…was once a beginner, so the saying goes. And, it’s so self-evident as to be almost ridiculous to state (which is what makes it a great aphorism, I suppose). The idea that we all were beginners at some point gives hope and encouragement to everyone who is just starting out at an endeavour like dancing with Salsaholics. That idea can encourage someone to stretch a little bit to achieve their goals. Many students, after a few weeks attending our Foundation class, decide to stay for the second, Repertoire class. Sometimes the pattern is a little too advanced for them; sometimes, they surprise themselves by being up to the challenge.
As an instructor, I dance a fine line between encouraging an eager, up-and-coming student, and inviting someone who will hold back the rest of the class because they aren’t quite there yet in terms of foundational moves to sit out and observe for another week or two. It’s sometimes a tricky call. Most of the time, students tend to underestimate their ability and confidence, tending to excuse themselves from the Repertoire class when it’s likely they could be successful. Especially for those who have been in the Foundation class for at least a month, I would certainly encourage them to stay for the second class.
What about those who regularly attend the Repertoire class? To those students I would invite them to think about the aphorism above in slightly different terms, replacing the past with the present tense: The expert at anything is once a beginner. This slight tweak suggests a profound idea: The expert is the one who approaches any endeavour with the beginner mind, that is, a willingness to learn, to reflect, to grow, and to approach their practice – no matter what field of human endeavour it might encompass – with a quiet humility. An expert questions the details of their activity and seeks to improve the minutiae. An expert asks, how can I make this experience even better than it already is, both for me and my partner?
There’s an old saying in dance instruction: The beginners want to take the advanced beginner class. The advanced beginner wants to take intermediate-level classes. The intermediate dancer wants to take the advanced workshop. And the advanced dancer? They want to focus on their basics, and their fundamentals. They want to take a beginner class with the expertise that enables them to concentrate on the very fine points of excellence. The expert, with the beginner mind. You’ll notice that person, and if you’re lucky, you might even get a dance when we…
See you on the dance floor.