Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ballroom Dance: Worth It?

Saturday afternoon, my fiance and I went to the annual ballroom dance concert. It was a good show, but as we drove away in the heavy traffic, I silently cried on Z's shoulder. Why? Emotional tiredness was partly responsible, but mostly I had a tangle of thoughts that culminated in the heart-wrenching question: Has it been worth it to be involved in ballroom dance?

I took my first ever dance class in my second semester of freshman year because I felt socially inept and thought that social dance would be a good class for me. I enjoyed the class even though I didn't think I was very good at dancing, and for whatever reason, I signed up for the next level in social dance. It was in that class that I was really inspired by the advanced dancers and first thought, "I really like this, and more than that, I think it's possible for me to become a competent dancer, and I want to work for it." That was life-changing, and I started identifying myself as a ballroom dancer from then onward.

So I signed up for technique classes and started training myself. I practiced pressure steps at home, I sought dance experiences outside of class, and I slowly built a network of dance friends who I could work with during class, hang out with at socials, and just be good, supportive friends with. At my teacher's urging, I started auditioning for the teams after only two semesters of dance experience.

10 classes and 7-9 auditions later, here I am: engaged (to a non-dancer), never had a successful audition, feeling like I'm losing my friends, unable to advance into more challenging classes, and without hope that I'll ever be part of the Ballroom Dance Concert.

I think that's what made the concert painful this year - the magic was gone. Last year, I was thrilled to watch my friends and teachers perform and I hoped that next year would be the year I would make it onto a team and be able to perform in just one number. But while I could still appreciate the beauty and dynamics of the dancing, I felt somewhat detached, like "I'm not part of that world anymore." Dancing is a magical thing, especially when you're single and looking for someone to connect to, but I'm not single anymore (I have my man, and who wants to dance with a girl who's taken?). I'm in one dance class now instead of three, and I don't see most of my dance friends anymore. I've tried out for the dance team so many times and never gotten so much as a callback, and that's heartbreaking! I've put a lot of heart, soul, tears, work, hopes and dreams into ballroom dance, and it all seems to be for nothing.

The thought process seems to come with every ending of a chapter: was it worth it? If the answer is no, then it's accompanied by despair for lost time and rejected love, and a desire to never invest again. If the answer is yes, then it takes more active soul-searching and optimism to remember why. I have to answer "Yes, putting so much of myself into dance was worth it," because I know that with Christ leading me, all my experiences have a purpose in improving myself and perhaps in influencing other people. So what has ballroom dance done for me, if I haven't achieved the defined level of "success"?

Ballroom dance gave me friends. Most of my friends aren't dancers, but having friends in my classes makes a world of difference in how committed I am to the class and in how much I enjoy it and learn from it. Ballroom dance gave me a goal: I have seldom found things that inspire such passion in me as dance has, and that's been hugely motivating (especially for someone who often struggles with finding motivation). Ballroom dance gave me an opportunity to develop talents. Dancing gave me opportunities to build social skills (especially when I became able to help others) and to become good at something; even if I don't know all the steps that some of my more talented friends do, I've learned so much, and I'm not a bad dancer (even though there's clearly room for improvement). Ballroom dance gave me a new appreciation for what the human body - and my body - can do. I'm inspired by the athleticism of really good dancers, and I love getting a workout from something so demanding, so beautiful, and so much fun.

Ballroom really has given me a chance to grow and push myself, and I've learned so much from teachers and friends who I wouldn't have known if not for ballroom dance. Dance has been close to my heart for the last few years, and it really, really hurts to think that I'm losing it. But to know that all this effort and love hasn't been in vain makes it much easier. There have been many times when I've wanted to give up on ballroom, because I felt like ballroom was giving up on me. Whether or not that's the course I'm now taking, I feel much more peaceful with the perspective that it's been worth it. I still have faith that Jesus Christ is involved in my life, and I can trust Him that everything will be ok, with or without dance. We'll see what happens this next year, and I'll just keep chugging along.


  1. Katie! Thanks for your post! I hope you feel that it is worth it and through reading your post I've had many of the exact same thoughts, about the blessings, the friends, the amazing things you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. So many things we can learn from ballroom. Wish I could have seen you and met your fiance (congrats by the way), my wife (who is not a ballroom dancer even though that was my life in college)and I drove up from California just to see the concert. It was fun to watch and see everyone, but at the same time, it WAS a huge part of my life, but now it isn't, and that's ok. Bigger and better things come along (marriage being one of them.) But I sure hope you feel all the hours were totally worth it, I know I do. :-) Hope all is well!

    Scott Peterson

  2. I’m happy that you gained a lot from ballroom dancing; from the dancing skills, friends, and its effect on your personality. Some advice: Never regret anything that once made you happy. Be thankful for the experience! I hope you’d still continue on with ballroom dancing, and learn more from it.

    -Tyson Sieger