So You Think You Can’t Dance?!

booty shakeOkay, so while I am a self-proclaimed dance-a-holic, I am well aware that not everyone in the universe shares my sentiments or my not-so-mild addiction.

Some might be right there with me shakin’ their booty away without a care in the world, while others might join with a certain degree of amusement.

Then there are those who run in the other direction as fast as their could-be-dancing feet will take them.  Followed by the ones who back away very slowly, secretly intrigued, but worried that they can’t do it/they don’t have the rhythm or coordination/they’ll look and feel silly/everyone will see them in their underpants, etc. etc.

olivia newton john

When I ask new moms if they’d be interested in trying out a Salsa Babies class, many would either wistfully or disdainfully state, “I just can’t dance.”  There’s usually a lot of interest, but I’ve found that what stops some prospective Salsa Babies moms from saying “sign me up!” is that they once took a dance or aerobics class and it was too hard to follow.

I get it.  I’ve taken many a dance class and left feeling like my body parts and brain stopped speaking to each other.  Such as the time I punched a dance partner in the nose with an ill-timed arm styling movement.  Talk about mortifying!  Needless to say, that guy never asked me to dance with him again….

It’s not overly motivating to return back for more of the same unless you have a guarantee that it will get better and that there’s a yummy carrot (or chocolate) to chase after.  Especially if you’re already left with the feeling of two left feet and a body that faces the opposite direction, or the thought of learning to dance is just too hard and looks like the monster hiding in your closet.

Well sister, if you are one of those secretly intrigued souls who is even a smidgen intimidated or know of someone else that is, please read on for motivation and inspiration. So you think you can’t dance?!  Here’s some ways that you already do, and you didn’t even know it:

1. If you can walk, you can dance.                                                                                                                                                                     silly walks

Now before you roll your eyes and say “Yeah, whatever”, hear me out.  When you walk, you alternate feet, right?  It’s the same thing with the basic step of salsa dancing (and merengue and cha cha).  The very first thing I ask students to do in a Salsa Babies class when breaking down the salsa basic step is to simply WALK around the room.  Feel how your legs and feet take turns with each step.  Notice that it’s something so automatic that your body just does it with ease, without you having to think about it.  Guess what—you’re already halfway to dancing!

2. If your brain and your body send messages to each other, you can dance.

“But Lou,” you might be saying, “dancing isn’t JUST about walking”.  No, you’re right, it does take more than that.  The difference comes with the change of direction in those steps, and that’s where the instructional part comes into play.  “AHA!” you might be saying, “THAT’S the part I can’t do!”    Well, sure, you might not be able to if you haven’t been taught how….and if the instruction hasn’t been broken down for you and practiced long enough at your own pace for your brain to program your body into automaticity.  As a baby, learning to coordinate your movements took time and repetition, but now you can lift your head, roll, sit up, stand, walk, and all the hundreds of little movements you do every single day without even thinking consciously about it.

Any good instructional class will walk you through the “baby steps” of their repertoire in the same way.  Break it down to the basics, take it slowly and continuously, and most of all practice, practice, practice it until you can do it in your sleep.  Yes, you might stumble a bit, everyone does when their brain is learning something new.  Eventually, the repetition takes hold, a new neural connection is made and sent down to those feet that once thought they were both two left ones.  Guess what—You. Are. Dancing!

sbd blk and white

One of the best things for me as a dance instructor is to see my students automatically step back into the basic step when I call it out on the spot, and when I see that they’ve mastered it so well that more challenging dance steps become easier to learn.  Honestly, I start seeing this by the second class. It helps tremendously that we continuously dance the basic step along with new ones learned each week, to keep that connection between our brains and our bodies alive.  (An achievement in itself, considering “mommy brain”…speaking of…)

3. If you’re a mom, you can dance.

When I was first learning how to breastfeed my son, it felt like one of the most daunting and difficult things I had ever done to date.  Bungee jumping, learning to swim, surf and scuba dive in the same year, abseiling off a cliff—I’m pretty sure breastfeeding surpassed all of those.  It was no longer all about me, because I was now solely and completely responsible for the life of my child.  I had taken lactation classes, read all the books, practiced with dolls—so why was my baby unable to latch and instead screamed his 2-day head off?  To put it simply, we hadn’t learned the dance yet.

Not together at least.  He had all his steps biologically programmed into him.  My body was ready for it.  We just had to learn how to coordinate with each other.  With lots of help and support from my lactation mentor, midwife and my breastfeeding support group, we soon got it and eventually we literally could do it in our sleep.  We had learned the dance.

EVERYTHING we learn in motherhood is a dance.  Attuning and responding to our child’s cries, feeding them solids for the first time, learning how to balance having a job/husband/other children/ groceries/cleaning the house/taking a shower/etc. while caring for your baby takes coordination and compromises that seriously challenges us both physically and emotionally.  With time, patience, stumbling and repetition, we learn what we need to do to make it work.  We let go of the things that no longer serve us and our family well, and we reprogram our minds and our bodies to survive in this way of life that is ours forever.

The dance of motherhood constantly requires new steps to learn and to master and sometimes/often feels messy and frustrating.  On those days you seriously feel like you just can’t do it, help and support is out there to let you know you are not alone, that someone else gets how hard it can be, that another parent is going through or has gone through the same.  You pick up and you keep going and you learn what steps to take next.  And when it falls into place, it’s one of the most beautiful dances that ever existed.

mom and baby

Honey, if you’re a mom, you better believe YOU CAN DANCE.

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Still not convinced? Raising an eyebrow of possibility?  Check out what self-proclaimed two-left feet mama Lara R. says on our testimonials page:

“I have two left feet and dancing is certainly very challenging for me. The class was very welcoming to beginners–Lou helped me learn the steps and was very supportive!”

Better yet, come try out a class for FREE!

Have a funny, embarrassing, frustrating or positive dance experience?  If you feel brave enough to share it in the comments below, I’ll put your name into a draw for a special something from Salsa Babies Durango.  I once punched a dance partner in the nose in a failed attempt to be all sexy styling….there’s one of mine.  Now it’s your turn!

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