Just over a year ago I landed the job of my dreams as a part-time teacher of ballroom dancing. Although I hadn’t done this sort of dancing before, to me it was a simple case of learning the steps and styles.
Easy? Not so much, but with my background in ballet and salsa I have managed to master the Foxtrot, Rumba, Waltz, Cha Cha, Swing and Tango. Granted, Foxtrot and Tango still need a little work before I can use the word “master” but, honestly? I think I’m doing pretty damn good.
Why mess about with false modesty?
But dancing is only half the job. The other half is teaching others how to do it. As it turns out I seem to be pretty good at that too, judging by the results. I take pride in the belief that I can teach anyone to dance, no matter how rhythmically-challenged they may think they are. Sometimes it just takes a little longer.
Now over the years I have been to a number of dance classes taught by a variety of dance teachers, each with their own particular style. It turns out, though, that I work for one of the best teachers I have ever known. (No, I’m not trying to suck-up to him – he does not even know this blog exists!)
You see, my boss has mastered the art of making it easy to learn to dance. And so I made it my goal to model my teaching style on him.
And so I began to observe.
And the first thing I realised is that I talk too much.
I know. It came as a shock to me, too.
My role-model is brutally economical with words. He uses the fewest possible to get his point across. Me? I ramble, going on and on with long explanations that are probably entirely unnecessary. So I have tried to cut back on the verbal diarrhoea.
It is harder than you might think.
However, in a flash of insight I think I unearthed the answer a couple of days ago.
The trick is to be present in the moment.
Instead of my mind racing ahead to what I’m going to do next, and keeping an eye on the clock so I fit the lesson into the hour properly, and keeping an ear on the music, and, and, and… I need to stop. Breathe. Focus on the moment and take my time to finish one thought before rushing into the next. It is something I tell my students all the time. “Slow down. Breathe. Finish one movement before you start on the next.”
Now all I need to do is learn how to listen to myself.
It brings to mind a quote I used to have pinned up at my desk:
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
I think he might have been onto something there.