Showtime in Mexico City – Photo by @delgadonatalia
The other day I read a post my friend Teresa wrote called Building Self-Confidence: You Can’t Fake Cool, You Have To Feel It. It’s a short story about her trying a hip hop dance class for the first time and learning some unexpected lessons. Her takeaways were solid and I love it for three reasons:
1. She tried something new (it’s crazy how many people stop doing this)
2. It was something outside of her comfort zone, and
3. She grew her confidence from a place of vulnerability
As a dancer, I totally connected with the lessons she talked about and it stirred up a lot of thoughts I’ve had, recently and in the past, so I wanted to whip up this little response. Plus, it’s about time I get writing again.
It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it
“In between songs, Eric gave the class mini-pep talks. And while you’d think they would be about dancing, he barely talked about the movement, techniques or steps at all. In fact, the whole point of the class wasn’t about dancing at all. It was about feeling good, building confidence and believing in yourself – whether that’s on the dance floor or in the business realm.”
Word. Amen. Thank you. There’s so much more to dancing, and life, than moves, actions, steps or tricks. Whenever I’m teaching a breakin’ class, one of the first things I tell my students is: learn how to dance, not just breakdance. Movements will only get you so far. You need to learn the foundations. In dance, it’s music. In life, it’s yourself.
The groove of a dance is it’s essence. What do I mean by groove? The groove is how you ride the music, the flavour or sauce you put on the steps, the character and soul you put into your movements – the visual feeling you create. The groove of a dance is what makes salsa look different than breaking, ballet different than jazz, and the running man different than the moonwalk. If you look at the steps between a lot of different dances, an incredible amount of them are the exact same. The only difference is the groove someone throws on the steps and the individual character they embrace. Character is what confidence looks like.
Confidence and character take practice. “Go into your room, turn on some music and get used to how your body wants to move to it” is what I recommend to anyone who wants to learn how to dance. Why? Dancing isn’t about knowing a whole bunch of steps, just like social confidence doesn’t come from a three-step action plan. The best dancers can freak the simplest step and make it look incredibly fresh. They make the hard stuff look easy and the easy stuff look hard.
The key is learning how your body likes to respond to music. It’s not about copying someone else, it’s about figuring it out on your own terms – whatever makes sense to you. Once you get in touch with how you like to feel music, confidence is a natural by product. Confidence and character come from understanding yourself. If you’re not feeling yourself and your body doesn’t believe in what you’re doing, it shows.
If there are two b-boys battling and one of them has his head down the whole time, won’t look the other in the eye, and then finishes by turning around and walking back to his side, you can bet that the other guy who stared down his opponent, faced him while doing his moves, and then postured at the end will be the winner – exactly the same reason a girl will choose the most confident guy out of two dudes who use the same opening line. It’s not about what you do, it’s how you do it.
Crash and Create
90% of the time on lookers have no clue when a good dancer screws up. Why? because good dancers don’t stand up, say “FUCK!” and walk off. They rolllllll with it like it never happened. It doesn’t even cross their mind that they could acknowledge the fact they slipped-up.
It is a fact that the vast majority of people will be completely oblivious to most of the mistakes you make, unless they’re incredibly obvious like slipping and landing on your back. And even then, you should pretend like it was all apart of your act. Keep them guessing and you’re doing your job. So many incredible new ideas have come from mistakes: be they footwork patterns, b-boy tricks, scientific discoveries, or new products like 3M’s failed glue, now called sticky notes. As we say in the b-boy community: “crash and create”. Rock it out.
Nobody really knows…
In the last few years I’ve made a life-changing observation. There is an incredible illusion surrounding people who make things happen. You think they’re some how better than everyone else, but after a while you begin to realize how many of them really don’t have a fucking clue at what they’re doing, yet they’re extremely successful. They work with what they’ve got and the little that they know. Being comfortable with that is the key ingredient that everyone else is missing. I’ve seen it over and over. The pattern repeats.
Nobody’s perfect, nobody knows everything, and everyone’s self conscious – accept yourself. Figure out how you like to groove; and if you crash, create. Stay true, be you. Let yourself be vulnerable.