Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Begin The Beguine

~by Carmen Champagne

When I walked out of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio after completing my first lesson, my steps were light. I felt truly giddy. And while a far cry from being the next Ginger Rogers, I had begun the beguine.

What a fantastic experience! Charmed by the charisma, good manners and consideration extended to me by Tobi and the other instructors on staff at the studio, I felt as though I had stepped onto the set of a glamorous 1950s Hollywood movie (and not just because there was a camera there either). The studio was brightly lit and elegantly decorated. The hardwood floor sparkled and beckoned to me.

I was taken aback when Tobi extended his arm to guide me onto the dance floor. I believe that was the first time that I was ever properly escorted onto a dance floor. And that gesture alone made me feel like I was in capable hands. Past experiences at social dance usually turned into a battle of wills between dance partners and me as I was reluctant to allow them to lead (surely, they didn’t know what they were doing). This would often result in frustrated and stilted dance moves on both our parts and an exasperated dance partner stomping off the dance floor in a huff. Now that I was here and knew that I was dealing with someone who was professionally trained in dance, I had resolved to forgo the urge to lead. I was here to learn.

What impressed me the most on that first day was the fact that though there were thousands of different dances in existence, with Fred Astaire’s conceptual method of teaching they were able to break down all those dances into just two categories: Smooth and Rhythm. Really? That sure made the task of taking on several new dances a whole lot less daunting.

Over the course of my 40 minute lesson, Tobi introduced me to one smooth dance; the Foxtrot, and two rhythm dances; the Rumba and Swing. His instruction was clear and uncomplicated. I noticed that he would squeeze my right hand whenever we practiced a dance step. This was an excellent signal for me to always start with my right foot, as I was supposed to. This simple, consistent reminder allowed me to keep my attention on what Tobi was actually saying in the moment rather than trying to keep dance patterns running through my head. Interestingly enough, I found that when I kept my eyes and attention on Tobi, I glided across the dance floor. If I turned my focus to my feet, I stumbled. Huh? Who would have thunk?

At the end of the lesson, Tobi and I scheduled my second lesson and he advised me not to practice.

I didn’t.

So it was with a bit of nervous apprehension that I showed up for my second lesson. Why did I listen to Tobi?? I should have practiced! I was going to make a spectacle of myself for all the internet to see.

Did I?

Click here to watch Episode Two now!

(if you missed episode 1, you can watch it here)

1 comment:

The Grimm Generation said...

Very cool!!! It made the lesson look so easy... it made me think I should give it a 'whirl'! Good job!