When I was six or seven years old, many of my friends were in gymnastics, but putting me into a class was not really on my parents’ radar then; and, besides, we lived in an area where opportunities of that kind were limited anyway. So instead, my friends would show me the things that they had been taught. I learned from them how to do cartwheels, handsprings, roundoffs, handstands, walk on my hands, do continuous flips on the bars, backbends, walkovers, etc. By the time high school rolled around, I remember watching gymnastics on the Olympics one year and thinking that I could absolutely have done that, because I believed I had had the ability and the right physical build and the fearlessness for it, but that life had dealt me all the wrong cards. Consequently, I wrote this poem for a creative writing class:
Sitting here, watching,
Another Olympics on TV,
I’m another could-have-been,
Who will not be.
In retrospect, though, this was a rather defeatist attitude on my part, because there have been many other instances where I have achieved or come very close to achieving my dreams, because, whether they were to travel or go to college or learn to dance, I made sacrifices and actively took steps toward making them happen.
Taken in a broader sense, the point is that, in Ballroom Dancing, as with anything, even if some people seem to have all of the advantages in terms of finances and ability and opportunities, as long as we have our health, really, the only thing stopping us from accomplishing our goals (no, I don’t mean world domination, except maybe on the dance floor) is we ourselves. Even then, there are now countless examples of differently abled people who have not allowed physical hindrances to stop them from pursuing their passions. Bottom line: if we want to dance, we will figure out what we have to do in order to make it happen.
How can you achieve your Ballroom Dancing goals?
“Everything starts with a dream…but dreams don’t work unless you do. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can!”
*If you want to excel at Ballroom Dancing, or anything, really, you are going to have to be patient and put in some effort. You can’t expect to become a world champion overnight, without all of the practice and training that goes into it. As the old adage goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and, talent aside, the reason the top dancers look as good as they do is because of the practice and effort that they put into their dancing. Every champion was a beginner at some point.
*If you feel like you are too old or don’t have the physical ability that you used to or are worried that other people will secretly judge you for your perceived lack of ability, I’m here to tell you that, if you are still alive and vertical, you’re not too old. Furthermore, most other dancers are likely too preoccupied with their own dancing to be concerned with yours :)…so stop worrying about them. As for the few who may actually be looking at you and commenting, who cares? The only opinions that really matter are your instructors’/coaches’, your partner’s, and yours.
1. Quote compilation from a post by popular Instagrammer, lilithmoonlife…(check out her account and her YouTube channel, that has awesome hair tutorials): https://www.instagram.com/p/BooZOn_B0Yk/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=13qn7dyebumk0
“Dreams don’t work unless you do.” -John C. Maxwell
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can!” – Arthur Ashe
…and I haven’t found the source of the first part of the quote yet.
*If you are worried about the cost of Ballroom Dancing, but you are serious about it, it may be just a matter of making a few simple changes, like cooking at home more and making your own coffee and shopping at more budget-friendly locations, in order to free up that extra bit of cash you need for lessons. Personally, if I ended up having to choose between having cable or taking dance lessons, I’d drop the cable, because I’d rather be dancing than watching TV anyway. No one is asking you to give up your shirt or your house, but if you have the means to take care of your financial obligations, it can come down to what extras are more important to you. Besides, an investment in Ballroom Dancing as an exercise for your health is a form of wealth anyway.
*If you don’t have a Ballroom Dance studio in your area, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up on your dream altogether. Don’t be afraid to utilize the tools that are on hand. You can try to find introductory classes at your local college, take an adult ballet class, take a barre or Zumba or Pilates class at your gym…anything that will help you improve your strength and balance and flexibility and sense of rhythm, so that if you ever do get the chance to take up Ballroom Dancing, you’ll be ready.
Dos and Don’ts
*Do work hard. You can start out feeling like you have six left feet; but, trust me, you will get better if you practice and stick with it.
-Don’t quit, because you think you won’t get it.
*Do learn to prioritize, so that you can set aside money for accomplishing your Ballroom Dancing goals.
-Don’t say, “I can’t afford it,” without even trying to figure out how you can.
*Do avail yourself of whatever opportunities are available to you, because everyone has to start somewhere. If you do, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have made progress toward realizing your dreams, and you might be surprised what other doors will follow.
-Don’t be like the person who gets free tuition to college and decides not to go, because the coursebooks aren’t covered too.
*Do find out what your strengths are…what makes you unique as a dancer and a human being, and play to those.
-Don’t stop working on your weaker areas.
*Do admire other dancers. For instance, I would love to dance like my favorite female Rhythm Dancer of all time, Bree Watson, who has this incredible flexibility and is, like, the queen of tricks, but I’m not her.
-Don’t be jealous of them. You can try to emulate some things about them, but, ultimately, you have to be you. Besides, you never know what hardships those people who seem to have it all might have faced along the way.
In the end, yes, as with any sport, there will always be people who are younger or fitter, or who have more money for coaching and new costumes and competitions, or who have sponsors or connections. At the end of the day, though, don’t let that discourage you from starting where you are now, with what you have. It is better than never starting at all, which is the only sure way to guarantee that you won’t realize your Ballroom Dancing dreams.
Lastly, be grateful for what you DO have and that you are healthy enough to dance, and don’t squander the opportunities that are available to you. Do what you can, and dance for you—not for scores at competitions or anything else, because if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, and Ballroom Dancing is fun. No excuses. Just go for it.
A Few Inspirational Reading Selections:
Ballerina Michaela DePrince:
The story of a Wheelchair Ballroom Dancer:
Adrianne Haslet-Davis, the Ballroom Dance Instructor who lost part of her left leg as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing: