Dancing with Confidence
FINDING MY FEET
Around the age of 9, I found my feet with dance. I’d bring home my school reports, look for A’s but all I could see were rows of C’s and the words ‘dances well’ jumped out like a beacon of light, I still had hope and my self-esteem was boosted. In the grand scheme of things, I knew in my child’s mind that C’s weren’t really that bad, and as long as I could excel in something, I wasn’t a failure. One really thoughtful teacher had given me self-belief and my journey with dance began.
A few years later, I begged my parents to pay for ballroom lessons, they were sorry but they didn’t have the money to pay for me, especially with the cost of the dresses. I would have to wait until I was older. I waited for what felt like a lifetime as it does when you are a child and at sixteen, I took my medal tests in Latin and Ballroom with the Imperial and National Society and scored very high marks. I also took part in many competitions and lost my beginners status dancing at Caister, Nr. Great Yarmouth, on a very cold weekender where the chalets seemed a little damp and moldy but the sequins on the dresses glittered and the trophies seemed attainable! In those days the late seventies, I was sometimes judged by the remarkable Peggy Spencer at Hammersmith Palais as our dance school took regular coach trips to London. I wanted to turn professional at 17 so I could teach dance for a career but had my confidence knocked by someone and gave up hope. At the age of 22, I gave up dancing ballroom and latin with the general pressures of young married life which left a big sadness in my heart, so it’s is an absolute pleasure to revisit the school where I used to have lessons Laits, in Clarkson Street. The memories of my youth and early dance experiences reverberate off the walls and flood back to make me smile.
For me, dance and confidence are closely entwined. Dance is a well, a place where you can draw energy, a place where you feel connected to your feet, to the floor, to the earth. It is also a place where you connect to others through movement, gentleness, kindness, consideration, understanding, the making of new friends and fun. At times I’ve experienced people taking a long time to learn to dance, or they’ve used the expression ‘I’ve got two left feet’ but in reality, everyone gets there in the end, once they start to enjoy and let their inhibitions go. We were meant to dance and we’ve danced through the ages, through medieval times, in Courts, in streets, at festivals, dance has always been a celebration of life. Morris dancers on May Day, Maypole dancing celebrating Spring and fertility. The ribbons crossing and uncrossing in their vibrant colours as young children dance around each other. I laugh at the Maypole as I remember being taken out of a maypole dance because I got the ribbons all tangled up. I then had to sit in the middle to steady the maypole but I still took part. To me, this is the primary reason for dance, not always to be good it, but to take part. To get up there and have a go. To feel the rhythm of the music and to become one with that sound. To take your body in different directions to move your hands and feet where they want to go but maybe haven’t been before in anticipation and excitement that you are creating something which is unique to you. I dance Salsa now and more recently bachata and kizomba. Some of these dances very much rely on trust. For a man he has to trust himself with his leads and creativity, for a woman she needs to trust that she can let go and follow the man, understanding his signals as he leads her into spins, stepping boldly to and fro with his hands leading the way. I often think, just don’t think, just stay connected as I look at my partner leading, feeling the way into the motion which was once one but we are two.
So, when I think of dances well, I like to think of dancing to wellness because that’s what it does. When I returned to dance in my thirties, I’d been going through a horrible divorce, after which I’d had a head-on accident with a lorry. I was an emotional and physical wreck and I was falling into a deep depression. Then one day I saw an advert in a local newspaper for salsa dancing in Bury St Edmunds. I had been in a slump for so many weeks that although I wanted to go, it was hard on my own and it would mean getting a babysitter for my sons or making sure I was back by 11 pm as I didn’t want to leave them on their own late. At the time I was attending a meditation group and I had been talking about this for a couple of weeks when I was told, you must go. If you don’t do something you aren’t going to get any better. At this point, I made myself go for my first ever salsa lesson, from that point on I never looked back. I went every week for the next 10 years and I have also been to many different classes, later learning more Cuban and Rueda with the brilliant Miranda Campbell, in Ipswich. I’ve had a few breaks from dancing since then, mainly to write books but then I feel I’ve been away far too long and I quickly return to get my dose of me. Dancing is me and I am dance, we are inseparable.
I’ve now started attending some salsa weekenders which is another new branch to my social life. You meet people from all over the country which is tremendous fun. Dancing can become a way of life or it can be used as a tool to help your confidence, whatever way you approach it, the dance is to be enjoyed and it is there for you, whatever age you are. Whether you dance individually or with a partner or group. It is always there for you – waiting!
Softly stepping in time with the music
touching that inner space
Eyes meeting eyes reflecting moments
synchronized across the face
Moving swaying hypnotizing
trusting staying with what's real
Depths of passion for the music
learning just how to feel
Retraining what we knew already
deep in our soul before we lost
The earth's melodies of knowing
keeping time at any cost
Ballet to salsa, urban rhythms
they made us what we are
For in each turn we are reaching
For in each turn we are travelling far
In a sense in each direction
sits the essence of our soul
A subtle beat in the moonlight
A fire's embers on the coal
Light up the dance with new found
passion you are the master of the dance
You decide which way to take it
In a haze or in a trance
Merging but individual
In how deep it resonates
Bold and vibrant colours seeking
where dance does not hesitate
JUST TRY IT
Whatever you think of dance, unless you’ve tried it, it remains something which is slightly abstract because any explanation about the steps ultimately gets a little forgotten in the experience. I found that worrying what people think of you, what you look like if your partner actually becomes insignificant as you grow in body confidence and awareness. For me, dance is also spiritual growth, as you enjoy merging with another person’s energy and you learn to appreciate their individual styles, not expecting them to alter the way they dance but embracing individuality and unique gift.
As I came from a ballroom and Latin background, when I first took up salsa at the age of 38 it was easier for me because I already had good balance, knew how to spin like a diva and I’d been tried and tested through various dancing standards but I learned and I’m still learning now, is the more we let go and forget to anticipate, the better the dance.
Through my other work as a soul coach, I often recommend salsa or belly dance, to bring out the inner goddess and confidence in a woman, or man! Sometimes people look at me and joke about wiggling their hips and wonder how it can help. It may seem slightly odd that self-esteem and mental health can be improved by dance but for one, it vastly improves your body confidence and awareness. It’s also a social activity which forces you to at least say ‘hi’, or ask someone’s name. It grounds you and stops your brain over thinking, especially women who dance better if they don’t think! It totally relaxes you, uplifts you, makes you smile, makes you laugh and leave your troubles at the door! But one of the most important benefits of dance is exercise and flexibility, it keeps you young, not only in body but in your mind.
what type of dancing do you enjoy
© 2019 Jennifer Lynch