|That's me on the right. Just kidding. Photo courtesy of Jazzercise.com|
I’m a terrible dancer. That’s why I teach dance.
Or more specifically, that’s why I teach dance-fitness classes. Ask any of my students and they can confirm: I can barely count to eight (they often need to help me), I’m spastic with new moves, and generally I can perform accurate choreography about 65% of the time. But these same students consistently tell me that I’m a great instructor. And oddly enough, I believe them.
How did the instructor thing come to be, you may ask? It’s simple: music makes me move, and Jazzercise makes me happy. It was inevitable, really. I was hooked on the fun and intensity of the format starting with my first class way back in the 80’s. I knew early on that I wanted to become an instructor. I was sucked in by the drama (I get to teach on a stage), the rock-star element (I get to wear a microphone), and the variety of the moves and music. Most importantly, as an instructor, I get to learn all the moves before anybody else in the room knows them. And when I’m teaching, I’m always right. So if I’m performing the moves wrong, so are my students. But we're still sweating and having a great time, and nobody is the wiser -- unless there’s another instructor in the room.
But seriously, becoming a Jazzercise instructor was one of the best decisions of my life, and it has changed me in many ways. Physically, of course, I’m in better shape than ever, and I’ve been able to maintain a healthy body weight for several years. But more importantly, being a dance-fitness instructor has taught me how to perform in public, how to teach and even inspire others through word and example, and how to let myself be silly. It has taught me how to laugh at my mistakes and keep on moving. It has also taught me to appreciate many forms of music and many styles of dance.
Jazzercise has taught me the importance of creating a warm and supportive community with my students. And in return, the students have given me their trust, their friendship and many gallons of sweat. When that music starts, we know that together, we’re going to work hard, laugh a lot, and come out of class stronger than when we came in.
I feel privileged to be able to spend time with women (and a few men), who understand that life isn’t about getting everything perfect all the time. As cliché as it sounds, I believe that life really is about letting yourself experience the moment and also about not taking yourself too seriously. And that’s what we do when we dance together.
Dance-fitness is also about taking care of yourself so that you have the energy to take care of others. It’s about feeling good and alive within your own imperfect body. I’ve written before about dancing with seniors, and there’s plenty more to say about what I’ve learned from all my students – young and old. I also recognize the impact I’m having on my children when we dance together, and how my decision to make exercise a priority affects my entire family, but these are subjects for another day.
For today, I’m content to recognize how much teaching dance has taught me about how to be a better leader, a keener observer, a more attentive listener, and a more mindful participant in dance.
One of these days it may even teach me how to count out the beat.
(Inspired by MamaKat’s Writer’s Workshop. Check it out!)