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
During an argument with a friend last year, I said, “You make me feel so unvalued” to which he replied, “I can’t make you feel unvalued!”. At the time I thought he was just being arrogant by refusing to take ownership for being a selfish, insensitive louse, but… turned out that he had a valid point.
Saying “You make me feel…” is a victim statement. It means you are assuming no responsibility for yourself. It means that you are casting away your adult reasoning skills, your ability to think rationally, your right to evaluate information and make intelligent conclusions. It means you aren’t in control of anything – not even yourself.
Friday night, a friend commented on my outfit and said, “You make all the girls jealous.” There is a whole camp of girls who have bitter reactions to seeing my midriff or me dancing in my tiny tennis skirts. I want to be compassionate when I hear stuff like that because I know that comes from a place of hurt, but inside I’m rolling my eyes.
I can’t make anyone feel anything. I don’t have that kind of of power. All I can do is trigger a reaction in you. It is 100% up to you to determine what that reaction will be.
A few weeks ago, I attended a tango milonga. A very skilled dancer was there wearing a skirt with a very high slit. She looked gorgeous! So I watched her dance – and then my eyebrows shot up. As she moved, the slit granted the room a brief view of the crotch of her leotard as she danced. And I had a reaction to that.
At first I thought, “WHOA, that is a bit much”. But before I could start stirring up judgements and self-righteous positions on appropriate dress for dancing, my mind immediately turned it back to me… I asked myself, “Okay, so would I wear something like that?”. I decided probably not… it was more risqué than I was okay with right now. I knew I couldn’t pull that look off with the confidence it needed.
When I looked back at her, I found that my reaction was different this time. I could appreciate her confidence and her boldness in wearing something so eye-catching. She looked fabulous. What she wore was perfect for her. She pulled it off beautifully.
Her outfit could have left me feeling shame (my outfit looked frumpy in comparison), or I could have felt offended, jealous or disgusted. Instead, I took it as an invitation to look at myself, to evaluate what my reaction to her REALLY meant. Part of me envied her confidence and boldness (note to self: keep working on courage and confidence!). Part of me envied how beautifully she moved (note to self: keep working on my dancing!). Part of me simply envied how beautiful she is as a woman (I got inspired to fancy myself up a bit more next time).
Those were my reactions. They were all statements for myself. None of them were judgements towards her. She didn’t make me feel anything. But she triggered some areas for me to work on. In a way, she brought some motivation my way and helped direct my attention to things that are probably holding me back in some way.
Similar to my post on harsh words, everything in life is neutral; it’s how we react that determines whether it serves us or hurts us. We can either glare and gossip or we can ask the person for their expertise in getting what they have. We can accept the person as a motivation to address the part of us that is causing us such negative reactions. If you want to know how I stay thin or keep my abs so flat, just ask. I’ll tell you some things that could seriously change your life and your body.
Every reaction is an invitation to look inward. I find that “sticky reactions” – the ones that I can’t shake off easily – and the more potent they are, are always triggers for something in me that needs a deep level of healing. Sometimes they represent something I’m missing in my life, or something I’m neglecting in myself. Sometimes they are reflections of something I’m doing that I’m not proud of or happy about. My friend who “made” me feel unvalued? That was about me not valuing myself and my generosity.
I love that at age 40, I’ve finally matured enough to begin changing how I react to triggers. I owe some of that to Bryon Katie’s work and some of it to unraveling my own knots of judgment. Having greater comfort in my own skin allows me to feel fine with other people doing whatever suits them. And it totally empowers me knowing that my judgements are never about the other person. They are always, undoubtedly, 100% about me.
Karen Kaye – 2014