At the end of January I travelled to Sydney with the other members of The Clave Collective Ladies Shine team. We’d been invited to perform at the Sydney Latin Festival which was a huge honour.

Thursday to Sunday was a blur of performances, workshops and dance parties. A sometimes difficult environment for an introvert like me; who likes to have her own space.

I learned some important lessons over that weekend:

1. Be brave – it takes a lot of bravery for anyone to get out up stage and perform for an audience. I had my moment of sheer panic when my teacher said “We are on in five”. All those months of training come down to these 2 minutes on stage! We all have our individuals thoughts before we get on stage to get the right mindset (I’ve been watching Carmen Miranda videos to find a wonderfully over the top alter ego for me to have when I go on stage).

2. Smile – this is so essential on stage yet not always that easy to do when you’re concentrating. I look very serious when I’m learning the moves (my brain can only do so much at once!) but that look doesn’t translate well on stage. So we all go out with a big smile fixed on our faces (nerves and all) and at some point in the performance that first smile changes to a natural smile of enjoyment.

3. Stay open – one of the toughest parts of dancing for me is the social dancing. That’s when all the performances are over and we are dancing for the fun of it. You’d think that would be the most enjoyable part right? For whatever reason I find it really hard to get started and I feel like a wallflower in high school waiting for a boy to ask her to dance.

It can become quite a daunting thing when the people around you are being asked to dance but no-one is asking you. It’s the quickest way I know to lose my confidence.

I have to do whatever I can to get my confidence back otherwise I’m facing a night of standing there watching others dance. This is still a big learning curve for me but the things I’m trying are to make eye contact, smile a lot, stand with open body language and have the courage to go and ask someone to dance. After all they might be having a case of dancing nerves too!

 

I'm on the far right - having a blast!

I’m on the far right – having a blast!

 

4. Be happy making mistakes – in the workshops there is a range of experience levels so it’s possible that the instructors’ will be teaching something that feels way out of my level. There are two choices: sit down or be happy making mistakes and hope that something will stick.

5. Seize the moment – when training last year I would struggle sometimes while learning a certain move and tell myself that I would learn it from the training videos. This attitude comes from being used to picking things up right away and wanting to avoid making mistakes and looking like a fool. Big Mistake! Your mind can become conditioned to not try because you can “always do it later”. You are letting yourself give up in little increments.

We all look like fools when we are learning something new so it’s important to focus on the learning rather than any other distracting thoughts.

6. Shake it off – I really like Taylor Swift’s song (it might have something to do with all the dancers!) as it’s all about doing your own thing and not letting what is going on around you affect doing what you want. Get out there and have some FUN!

7. Laugh at yourself – well this just sums it all up really. Life is meant to be enjoyable. So have a laugh at yourself and enjoy all the brilliant little moments that life has to offer.

 

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