Before graduation, my creative writing professor said that people who go into publishing rarely succeed in becoming writers. Not that they don’t have talent, but because they’re so busy nurturing someone else’s writing that they forget about their own. My professor told me I should not waste my talent. After that, he said I should take a break from my writing and do other things to distract me. Solution? Dance.
I’ve been feeling restless lately. I have a desk job, so I’m always sitting in front of the computer, surrounded by relative silence. People are reading manuscripts, writing reports, or answering emails. Sometimes I miss the absolute chaos of a newsroom, the air tense with panic and fear. Every day I leave work itching to move. I decided that I needed to find a new hobby, one that doesn’t involve a keyboard. While my mind gets quite an exercise when I write, my body undoubtedly suffers. So I started tap dancing again. Because why not? After calling my mom to dig up my tap shoes, which she swore she threw out, I went to Mark Morris Dance Center and enrolled in a tap dance class for adults. I’m on my fourth class, and I still love it.
Believe it or not, I danced for ten years, from elementary school to ninth grade. I don’t tell many people that, because I never considered it real dancing. I wasn’t learning choreography in a proper studio. Our dance classes played out in the auditorium of a run-down elementary school in Waterbury, Conn., as part of a now-defunct Parks and Recreation program. Instead of learning multiple choreographies, we learned only two in a year, and we’d perform it at John Kennedy High School in May, all decked out in our glittery costumes. (I so wish I had a picture to put on this blog).
It’s an amazing feeling to see that other adults are also enthusiastic about learning how to tap. It shows that anyone can learn, that age is not an obstacle. Our tap dance class comprises people with different backgrounds; there’s a drummer, a second-grade teacher, a software engineer, and a really cool publishing editorial assistant (wink wink).
Dancing is my distraction at the moment, but it’s made me realize a few things, too:
- Dancing is like writing. Just as you write your novel sentence by sentence, you learn a choreography step by step in groups of eight counts. You practice the combination over and over, just as you rewrite a sentence until it flows. Eventually you’re able to piece together combinations, like how you stitch together sentences to form a cohesive paragraph. Both dance and writing are work-in-progress past-times that require hours of practice.
- It’s hard to find a style. When dancing, I have no style whatsoever. My moves are soft when they’re supposed to be hard; my attitude is timid and not tough like the teacher had said we should be. Even as I executed the moves on the right count, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the dance look as good as the teacher.
- (follow-up) Mistakes are wonderful. How else will you learn?
I have the utmost respect for dancers—for all artists who seek to share their joy. Next blog post: Finding a writer’s group! 🙂