I’m in a room filled with enthusiastic dancers and one self-righteous critic. She leans in close and mutters, “No one here can dance”. I smile politely but cringe inside.
When people scoff at how others dance, I want to remind them that not everyone can afford to drop thousands of dollars for private lessons. Many dancers are struggling to get by as students or single parents. I started dancing when I was in grad school completing two Masters degrees. Private lessons wasn’t an option for me for many, many years. Most people would love to invest in their dancing, but it isn’t always feasible. It isn’t fair to mock people who have the passion but don’t have the financial means to do the kind of training others do.
Let’s also not forget that most of us get into dancing just to have fun. Not everyone seeks to compete or perform. Some dance to be more expressive or playful. Some are experimenting with new concepts and ideas. Not everyone wants to dance the same way or the same style. Others seek to innovate, not recreate… and let’s be honest: innovating and experimenting is a wonky looking process, and everyone deserves a safe space to explore and create their magic.
I realize that the path I’ve chosen for myself isn’t necessarily the right path for everyone else. I love private lessons and practicas and seeking feedback. And yes, I know a lot of people get exasperated by the skill level in their scene and wish their peers would train more. However, if I want to raise the level in my scene, I need to be someone who inspires and helps others, not shames them or shuts them out. Serious dancers have the power to create glass ceilings in their community and they have the power to break them.
It’s easy to get self-righteous as we progress. I know several beginners who grew very critical of others once they got serious with their training.
When I find myself falling into judgement, I know it’s ego (which is driven by insecurity) sparking that. I turn my attention inward to focus on how I can better my dancing – or how I can help support others along their journey.
Dance communities are small. So much is gained by being kind, supportive and helpful of one another. I’m less interested in judging what my peers are doing and I’m more interested in finding ways I can inspire or invite people to explore new concepts and ideas along with me.
And I love sharing what (or most importantly, who) has been helpful for me. Serious dancers and scene leaders can gently offer guidance to those who are struggling, lost or going down the wrong paths for the result they seek.
True scene leaders help each other UP the ladder, not kick them down to the ground, block the ladder or scoff at how no one knows how to climb a ladder. You never know why people are where they are and why. It’s worth staying humble and kind. ❤
We may never know what issues people are facing which make them think, act and react in certain ways. Be helpful rather than judgmental. – Mufti Ismail Menk
I want to share a personal story about dance spirit.
This weekend I received an unsolicited, catty remark from a “professional” about my tango dancing. Had I been a total beginner, that remark would have left an ugly slash in my motivation and interest in continuing with tango.
Sadly, the remark had it’s intended impact and left me struggling to find the confidence I have been steadily building. I felt deflated and I questioned whether I truly have what tango requires of me.
Saturday night I was at a milonga and a favorite nuevo song came on. I turned to the first man I saw and anxiously asked, “Do you like nuevo?” to which he wordlessly swept me onto the floor in an embrace that honestly, left me nearly breathless. Apparently, I had asked a lead who was a true rockstar milonguero.
I remember making a stumble during that dance. I immediately apologized for my sloppiness – to which he murmured a warm reassurance that lifted my confidence back into flight.
This man, Mahmoud, exuded class. He slipped away before I could thank him not only for such a lovely tanda, but also for being such a gentleman. This man appeared when my dance spirit was feeling a bit broken. His kindness and willingness to embrace me unconditionally for where I am in my dance journey restored my faith that I am part of a community with a warm heart…. and not just self-righteous egos of superiority.
Tonight, I returned to my weekly practica with Marcos and Ruta, whose support and generous guidance flood me with inspiration every week. I feel them looking at me with excitement, seeing my potential, gently pulling it out of me… these two can see within me. They see butterflies of potential beginning to break from their silky cocoons. They see the birth of magic which I have yet to imagine is possible for me.
Tango, being such a profoundly intense and complex dance, has one inherent weakness. It can create a tremendously vulnerable dance spirit, which can be easily broken. It’s why people commit to and quit tango over and over and over.
The delicacy of one’s dance spirit should not be forgotten. – Karen Leigh Kaye
The scene leaders in our tango community have an unfortunate power that bears great responsibility. They can nurture ones dance spirit – or poison it to an untimely death. Sadly, I see too many cases where dance spirits are broken or mangled by behaviors driven by insecurity, sheer meanness, exclusion, self-righteousness or delusions of superiority.
Perhaps the true masters of tango have conquered the greatest challenge tango confronts us with – the challenge to be true gentleman and women of grace and class – to everyone seeking the heart of tango.
When beckoned to choose between throwing dirt and judgement – or casting light and love, choose wisely. For this may be where the true future of tango lies.
Last year for Michael’s birthday, I found myself really struggling. I didn’t want to impress him with a big gift, I wanted to touch his heart. At the time, I felt that he really needed a reminder of what a phenomenal man he truly is. So this is what I did.
I created a document. The first page was titled, “Things I love about my darling”. And I listed out all the beautiful, amazing things about Michael that I wanted him to be always reminded of. Here’s a brief sample of what I did:
I ran out of room and still had so much more to say, so I added a second page titled, “More Things I am Grateful for…”. I did my best to be as specific as I could so he knew someone was recognizing all the facets of him that don’t get acknowledged enough.
My plan was to frame them (which i did) but Michael travels a lot and always carries a backpack with him, so I wanted him to have something he could carry with him. Sometimes he calls while on the road and I hear him feeling worn out or beat down from a rough day. So I took a copy to Staples and had them laminate it so he could keep it in his backpack all the time… and on the rough days, I hoped he’d stumble upon it and take a few moments to be reminded of just how impressive he truly is.
So if you are struggling to find the right gift for someone you adore, whether a loved one, a dear friend, or even an employee who you want to recognize at retirement, consider touching one’s heart by telling them all the beautiful things you see in them – but haven’t quite said.
Many years ago, I took a class from Dee Wallace, the actress who played the mom in E.T. At the time, she had been “blackballed” in Hollywood and consequently, was holding acting classes and life coaching seminars, one of which I stumbled upon.
Those weekend seminars fascinated me, but one particular experience stuck with me all these years. It was a rather jarring watercoloring exercise.
At the news of doing an art project, I immediately grew anxious. Definitely not my forte. Dee got everyone settled in with the proper acoutrements and told us to paint whatever we desired.
A miracle happened that day in July because somehow, I created something worthy for a lobby in a Marriott hotel. Sure it was an 8×10 watercolor on paper done in 15 minutes crouched on the floor, but I remember being extremely proud of what I had created. I was ecstatic.
Then Dee tells us to take our watercolor and hand it to the person next to us.
The guy next to me was a sketchy, struggling actor who looked hyper-paranoid and super emotional. I had zero interest in handing my precious artwork to someone who was probably going to be on the 6:00 news before he got cast as an extra.
Dee then instructed the group to use our watercolors to destroy the piece of work we just got. Paint all over it! Make it as ugly as you can! Do whatever you want! The Emo-guy holding my opus lit up – he slashed brown and green all over it before she stopped talking.
I’m horrified. My heart breaks. For the first time in my life, I did something artistic that I loved, that I was proud of and I had to watch it get destroyed by some emotionally unstable hipster?
The moment Emo-guy stoically handed my piece back, I felt broken. Dee tells us to really look at that piece. And then she calmly tells us to take our watercolors and to “fix it”.
How do you fix something that seems hopeless? Those first few moments felt tedious as I struggled out of paralysis into action. But my brush somehow found a color and a place on the paper… and then another color and another place… and ten minutes later, I looked at my watercolor and froze.
What I did the first time was good. But what I ended with that day – after fixing it from the brutal artistic trauma it endured – was actually FAR BETTER.
When Dee got blackballed in Hollywood, someone “ruined” her art. But it was only because of that incident that she got into doing the life work that brought her to her true purpose in life. She wanted to impact people on a spiritual level. Being an actress was fine, but being a coach, speaker and writer was a far greater contribution to humanity.
Recently, my “art” has been getting ruined. My plans for life changes keep getting hijacked. I’ve been stuck in “fix it” mode. So tonight, I pulled out my watercolors and I painted. And I remembered that session with Dee. I remembered that a ruined plan is simply the layer beneath something beautiful that I haven’t created yet. From destruction comes inspired greatness.
The ruins and broken pieces are what generates inspiration, creativity and brilliant new paths. Every broken situation is simply a call for us to dig into our creativity. A nudge toward something better.
Perhaps the ruined art, the fiasco at home, the loss of a job, or the mishap on the dance floor is simply an invitation to be greater…. to become more than what we ever thought we could be. We might just surprise ourselves.
A few months ago, I challenged myself to find 100 things in my life to be grateful for. When I share this story with others, people oftentimes look lost and express their doubt that they can do the same. If you want to take on this challenge and you find yourself struggling with getting to #100, here are some thoughts to nudge you along.
First, I recognize that some of these are not going to apply to you. You may be recovering from an illness or an accident or had a childhood of hardship. If that is the case, shift your focus to being grateful for whatever good you can find. Whatever hardship you are experiencing in your life, recognize that it could be much worse.
The key here is to be specific. When you write about your family, friends or yourself, write exactly what traits you value and appreciate. We know that your best friend is fun. Instead, say that you are grateful that your best friend is adventurous enough to go dance-walking with you.
Lastly, when I do Gratitude Journal, I start every entry with one of the following: “I am SO grateful for…” or “I love…” or “I deeply appreciate…”. Let yourself get emotional and really feel the love and appreciation. Be effusive and gushy. Emotion deepens the power of gratitude. It makes it real, and not just words on paper.
So… what kinds of things might you be grateful for?
Your Health and Body
- The gift of sight, speech, hearing, smell, taste (and what do you LOVE seeing, hearing, tasting, sensing?)
- Having strong bones, smooth skin, healthy teeth, strong digestion, healthy heart, etc.
- The ability to walk, reproduce, move freely, think clearly, or carry your own child
- What features do you love? Your hair, your smile, your laugh, your hands, your eyes, your cute butt, etc. 🙂
- Their sense of humor (can they always get you in a good mood, raise your spirits?)
- How reliable they are (when did they really come through for you?)
- How fun they are (what makes them so fun? Common interests? Quirky personalities? Adventurous spirits?
- The way they give great advice (when did they help you through a tough time?)
- How they inspire you or motivate you (when did they made a big difference in your life?)
- Thoughtful things they do (remembering your birthday, treating you to coffee, baking your favorite cookies)
- Remembering to invite you or include you for outings and parties
- Favors they have done for you, gifts they have given you, kind words or meaningful compliments they’ve given you.
- The way they just listen when you need to talk
- Friends who stood by you during difficult times and hardships
- Did you have enough food growing up?
- Were you raised in a reasonably safe neighborhood?
- Were your basic needs provided for?
- What traits did you love about your mother, father and siblings?
- Did your parents take you on vacations? What special memories do you have from those trips?
- Did they make meals you loved? Take good care of you when you were sick?
- Did they give you special gifts for holidays or birthdays? Maybe something that meant a lot to you at the time? Did you like how they celebrated your birthdays or graduations?
- Did they pass on heirlooms to you? Or give special possessions to you?
- Did they financially support you when they didn’t really have to?
- Did they sacrifice for you? Work two jobs to put food on the table?
- Did they Instill values, beliefs or practices that positively affected your life?
- Were they good role models? Were they caring? Honest? Dependable? Did they show you unconditional love?
- Any favorite memories from childhood? What moments still warm your heart today?
Your Own Characteristics
- Consider traits like your sense of humor, intelligence, intuition, dedication, discipline, commitment, persuasiveness, etc.
- Are you a helpful person? Do you do volunteer work? Are you a good cheerleader for others?
- Do you have common sense, good judgement, integrity, strong morals/ethics, or unshakable integrity?
- What knowledge or skills are you grateful for having? Are you handy? Creative? Have a great sense of style? Always know the right thing to say? Good at handling conflict? Learn things easily? Have a natural talent for sports? An amazing cook or a great writer?
- What values are you most proud of? Who or what ingrained those values in you?
- What parts of your work life are you most proud of? Are you always on time? Excellent with following up? A strategic thinker? Good at planning things? Give stellar customer service? Great at solving problems? Addressing conflict?
- What kinds of things have you accomplished? A fear of public speaking? Run a 5k? Create a blog?
- What attributes of yourself are you most proud of? Are you thoughtful? Reliable? Have integrity? Romantic? Creative? Friendly? Extroverted? Witty? A great story teller? Fun at parties?
- What hobbies have contributed to your quality of life? Did you have teachers, trainers or coaches who you learned from or who encouraged you?
- Did you have teachers who inspired you?
- Classes that you especially enjoyed?
- Any fond memories of old classmates?
- How did school inspire you or prepare you for life ahead?
- Did you receive financial aid for school? Did your parents pay for your education? Did anyone help you through school? Tutors? Study groups? Counselors?
Life in General
- Do you like the sunshine? The rain? Cold weather? I am grateful every day for the warm, bright sunshine!
- Are you grateful for having downtime to just relax, watch tv, or hang out with friends?
- Are you grateful for where you live and what you live close to?
- Do you like your home? What parts of your home do you love?
- Are you grateful for having a roof over your head? Do you live in a generally safe neighborhood?
- Do you have reliable transportation? Have a car with air conditioning or a heater that works?
- What conveniences are you grateful for? Microwave ovens? Garage door openers? How close you live to Trader Joe’s or your favorite bar/restaurant?
This should give you some ideas of how to begin looking at your world differently…. Don’t forget that even some of the painful moments in your life may have been gifts that weren’t realized until later in life. Getting laid off from a job may have been a blessing because it helped you land an even better job closer to home. I have found that virtually everything in my life was a blessing in some way – and therefore, something to be grateful for.
I stopped wishing people “good luck” a while ago. Not because they didn’t deserve it, but because I had an epiphany.
Luck is something that happens by chance – something that is out of your control. Whether good or bad, luck is what happens to you, not by you.
I don’t believe things happen randomly. And I would never wish random chance upon another.
I no longer talk about “luck”. I now talk about “fortune”.
I believe fortune is something we build with our own hands, with the power of our own creative and brilliant minds. Our level of fortune is something we control by our beliefs, our intentions, and our actions.
After doing gratitude journal, I often pause for a moment of reflection. I don’t think about how lucky I am. I reflect upon the fortune I am attracting and creating in my life. I rejoice in my power to build a life of fortune.
Every day, I am reminded of my own power as I do gratitude journal. I am clearly in control – look at all these pages of amazing things I am bringing into my life! Nothing is happening here by chance. My beliefs, actions and intentions are creating fortune in every area of my life, every day – bit by bit.
I’m constantly attracting opportunities, inspiration, kindness, generosity, creative ideas, the right people and the right circumstances. I set my intentions, dismantle the blocks and gratefully receive all that comes.
I don’t need luck when I am in control. Wishing “good luck” seems to subvert ones power by suggesting that they don’t directly influence their own future. Instead, I’d rather convey my intention that good fortune will support them.
So I won’t wish you good luck. But when I say, “Good fortune to you”, know that I’m setting a direct and clear intention for you. And let that be an invitation for you to join me in setting the intention for the result you are seeking.
All fortunes start with an intention. Whatever result you want, empower yourself by taking command instead of relinquishing the reins to the winds of chance. The power to create is within your hands.
Photo Credit: Hooping as a Tool for Manifestation.