Wassup, Twinkle-toes?

"To dance is to be out of yourself.  Larger, more beautiful, more powerful." Agnes De Mille

I'm a really bloomer as a dancer. Picking up salsa only in 2005 but boy, has that interest grown. It's been a mere five years but it still motivates me to get better, personally and technically.  It cheers me up on horrible work or personal days and yes, it is also a source of frustration when  I can't seem to pick up new things fast or well enough. Let's not even touch on injury, I've harped on that quite enough!

It's interesting how people sometimes come up to me to ask why I keep on doing it or what my inspiration is

The answer is pretty straightforward: I like a good challenge. I love the freedom it gives me and the confidence that I've gained in myself and also in my body. While being a professional dancer is not my ultimate aim, I want to excel in the dances that I've picked up. With salsa, I was actually inspired from watching the mambo scenes in Dirty Dancing. I've evolved from being an awkward newbie to someone who is now able to perform in large crowds. I'm comfortable with my body and with my movements and technically, my footwork has improved tremendously. Mistakes are common but people would be hard-pressed to notice if they are not familiar with the dance ;)

Most importantly, I picked up these dances for me. I was always the outspoken pudgy kid who loved sports but I wanted to do something that challenged me more. Dancing was it - why? Because, despite being outspoken, I was always a bit shy. And no doing anything in front of an audience! Are you crazy? I was afraid that I was too fat, too clumsy,  too awkward to do anything. Taking up the challenge to learn how to dance, gradually make peace with my body and widen my social circle boosted my self esteem and confidence. I learnt that you don't need a fixed partner to salsa, you dance with a bunch of other people in rotation. This helps you pick up different leading styles to make you (the lady) a better follow. 

Some people have mentioned that I came across as competitive in classes or at practice. How can I not be? Being a late bloomer, I'm almost always the oldest in the class. This means that there are always younger, more talented and driven students than I. Dancing is a whole lot of fun but both peers and teachers respect a student more if they are a bit more serious over one who acts the clown most of the time.  

Over time, I plucked up enough courage to perform. For me, performing showcases all the hard work that a performance team or couple has put into a 3 - 5 min choreography. In comparison,  professional dancers get a whole lot more stage time. But for people like me, it that 5 mins is almost all that you get and you have to make if count.

But where do I go from here? Despite some setbacks, I still think there is room for growth for me. Picking up ballet and belly dancing this year brings more challenges but at the same time, other interesting opportunities. The chance to do a something that scares me a full solo performance in belly dancing. I picked up ballet to build strength, improve technicality and add diversity to my dancing.  Performing is out of the question as I still have much to learn. For salsa, there are still lots of opportunities to perform, whether it is at salsa congresses, friend's weddings or even at corporate functions.

The big downside of performing salsa I feel is that people tend to equate being a good performer with being a good general dancer. Not true. Salsa performers must learn to incorporate one another essential element into their repertoire - social dancing. This means hitting a salsa club or social dance gigs at least once a fortnight to dance and let go. Get away from choreography. While performing is great, you will only be able to get better with more practice and what better way than on the social floor with either your friends or new people?

I admit sometimes these things frustrate me but at the end of the day, it is up to me to push myself. And that ultimately, I am responsible for my own progress.

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Ever prodded a sleeping dragon, only to have it whip up and bite you in the ass? Well, neither have I. But I advocate that you should try everything...once ;P


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