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dancing lessons

July 23, 2009

I’m taking another dance class this summer.  My instructor is a friend of a friend, who agreed to give me some ballet and modern dance training. 

There are pros and cons to taking private lessons.  It’s great because my dance instructor (DI) can focus on the areas in which I need improvement.  She can stand next to me to correct my form to ensure I don’t injure myself.  The cons are the same as above.  I’m the only one there so I can’t hide behind other students or get away with anything!  I have DI’s undivided attention, and she works me hard!  My first few lessons were I-N-T-E-N-S-E!!!  But I loved every minute of it!  I was sore for days!  I’m not a masochist or anything, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of sore muscles after a good workout. 

One thing is certain: it is hard work!  Trying to learn this stuff at my age is extremely difficult.  My body doesn’t move the way it did or would have if I had taken classes ten or fifteen years ago.  It’s a good thing DI is patient, even when I keep making the same mistakes.  “Shake it off and try it again,” she continually tells me.  So I shake it off and refocus, as DI counts it out, “five-six-seven-eight-and-one… You almost had it!” 

Thankfully, I’m getting to a point where I can tell what I did wrong.  There is so much to remember: stomach tight, shoulders down, turn out, gather arms, relax neck, hold it, and breathe! And that’s just standing!  When we are working on turns or combinations, there are several other check-lists to remember.  Most of the time, I feel like I’m flailing around as I try to conquer and control the movements.  Eventually I get it, not perfectly, but enough to recognize what I am attempting to execute.  I won’t say that each time I attempt a turn or leap I get better – sometimes I get worse the more I try – but overall there is a vast improvement from that very first time.

Tuesday as I caught my breath and gathered myself for yet another series of turns, I thought about how many times I look up to heaven and say “Come on, Lord!  Are you serious?  This one again?  I thought I learned this lesson last time?!  Do I really need to go through it again? I thought I was good on the whole (insert name of virtue here) thing?”  I realized growing in virtue is like learning to dance: the more practice one has, the more it becomes second nature.  Once there is a strong foundation in dance, one can execute glorious leaps and turns with apparent ease whenever the occasion to do so may arise. 

And so it is with virtue.  It is not easy working through recurring lessons in humility, patience, charity or what have you, but the more exercise I get in regards to dealing with challenges that test the aforementioned virtues, the more I realize the necessity of repetition.  Soon, the virtue will become as easy as breathing.  I won’t have to think about a response; it will simply happen.  Just like the turns and leaps I’ve been diligently practicing, my body, mind and heart will gather itself for a graceful execution of the virtue(s) required for the situation at hand. 

Standing in the middle of dance class, all sweaty and exhausted, I got it.  I smiled to myself as I embraced the repetitious movements and combinations with a new determination and appreciation.  There were even a few times during this week’s practice that I insisted on another try after DI declared the previous and miserably failed attempt my last one.  “Once more!” I said more than once, trying to catch my breath.  I gathered myself and stood in preparation as DI counted it out again, “Five-six-seven-eight-and-one…”


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