Inna’s Gift…..

So, last night I went to Inna’s butt-kicking International Latin class over at Imperial Ballroom.  It began as usual, with a Rumba exercise, but then Inna threw us a curveball.  She told us that we all knew how to do the basic steps she was asking for and wanted to do something different.  Now, there were only 6 of us and all were girls, so this created an opportunity. She told us that we all knew how to move our arms in the prescribed motion and where to step which way when, but it was boring to watch! She challenged us to make it interesting.

When Inna asked us all too just creatively make up some arm movements, it felt like the entire room balked. What were we supposed to do? At least in my experience, everything in ballroom is told to you. Only the professionals do more creative movement in open routines. A student mostly performs lead and follow or has a routine.

I mean, it makes sense.  Part of being a competitor in ballroom is to draw the attention of the judges and gain audience support. You can’t do that if you look just like everyone else. The idea is to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. But I don’t think a lot of time is spent on developing this skill for beginner dancers.

The amazing thing about Tuesday night was that I was nervous about it, but I felt like a lot of the other girls in the class were as well. Look, they are all very good dancers. Many have been dancing for years and some have Pro/Am titles under their belt. They all have better bodies than I do.  I’m so hung up with my body image that I think that I’d be more confident if I was in a body like any of the other five girls in that class. But these buff, fit, lean girls with beautiful legs, and hips, and arms, seemed like they were feeling the same way I was feeling (insecure).

Now, let me be personally responsible here and be sure to clarify that I have no idea what those other girls were thinking, nor is it really any of my business, but I have to say that it really seemed like they were experiencing some of the same internal struggles.

In any case, we did the exercise.  Then Inna upped the ante once more.  She gave each one of us girls a different body part to emphasize. I got hips (Whew!). The girl next to me, who is probably the best dancer of the bunch, got shoulders. (What the heck should a person do to emphasize their shoulders?)  Another girl got legs, another arms, and finally the last girl got head. (Really? Head?)

We were given a few moments to prepare and then it was go time. We all had to perform one by one in front of the group. The gal who got arms blew me away!  Next, Inna told us to pick a body part to emphasize, then the rest of the group would have to guess which part we were emphasizing. Again, one by one, we faced the music.  It was a really an amazing opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I’d never considered emphasizing my head or shoulders, ever.

Now let me take a moment to express my appreciation for Inna doing this. I feel like she really does want to pull the best out of each of us. That right there is some quality instruction. I can imagine that teaching a syllabus of steps might be easier to do, but this level of engagement, well, I just feel so privileged to benefit from it. A lesson like this is priceless. It was an opportunity for transformation, and this I know: that the seed of the ideas planted in my psyche today will bear fruit far beyond this one lesson. That is a lesson from a master teacher. That was Inna’s gift to me and to the people who showed up to class.

I am grateful.


**I wrote about Inna in my Tumblr post today in response to a 30 day challenge question which was, “Describe a dancer you admire.” I think this describes Inna pretty well:

“She is strong and powerful. She is tiny but can take up all the space in a gigantic ballroom. She has exceptional technique and bleach-blond hair. She commands attention, and can control her body so precisely that all she need do is shrug a shoulder and everyone stops to watch. She is a master teacher and a master dancer, expressive from the tips of her French nails, to the point of her toes, down through the earth. This is an actual person, not some idealized made up person in my mind, who, as one commentator put it, is “something else.”

You can see the dance that prompted a commentator to say she is “something else,” here:”