I didn’t know I could do a back roll

Yesterday, I went back to dance class at the Daloy Dance School. It was the first Saturday Adult Beginner’s Contemporary class for 2015 with our teacher Jared Luna. This is something I really want to bring with me from the previous year and hope to continue on a weekly basis (if possible) throughout the year, as long as I’m in Manila.

Last Saturday's Adult Beginner's Contemporary class with Jared Luna; I was so tired, I didn't even realise my foot placement was all wrong (photo taken from Daloy Dance School's FB account)

Last Saturday’s Adult Beginner’s Contemporary class with Jared Luna; I was so tired, I didn’t even realise my foot placement was all wrong (photo taken from Daloy Dance School’s FB account)

It had been a month since I was engaged in any real physical activity. Yes, there was that one or two nights of dancing over the holiday season (including the New Year celebration) but nothing like this and I was so scared that I was starting from ground zero. I did better than I thought I would.

I sort of had difficulty with one exercise moving across the floor because the counting of the movements were on a 3-count and my mind and body is so used to working on a 4-count meter. I was having a hard time getting my brain to move in this new system. At the same time, each count was not necessarily a step, it included a sustained movement and it was having difficulty re-programming my body’s understanding of counting. I was a little frustrated with myself but Jared told me that making that transition is not easy, especially from a beginner and he was just appreciative that I kept trying and did not quit.

I really didn’t. I really, really tried. It’s my problem, as a student, that once I understand in the head level the concept, I expect to be able to do it right away, not allowing myself a space with which to let the rest of my body catch up. Knowing the concept is different from being able to apply it correctly. And then I get frustrated and angry with myself and then I overthink it and I end up screwing myself up trying to do the task.

I really need to work on that. I’ll be a much better student if I can get over that character flaw.

When we got to the choreography part, I was so happy that I picked it up quickly. I’m getting much better at picking up choreography now. It helps that Jared’s preference of choreography technique is, what I’ve been told, “flying low,” which flows from one movement to the next. You just work with weight and counter-weight, so it’s easy to follow the next step. It is easy to remember and if you don’t fight it, you just flow with it. The movement flows naturally from one phrase to the next and it makes it so easy to remember the choreography.

After a few movements, the choreography led us to the floor and Jared asked, “Can everyone do a back roll?” I saw two people attempt to do it and succeed and, without thinking, I just went and did it. I rolled on my back, moved my neck in the most comfortable way, flipped over and found myself roughly in the position I was supposed to be, lying prone on the floor.

I did it and I didn’t even know that I could do it.

I am reminded of that quote from someone, I can’t remember who at the moment, that goes, “It’s easy to try and do something you didn’t know you couldn’t do than it is to try and do something you know you can’t do.” Something like that. Not knowing that I couldn’t do it, there was no fear in my attempt and BLAM! I did it. I probably did it wrong because I now have a bruise on my thigh that hurts every time I move my leg (but I’m happy to have it; I regard it like I do a battle scar) but I did it and doesn’t scare me now.

When we all did it, Jared was happy with what he saw and continued with the choreography and we practiced it a couple of times and so I had to do the back roll again and I kept doing it until I got more and more comfortable with it and I became less and less afraid of doing it.

Of course, this is where my age and my lack of any real heavy physical activity set in that the moment I did that back roll, I was out of breath and I was just trying to make the counts and do the movements and had no awareness to dance.

But this is just my fourth class and I’m just getting my body prepped to working on this level. I’m also exercising my mind and body so that I get used to moving in this fashion. I’m not expecting to be a professional dancer by next week. The product of all of this won’t be seen right after a class. This is something that will take time — to be at a level I can be happy with. This will take time and I’m willing to put in the time and effort to get better.

Over time, my stamina will improve, my coordination will fine tune itself, my confidence will increase, and I can start applying my awareness into my movements, so that I can start adding emotion and meaning into my movements. Eventually, I’ll be really dancing and just not moving.

That’s where I am heading and I’m not afraid to do the work. I’m not going to be impatient and expect immediate results.

This is a process. Becoming a dancer, the kind of dancer I would like to be, is not just about moving on the counts and following the choreography, but also being able to imbue content and emotions and a narrative into each movement. It’s not just about moving but it’s about telling stories through the movements. And at my current state, I can’t do that. I don’t have it in me yet.

But I’ve taken the first steps to getting there. Fourth class. Physically, my body is getting prepared to move in the way I would want it to. Mentally, my mind is adjusting and figuring out this new paradigm of thinking.

Maybe in a year, I’ll be able to really dance.

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