Overconfidence garners lesson in humility, strength
I've always thought of myself as a dancer, in the way that high school football stars consider themselves quarterbacks years after graduation. I was a three-year member of varsity dance line, had some studio dance background, and had learned basi...
I've always thought of myself as a dancer, in the way that high school football stars consider themselves quarterbacks years after graduation.
I was a three-year member of varsity dance line, had some studio dance background, and had learned basic ballet and belly-dancing. Most importantly, as an avid fan of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," I felt a familiarity with ballroom dance despite not knowing a lick of it.
So when the Minnesota Ballet five months ago asked me to participate in this week's Celebrity Dance Challenge fundraiser, not only did I agree, I added instructions to "make it difficult and dramatic. I can do it."
One hour of learning reduced me to a red-faced, self-doubting mess with memory loss. I was sheepish. How could I have thought this would be a snap? I had chosen the Latin paso doble, known as the dance of the bull. Minnesota Ballet dancer Amanda Abrahamson choreographed a beautiful piece, and I was butchering it.
My partner, the Ballet's Reinhard Von Rabenau, was patient yet firm, knowing exactly how to train me. But I was annoying; apologizing for my mistakes too often and staring at his feet instead of his eyes. Reinhard eventually learned my tics and made good use of humor to teach me.
It took at least eight practices before the rhythm of the dance started to gel in my head. I knew most of the 3½ minutes with a little prompting, but I remained stuck on certain steps that my brain refused to accept. We would hit those spots and I would perform some strange interpretation of the proper move, either grimacing or laughing at my ineptitude. Reinhard, bless his heart, would smile and urge me on. Eventually, he said, my giggling would have to stop and be replaced with paso doble-intensity.
I did stop giggling and started working harder. I walked down hallways with the haughty rigid posture required of the paso, when I wasn't limping and reeking of Icy Hot. I entertained co-workers by stag-leaping through the News Tribune photo studio and sought out mirrors for practice and not preening. I whipped out moves at weekend gatherings where hardwood floors made it impossible not to.
By weeks five and six, the Spanish marching dance made appearances in my dreams. Our song, Placido Domingo's "Granada," became the soundtrack to my life. With the exception of my doting mother, I was doubtlessly tiresome to those around me with my nonstop discussion of the dance or my fears of mortifying failure, like cracking my hip during the tricky ending.
I'm writing this before the competition, so I don't know how I did. Mostly, I don't want to embarrass Reinhard, who worked hard to turn me into a creature of grace. But I know this isn't really about me. It's for the Ballet and, ultimately, to help preserve Duluth's important arts community.
But it taught me a little lesson about overconfidence, and if my hard work doesn't pay off with a winning dance, it's OK. Despite developing a stomach full of nervous fears, it didn't stop me from doing a scary thing.