Putting It All Into Perapective
24 Dec 2004
When Dancing Takes Over Your Life
by Bija Satterlee
IT STARTED OUT INNOCENTLY, of course. Learning your first few dance steps you thought, “WOW, I could really get to LIKE this!” Fast-forward a few years... and we see the seductive world of ballroom dancing has gradually taken over your life, your body, your mind, even your finances. COMPLETELY. Did you have any clue what you were getting into?
But who cares, right? “Normal life” is so boring compared to the thrill of dancing, and the chase of competition! In fact, the intensity of our obsession can be measured by the churn of the dance industry itself. It feeds off the urgent needs of its own inhabitants. Its allure can bring about the most ridiculous of behaviors... especially compared to the rest of the ‘normal world.’ But we left the the normal world behind ages ago, and we only have other dancers to compare ourselves to now. (This is where it gets dangerous!)
Who among us has not pushed our bodies way beyond the bounds of safety, pushed our finances to the brink, pushed our families to insanity, pushed our friends.... (you DO remember your friends before dancing, don’t you? Surely they’ll come to your wedding or funeral if you can just find their address!)
PUSH, PUSH, PUSH!
Dancing extracts EVERYTHING from those who want it badly enough.
Reason and rational behavior get chucked overboard. Every resource is stretched paper-thin, to serve the need to dance. This is why the rest of the world thinks us slightly nuts. But they certainly love to watch all the drama! Within the dance world, many sub-worlds exist, with tight parameters, strict expectations, and glass ceilings. And personal struggles abound.
ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?
Dancers are just people, and a fragile species we are! It doesn’t take much to leave permanent marks on us. The very traits that drive us to dancing makes us vulnerable to emotional and psychological injury as well. We are sensitive, passionate creatures, ambitious, playful, willing to sacrifice, and ultimately just want to be recognized, loved, and adored.
Smiling faces are everywhere, but appearances can be deceiving! You may see a championship couple clutching their flowers, smiling for victory pictures, with sweat dripping down their backs. Moments later the fabric of that partnership rips, and these two never speak to each other again. Oh the stories the ballroom could tell, if only she could speak! (And I wonder whose side she would take?)
On the other hand, you may see a few dancers who make no effort to conceal their misery! You can “feel” it when they’re 50 feet away from you. It doesn’t even matter how great their tan, costume, makeup, or dancing are, these people are just plain miserable and there’s no hiding it.
THE BALLROOM FANTASY
The Ballroom is a rich place, and dancers want everything it has to offer: fabulous dancing, with a fabulous partner, to fabulous music, wearing fabulous costumes, at fabulous venues, surrounded by fabulous adoring friends, winning fabulous prizes, and being fabulously happy! All at the same time! Permanently!
The fantasy stays alive because, just like in Las Vegas, you win just enough to keep you coming back! And the actual winners are role models for our addiction: “Just try harder, and eventually you too will become FABULOUS!”
This game can go on for years! Of course, everyone can’t be the winner, so most people never actually make it to the very top. But along the way they make wonderful friends, do a lot of fine dancing, travel, enjoy being part of a fabulous art and sport, and get some great pictures taken along the way! And the majority even find peace of heart. It can be an immensely rewarding way of life! Especially if you keep it in perspective!
SLIDING SCALE OF BLISS
Here’s a test: Pick words from List 1 or List 2 to describe your experience in the dance world.
List 1): Fun ~ Happy ~ Satisfying ~ Fulfilling ~ Healthy ~ Joyous ~ Safe ~ Wholesome ~ Playful ~ Creative ~ Passionate ~ Rewarding ~ Exciting ~
List 2): Lonely ~ Depressed ~ Fearful ~ Painful ~ Sad ~ Guilty ~ Despair ~ Anger ~ Jealousy ~ Frustration ~ Remorse ~ Regret ~ Bored ~ Tired ~ Lost ~ Empty ~ Bitter
During the course of a dancer’s career it’s likely you would feel MANY of these things eventually! But red flags should go up if your living mostly inside List 2. Sometimes pride or fear will keep us in a situation long after it is “killing us.” So how do we avoid this?
LUCKILY, THIS IS A PERFECT TIME OF YEAR to reevaluate and reflect on how dancing is serving your personal needs. The competition season is winding down, it’s family time (remember your family?) and you can set the course for an even better year in 2005 with some careful thought and planning.
ONLY A NEW SEED YIELDS A NEW CROP
Sit with pen and paper and do it the old-fashioned way, which is kind of fun. This is a powerful exercise if you actually do it.
Write ‘2004’ at the top of the page. Start listing important events from the whole year, things that happened, people who affected you, competitions you did, your injuries or health problems, new discoveries, victories, defeats, lessons learned, friends made.
Now write ‘2005’ at the top of a new page. And write down HOW YOU WANT THE YEAR TO GO... AS IF ITS ALREADY HAPPENED. Write your own history in advance! What is different? How can this year be better than last? Don’t hold back! Keep writing and expanding your life, as if money or time were no obstacle. Think “outside the box-step” ~ this is just an exercise, it’s OK to dream a little.
If you have ONE or TWO things you want to go differently, you have a clear focus what you need to work on for next year. Good for you! If you have a whole page of things... it’s time for an overhaul and you’re going to need some help!
KEEPING IT IN PERSPECTIVE
Our tunnel-vision is very useful for staying focused on our goals, but can sometimes blind us. We really need a committee of well-meaning support people, to survive and thrive, and to help us keep perspective. Who is on your ‘committee’? Along with family, close friends, spouse, accountant, lawyer, doctor, personal trainer*, nail and hair stylist, spiritual advisor and driver, you might also want to consider finding a good:
• MENTOR who can help you keep perspective and guide you (not just a dance coach).
• THERAPIST If you are really depressed or angry, or if you feel you’re being abused in any way, you should ask for help immediately. You may need help dealing with your situation.
• NON-DANCER FRIENDS are awfully sensible, and this is a good time of year to re-connect, if only for a breath of fresh air and to talk of things besides dancing!
MENTAL HEALTH IS PHYSICAL HEALTH
Unhappiness and stress can lead to depression, weight gain, impaired immune function, adrenal exhaustion, and other health problems. Alternatively, laughter actually enhances the immune system, creates seratonin, and relieves stress! Also, just the act of smiling has a corresponding neurological shift away from stress and anger. Try it next time you’re ready to implode or explode. Smiling slows down your “explode” buttons, and it forces tiny bits of happiness up through the cement.
A well-known competitor who has good perspective once said, “We’re not curing cancer here, people. It’s just Dancing.” Even if you’re a very ‘serious dancer,’ don’t be so serious! Think of the smile that brightens YOUR day in the ballroom: Eddie Eres, Eddie Simon, Mazen Hamza, Andrei Gavriline, Daniel Knapp, to point out just the really obvious ones. Those guys are like walking medicine for the ballroom world! We could use a few more ‘smile doctors’ out there!
READY FOR A CHANGE
If your circumstances are wearing you out, get your support system ready, make some changes, and trust the universe to SUPPORT it! Often it surpasses our expectations, as we jump to the next level. That is evolution for you! Your next “incarnation” will give you energy and happiness, and will consequently be healthier, too.
"When you follow your bliss, doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else."
~ Joseph Campbell
Remember when you learned your first dance steps and you said, “WOW! I could really get to LIKE this!” Find that innocent spirit again! Improve your circumstances so you can enjoy dancing like you did in the beginning! Getting fabulously fit is important, becoming a great technician is mandatory, but not at the EXPENSE of being fabulously happy! As always, I am available to discuss your fitness, wellness and lifestyle concerns. You may email me at www.bodiesbybija.com.
Happy Joyous Holidays!