Finally, we come to the end of my 5-Day Dance Camp adventure! For those of you who haven’t read the previous articles, you can find them here and here.
I wake up feeling energized after my morale-boosting discovery from the day before. Walking back on the floor and greeting fellow dancers like old friends, I spot Matt Auclair and a high level student dancing - of all things - a dub-stepped West Coast Swing, and making it look good.
It amazes me how every time I begin to develop a sense of pride in what I’ve accomplished, the universe puts someone in front of me who’s learned the techniques I’ve been sweating over, but half a lifetime ago. I refocus on my spinning practice.
The aches in my body have virtually faded into the background, like a sleeping dragon threatening to wake at a moments notice. Fortunately, musicality class is next, so the adrenaline stays up. Unfortunately, Debbie Figueroa tells us it will be blues-themed. Crap.
It’s not that I don’t like blues, just that I’ve always found it hard to dance to it. Or so I think, until ‘Layla’ comes on, a song I know like the back of my hand. I quickly decide blues is actually the most awesome music to dance to, as long as you know it well. By the time we’re done, I’m borrowing my fiancé’s brace to soothe my complaining ankle.
At times, I step back and simply marvel at how happy I am to be here. I laugh at Matt’s jokes, listen to Debbie’s tidbits of wisdom, and dance like crazy when Cameo tells us to. My mind is too tired to add anything that would destroy these beautiful moments.
Everyone’s a bit quieter, perhaps conserving energy for the long drive home that night. There’s an unspoken ‘goodbye’ with each partner switch. Bittersweet emotions float through the room.
Around the middle of the day, my energy levels crash, hard. Numerous times I have to bite back defensive retorts to well-meant suggestions. I struggle to find my centre. This isn’t what I want my last memories at camp to be.
After dinner, I take an emergency nap in the lounge. Nearby, the instructors eat at the table. As they talk, something occurs to me: They’re just as tired as we are, in fact probably more so. If they can rally themselves to keep giving their best, surely I can too.
I know my reserves are holding when Matt actually finds something to compliment in my musicality. ‘I’ve been yelling at this guy all weekend about getting too excited with his styling’ he announced to the class. ‘But you know what? This level of energy actually works here.’
As the evening wraps up, I hear one of the instructors talking to a couple of newcomers. ‘I want you to know that a lot of beginners feel intimidated here, and I’m glad you stuck it out’, they say, before adding; ‘don’t worry - there’s plenty of things I suck at too.’
In a flash, I realize I’ve said much the same to my own students. Even this high-level instructor, winner of countless awards, recognized they weren’t the best at everything - what made them champions is that they persevered, pushing through their limits instead of being stopped by them.
‘The challenges really don’t go away’ I reflect, as we stagger into the car and drive out of Ancaster. ‘But our ability to deal with them gets stronger, and that determines how far we go.’
And so, to those readers who’ve faced some hardships, in dancing and in life, but made the choice to keep going anyway, I applaud you: You share something in common with the greatest champion dancers in the world.
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.