Dancing… Dancing… I LOVE DANCING!… at least I used to.
I started dancing rather late. I was 21 years old. I just celebrated the new year and had a huge list of resolutions, but the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else was to LEARN HOW TO DANCE! It always seemed like such a great time. “I want to be just like them!” I remembered myself saying. I figured as long as I learned the basics, then I could join in on the fun!
I was afraid. Prior to committing to this goal, I had already embarrassed myself at a Hip Hop audition just one year prior. We had to freestyle and all I managed to do was execute a terrible wave through my arms. CUE LAUGHTER. But this time it would be different! I was still shy, I was still nervous and afraid, but I wouldn’t let that paralyze me any longer. I jumped in.
The first dance class I took was the “UCLA Breakin’ and Poppin” class. I had a blast! I learned how to do the six-step, how to do a freeze, and also how to “pop” my muscles. I continued dancing every week, weeks turned into months, months turned into years, but then I realized something. I wasn’t getting any closer to being able to jam with the experienced dancers, in fact, the more moves I learned, the more distant I felt.
Dance was no longer fun.
The initial excitement that motivated me to overcome my inhibitions and pursue dance had disappeared. Why? Because dance was no longer about enjoying the music with one another, suddenly, it was about how “good” you are, how many moves you have, and how many props you’re getting. Suddenly, it was about doing the moves “properly”. Suddenly, it was about impressing others.
Who’s to blame?
The Curse of Knowledge - “once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it”
I was cursed. Soon as I stepped into my first dance class, I began the process of stripping away my innocence, thus slowly debilitating my ability to view dance with my initial feelings of awe and wonder.
I presume this is also how most dancers in the cipher view each other. No longer able to see through the eyes of how they were before they became skilled, and only capable of noticing what they have been taught.
And so begins this vicious antibiotic cycle where:
- I just focused on all the moves I lacked and/or still had to improve.
- I became highly critical of how other people danced and only responded positively to their ability to carry out difficult moves.
- Vice versa
Why does this happen? Because now you’re an expert! Congratulations! You took classes. You know more than you did before. You’re capable of seeing a higher level of insight, so you naturally set a higher standard for others. You love the fine details, you want to hang out there, you want to see all the complexities, and if you don’t, you feel disappointed, because you’ve been cursed, and viewing something simple feels like “dumbing down”. How insulting! What a waste of time!
I guess I can be strong and say to myself, “It doesn’t matter what others think,” but hard as I try, I am still human. Your actions influence me. I can feel it when you look away. I can feel it when you yell out corrections because I’m not doing it “right”. I can feel it because all of the sudden, I’m no longer dancing to celebrate the joy that I feel in the music, instead, I’m dancing simply to try and impress you. FUCK THAT.
I understand. People naturally want to appear talented and confident in the eyes of others…. so of course they’re going to focus on style and technique. After all, that’s what people respond to! Sure, all these things makes a better dancer, but all the style in the world is useless if we’ve lost the essence. So this begs the question, what is the essence? For me, it is the diverse union of like-minded individuals brought together through freedom, self-expression, and love of music. That was just an extremely wordy way of saying that dance should be FUN.
Isn’t it enough just to be able to enjoy the music… together?
I’m writing this because I recently met a kid named Alvin. He was obviously new to dance, his movements could be cleaner, but something drew me to him. He had the spirit of dance. He was having fun. I was fascinated, yet saddened by the fact that I may never have that again.
Proceed with Caution.
by Jason Lam