Self-Deprecation

What is it with adult dance students and self-deprecation? It is a rather popular activity in every single one of my dance classes. When a classmate says you’re good at something, you either deny it completely or explain that it took you forever to learn, like, seriously, you should’ve seen me back then, I was the worst and I’m still not very good, y’know. I do not think this behaviour is conducive to dancing success, but I still catch myself engaging in it from time to time. Even though I know it can get bloody annoying when you try to pay someone a compliment and they keep dodging it.

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Just accept it, dammit! Comic by the wonderful Owlturd, who is amazing and, above all, relatable.

While self-deprecation is silly and occasionally irritating in people who’ve been to class for a while and are actually good (however relatively), it is dangerous in people who have only just started. We get a lot of beginners in jazz and some in modern. And when you hear «I’ve been to this class three times already and I still can’t do this step, I’m terrible at dancing and you are all so good» from a person who has literally never danced before, it might actually be a good time to unroll that story about how you couldn’t do a pas-de-bourré without falling over your own feet.

I’ve seen a lot of people never return to a class they had paid for in advance because they thought they weren’t improving fast enough. I can understand that dancing may not be for everybody and that some people are happier in other activities. But I don’t think three weeks are a long enough time to tell. Two of the three completely new beginners in the last jazz course didn’t show up for the last two lessons, try as we might to convince them that we all started out more or less like them.

The third beginner did show up and I think she might even sign up for the next course. There was, however, one big difference between her and the other two: when she completely failed at a stretch or an exercise, she always, always burst out laughing.

I think I’ll try to be more like her. My abilities, be they intrinsic or trained, are my own and I do the best I can with them. There’s no reason to apologise for my skill level to others, whether they consider it high or low. Like my mom (<3) always said (in a slightly cynical way): why go to all the trouble of putting yourself down when others are more than happy to do it for you?

PS: As much as I like the third beginner, I got a headache or two on her account. Her name is also Anna, which took me a while to figure out. M. would call out «Anna, point your foot!» or «Anna, keep your knee straight!» and I would be like «But I’m already doing that! What do you want from me, devil woman?!»

One thought on “Self-Deprecation

  1. My $.02 …
    When I say that something took me forever to learn, I’m hoping it reassures people who are struggling, who are expecting overnight success (if what I’ve accomplished can be even termed “success”…). And I find it very helpful to me to remember where I came from and how terrible I was at the beginning so I can feel accomplished every time I get something simple right, which keeps me in the right frame of mind. It is not my intention ever to turn down a compliment, but to remain humble, as that is something that is important to me.
    It is sad when people don’t return to class, especially if they’ve already paid for the classes… I feel like if only I knew they were thinking of not returning so I could have offered some more encouraging words..

    Liked by 1 person

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