I recently enjoyed a conversation with a good friend who was opening up to me about his personal dance evolution. This pearl of a man shared that since he began his dance journey, he has witnessed himself breaking out of his own shell, climbing out of his comfort zone, and enjoying the human experience a little more each day because of dance. He shared his experience with me, and his strategy to become a better dancer through group lessons, social practice and some private one on one coaching. By immersing himself in his passion, he has become a better-rounded person on and off the dance floor. While he was sharing his stories of glory (and guts), he turned to me, and admitted that he struggled with confidence, sometimes finding himself intimidated by a dance partner or even a dance floor. He looked me in the eyes, and asked me with such honesty and vulnerability, if I always felt confident. My knee jerk reaction was to laugh, and tell him “of course I struggle with confidence at times!” and that struggle is real. And it dawned on me: confidence is a work in progress. Something you can build, and that foundation is built on experience. I heard somewhere that when someone demonstrates a skill and makes it look effortless, that is a sign that the person has dedicated hours and hours to practicing and mastering this skill. According to the author of the book “Outliers: The Story of Success,” on average, it is found to take 10,000 hours to become a master of something- whether it be water skiing, flying a kite, coding, or dancing. 10,000 hours, or a rough equivalent of 10 years. In the meantime, the journey to black belt status should be fun, even if it’s not without some blunders. Like Aerosmith said, “life’s a journey, not a destination.”
There was a time when I would NEVER think to invite a man to dance with me on the dance floor. Or I would shy away from dancing with men I didn’t know, sticking to, as I like to joke affectionately, “mes pantoufles”- my “Baila boys” with whom I have been dancing for years. I can pretty much predict with 80% accuracy, which moves they are going to pull out of their pocket, and it’s a comfortable, friendly dance every time. If I want to challenge myself, and test my progress, there is nothing like dancing with a stranger. A foreign entity. And when I find a dance partner that makes me a little uncomfortable, in my experience, my senses are more stimulated as I try to focus on the cues, and follow someone with a different style, or a different level of expertise. If you can still have a good time while counting your 8 beats with a stranger, and make it look natural, and comfortable, I can assure you that it is a boost on the old confidence grid. And if it doesn’t go so well, there is a lesson in that as well. And on average, it’s a 3 and a half minute lesson, making it quite a temporary situation, and one that might get you a funny story to share with the pantoufles in your circle. As I reflect on the conversation I had, I took a moment to pause and think about the human condition. I mean, it’s salsa…we aren’t curing cancer. But, we are taking a break from the mundane to share a passion that brings us pleasure, and that shouldn’t incite anxiety. The things that bring you pleasure are what make life worth living. This is going to sound cheesy, but gosh darn it, why don’t we all just dance like no one is watching? Just do it. Feel the music. Let it move you, and when you are adding your own flavour or styling- go big or go home! It will feel good to cut loose, whatever that means to you, and it is beautiful to watch someone who is willing to physically express themselves without stifling what is coming naturally to them, even if things don’t go quite as intended. So be kind to yourself if you mess up, or feel discouraged. Fake it until you make it by imitating a person or a dancer whom you admire. The confidence will sneak up on you while you are busy having a good time. And if you’re a dancing superstar, be kind to the rookies you meet, even if the dance isn’t going well. No ghosting on the dance floor! Dropping a partner mid dance can crush a person’s confidence, and it makes you look like a jerk. And that’s just bad karma.