“Zoë, you’re not confident,” my dance teacher said.
I nodded because he was absolutely right. In my lower-level boy dance class, we’re learning a dance that I already worked on last semester. I didn’t master it by any means—at that point, it was too hard for me. Now, though, I should be able to handle it, especially since I’ve learned it once already. But I’m not confident.
As I’ve alluded to over and over, Javanese dance is not easy for me. Dance, in my head, stems from music and since I’m still struggling to grasp gamelan music on any sort of large scale, it stands to reason that I still have trouble with the dancing. Nevertheless, I can memorize a dance. A dance is just a series of movements and I’ve spent the vast majority of my life memorizing those. From there, it’s not a huge leap to doing the movements with the music.
But it is a very large step and apparently one that I’m still not confident taking.
I do well enough in class. Dance is all about compensating. In ballet class, I know how to make up for my bad leg and my funny-looking knees. In Javanese dance class, I know how to make up for my lack of musicality. I memorize the important bits of the dance and I learn when I can sneak a glance at my classmates for hints. This is all well and good and it makes me look at least marginally competent in class.
It does nothing when I have to dance on my own, though. Last class, the teacher had us dance between partitions so that we were unable to see the people next to us. As you might guess, this did not go well for me. Somewhere in amongst all the gamelan, I got caught up in my own head and had no idea where I was in the music or what I was supposed to be doing in the dance.
I think too much in any dance class, my mind wandering in all sorts of directions when I should be focusing on the steps and the steps alone. In classes when I’m feeling particularly unconfident, I usually start thinking about all the places I could mess up, which begins a vicious and obvious cycle.
Mainly, I’m worried about next month. Next month I’m supposed to be performing. Alone. While messing up in dance class is mildly embarrassing, messing up in the middle of a performance would go far, far beyond that. Oh, I know (theoretically) how to improv. I know I won’t just stand there and stare blankly at the audience. But I also know that, without anyone else onstage to prompt me, things could go really wrong.
And so that’s what I think about. And then I go back to my room and practice my dance again, eyes closed, trying to breathe the music the way I can with ballet. I’m not there yet, but hopefully, come performance time, I’ll have found my confidence.