I am very much ok with not being good at everything. I am not good at painting, drawing, trivia (especially pop culture), wearing daily makeup, rock climbing (ok, never tried it), fixing my own computer. . . the list goes on and on. The point is, that I am perfectly fine being mediocre or just plain bad at some things. But, it is hard to swallow when I feel bad at dance. My art, my profession, my area of "expertise."
I took a great workshop today from San Francisco based choreographer Alex Ketley. The style of dance is called countertechique (FYI this video seems doable to me, what we did today not so much). Being completely new to the technique, I expected I wouldn't shine right off the bat, but I was wiling to put myself out there, to take the risk in order to learn. The class was good. He taught a total of 3 dance sequences (idiosyncratic choreography) and lead the group through a couple "habit breaking" exercises including one aptly named "a hot mess". It was a mentally challenging and overall productive 3 hours of dance experience.
And, I was ok at it. But, I was not ok with being ok.
I found it unnerving that I make my living teaching dance, and yet was struggling in this context. On the one hand I tried to embrace the challenge, knowing that was what I signed up for, but somewhere in my gut, my ego was having a field day piping up at every turn with unhelpful comments like "You should be able to get this. You should be better at picking this up. You should be stronger, in better shape, feel more confident." I was aware of my ego spokesman and did my best to see it for what it was (just the ego) and refocus on the task at hand.
I got through class but now I feel a need for deeper reflection… What was actually going on there...
The challenge of the class for me was in the complex sequencing and coordination. Even while watching him show the material, I felt like I couldn't focus enough to actually see what he was doing. He moved with such intricacy, specificity, nuance and speed that I literally couldn't see everything clearly enough to replicate it. (Plus, in this style there was no "instruction" on the sequence, just occasional word prompts and physical demonstration). I did my best, and, by the end of the three hours, my brain hurt as much as my body-- maybe more.
I clearly see the disparity of what I often do in my classroom and what we were doing today. I appreciate this knowledge and that insight alone made today a worthwhile experience. But, I wanted to be better-- as a dancer. I wanted to leave feeling accomplished rather than shell shocked. I was proud that I never gave up. But, I see more clearly than ever that I fall in the realm of average for this style of dance, and I am not satisfied with that. Now that I am out of the classroom context, I don't think it is my ego piping up as I sit here to reflect, so much as something else. Something deeper calling me to improve, to put challenges before me so I can experience growth.
But, in the meantime, I know that I need to be ok with being "just ok" for at least a little while. I see myself where I am, and I need to honor the process and the effort that will go into making lasting change in my performance. I have to remind myself that I didn't train this way in college. This is new. As much as it uses the same alphabet.. it is a new language. Just because I can identify an arm gesture doesn't mean I know how to use it in this context. I need to learn it. And, I need to trust that I can learn it.
Trust it is possible. Trust it is worth it.
PS Special thanks to Elyse from MeCo who came with me to the workshop today. It was nice to be a hot mess with someone I knew.