Inspired by the breathtaking ice dance performances of Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, my 4-and-a-half-year-old went for her very first skating lesson yesterday, on the Family Day holiday (big thanks to my dad for providing the skates which… isn’t that what grandparents are for? I think he had the best time watching her… but I digress). For the first half of the lesson, she was probably on her bottom more than she was on her feet, and trying to figure out why, if she pushed off on this foot, why it slipped backwards rather than her going forwards. By the end of the lesson, she was all smiles, making her way from one side of the lesson rink to the other, and taking a victory lap with mom and dad around the full perimeter of the recreational skate rink.
What I observed in my child reminded me of beginning dancers in my salsa classes. The feet, very often, don’t do what you want them to do. Sometimes you end up flat on the floor on your butt (if not literally, then certainly metaphorically). And it can become frustrating, especially at first when everyone else seems to be gliding with ease to the music. But the one thing I noticed most about my daughter’s reaction to the lesson was that she was smiling the entire way through. She laughed at her setbacks, getting herself back up on her feet and figuring out a way to make it work. And with every attempt, she learned a little more about what she could be doing to move a tiny step closer to achieving her aspiration. At the end of the outing – besides inquiring whether we could return the next day – she was determined in asking, “When do I get to learn how to dance on the ice?”
She later declared that she wanted to go to the Olympics as an ice dance competitor, and to carry the flag for Canada, like Tessa Virtue.
As we learn to dance – salsa on the floor, that is – it is the determination born out of a aspirational dream that truly drives us to succeed and excel. Beginning dancers see themselves gliding confidently at a club, or social, or even at an upcoming event at which there will be “real” dancing. With the first five or ten lessons – one to three months in – they progress to the point where they wonder the equivalent of the kindergartner’s wide-eyed declaration that they now know how to dance, and when will they be able to be a dance Olympian?
As a progressing dancer, when you have learned enough to be comfortable at a social or a company party, there is still much value in taking the Repertoire class, for instance, to expand your knowledge of moves and groups of elements that comprise the patterns each week, and to improve your skill and deftness in leading or following. Your next aspiration might be to dance with much more experienced dancers without feeling intimidated. Or, it might be to master particular styling that will enhance the look of your new-found skills. Or, you might gain an awareness of certain subtleties in the fundamental moves that you never noticed before as you learned the initial entry-level skill, that now will make a big difference in your ability to partner and enjoy the experience.
Like my daughter will learn, the road to achieving ultimate ambitions will be long, and require a lot of dedication, focus, and practice. And even if you never actually reach that ultimate goal, the time invested in practice and learning will pay off not only in personal enjoyment, but in your own pride of accomplishment, no matter what level you reach.