Thursday, 7 September 2017

On pride (and the acquisition of skills)

Does anything come naturally to anyone?

Throughout most of my education I was the top of my class. Most things that were taught in school came to me "naturally". I'm not sure what that means exactly except to say that I picked up the concepts fairly easily, could usually make further educated guess based on what was taught to me, and had no trouble applying concepts to solving/analyzing hypothetical problems. For most of that time struggling to learn was something that I watched other people do - not something I had intimate personal experience with. On occasion when I "struggled" to come to grips with something complex, I usually did it in isolation and privacy, with my head stuck in a book in my room late at night, or at the library (Derrida comes to mind). But these were the exceptions rather than the rule. What I specifically do not remember much is other people getting things while I struggled to understand them. Until I went to Oxford, that is. Then there was a lot of people who seemed to get things as quickly if not more so, which was really kind of scary.

Learning rhythm and dancing has kind of been the opposite experience and I really struggle with my pride. I hate struggling with a move in a class. I hate it when other people pick up rhythms or hear them in a song more quickly than I do. I hate it because I don't know how to deal with being the second person to understand something. I hate it because it seems to call into doubt something that I've always been.

There are two aspects to dancing, in my mind - one is about physical agility and coordination and the other about the relationship to music which is in part analytical. To some people I observe these abilities seem much more innate. I'm not sure if I'm physically agile - I think I'm slightly above average but definitely not close to the top. As for musicality I started out a total dunce. Quite honestly in my first performance when I was asked to raise my hat on 5 I didn't know what that meant, and couldn't understand it when they tried to explain.

In my recollections music was never in beats in my head in those days. It reminds me of the argument that the word blue didn't exist because it wasn't a thing until humans could reliably reproduce that colour. I feel that way about music. When I hear the rhythms in music it's not because of some innate connection with it, but because I'm trained my mind to detect patterns and apply some kind of analytical tool that lets me distinguish where it's at. Now when I listen to music, the counts literally sings itself to me in some part of my brain. Which is why it's very challenging and scary sometimes when I find a song that confuses me, because my rhythm detection is thrown off by half a beat or by two beats. At times like this I do what I've always done. Ask someone who knows, and then take it home as homework. I sit in front of the computer listening to these tunes over and over, counting them out to myself, waiting for the correct information to overwrite the incorrect information. I feel like I'm trying to grow instincts - or at least, to train myself until it becomes instinctive.

The asking someone though, costs me pride. I don't know if I was always this bad in school (heck it was a long time ago) but I just feel really negative when I don't get something - especially if I have to resort to asking a peer rather than a teacher. That was just never me. I was the one who others went to ask, not the one who did the asking.

The thing is I don't really like this aspect of myself. What is wrong with not understanding something? Surely where we begin is immaterial - the important thing is where we end up. If we don't start where we want to end up (most of us don't, I assume), then we have to do whatever it takes to get there. And once we do - does it matter where we started? I keep trying to tell myself that whatever it is I am not, I am not yet, because I'm in the process of becoming.

Perhaps it is also to do with insecurity. Just as I hate asking people to come out and dance when I DJ because I hate the feeling of needing to ask for something. I hate being disempowered whether it is needing their help in terms of coming to my events or in terms of teaching me some move or anything else. I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels this way though, and I would very much like to come to terms with being someone who has needs. I'd like to be able to express my needs and my regard for the people who bring things to my life (friends who teach me, who come support my events, who practice with me etc.), without a ridiculous sense of disempowerment - because I think it isn't disempowering. We just need people. That's all there is to it. It's no shame and no weakness. One day hopefully I can just ask for whatever it is I need without feeling my my pride is in the way, and if I don't get whatever it is I ask for, I can take it in context and not let it affect me in a personal way.

Also it just occurred to me that the toughest thing is to refrain from drawing any conclusions from the fact that someone can do/can understand something which doesn't come naturally to you. How I feel is "whoa this person is such a natural I bet I'll never be as good of a dancer as him/her" when in fact I have no clear conception of the circumstances which may have gone into making of this situation. Perhaps he/she is innately awesome (in which case, yay, good for this person), but perhaps he/she has just had a lot more practice or some kind of formal training. I think back now to all the kids that I watched struggle in calculus class. No doubt some of them simply came to the conclusion that I was "smart" and they were perhaps less so. I always felt at the time that there was something erroneous about this conclusion (because I see them being smart at other things, and most of them were def. more socially adept than I was at the time). Now I think I know that part of the error is not seeing why I performed well in calculus (because I was tutored in maths from an early age quite separately and additional to my formal education, and because I had no social life and devoted free time to solving whatever extra physics and calculus problems I could lay my hands on in order to feel extra prepared for exams because otherwise I'd freak out because I'm a control freak and couldn't ever just try to 'wing it'). So yeah, there's always so much that we don't see.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Good enough

Sometimes I get very anxious about not being good enough. Since I came back from holidays there's been a sharp decline in class attendance. There could be any variety of reasons (one week it was Chinese Valentines Day; I'm teaching Al & Leon which is not my own choreo so ppl can just easy easy learn it online; I no longer run the Thursday practice groups or the monthly social so there's less promotion; I have been away from the core scene too long so people don't know me as well etc.) but of course I immediately take that as a sure sign that I'm not good.

When I stop and compare I always look at those people who I perceive to be doing better than me and a sense of dread comes over me and I feel like an imposter. I forget though that there are also those who don't do as well as me. There are also those who don't even try because they think they wouldn't get anywhere - and up until I decided to give myself this year of doing everything I wanted to do in dancing, I was one of those people.

I never tried to make it my thing because I feared that I wouldn't be good enough. But how would I know if I've not tried. I told myself I would just try and try for a year, and not evaluate myself until the end, because sometimes, when I'm not something, it just means I'm in the process of becoming something, and it's pointless to beat myself up during that process.

And also when I compare myself to others I must remember that many people devoted themselves to their thing for much longer than I have. My year isn't even out yet, and really how could a year of working hard at something be long enough to really make a difference?

As ever I have more questions than I have answers.

Recently I started DJing at Roxy J. The first two times dancers came out. The third time no dancers came. I wonder if I should interpret that as a personal failure on my part. I used to imagine "what if no one came to my classes"? And then I'd think - that's ok, I'll just use that time to practice. Then I'd imagine "what if no one came when I DJ?" I guess that's happened already. Except, um, the place was actually quite busy they just weren't dancers so I'm not sure what I want or if that counts as a fail. But the point is maybe this is a good time to think about what these things (DJing/Teaching) really mean to me, and what the minimum return would have to be in order for me to be content.

Again that's something I don't have an answer for at the moment.

But here's something I saw the other day which I like:

Living means taking chances and coping with the fear and possibility of failure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So when the fear really gets to me I just tell myself to grow some balls (or something like that).

Good morning world. Today I can't sleep for being anxious.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Stuff I've discovered

Recently my life has been full of discoveries. Well, some are new discoveries and some are just things that are being confirmed.

Like People Tokens. I always suspected that I only ever have a limited supply but I think I know now just how limited. It's really just the one thing that I can't do anything about. When I'm out, I'm out.

Another discovery is that I don't really like to run socials. It's not really my thing. I don't want to have to worry too much about how to make sure everyone has a good time (though obviously I do want them to). I also hate wondering if anyone will show up. I also don't know if I will have enough People Tokens on the day. This all combines to make it kind of exhausting and even if I try to prepare, still out of my control (because of PT).

Another thing is that I just can't do more than 4 hours a day. I would break down. Also tiredness is totally cumulative. I'm now cumulatively tired. I've not managed to do more than 1 hr of popping every day. I've been more or less doing just the bare minimum for about a week and this morning I finally had some energy and inspiration but going out and getting a haircut and seeing a venue and two friends for a cuppa kind of used that up. I still did my hour of popping and tried to practice some general stuff after that but now I'm wiped.

I hate the feeling that I'm not working hard enough but I realize sometimes I don't have more to give and beating myself up won't help. That's why I'm looking forward (even more) to being away.

Also the weather is dreadfully muggy. It'll be nicer to be in Europe.

Another thing I've been thinking is that my most tangible progress is actually through rhythm. I should resume classes when I get back, because on my own I quickly fall out of practice.

oh and also just to keep things in one place

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


Sometimes I feel like I might be overloading. Last month I was doing a lot of lessons and I gave a talk and I organized a party and tried to finish a routine I was learning etc. It got to be a bit much. This month is the last month before Herräng so I'm trying to take it easy and do less. I would hate to leave for a long trip in a flurried frame of mind.

Most of the time I struggle to improve but sometimes I feel palpably better at dancing because I'm now able to do things that were not possible before. Obviously on an absolute scale I'm still totally rubbish at some of these things, but it doesn't matter. Progress is progress.

When I practice popping it's very difficult not to think things like "this looks shit it's totally stupid it's too late I'm to old to pick it up" and feel discouraged. So I just tell myself that I can assess at the end of the month when I've put in all the practice hours - not before. Measuring progress before I've put in the number of hours I decided to put in is counterproductive.

At the same time I'm looking forward to some time off in Herräng just to unwind and go back to my first love. Swing will be so much fun. I'm also doing the authentic jazz track in week 3 which I'm looking forward to. I have to remind myself not to be too confident just because I've done so much street dance lately XD They are different disciplines after all and I'm sure there will still be plenty of super challenging things ahead ^-^

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Repeat as necessary

"I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the past because I'm very taken up with living in the present" 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


Some mornings around 5 or 6 am I start to have anxiety based dreams. It's like my irrational fears get out of control and my dreams start to play out all the things that I'm anxious about, to their worst conclusions.

In my sober moments I know that these thoughts are ridiculous. But sometimes instead of trying to calm myself and overcome these anxieties, I decide to just get out of bed and give up on sleep for the next few hours. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017


I got really upset today seeing my friends on facebook berating someone, and also the general casual misogyny is something that just fills up slowly until it eventually overflows.

And then Roo messaged me, out of the blue, because I had been in a dream of his. Apparently his flight was rerouted and I was there in the waiting lounge. He can't remember how the dream ended.

I can't help but feel this is somewhat of a godsend. One of the earliest really truly good people in my life, just popping in to say hello, and remind me that people are good.

I thank whatever providence brought this about (and brought him into my life in the very first instance).

On the forefront of my mind today:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

... so please be kind if i'm a mess

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Biopsy vs. Autopsy

I misspoke and said that I needed an autopsy but actually I was scheduled to have a biopsy because I've had this weird lump on my arm. But then when I got there the doctor decided that it's small enough that we should just get it removed altogether.

So I now have four stitches on my forearm and have been warned off excess movement or flexing. I'm using this week to do some other stuff, like write up some basic musical theory re: swing and also some basic exercises.

Next week I go and get my results, and hopefully take the stitches out. In the mean time I'm enjoying being a bit more sedentary. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

At about one month or so in

When I wake up in the morning sometimes I'm just like... why are my feet so sore? Oh. Because I practiced 3 hours yesterday.

I started popping classes lately and am carrying on with waacking. It's given me ridiculously well defined back/shoulder/arm muscles. Even my teacher is a little incredulous that I don't go to the gym any more. If only my abs would do the same (#nodice).

Everything is a constant struggle. Actually there are days when I feel measurable progress. But the rest of the time is pretty much a constant struggle.

I have trouble explaining to people what I'm doing sometimes.

On other fronts I feel I can always do more and do better (like update my vintage business) but then so much of the time all I can manage is vegetate. I'm not sure if I'm slacking or if I'm just exhausted.

Still, I think overall it's a forward progression, so I won't ask for more than that. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

We shall have to get out our leopard skins again

Duke has the permanent answer to these stereotypes and caricatures of Negroes. It is as well a deft parry of the thrusts of amateur anthropologists who refer to all Africans of darker color as savages. It's a musical comedy called, tentatively, Air-Conditioned Jungle. The opening scene sets mood and clime and theme. In a particularly chic living-room, decorated in the best of urbane good taste, but not given to flamboyant extravagances, sit the King and Queen of one of the ancient African tribes. She's dressed in a gown by Schiaparelli; he in a sleekly fitted dinner jacket. They are drinking their after-dinner brandy and coffee in relaxed comfort: the house is air conditioned. A muffled bell rings. The King picks up the telephone. "Yes," he says, "yes, yes. Mmm-hmm. Oh, bother. Well, if there's nothing we can do about it." He slams the receiver down on its cradle and turns unhappily to his consort. "What is it, darling?" she asks. "There's another of those expeditions coming over from America. Trying to discover the original sources of their jazz, you know?" "Oh, damn," the Queen curses. "Yes, my dear," the King says, "we shall have to get out our leopard skins again."

Ulanov, Duke Ellington (The Roots of Jazz)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Wednesday, 19 October 2016



Recently I've started to work on some new skills and it makes me feel like I'm shit at everything, because new skills are not so easily acquired. But then that makes sense, really, because if I go to these classes to learn new things and find that I can already do it well then, it's probably a waste of time/money because it's not a real challenge, is it? The problem is that sometimes I'm so overwhelmed by what I can't do that I forget I can do anything - anything at all.

On the other hand sometimes I tangibly achieve a goal and that feels quite nice. The Bubble Tea Shakers performed for the first time this last weekend, so I'm glad I came up with an idea and worked with others to make it a reality.

Also another thing that helps in general is knowing what to say no to - for instance, swingy Christmas music.

I like my swing to be old fashioned and my Christmas music even more so. Medieval carols will do nicely, thank you.

Some motivational posters I liked.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016