A Terrible Dancer Takes Salsa Dance Lessons

Earlier this week I went salsa dancing! Sounds exciting right? Excited was definitely not the word I would have used when my girlfriend told me of her date night plans for us. The only thought that came to my mind is “Vlad, you know you can’t dance.”

All the memories of me dancing horribly began to populate my mind. In 5th grade there was the awkward flailing of my arms when I tried the Harlem Shake. There was my failed attempt in high school at learning the Souljah Boy dance.  The only dance I could do correctly was the running man, but I wasn’t smooth or cool enough to pull off The Jerk. Then there was my graduation party when the line dance music came on and I knew none of them. In summary, dancing isn’t my forte.


Have you ever watched those tutorial videos for dances like the Wobble and the Electric Slide on YouTube and wondered “who watches these things?”

Me, I’m the one who watches those videos and they’re very helpful….

Two of my good friends got married on New Years and those YouTube videos were the reason I knew what to do when I heard the beat drop.

Whenever I tell someone that I’m not a great dancer, their response most of the time is…

“Aren’t you Haitian? Haitians know how to kompa!”

My parents never taught me how to dance for two reasons:

  1. They admittedly don’t know how to dance. 
     
  2. They didn’t want me learning such a “sensual” dance. When I got to college, and saw people dancing to kompa I understood what my parents were talking about….

“Aren’t you black? All black people know how to dance.”


Well I’m proof that “all black people know how to dance” is false.

All these thoughts were running through my head as I headed to the salsa lesson. This salsa lesson was way out of my comfort zone but I went anyway. The instructor was a long haired fellow and he wasn’t shy about whipping his hair back and forth while he taught us the steps. As I was going through the dance lesson and trying to avoid the awkward eye contact with the rotating dance partners, I started to get the hang of it and actually began enjoying salsa dancing. My girlfriend saw the improvement and I was proud. (Cool points for me?)

I went from looking like this…

To feeling like I was ready for the bright lights.


After I left the salsa lesson I began to think about my history with dancing. Why didn’t I like to dance? A few thoughts came to mind but I realized that my problem wasn’t with dancing in itself. My issue with dancing stemmed from some deep-seated insecurities that activities like dancing could reveal.


One reason that I didn’t like dancing is because I don’t like being wrong. As soon as the salsa lesson started I knew I was in a for a treat. The instructor had us learn an 8-count step. Easy enough, I thought. But then I tried it, and my feet got all jumbled- I messed up. “Alright,” I thought. “It’s my first time so it’s natural to mess up”. But then I kept messing up the steps. And there was a moment during the lessons where I got frustrated. Frustrated that I didn’t the get the steps sooner. Frustrated because something that looked so simple was actually difficult for me. And that’s what I think is my problem: I always want to do things right. And if the chances of me being wrong or making mistakes is high, I avoid the whole situation altogether. When I’m wrong or make mistakes, negative thoughts will take over my mind and I’ll mentally beat myself up over it.

But the problem with always wanting to be right, is that it never gives you the room to learn and grow. If I had kept that attitude of wanting to be right all the time, I would’ve never learned the salsa steps. Or I would’ve just faked my way through the lessons and learned absolutely nothing.

Some of us have spent our whole lives developing the skill of not being wrong and not failing. But what some of us are inadvertently doing is putting off what you could be capable of doing, just to maintain what you’re currently doing.

It’s okay to make mistakes.


Another reason dancing has been a thorn in my side is because I care what other people think of me. You see, it’s hard to dance freely when you’re constantly worried about how people will think of you. I went into this salsa lesson thinking I was just gonna have to dance with my girlfriend. She’s a good dancer while I’m not. But i figured she didn’t date me because of my dance moves so I wasn’t too insecure about that. But then I had to dance with partners that I didn’t know and therefore was uncomfortable around.  During this salsa lesson I had to practice the art of dancing without caring about what other people thought of or who was watching.

I think that’s a reason many of us don’t step out of our comfort zone. We’re afraid of what we’ll look like in front of other people. We’re afraid of what they’ll say about us if we fail or mess up.

But as I was dancing I learned that it was okay to not care. It was okay for me to not care what others around me might think of me and just be free. It was okay for me to be me.

It’s okay not to care.


So this week, try something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Do something that might put you in a position to maybe be wrong, but allows you to learn and grow. Do something this week that not only helps you to face your insecurities but overcome your insecurities.

Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this!

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