When I woke up this morning, I had no intention of going to a contemporary dance class. I haven’t taken contemporary or modern in at least a year, largely because I have been struggling with a knee injury the better part of that time. Even as the pain has subsided, it is taking far longer to get back in shape than I had hoped.
Dance classes where I feel like I’m in total control have become my classes of choice. Because when I know that I can modify or avoid a step if needed, I can easily pass over the hurdle of worrying about re-injury.
Unfortunately, when I arrived to sign in to my tap class, it was strangely full. I hadn’t taken dance class in more than a week because of a recent resurgence of pain over the last few weeks. Now that it had calmed down, I was determined to not leave Broadway Dance Center without taking class. With no shoes other then tap shoes with me and no tap classes in a time frame that would fit in my schedule, contemporary jazz was my only viable option.
So I entered class optimistically, proud of myself for sticking to my guns. But it didn’t take long for all the ‘voices’ in my head to try to talk me out of it. It’s pretty hot outside, so I was basically sweating already before I even started moving. And I was feel pretty uncomfortable. I didn’t know the warm up and couldn’t seem to find my balance.
I decided as each of these moments came about to practice gratitude and meet myself where I was. Nice to stretch in this kind of heat and move my body. No matter what, I thought.
But when it came time to learn the combination, I was struck with fear. In contemporary dance, the movements flow and don’t have names and often don’t have counts either. How was I going to pick this up?
I could have gotten hung up on perfection, but once again, decided that it was okay if I just got a little bit, and then got I little bit more each time.
And then came the floor sequence. Sheer terror!
I didn’t have knee pads with me, worried about bending my knees too much, and was resisting the idea of being on my knees so hard. I was already imagining the pain before I even tried to do the choreography!
My brain went into overdrive. This is a really bad idea, Natalie. Your knees aren’t ready for this. You’re going to get hurt again. In that moment, I told myself, Just try it. If you still feel like you should leave in 10 minutes, you can.
Once I gave myself permission to leave, it became instantly easier to focus on what I was doing, and I actually started enjoying myself. I surprised myself repeatedly with how much I was able to pick up just using my eyes and ears — even though I’m out of practice — once I was able to let go of my fear.
I ended up staying through the end of the class and loving it. I tapped into the experience enough to recognize how much I’ve been letting perfectionism get in my way. So often, I am actually able to do way more than I think is possible, but worrying about getting it right prevents me from even trying.
And yes, my knees are bruised, but they aren’t broken. I lived to dance another day.