Challenging myself to dance – panic!

By Phil Wylie, National Lead: Family FUNS

During our company retreat in November 2014 we attended a dance class at the end of a long day of meetings. The idea was to get a bit of exercise, clear our heads and do a bit of team bonding. The dance teacher was lovely and very welcoming to the eight Creators who descended on her quiet little class!

Always keen for a challenge I was happy to have a go, knowing that dancing was something I find really difficult. I’m great moving forwards at speed (cycling and running) but changing direction, speed, levels and coordinating my hands and feet at the same time or to a beat is a major challenge! At school I found learning difficult in most subjects but I always got where I needed to be in the end with some independent thinking time away from lessons and lots of hard work. I found I needed longer than others to understand questions, problems and come up with answers whilst my classmates waded in with their own thoughts as I was still thinking. I scraped through my GCSE Maths, Science and English.

So when the dancing started I was fine with the first few steps and practicing on my own without any music. I felt I was getting it… Almost a smile on my face! Then the music came on, some movement in different directions, followed quickly by some arm movements, another step and then a change of pace. Give me a break! At regular intervals our teacher asked “Are you ready for the next bit?” At one point I actually said out loud (jokingly) “No! Definitely not!” but I knew this was more of a swim or sink class and not real PE. I was lost, still thinking about 1,2,3 left foot forwards right foot forwards and back. I tried to watch others and copy, even taking time out to think but there was too much going on.

After 30 minutes of trying to keep up and falling further behind I paused for a few moments. I genuinely thought, “What’s the point?” The lesson was happening around me as if I wasn’t there. I was bored by then and a bit frustrated mainly because of the pace of the progressions and the distractions of music and the movement of people around me. I was too far behind to catch up now and there was only a short time left. It was the first time I could remember feeling like this for a long time and a great reminder of the impact of how we introduce and develop challenges and skills. Were these the feelings and responses of someone in the early stages of panic?

Ultimately, I knew I could master the dance but I needed some quiet space, some time to practice and master some basic steps on my own and/or some smaller more manageable progressions. I wasn’t going to get that in this mass participation class so not wanting to appear as though I wasn’t trying I joined in and had a go when I could and watched others when I got lost until it was over. It was a case of getting through it.

My conclusion? I had just experienced a traditional sport/PE/games lesson and I didn’t enjoy it. I knew that and could accept it and fortunately this wasn’t shaping my view of myself, dance or even PE. However, I did consider how many young people would have the mindset to overcome this experience, particularly if repeated over and over again.

When the Create Personal Challenge was announced it didn’t take long for me to come up with my own. I was getting married in December and it’s traditional to do a first dance. Keira and I have been to several weddings over the last two years and watched a lot of awkward swaying from side-to-side when the first dance is announced for the unfortunate couple. Very little reflection was needed by me on this occasion! I find dancing challenging but fun and Keira was keen to learn a ballroom dance for our wedding. Interestingly, we were both also looking for a hobby/something we could do together in our own time.

Create Personal Challenge? Learn a dance for our wedding (short-medium term) with a view to a hobby we could continue and enjoy together (long term).

Keep your eyes peeled to find out how Phil’s challenge went in the next installment of his blog. To read more about the Create Personal Challenge and find out how Jan Parker used it as an opportunity to take on the Manchester to Blackpool bike race, click here.