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Life Through Dance

Staying Aware for Smooth Transitions

By Elizabeth Dickinson

After several years away from international standard, the closed work in my smooth routines began to suffer, so my teacher and I started to incorporate a bit more standard work again. I love standard, too, so it’s not a hardship.

One of the trickiest things about closed work in smooth is getting in and out of closed hold. It never seems as difficult if you’re always in hold (as in standard), but it feels a lot more difficult if you’re constantly transitioning in and out of hold.

Part of the challenge is staying aware during transitions. In dance, I find there are certain transitional moments that don’t always register for me, like a closed twinkle leading up to a more difficult open step. I focus on the more difficult step and am unaware that how I produce the transitional twinkle (my setup, direction, orientation, balance) helps determine how successful the supposedly more difficult following step is.

Life sometimes asks us to make constant small transitions, in addition to the large ones (graduation, marriage, birth, death). Change in any form can be stressful. In a talk I give on stress, I reference the Holmes-Rahe stress inventory. Most of the top stressors listed in the inventory are unambiguously stressful: divorce, family death or illness, etc. However, people are often surprised that what we think of as fortunate occurrences also are stressful. For instance, events like outstanding personal achievement or recovery from illness may force unanticipated consequences and a reappraisal of our life path.

In life and dance, questions arise during small and large transitions. Will I arrive at my destination? How does this new move change my relationship to myself and others? Will it be easy to move again out of this transition? What’s next?

Know that the transition may be as important as arriving at the final destination. This is true whether the destination is a new dance position, a new relationship, or a new job.

Living inside the questions, staying present to yourself and not losing awareness during transitional moments, helps determine your success in the next destination. May we pursue our paths, staying aware as we aim for smooth transitions.