I recently danced with a dancer high on my Angst shortlist, the list filled with dancers that intimidate me so much that I transform into a self-conscious and apprehensive beginner. The symptoms manifested themselves immediately: feeling like a school kid, tightening of belly, clumsy opening step, silly navigation mistakes, some bumping against other couples, and a sudden inclination for long dramatic pauses. I knew the tanda was going badly, and I knew she knew. Naturally, she was too generous to comment on it, saying ‘thank you’ afterward, with a plastic smile. ‘No, thank you,’ I said, listlessly.
A crowded floor and fast valses may have added to my mounting insecurity. After the first vals, she looked slightly worried. “It was scary… I brushed the other couple twice!”, she said, frowning quickly at me and adjusting her hair. Instantly, my brittle confidence as a leader shriveled to mini-me size, and we spiraled downward from that moment on. She was right, I thought. I didn’t feel in control and sensed her anxiety throughout the dance. The next vals I devoted to low-risk, repetitive ocho cortados, my back systematically turned towards the middle of the floor, keeping an eye on the couples on each side. My main goal was damage control now. The third vals we were like two crabs clutching at each other, finding their way sideways. We ended the tanda, relieved nobody had to go find the first aid kit.
Confidence, like trust, comes on foot and goes on horseback. Where was that guy, who once could dance with anyone, anywhere on four tiles, and improvise his socks off? I sat down, processing the blow with the usual coping strategies. The first one, which usually works well for me, was denial. This didn’t happen for real. It was all in my head and who knows what she was thinking? It didn’t work this time, so I tried the second strategy, which is to take the simple view: wait, weren’t we simply physically incompatible? Was I too short, or was she too tall? It would explain the poor floor craft, not having a clear view over her shoulder in the turns, and so on. For a while, I consoled myself with this thought, but I had to drop it: I danced with many tall women before, with no problem.
I had to dig deeper. Surely, I considered, there must have been some ancient trauma that she awoke inside of me, that was messing with my mind. A long line of dancers that once seemed daunting passed by in my head. Most were familiar favorites to me now. But then I remembered the sophisticated Italian woman I danced with once and didn’t have the guts to ask again, for fear of failure. And then another one, and another one, until I saw a pattern, a story that I created, causing the limiting belief that I, somehow, was just not worthy of dancing with certain excellent, delicate, and superior dancers, reserved for maestros only. I saw, like Churchill before me, that the only thing to fear is fear itself.
‘Did you have a good night?’ the organizer asked. ‘It was more than good,’ I said. ‘It was a revelation.’
Published: 28 Mar 2023 @ 14:51