Focus on Your Destination

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean

Four years ago, I learned to focus not on the road you’re taking but on where you’re headed and why. For a variety of reasons, I had to start teaching Bachata. I had been dancing for eight years at that point, but I had been obsessed with Salsa. I had performed, competed and even won first place. The few times I had done Bachata, it was all choreography. So when I had to step in, I was anxious. Bachata dancers look smooth and flow and I didn’t look the part. 

So I had to solve the problem. I called a close friend who is an incredibly talented and gifted Bachata dancer and choreographer. He agreed to give me some private lessons and he came to the studio. I did my homework and picked 8 to 10 moves from incredible dancers like Daniel and Desiree that I wanted to learn.

I explained that I wanted to feel smooth and confident and to learn how to move my hips better. So I showed him the moves I wanted to learn. 

He listened, smiled and said; “It is great that you have done your homework but none of that is going to be useful. Trust me it’s not.”

I looked on in shock and disbelief as he walked to the DJ booth plugged in his iPad and turned on some music. He looked at me intently and said “Dance for me.” 

Immediately incredibly uncomfortable, my jaw dropped and I stared at him. Finally, I was able to respond. “What do you mean dance for you? You mean you will dance with me and see how I dance?”

“No. You are going to freestyle to this Romeo Santos song. Face the mirror and dance.”

“What? But I’ve never been trained. I don’t know how to do that. I know basics and turns but that’s about it.”

“You’ll figure it out.” 

So I looked at him, then looked in the mirror, took a deep breath and started to do basics. Four years later, it still makes me cringe. After about 40 seconds he stopped the music. He said “Great. Now I want you to do everything you just did but look at other parts of the room. Don’t just look in the mirror. Look at the exit, the DJ booth, and the wall. Move through the dance floor.” 

Ok, now we were getting somewhere. Specific feedback was good. “So how do I do that? Do I change direction on count seven and when does the weight transfer happen?”

“It doesn’t matter. Just figure it out.”

And so the process began. I would dance for 40 seconds or so and then he would give me one little instruction. I would ask for clarification and he would tell me it didn’t matter and to figure it out. 

And little by little I started to smile and be playful and create musicality and choreography. That doesn’t mean I was good right away. I lost balance and faltered but I kept trying. By the end, I was in tears. I could barely see because I felt so free. I was flowing in ways, I never thought I could.  

At the end of the session, I ran up to him and hugged him. “Dude this has been massive, incredible! I don’t understand how any of this happened.”

He said “Easy. Your problem is that you are focused so much on the road you want to take, you have forgotten your why.”

I looked at him blankly as he said “Why did you start dancing?”

“I started dancing to feel free. To have fun and to create connection.”

“Exactly. Do you think some dip or hip movement is going to give you that?” 

And I realized the mistake I was making. I was focussing so much on the four or five moves or combinations that I believed would make me feel free and happy. I lost sight of why I was doing any of this and where I wanted to be. 

We all make the same mistake at times. You can attend dance classes and master the moves, but if you’re too focused on them, you’ll lose sight of your purpose. This can be discouraging.

The real obstacle isn’t the moves themselves, but rather your reason for doing them. Just like with Google Maps, there may be roadblocks on one route, but as long as you keep your destination and why in mind, you’ll find another way. This week, I aim to be like Google Maps. The dance moves don’t matter, what matters is our shared goal of reaching 120 years old, dancing, connecting, and laughing together.

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If you have any questions you would like me to answer here are some ways you can contact me: message me on Instagram (torontodanceSalsa), on Twitter (#torontodanceSalsa), on Facebook (Toronto Dance Salsa) or email me at [email protected].