Every competitor experiences frustration at practice. It’s part of the game. Sometimes your partner or coach annoys you. Sometimes you annoy yourself. I’m very familiar with the latter. For most of my life, the voices in my head have been louder than the music. “Can’t you just make it through one whole routine keeping your chest over your toes? Can’t you just make it through one routine without screwing up your steps? Can’t you just make it through one routine with your shoulders down? What the BLEEP is wrong with you?!!!
It’s terribly easy to be emotionally hard on yourself, but it’s hardly productive. Ballroom dancing is an expression of the soul. Done well, it’s the synthesis of grace and strength that radiates outward from your core. If your core is rotten there will be no synthesis, only separation. Rather than being bold and brilliant, your dancing will be blighted and blunt. So, how do you make progress when you’re in a funk? How do you dance on and dance forward?
I’m sure every dancer has her tactic. You’ll probably have to test out a few to see which works best for you. When I’m practicing by myself, and it’s continually not working, I find it helpful to redirect my focus. I’ll stop for a bit and focus on doing something else that’s simple and useful. For example, if my swing is out of so out of step that I feel my pendulum will plop if I try one more move, I might switch to rumba walks. I might even stop working on my moves altogether. I might hit up the treadmill or do some sit-ups and stretches instead. I know that each of these activities will make me a stronger dancer, and they’ll give me the space from my routines I need to prevent us from formally breaking up.
If I’m working with my coach, I take an alternate approach. When training with a coach, I cannot shift the activity I’m doing. So, I redirect my focus in a different way. Despite my distaste for buzzwords and trends, I try my best to practice mindfulness. I admit, I’m not the best at it, but I am getting better at it. I have found the practice to be very helpful. For those of you who are unfamiliar with mindfulness, the basic goal is to be open to whatever is going on in your mind and your body without passing judgment. So, when I’m feeling in a funk, I focus on my breath, my toes, my calves, my chest, my throat, my elbows, my finger-tips—the way my body feels at that moment. I acknowledge my anger, my fears, and my frustrations, and sometimes, this is just enough to let them go.
-Kacey Warren, Manager and Student at Ballroom & Beyond