Ballroom Dance > Realistic expectations vs. limiting oneself

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by RiseNFall, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I've had similar discoveries working with physical therapy on various muscle imbalances that I am working on. Foam rolling has become a big part of my regimen. My instructor is aware of and supportive regarding my injuries and we communicate about what I can and cannot do.
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  2. blackswan

    blackswan Member

    Coming off an injury from horses some years back, I worked with a yoga therapist - her knowledge of the body and how to address imbalance was phenomenal. Since then I've maintained an almost daily yoga practice and also get on a MELT roller (specific type of foam roller for fascial release) every morning and evening.
  3. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I've heard of yoga therapists being quite good! There are so many different movement specialists out there now it's hard to know who to pick!
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  4. sbrnsmith

    sbrnsmith Well-Known Member

    I have muscle imbalances and injury issues too- my solution has been to work with a personal trainer for strength training and improving balance and flexibility. I do yoga and stretching, and the foam roller is my best friend. Another tool I have is to get deep tissue massage on a somewhat regular schedule. With my work schedule, all of these are challenges. But it has helped a lot to try to stay on top of the wear and tear with my time limitations.
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  5. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    They overlap and good ones have respect for people in other disciplines. When I have been able to work with multiple people, they have all been very interested in what the others have had to say.

    I think some of it depends on who you happen to be able to find who is a good fit for you. There is an Alexander Technique guy near me who is excellent and a particularly good fit for me because he is a dancer--baroque, but some of it translates, and I have been able to show him what doesn't. He's been able to work with me to improve dance specific movement. Most people, unfortunately, don't have the patience to so something like that because it sometimes takes a while to see results. Especially at first. An acupuncturist's comment about Alexander Technique was that yes, she could alleviate something, but it was going to keep on coming back it the underlying cause wasn't fixed.
    blackswan likes this.
  6. Sania

    Sania Well-Known Member

    I have had a lot of good results with Feldenkrais, which is also movement oriented.
  7. flying_backwards

    flying_backwards Active Member

    Thank you for this thread, or rather several related threads twinned together here: technique supporting body actions to avoid injury, working within the real limitations of our bodies, allowing our minds vision beyond current limitations while remaining aware which things are within our reach. Your experiences help temper the rollercoaster ups and downs.

    And there have been some really high ups and really low downs. Over the past year so many dancers have helped me, some knowingly, some without knowing what they wrote, or did, or said, or taught helped me move forward. I learn slowly. It keeps surprising me how limitless the dance community's love is for each other and what we share on the dance floor. And it keeps surprising me how many limitations I stumble into blindly. My life floorcraft has room for improvement! It takes both vision of a future and awareness of here and now.

    One limitation some ladies believe they have is lack of a male amateur partner. Im not sure that's a limitation. I see it more as a stage in the process.

    For the ladies searching for an amateur partner I can give back some encouragement. Yes it is extremely difficult, but it IS possible, to have a great amateur male partner. It takes a lot of time. It means keeping an open mind. My best advice is do not search for the perfect partner; make one. Choose the dancer you best practice with, be honest with, who's fun to be with even when life is not so great. Then help them train. (And early on ask your teacher to verify they have potential.) In my case I had been practicing with a social dance friend for a year before my teacher suggested he could become a comp partner. I did not believe it at first but this fellow... you could film a movie titled 'Where there's a will there's a way.' This guy did not let trivial things like money or geography or age or no dance floor or no real shoes get in the way. And now here we are, training for our first comp together. Sure there's a gap in level but he's improving fast and will catch up.

    Do not wait for a partner. Think of this time as preparing, not waiting. It is not entirely a limitation to be solo. Solo practice trains yourself, making you more eligible to any guy looking for a partner. I am certain I improved faster without a partner.

    And now my partner is injured, with less than 2 weeks until our first comp, a real limitation. Highs and lows but always looking forward.
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  8. open_mind

    open_mind Member

    This may sound as a New Age view, but I find it very powerful. I set no limits and no expectations, but I apply discipline of staying in the present to every lesson and practice. I mean, try to adsorb what my instructor is saying on the verbal and non verbal plane without worrying about my progress, my money, what happened this morning or anything else. Some sort of guided dance meditation. It gets me to some place where I feel at peace and my body is more willing to move where my instructor and my brain tells it to go. I do make progress while not making it my main priority. This requires some mental discipline and I adopted this view on life from some of my best yoga teachers.

    So that's it, my expectation is this never ending journey. Part of it is a realization that progress as most see it (e.g.,moving up in placing or what not) may or may not be part of this journey, but it will be a journey that will take me to new places and I can't wait.
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  9. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    @open_mind, I like your post and your approach. For me, having goals seems to help me, though--for dancing--they are never things like placements at competitions. And timelines are vague and movable. Two non-dance stories:

    I was about 13 years old, on a horse who was seriously misbehaving. I glanced down, saw how far Iwas from the ground (i.e., how far up in the air the horse was), and thought,"no, I don't think I will fall off." Until that moment, I wasn't aware that some part of my brain had been thinking about giving up trying to stay on and getting the horse back under control. (For those of you who are horse people, it was a very nice horse, but hey, it was a cold day in the middle of a midwest winter and she was having her idea of some fun.)

    Sailboat racing version: I would have said that the crew and I always put forth our best effort. However, there was one series that I really wanted to beat the fleet CompleteAndTotalJerk, and we did--through a lot of hard work and determination. We were never one of the boats goofing off and drinking beers on the way out to the race, but we did ever so slightly better when we had that goal. (For the sailors, J109 PHRF club racing)
  10. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Strategic versus tactical.
  11. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    Another update, about another 6 months on. I actually like my dancing now, at least a lot of the time. I'm much more consistent, including in the errors I make, which is considerably less frustrating. We've upped the expected standard of my dancing substantially. For the time being at least, I feel much more at peace with myself as a dancer. Interestingly, accepting the challenge of the higher standard of dancing lessoned my inner mental turmoil.
    Sania, scullystwin42, cornutt and 4 others like this.
  12. Br0nze

    Br0nze Active Member

    I thoroughly enjoyed the updated part of this post. It outlines the progress most dancers make in their journey when provided with a supportive environment and proper education.

    It's also enlightening to see how dance brings awareness to one's own body and forces the individual to become aware of their own "limitations," or what we can also term challenges.

    Even though progress has been made, and there is uplift in the OPs progress, I would like to offer musings on the presented topic. Apologies in advance if the ramblings are too inane.

    I remember starting out learning Latin, seeing dancers far, far better than me, and thinking; "I will never move like that." In one way that is a truism; we cannot move like someone else because we are not built like them. Our anatomy is our own, our muscle length, insertion points, bone structure, flexibility, etc. are all our own and no one else's. It took me some time to understand that my job was not to move like them but rather to move like me; or otherwise stated, to find the motion that dancer is performing or that teacher is teaching me in my own body and to perform it to the most optimal potential that my body can produce. Many friends always told me, "There is no one style for everyone. You'll figure it out in time; just don't give up." It's hard to understand that as a beginner, though, I think partly due to our psychology. With dancing it's also illusory in that dance is an illusion, and dancers are engaged in deception with every step they take. The actions we see occur within themselves, or rather, through their musculature around their bone structure, and are then amplified through their efforts, proper technique, and their individual anatomical attributes. A beginning dancer knows nothing of that. We see movement and we think we understand what goes into it and we [try to] replicate it without the deeper comprehension of what it truly is.

    Touching on the psychology aspect of learning something new and comparing oneself to those better, I think there are two responses people have: (1) we convince ourselves we will never do that so we quit, or (2) we treat those people as inspiration and convince ourselves we will do something like that and keep going. Now, it is a delicate balance and battle between those two mindsets that rage inside an individual as s/he makes his/her journey through dance, or anything, really. Here's the thing, though: it boils down to our perception of the situation.

    The realistic expectation should be that "Yes, I can also do that activity/that thing," not "I can't." The expectation should also be "This person can help me achieve this goal," not "They're judging me for how slow I am to get this thing." It comes down to a change in self-perception, and that comes with information and time. I don't want to necessarily get into a debate about human nature and how often times we are self-defeatist long before we start anything, but it's a complex and multifaceted thing that deserves thought. The other side of this, by the way, the idea that no matter what one does one will be immediately successful and is until a certain point is the exact same other side of this coin.

    Obviously so far I am speaking in and of perhaps rather philosophical and abstract terms; self-perception, one's attitude towards things and others.... and if we were to shift to a more corporeal dimension and speak of, let's say, impairments or handicaps, what then? In a sense an impairment or handicap is a limitation, and no amount of positive thinking will undo or heal these things. I would say, though, having seen a woman with MS and on crutches Foxtrot across the floor of our studio, and having seen a man with a prosthetic leg do a Viennese Waltz, as well as a blind man dance, that it comes down to the individual and the environment.

    Often our expectations are that we cannot do it rather than we can. We are often impatient with ourselves because we think we should be understanding something faster. We are often harsh on ourselves, harsher than we need to be, because of factors outside ourselves, or because of past experiences or whatever. The thing about dancing (Ballroom or otherwise) is that it forces the individual performing the task to confront those qualities within themselves and, for a lack of a better word, overcome them and in a sense (not to be all Orwellian here, but) become victorious over themselves, or more accurately become victorious over the negative aspects of particular expectations or beliefs about themselves.

    The above can only transpire given three things: a positive environment, time, and patience. A teacher who has "been there," or who understands the learning process and the challenges posed by kinesthetic learning -- that's super helpful in terms of overcoming negative self-perceptions. A studio in which other students are also going through similar struggles in which one can share and reflect -- also important. Now, if the studio is warm and helpful and the teacher is knowledgeable and supportive, the student will develop patience because of the understanding of the complexity of the task(s) involved. With that, time can be given to the mastery of said tasks, and again, in a nurturing environment realistic expectations go from "Well, maybe just a, b, c" to "Once a, b, c, then d, e, f..."

    Does that make sense?

    I no longer teach dance, I teach English to tenth graders, but in my classroom I have a sign that reads: "All limits are self-imposed." I truly believe this statement, regardless of one's ability or disability or whatever. As I said before, there is always a delicate balance between "I want to be like that" and "I will never be like that," and what determines how we hold that balance or to which side we give in is our ability to be happy with our progress thus far. I always, always reminded my dance students of their first day. I always reminded them that they have come incredibly far from when and where they started; it is easy to lose sight of that when one is on the journey and is (for a lack of a better word but with no negative connotation intended) self-involved. And think about it -- especially in dance, and an individual's dance journey, there are seldom others than the individual involved. It's all self-centered, and that's okay. Again, dance forces an individual to come face to face with preconceived notions about themselves; it challenges the individual to reflect and persevere because without moving on and continuing to learn and dance, there is no progress, no comprehension, there is no dance.

    I truly believe that the difference between "realistic expectations" and "limits" is one of individual perception and attitude. To say "I will never" and to not only believe it but actively do nothing to disprove it to oneself -- that's limitation. To say "I will never, but maybe if I try I can come close-ish" is a realistic expectation. And then the expectations change as the journey progresses; we go from "I can come close if I try" to "I can, and I will." Again, the difference comes in what we as individuals actively do to either progress or hinder ourselves relative to the thing we say we "never will." I never thought I'd be a Professional dancer or teacher. I never thought I'd make it to Gold level, even. But I did.... and it was with the help of time, patience, and support. It was also through active reflection and active self-awareness.

    I understand that not everyone shares this view. I also understand that a lot of the replies prior to mine make this point far better and clearer than I. I also think that my "realistic expectations" are now significantly more rose-colored because I have gone through a dancer's journey... I have been in those throes of self-doubt and unrealistic expectations, and I have clawed my way out of that into an understanding of "Be better than before, and no more." It's all relative, man... the quality of one person's movement is not the quality of another's, but the movement itself remains the same and recognizable. One's interpretation is different from another's, but the fundamentals do not change. Franco Formica's Rumba Basic far exceeds my own from a technical aspect but put us side by side and it will be recognizable as a Rumba Basic regardless. It also comes down to how long one practices and with what effort, intensity, and awareness. Someone practicing incorrectly for 19 hours is far worse than someone practicing correctly for 15 minutes. Other factors come into play as well, such as funding, age, quality of instruction, plus aforementioned individual anatomical uniquenesses, etc.

    Comparing yourself to others is useless. Comparing your "new/current" self to your "old" self, that's sensical. Your dance progress, same as your life progress, should not be measured by what others around you are doing and how quickly or well they are doing it. It'll only fuel the negativity we have inside of us, and it will only serve as another reason to set limits rather than encourage ourselves to grow. The only realistic expectation that should exist is "I can if I work hard enough, and as long as I am better than I was before, that's what counts."

    Everything else is irrelevant.
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