New at Heart: Giving and Receiving the Gift of Newness

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Recently I was in a really excellent tango workshop, and I was feeling overwhelmed.  This happens to me regularly.  It’s a personal issue that I’ve discussed with some of my fellow Sangha Space community, but it still pops up from time to time, especially when I’m trying to absorb a lot of new information.  I HATE feeling like I am holding others back.

I think this dates back to my childhood.  I was a bright kid who had been homeschooled with a great deal of freedom to learn whatever interested me.  When I started public school, I chafed at the feeling that I had to wait for other people to catch up before I could learn something new.  It wasn’t personal; I didn’t want to deprive others of the chance to learn at their own paces.  However, I felt that we should all be able to learn things at our own pace, and that wasn’t really sustainable in a classroom format.

I like to think that I’ve come a long way from that.  For one thing, in any sort of movement practice I don’t think you can spend too much time reviewing the basics.  I think there is ample opportunity to think about your movement in new ways, to solidify and to experiment with that.  In addition, I think an important part of any movement community but especially ours, is to support and engage with beginners.  We are such a kind and welcoming community, and part of that is making sure that newer members like the community and want to join it and stay part of it.

So, I clearly have philosophical feelings about supporting beginners in tango classes, and I actively try to do that for others.  Yet somehow, there I was in a class, feeling that as a beginner I was holding more advanced dancers back, and that there was something shameful about that.  Lori (the owner of Sangha Space) noticed my discomfort and her response was so beautiful and unexpected that it made me want to write this blog.  She took me aside, looked me in the eye, and after talking to me for a little, said: “Why would you want to deprive them of the chance to be the best leader they can be?” 

In that moment, I felt like the world had shifted just a little on its axis.  I had never thought of it that way!  I had thought it was an honorable thing for leaders to want to help newer dancers, but I hadn’t thought of it as something that would actually be positive for the leader too.  I went back out on the dance floor and finished the workshops with much more confidence, ease, and enjoyment.

So what’s the moral of this story?  Well, I highly doubt I’m the only new dancer out there who worries about how more experienced partners feel about dancing with me.  If you’re like me, take heart!   We are giving those great dancers a chance to hone their craft, to become even clearer and kinder.  For those on the other side, those who have more experience and find themselves dancing with newbies, try to remember that!  Make sure your partners know that you enjoy dancing with them, and don’t miss out on their gift to you: it is a valuable opportunity to improve the very foundations of your dance.

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