This week, I discovered something wonderful: the simple act of smiling can make a difficult learning task easy and fun.
The Crows Feet Dance Collective is at that scary moment, ten days before the first performance of a new show. Our sub-group is a wee bit fraught as we struggle to clean up technique on two new dances, both of which are difficult in their way. Secretly we fear that the show cannot possibly be ready for opening night. OK, that’s normal and it happens every year.
Anyway, at Sunday rehearsal I looked around and saw many anxious faces. That seemed reasonable: most of us are not able to smile on stage until we have mastered the choreography. It is surely false to smile when you feel as if you are bumbling around, that you’ll let the side down, that you’ll never get it right.
Or is it?
A Jo epiphany: if you love dancing, show it!
Then I thought about Jo, a star of our group and a dear friend, our lovely Jo who had just left town to live in another city. Jo is charismatic on stage: you can’t take your eyes off her. This is partly because of her beauty and grace, but also because a transcendent joy of dancing shines out of her face.
Then I thought, Rachel, you love dancing too. That’s why you’re here! Why not show your delight instead of exuding strain and effort? You have plenty to smile about. If messing up on stage is your worst worry, you are living the dream.
So I decided to smile. I began to smile on purpose. And immediately, two marvellous things happened.
Marvellous thing #1: joy squashes worry
I felt the muscles of my face come alive. (Perhaps they were dancing.) I felt the joy of dancing rush back into me. I truly truly enjoyed every minute of the next rehearsal. Faith, hope and charity returned. Charity? I felt my smile was a gesture of loving kindness towards myself. I forgive myself for bumbles and failings — let them go! If I’m dancing and doing my best, that’s enough.
I did expect this when I turned on the smile: that kind of effect is pretty well documented. But I did not anticipate the next marvellous thing.
Marvellous thing #2: joy improves technique
Who knew? At last night’s rehearsal I made fewer mistakes. I recovered faster than usual when I did make a mistake. I absorbed corrections faster too: I made nice progress with some tricky bits.
Of course I don’t know the reason but I can guess. I didn’t waste energy straining or beating myself up. I remembered why I was dancing: not because I want to be a prima ballerina but because I love it. And so I had a happy evening with my friends.
I’m learning two lessons again. Smiling heals, if you can do it. Dancing heals, if you let it.
When we perform, I’ll be the one spaced out on the joy of the dance. If I get out of step or do an involuntary solo, I’ll forgive myself and I hope you will too.
Photo of rehearsal by Crows Feet Dance Collective
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