Why Embarrassment is the Better Option
By Kaylee Anderson
I stared with utter distaste at the hand offered to me. “You want me to what?”
He cocked his head to the side, a smirk on his face. “Come on. You're never going to get better at West Coast if you don't practice.”
I glared out at the crowded dance floor, watching a myriad of colored lights swirl among the dancers already on the floor. “But I hate it. Like, hate it.”
He scoffed gently, pulling me to my feet. “You only hate it because you can't do it well. Once you know the moves, it'll be your favorite dance--I promise.”
I plodded reluctantly out onto the floor with a heavy sigh. I was sure he was wrong--there was no way in hell I would ever enjoy this strange pattern of arm-flailing and nonsensical steps.
It turns out last year's version of me was entirely wrong. Sure, I may not have mastered the steps of West Coast swing, but it's certainly become once of my favorite dances--along with all of the other dances I've ever tried. I've discovered a pattern that I and many other dancers follow: when people first start learning a new dance, they are hesitant, especially if they are the kind of dancers that hate to make mistakes and would rather do things right the first time. They choose to save themselves the embarrassment of stumbling through the steps and stay with their backs against the wall, staring out at the crowd while other people whirl past them. This, as you may have guessed, is simply not as much fun. It's hard to both be self-conscious about your abilities and have a good time.
I've found a simple yet difficult solution to this problem: stop caring about what other people think and just do it. This is easier said than done, of course, especially if you are new to not-caring like I was a year ago. What's important to remember, especially if you are social dancing, is that no one is judging your every move. Yes, occasionally there are people watching you, but no one is sitting there taking notes on every little thing you're doing wrong and laminating it to mock you with later. It's more than acceptable to experiment a little with your dancing so you know what works for you and what doesn't, and that's hard to do if you're nitpicking your own dancing. You can't allow yourself to be paralyzed by the fact that you can't perfectly execute a move or that you put your foot in the wrong place. If you overthink your dancing, it will automatically be way worse than you expected.
Instead, just tell yourself to try. If you're putting effort into what you do and you're having a good time, then that's all that anyone else could ever ask for. If someone asks you to try a dance that you've only done twice in your life, don't turn them down. Uttering a small “I kind of suck at this, but I'll try” is fine, and if your partner doesn't slowly back away then you have no reason to feel ashamed. They've chosen to dance with you, and it's probably not because you are the most amazing and perfect dancer to exist. This is how I've begun to improve in a variety of dances, even if I've never had a formal lesson in that style. Stumbling through a dance is a fantastic way to learn, and if you allow yourself to have opportunities like that it won't be long before you'll have trouble picking a favorite dance. That's how I've learned a majority of Samba. I'm still terrible at it, but every time a Samba comes on I always make someone dance it with me. I know that I probably look silly and that my technique is all over the place, but I'm way better than I used to be because I've given myself many opportunities to learn.
So, the next time someone asks you to dance, don't plaster yourself to the wall and try to blend in with the foliage--paste on a smile, offer your hand, and get ready to look silly. After all, maybe the dance you're hesitant to try will end up becoming your favorite.