Every New Year we have people coming in with their New Year’s resolution of learning to dance. On the first Friday evening of January Patricia and her friends stood outside of the large glass window of the Arthur Murray Dance Center in Woodland Hills. After several minutes of watching one of our practice sessions, Patricia was the only one of her friends with the courage to come in and sign up for an introductory personal lesson.
Feeling nervous, Patricia entered the dance studio for her first lesson with a passion to cross this off her bucket list but with a fear of the unknown. After her first lesson Patricia revealed to us that this has been on her bucket list for a long time. For years she thought dancing would never make it off her bucket list because she viewed herself as clumsy, uncoordinated and ungraceful. Though coming in for her first lesson required a lot of self-motivation and courage, she was happy that she finally pushed herself to come in and try it for the first time, no longer making excuses of why she shouldn’t.
Together, Patricia and I chose a few dances that she would focus on. From the start Patricia was very good about attending the group classes, she understood the benefit of dancing a step repeatedly and learning how to follow other dance partners. However, Patricia’s feelings of insecurity kept her from staying through a full practice session. For her first couple of practice sessions she would quickly exit after a dance, maybe two. Each practice session she came to she became a little bit more comfortable with the environment. It took lots of encouragement from all of the instructors and students and before long she found herself staying for more and more dances, and eventually she was staying for the entire practice session.
One Friday night, we surprised Patricia by inviting her to do an impromptu spotlight at the practice session. We danced a Rumba together; she danced beautifully and kept a smile on her face the whole time. Everyone cheered her on while she was dancing and when she took her bow. I could not have been more proud of her! That night was the beginning of Patricia being able to let go and dance with confidence in front of a small audience, just herself and her partner on the floor. On our following lesson I asked Patricia to participate in our Newsome Twosome, an in-studio event that featured our new students. Even though she was still nervous to perform she trusted me and said yes. We immediately started working on a choreographed dance for our Newsome Twosome. As the performance time approached Patricia grew more and more nervous and was also feeling pain from a past ankle injury. The evening of the show she wore a dress that she had hanging in her closet for years and never had a chance to wear. We got on the floor and she performed beautifully. I still to this day congratulate her on her hard work with that performance.
As Patricia continued to gain more confidence and trust, I asked her one day to close her eyes so that she could really feel the dance. When Patricia closed her eyes she started to tear up. After opening her eyes she began to share with me that it was one of the most difficult exercises that I had ever asked her to do. Trusting people has always been so difficult for her and through the dancing and connection she has developed with all of us here at the studio she was beginning to feel her insecurities melt away. Patricia knew that she was safe, that I would not allow her to fall; I would lead her safely through her steps and help transform her into the confident, beautiful dancer that she always dreamed of. That level of trust overwhelmed her.
I’m sure she still feels nervous about performing, but after attending in-studio events, and taking lessons with other instructors, she is beginning to feel more comfortable every time she enters the studio. This has become her safe place; where she knows there won’t be judgment by others. I can’t wait for what is to come with Patricia’s dancing and for the many other students that admire what we do from the outside of our studio; gazing in from the large windows just like Patricia, a beautiful flower that has blossomed.
By Victor Mendoza
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