Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dance, dance, dance

Kari yesterday asked me what style of dance I do and I realised that while I have mentioned how much I love dance I haven't really talked much about what kind of dance I do.

When I was a little girl I did ballet classes, followed by jazz ballet for a time.  But I was always too tall, too gawky and the enthusiasm I had was never really encouraged by the teachers who knew with my physical size I was never going to be a professional dancer.   I think it is so sad that they wouldn't encourage such enthusiasm.  Sure I was never going to be a ballerina, but if someone loves something you should always encourage them.

So from the age of about 8 or 9 I didn't dance.  In high school there were dance opportunities in things like Rock Eisteddfod, but I had built up a whole host of myths in my head about dance (see below) that meant I never gave it a go.

In 2003 (I think) I went to a Christmas party where the hostess prompted a conversation by saying to someone he should tell us about his dancing.  He told us about Ceroc (modern jive) and in doing so blew all the myths that I had built up in my head out of the water.  At that point in my life the majority of my friends had moved away, I was unfit, had a minimal social life and I needed a new direction.  The next February I dragged two of my girlfriends along to a class and fell in love.  I came home that first night and sat on my Mum's bed beaming.  My words to her were "I think I could be good at this".

A few years later, after much dancing and hard work I was asked to come on staff.  I've moved from a demonstrator, to a junior instructor, to a senior instructor.  It would be fantastic to go back in time and tell those snobby ballet instructors that these days I'm a dance teacher!

My interest in dance has grown and grown.  Over the years I've tried out a multitude of styles.  As well as teaching Ceroc, I do lessons in and dance argentine tango, salsa and rumba on a regular basis.  I know the basics of zouk lambada, waltz and cha cha.  I even did a fantastic term of burlesque dancing that was probably the hardest class I've ever done with one of the most inspirational teachers ever.

Dance has quite literally changed my life.  I'm fitter and healthier than ever.  I have the most remarkably wonderful, quirky, brilliant and supportive group of friends.  I've developed body confidence and much better posture.  It has given me a hobby that I love and that brings me joy every time I do it.  And, most importantly, it was through dance that I met S.

So as I said earlier, I had built up a list of myths about dance in my head that prevented me trying it out for years.  So that no one else has them, here is my list of Myths of Dance.

Myth 1 : You have to go with a partner - I have no idea where I formed this impression but I can categorically say it is not true and the vast majority of people do not come to dance classes with a partner.  If anything coming with a partner can hamper you because if you only dance with them, you don't learn from all the other people, so if you do come with someone, make sure you still dance with as many different people as you can.

Myth 2 : Dance classes are really expensive - the average classes I've seen cost somewhere between $15 - $20.  Ok, this isn't cheap, but it also isn't a huge cost, most of us can find $15 or $20 a week for an activity.  These days I do private classes which are $60, now that is getting expensive but they let me learn all the styles I want to and I learn at a much faster pace than in group classes because I've been dancing for so long.  For me I find that valuable, but I had my first private class 7 years after I started learning, so if you are starting out group classes are all you need.

Myth 3 : You have to be really coordinated and graceful - ha!  If that was true there is no way I would be dancing.  I was someone who can fall over her own feet.  It took time to get my balance etc but these days I do cut a reasonably graceful figure on the dance floor.  And I still fall over my own feet.

Myth 4 : Dance isn't real exercise - I always love it when they have athletes on "Dancing with the Stars" and they say how fit they have got.  A few years ago the ceroc teachers did an exercise where they wore pedometers in class and they managed to do the entire day's recommended steps in a single dance class.  It is hard work, I've never been as fit as I am now, and the only difference in my life is dance.

Myth 5 : Only cool people know how to dance - yup, I was convinced you had to be in the in crowd to know how to dance.  Learning to dance is cool, but we all have to learn.  I've seen people from 18-80 in classes.  Those who dress fashionably, those who really, really don't.  And then comes the day when you decide it is more comfortable to wear socks under your dance shoes because what you are wearing, how your hair is done etc doesn't matter - you are just there to dance.  That said personal hygiene is really, really important!

Is there any activity that you have put off only to later discover you love?  And do you have any questions about dance, feel free to ask away.


  1. I admire you for taking to dance with such passion!

    I wish I was brave enough.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  2. SSG - one of the friends who I dragged to the first class ended up actually pushing me in the door, I was so nervous. Beginner classes are full of nervous people, but no one expects you to turn up knowing anything. If you want to dance, then take a class. In Sydney try Ceroc & Modern Jive (http://www.ceroc.com.au/) for fun, easy classes where you don't have to sign up to a whole term, you can just come when suits.

  3. Thanks so much for answering my question so comprehensively! I'm feeling inspired after reading this - for dance but also to get on with trying adult gymnastics, which is on my 'bucket list'. I did ballet for a year when I was 7 but then shifted to gym and loved it from 8 to 12. But as you relate, too tall, very capable of tripping over my own feet, clearly not going anywhere professional...it fizzled after that. I used to bemoan the lack of adult gymnastics options, then found a class and have never gone!

    I think 2012 I will aim to commit to doing that, or dance, or both :)

  4. Your passion shines through this post, darling! I still remember the overwhelming joy that suffused me when I went to my first 7-hour gospel workshop earlier this year. It was incredible to remember/relearn how much joy something like singing gives me, and it seems like starting dance again as an adult did this for you. What I'd really love is to find an adult tap class, but I've struggled to find that in Canberra :( I tried a studio in year 12 but they kept trying to push us into lycra concert performances; there were no dance-just-to-dance classes that I could find?

  5. Kari - give it a go. I always say if you try something and don't like it you can stop, but if you don't try how do you know. The start of the year is a great time because that is when lots of people start and you get to know your "cohort" for want of a better term.

    Hannah - isn't it magic when you find something you are so passionate about! I don't know much about tap but if you are looking for a class, check out the Ausdance website: http://ausdance.org.au/ they have a directory of studios which (I think) is organised by style.

  6. I would love to dance but am currently just working on finding time to fit in a class! I love that you busted all those dance myths as some of them were on my list of concerns. As a teacher myself (not dance, clearly!) im so sorry that your childhood teachers didnt encourage you. That was very remiss of them. I'm glad you ended up pursuing your passion and find such joy in it :) what a lovely post!

  7. Katie - do find the time. Most classes are only an hour and are on in the evening, although some studios also offer lunch classes. It is so much fun, if you want to try it I have no doubt you would love it.

  8. Beautiful post. You have inspired me and made me miss dancing more than ever!! I danced from age 3-18, ballet (RAD) and jazz. I miss it so. Next year I am determined to do classes!
    Heidi xo

  9. Well done! Must be a great feeling to be doing something you love and enjoy. I like dancing, but just for fun, a couple times a year during the very rare enthusiastic nights out with friends. ;)

  10. Heidi - yes start dancing again! There is nothing quite like it.

    Leaf - I love that sort of dancing too. We call it t-bagging i.e. bobbing up and down like a tea bag on the dance floor. I was very sorry when that term got stolen for a less savoury activity.

  11. Really loved reading this post. I love dancing but am no good at it, but I still take classes and go out dancing every weekend just for the fun of it! I can't believe anyone would say dancing isn't real exercise?!

  12. Riotersbloc - if you are having fun then that is all that matters. One of the reasons I don't ever intend to compete is that I long ago decided no one needs to tell me if I'm good or not at dance, having fun is all that counts.