I used to dance. Ballet. From ages six to almost-18. I may not have been amazing, but I was pretty good, and I loved it. It was actually a bit of a tough decision to pursue university studies over trying to dance professionally, but I chose uni and stopped dancing.
For over 10 years I didn’t take a single dance class. I did other things: weight training, sprinting, the odd social sports team, etc., but I didn’t dance. Why? Well, I was afraid. Ballet dancers are often generalized as being perfectionists and I am not an exception to the stereotype. So the idea of walking in to a dance class and sucking was abhorrent to me. But, with the help of a dance teacher friend, I took my first dance class in something like 12 years.
And I hated it. I could manage the ballet stuff reasonably well but she threw me into lryical, contemporary and jazz. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I spent most of the class wanting to cry. But I stuck it out because I knew that facing that fear of imperfection was good for me. And something in my soul needed to dance. Even while hating getting things wrong, I was still in love with dance.
Fast-forward a year or so, and I wouldn’t say I’m much better at the actual dancing stuff. I still mess things up and I’m usually the slowest one in the class to pick up new choreography, but my attitude has shifted. I don’t mind stuffing up (or, at least, I don’t mind as much), and I feel like I am topping up my spirit when I dance each week. So, when my friend put up a new picture in the studio of a ballet dancer en pointe it got me thinking… Could I handle a pointe class?
I was incredibly nervous. How would my toes hold up? Hard to say. Would I fall on my face and have girls decades younger than me point and laugh? It was a distinct possibility. But what I had learned from a year of dance class was that it didn’t matter if I stuffed up. What mattered was trying.
And this time, I loved it. Yes, my toes did hurt. Thankfully, I didn’t fall on my face but I definitely screwed a few things up. And I didn’t even mind. In fact, I spent the next week counting down to the next pointe class!
In my first novel, I wrote about a 16-year-old dancer, and I obviously leaned heavily on my own experience to write it. Unsurprisingly, her character growth was largely about overcoming the fear of imperfection. It would be amazing if I had had that kind of epiphany at 16 but, unlike my character, it took me another 15 years and countless tries to really learn my lesson. I wouldn’t say I don’t care at all about being perfect now, but I care a little less, and that’s a win.