Humble Pie (and why you need it!)

17 Oct

When was your last slice?

To those of you who have been dancing for a while and have reached a decent level, when was the last time that you had a good portion of humble pie?

I recently joined a dance company that has nothing to do with salsa. I joined to learn new styles of dance, new movements, and to meet some new people. The group has a great reputation and a very strict director that maintains it as such.

My first 2 practice sessions  with them weren’t overly challenging as they were going easy on the new guy! However, I arrived late for my third practice session with them and after I warmed up I moved to the back of the room to watch the rehearsal of a particularly fast paced choreography. The room itself was round with windows on all sides so everything could be seen by all the people outside (the practice hall is in a public park). At the back I clumsily tried to copy some of the movements I saw performed in front of me. I was pretty embarrassed as I knew the people outside could see me doing it and and doing it badly at that.

They then did the whole choreography to music. It was fast. So fast that during the 3 times they did it, my jaw hung open somewhere around my ankles.

Then came the moment that I hoped wouldn’t come. The director called my name (actually he called me “Michael” first until someone corrected him) and asked me what part I had been watching. I froze! I had been watching the whole choreography in awe and hadn’t even thought of memorizing the moves. I didn’t answer and just stood there with a look something similar to what I looked like when I realized I was getting mugged for the first time “Is this seriously happening?”, “Oh God no!”.

A friend of mine ran over to me and asked again what part I had watched and I stuttered that I hadn’t watched any one part in particular and that I couldn’t do the dance. She told me with the sternness of a parent to a child who doesn’t want to go to school, that I had to do it. My fate was sealed. I was getting schooled whether I liked it or not!

I walked to the position the director picked for me, looked around and took the pose of the guys around me and then the music sounded and in less time than it takes to say “Dear God No!”, the choreography started.

Quick turn, new pose, start spinning, new position, pose in front of female partner, rotate around her, spin to new partner, take formation with the other men, move around the room, pair up with yet again new partner, spin her a few times, dance around her… and so on. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I imagine it looked something like the first few minutes of the D-Day landings in Normandy as viewed by the allied troops… “We’re FU$KED!”

Another member of the group actually chased me around the room shouting directions at me and telling me where to move. All I could think about was how badly I was doing it and all the people outside looking at me, laughing and thinking of me as the uncoordinated foreigner who thought he could join this dance group.

The moment the music stopped was the sweetest sound (or I should say silence) I have ever heard. I was humiliated, I felt like crying, I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me down and I had a whole 15 seconds to feel that way before the choreography started again. Of the 5 times we rehearsed, none were quite as humiliating as the first time but they came shockingly close.

I’ll be honest I really felt like I wanted to give up the idea of dancing with the group, right there and then.

Sucking like a vacuum cleaner
When was the last time you felt that way yourself? Might it have been after your first uncoordinated salsa class? During your first awkward “attempt” at a social dance? Right after you were refused a dance for the first time? That time you dropped your partner on her head?

I’m assuming, however, that you didn’t quit, that you grit your teeth and kept going and because of that you dance the way you do today.

What I’m trying to get at is that before we get good at something, we have to SUCK at it big-time first. We humiliate ourselves, we look like idiots and we feel like quitting but every time we practice we suck a little bit less.

I think that’s the whole point, to suck a little less every time. It’s called practice because the whole idea of it is for you to get better, eventually. If we were automatically good at everything we tried we would never feel that sense of achievement that we get after putting in some hard work and suffering through the embarrassment of sucking for a while.

The demeaning ordeal with the dance group really helped me remember what it felt like when I first started dancing and made me appreciate how far I’ve come since then. I used to actually wait for songs to be almost finished before I asked women to dance to avoid the embarrassment of only knowing a couple of moves. Now I can’t get enough dances in during a night out!

As long as I remember how far I’ve come with salsa (or Japanese or Karate or anything else I’ve achieved for that matter) taking on new challenges doesn’t phase me much. I know from experience that to get to the point where I’m good at something I need to go through a “perceived” humiliating period of seriously sucking at it.

Go out and get a slice
Being humbled every now and then would do us all some good every now and then. Try to remember when you had your last slice of humble pie. I’d you can’t remember it’s probably due time for a big piece so go out and look for a new challenge. Find something you’ve always wanted to do and just do it. And if you suck at the start (as most people will) just eat that portion of humble pie and shout out military style “THANK YOU SIR! CAN I HAVE ANOTHER SIR!”. The slices will get smaller and smaller every time!

As for me, I plan on going back to practice with the dance group this week for my next portion of humble pie. I’m going to suck, but not as bad as the last time, and that’s what it’s all about.

Keep dancing folks.

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2 Responses to “Humble Pie (and why you need it!)”

  1. Roisin October 17, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    Great article, very honest. Colombia can be quite humbling in many respects I remember esp due to the frankness of the people but good for getting to know yourself more! You didnt mention what kind of dance group you have joined!?

    • The Dancing Irishman October 17, 2012 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks Roisin. Yeah, I get humbled here every day, especially when I speak in Spanish hahaha! I’m keeping the group a secret for the moment, all will be revealed in the near future! Haha!

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