This is a pretty good shot for a moment that I had just screwed up and wanted to kick myself for repeatedly…… (picture courtesy of Y. Azteca)
I have been eating, sleeping, dreaming and breathing this 2:40 routine for three months. And I blacked out. I just totally forgot the steps. I mean…..I just forgot. This picture is my recovery, the symbol of the fight in me. I’ve been struggling for three months. All people see is the dance. All people know is that I’m going to Vegas.
But this has been so hard. So so hard.
I started my dance career as a soloist….and it wasn’t voluntary. I had no formal dance so it was difficult for me to make teams with people who had more technique and control. I was just pure, unadulterated, unextinguishable fire. And fire just isn’t the correct tool for everything. I made up my own dances. I created my own cheer routines. I stretched on my own. I got together with some girls in my neighborhood and created a group called (what else) “The FireStars.” I started this when I was nine years old. It’s always been in my mind that I had to dance the hardest, the fastest and the strongest to keep up with those who danced the prettiest. There was nothing cute about what I did. There still isn’t. I danced for other reasons.
Even now when I hear the word “social dancing,” I cringe. It’s never been social to me. Dancing has been about survival. When I tried out for the elite Guys-N-Dolls dance team in high school, I knew I wasn’t one of the soft pretty, flowy dancers they were used to having. I was fire, hard core street, straight out of the Robert Taylor projects with a rhythm inside of me that just couldn’t be denied. My father had also just almost died from a brain tumor and our home had been burglarized and pretty much everything had been stolen. I NEEDED to dance.
When it came to trying out for Clave Y Tumbao Alabama, I had my reservations. I’m a Zumba instructor and I teach dance so I felt a “pressure” from people who weren’t even there and I put pressure on myself to perform at a level I was not ready for at the time. I didn’t like this idea of possible rejection but I was ok with hard work. What I didn’t expect was the days I went home crying because I felt like that little girl again, behind in technique and feeling like my heart to do it wasn’t enough. I danced tense. I felt tense. I responded to corrections tensely. I didn’t expect the nose bleeds from the stress of it, the two trips a week to the physical therapist for my five (yes, five) injuries, the bruises, the disdain I’d temporarily have for dance, the feeling of wanting to quit.
I’m looking at the picture again. Here’s how the story ends. I get to go to Vegas. I see growth. I see desire. I see a conqueror. I see change. I see resilience. I see a woman who decided that it wasn’t about “them,” it was about “her.” I see me, doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m o.k. with not being a “pretty”dancer. There is a space for everyone. For me, less than two weeks before my 40th birthday, I can say I love my space more now than I ever did even when the space is hard.