Did you grow up dancing, or with a deep desire to dance?
If you didn’t, do you ever have that distinct, deep wish that your parents had made you take dance when you were a kid? I mean, seriously. If you were classically trained, everything would be SO much easier. It really would.
But… would it really have been the right decision? Would you still be dancing?
It took me 4 tries before I even decided I liked to dance. I tried ballet at 5, hip-hop/jazz at 12, ballroom at 17, and finally Salsa at 20.
When I was 5, my parents did enroll me in ballet. After 3 weeks, the teacher diplomatically approached my parents and explained that ‘perhaps ballet was not a good fit for me’.
“Why?” my parents asked, surprised. The teacher told them I was too disruptive. Instead of doing ballet exercises, I was prancing around the room in my little ballet skirt pretending I was Sailor Moon.
When I was 12, my parents (at my request) enrolled me in hip-hop. The prerequisite was Jazz, so I had to do that too. I lasted 3 weeks before I quit hip-hop. Why? “They made me do push-ups”. When I was 12, I really didn’t like push-ups.
I did make it through 1 year of jazz, before deciding that I really didn’t like the costume I had to wear for recital. So, once again, I bid dance adieu.
When I was 16, my parents convinced me to begrudgingly join a ballroom dance class with them and other 45-ish year olds. I was the only person under 40. I loudly declared dance just wasn’t for me.
Is ‘The Force’ a good thing?
In theory, I had 3 previous tries to immerse myself in dance. If I had taken any of these three chances, I’d have had a way easier time with the partner dances I have since chosen. But, there was a reason dance didn’t stick:
I hadn’t fallen in love with dance yet.
So what? What if I had been forced to stay in class? What if my parents told me that I must stick to this thing?
Well, chances are I wouldn’t be dancing today. If you force someone to do something they’re not ready to embrace, they often get sick of it, do poorly, or quit. Even if I had been a great dancer in high school , there’s a high likelihood that I would have left it behind in my university days to pursue other non-dance things.
Discovering Dance (For Real)
As it is, I was given the space to come to dance in my own time. When I finally had that encounter with Salsa, I was ready for it. I wanted to do it. I wanted the social life, the sexiness, and everything that came with learning the dance.
For the first time in my life, I wanted to dance with every fibre of my being.
I hit my dance-groove eventually, even though I was very, very awkward at the beginning. Even though my very first salsa teacher told me to quit. Even though I had no dance background to speak of.
Has my lack of formal childhood training hindered me in some ways? Yes. Lines were a very difficult concept to learn, as were many concepts about my body. Aesthetics and styling were extremely unnatural to me for the longest time.
Hindsight is 20/20
A part of me still wishes that 5-year-old me recognized the gift that ballet could have been. That my 12-year-old self was forced to endure hip-hop’s push-ups, and jazz’s costumes. That my 16-year-old self decided that dance was more important than the social repercussions of being around ‘old people’ (aka: people-like-my-parents).
Funny how that last one is just not a problem for me in social dancing nowadays… Oh, the magnificent teenage brain. What a difference a few years makes.
But, the rest of my brain also knows that if I had been forced to dance, I may never have fallen in love with it at all.
It could have been that thing that I was forced to spend my free time on.
It could have been that thing that prevented me from having friends.
It could have been that thing my parents made me do.
It could have been that thing I couldn’t wait to get away from.
Instead, I fell for it at 20. I fell in love with dance a bit later than some, but boy, did I ever fall hard. Today, dance is the thing that makes me feel most alive. It thrills, relaxes, challenges, and fulfills me. I can’t imagine my life without it.
The next time that you catch yourself wishing you had been ‘forced’ to dance as a child, ask yourself:
Would you really have fallen in love?
Do you have a story you want to share about how you discovered dance, or about whether you wish you danced as a kid? Leave it in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Brian De Rivera Simon, Tarsipix Studios