I have a fear of hip hop. Not watching it…I love watching it. It’s the dancing of it that scares me. As a dancer I have in my arsenal grace, power, flexibility, and speed. I have never had funk and groove. In the past my hip-hop has variously been described as “wonder bread” and looking like “bad musical theater”; once a hip hop instructor said to me “You pick up the choreography faster than anyone, but bless your heart you just don’t look good doing it”.
If you watch So You Think You Can Dance, you probably know about National Dance Day. It’s July 31st and a piece has been choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo especially for the occasion. And it’s hip hop. I quickly dismissed the idea of teaching it to my class -as previously mentioned I’m not a good hip hop dancer and I feel that as the teacher I need to set an example. (As per my very recent post about setting an example)
Then I realized two things:
1. I was arguing for my limitations when it came to hip hop. And I know for sure that when you argue for your limitations, you will always win, and the prize is that you get to keep them. A crap prize if I ever heard of one.
2. I hadn’t really examined what I was being an example of. I certainly have a perfectionist streak and I’m not a big fan of letting people see me struggle or be vulnerable. I especially didn’t relish the thought of looking like a representative of the “School for the Uncoordinated and Funk-less” in front of a class of people who were paying me for dance instruction. I realized I was setting an example of not trying something if you think you might fail, and that’s certainly not what I want to model to my students.
I started thinking about these things a lot. It may sound over-dramatic, but I’ll admit right now that when I visualized teaching a class on hip hop it gave me a bit of a panic attack. But Thursday night night my disappointment with my own attitude was keeping me awake. So Friday morning at 1am I decided that I was going to just attack it. I posted to Facebook that we were going to do the routine so that I was locked in. Saturday morning at about 1:30am I pulled up the fox.com website, found the dance and learned it. I got to class at 3pm, freely admitted that I wasn’t a hip-hop dancer, but said that I was going to do my best, and tried to create an environment where trying as hard as you could was the definition of success.
It went great. We laughed a lot. The students said that I looked good, there were sections where I even thought my hip-hop was passable. But that wasn’t really the point. If I had somehow busted out with professional level hip-hop, that still wouldn’t have been the point. The point was that as a dancer and teacher I was willing to try something that scared me, stop arguing for and justifying my limitations, and instead be willing to struggle, and risk looking like an idiot, and possibly failing right up there in front of people.
My favorite moment of the class was during the final run-through. One of my students, who is a country-western dancer, and who sometimes struggles with having a positive attitude and trying new things walked right up to the front of the class, stood beside me and danced the crap out of the combination. I don’t know what his thinking was, but if my willingness to publicly fail had any little part in his willingness to step up, then all of the stress was worth it.
That made me think of this – one of my favorite videos of all time, it’s called “Dare”. I lost it for awhile and just found it again today and I want to share it with all of you. The scene at 0:56 always gives me goosebumps…enjoy!
What do you dare?