT: do the steps, listen to the music, count to the music, count when you're stepping, visualize when you can't do it, and please, go out dancing! A class is a nice safe environment but nothing teaches more than actual experience. It takes time to establish yourself in something new and that applies as well to being recognized and eventually making friends with the dancers you see in the places you go out dancing.

If you have the right studio or teacher, there will be places for you to go and practice that's not a club. Go for it! Spend a little time to research and practice what you've learned because it is the only way to get better.

There are other types of events that can help as well: camps, congresses or vacations related to dancing. These are not for everyone but they will definitely help you get immersed in dancing. There are dance events all the world! You can always combine learning to dance with going somewhere you've never been! Double the fun an adventure.

Whatever you do: practice!!!!

Reach Out and Ask Someone
While the world of dance has it's fair share of attitudes good and bad, I think its safe to say that everyone that's been dancing and loves it will NOT be shy about talking about it. Go out and practice and spend some time to watch the more experienced people dancing and then reach out and ask.

Take a Break
Sometimes, you just need to step away. So do that and if there was some hook in you that was lost in all the stress, you'll feel it again and at right moment, it will reel you back in.

My first social dance was swing dancing and while I was getting into it, I met someone and fell deeply in "like". Things did not work out and because I associated the dancing too much with being with him and I just got sad about dancing. So, I stopped and within about 6 months, I got the bug again when I ran into some people dancing outside on a beautiful day. I started dancing again and realized that the joy of dancing is pretty pure and shouldn't be associated with anyone person. So, here I am! Dancing again and forever

Parting Words: On Learning
I'm the type of person that LOVES to learn. I could just spend my whole life in pursuit of learning things but the practicalities of that get in the way. So, while I realize that not everyone is as crazy about learning or takes to it as easily as I do, I still want to make a point that learning in any form is a good thing.

It is a challenge to knowingly place yourself in unfamiliar territory. On top of all that, as adults, we've already learned to measure and judge how we do things: "Is this good enough?" As a learner, you're new to it, so how can you be good at it? When you 1st start, you've got to turn off all your "fears" about that "new" thing and focus on what got you there in the 1st place. Those judgments are not just about grading yourself but also about how long its taking you. Everything has its own pace and timing - you've got to respect your own learning process.

Imagine the unabashed abandon young kids have when they experience something new. They dive headlong into it, asking questions, experimenting doing what they do without a single self-editing thought. It's interesting to them, so they ask, they do, they talk about it: what drives them is the pure fun they have of whatever it is they're interested in learning more about. NO JUDGMENTS. Take my niece, she loves dinosaurs. She's only 6 and is a veritable encyclopedia! If I need to know something about it, I'll ask her and she'll  know the answer. I am in awe at how a 6 year old can easily name and give a profile for almost any dinosaur that I come across at a toy store.

As you start to learn something new give it time without sabotaging it.

Here's a quote that just about sums it all up for me and what's true about dance in this quote is just as true about learning:
"While I dance I can not judge, I can not hate, I can not separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole. This is why I dance."