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The Power of 'Sticking With It'

Author: Tim Sant-Turner: Head Of Dance for Ceroc
Date: 3rd January 2017
Categories: Beginners, Education, Lesson

"There is always the occassional first timer who flourishes from the word go, but for the overwhelming majority, that first step on the dance floor is not only an alien experience, but an exposing one too."

Stick With It

Where do they go?

This is a shameless plea for endurance. A begging for Dance class fortitude!

Our members literally LOVE Ceroc. I know this for a fact. It never ceases to inspire a 'warm tummy feeling' when I hear anecdotes from my members - forging new friendships, improving confidence, healthier bodies, happier minds, blossoming relationships, Ceroc weddings (and a fair few Ceroc babies) and non-stop, heartfelt gratitude from people who have had their lives changed for the better. Dance really does all of this and more!.

These warm fuzzy feelings however were challenged by frustration when I learned how many people try Ceroc once and then never come back. But why? 

Why do they go?

Throughout my 15 years on the Ceroc scene (a significant stretch of which has been spent on the stage, instructing) I have witnessed a wide range of reactions when people face their first ever dance class. There is always the occassional first timer who flourishes from the word go, but for the overwhelming majority, that first step on the dance floor is not only an alien experience, but an exposing and nervewracking one too.

"What do I do? Do I just take this person's hand and start moving? Do I talk to them or keep quiet? Should I tell them I have never danced before? What if I make a mistake? Where do I stand? Oh fantastic, I haven't got a partner to dance with!"

Vulnerability does strange things to us. Some of us go quiet and introverted. Some of us get giggly and embarassed, and babble nonsensical things we will later regret. Some of us (myself included) hide our nerves behind faux-bravado. Most of us get self-critical and continuously say "Sorry"...because apologising at least shows that we're aware of our inabilities. 

Whatever their reaction, the fact remains that 99% of Beginners are somewhere on the spectrum between uneasy and petrified. For a handful of people, these nerves subside almost immediately when the music starts playing, the class starts moving and everyone starts laughing. For some, the comforting hand of a Taxi dancer or a fellow dancer is enough to give the confidence boost they need. For most people however, that small seed of doubt in their ability is enough for them to throw the towel in almost immediately. Face another week of embarrassment, or slip away graciously...the latter seems a lot less gruelling!

Why should they stay?

As an instructor, I endeavour to spend time with all of my Beginners and explain to them that their sentiments are not uncommon. If, however, I could reach out and allay people's fears BEFORE they set foot in a dance venue, I am adamant that people would not only enjoy their first experience much more, but maybe they'd even consider giving it another go. 

So, to my apprehensive Beginners (and the thousands of you who have ever felt any anxiety about your dancing):

  1. Persevere! Learning to dance, like learning any new skill, takes a little time and perserverance. You can't converse with the locals after one Spanish lesson, you can't master a double-baked parmesan souffle on your first step into a kitchen, it's foolish to think you can dance like the Strictly Stars after 45 minutes in a Beginner lesson! Feelings of accomplishment and confidence are just around the corner...for now, enjoy being a Beginner.
  2. You will start to experience success on week 2. The feel of the dance becomes second nature, muscle memory kicks in and it all starts to make sense. It feels smoother to dance, you are moving with your partner around the floor, and the sense of accomplishment is empowering. 
  3. Understand that every single person in the room has been a Beginner once. We have all felt those nerves, we have all trodden on our fair share of toes and we have all left the dance floor feeling like it will never come together. But it does...I promise...quicker than you think. Every single week you will notice such improvements, and that determination to come back for week 2 is where it all starts. 
  4. Celebrate the small stuff. Nobody expects you to nail it straight away, but recognising success, irrespective of how small, is both important and well-deserved. Maybe you remembered a new move, maybe you completed a spin without falling over, maybe you built up the courage to ask someone for a dance, maybe you've stopped gripping with your thumbs? This is progress! Lots of seemingly trivial successes accumulate to enormous achievements. 
  5. Nobody is judging you! When it feels like hundreds of eyes are picking apart your every mistake, they really aren't. People are enjoying their own learning, and surprisingly enough, wanting you to enjoy yours too. Never say "sorry". If you feel you have made a mistake, it is important to know that your dance partner is probably experiencing that very same anxiety at the very same time. "Oh no...was that my fault?" Instead, laugh it off and show them you are having a good time. Not only are you subconsciously putting yourself at ease, but you are most likely reassuirng your dance partner too. 
  6. Teachers care. And understand. We really do. Guess what...we've felt it! Come and see us, ask us questions, ask us to dance, make mistakes, laugh and never apologise. The fun is in the learning, and your strive for perfection is only going to frustrate you further. 2 minutes with a teacher or a Taxi dancer can turn your confidence around.

So stick with it! Don't be afraid to feel like a learner. Aspire to get better, but give yourself the time and freedom to do so. 

It does take practice...so why bother? Because somewhere down the line that feeling of achievement is completely indescribable. 

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