I’m a 40 year old woman, I’ve been a dancer since I could walk, and I just finished my first month training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While I am a “black belt” in dance, I am as novice as it gets in jiu-jitsu. I have learned so much in just a short time, and it’s exciting because it’s only the beginning. Every class brings a new surprise, but the biggest surprise so far has been how much I’ve learned about dance class during my jiu-jitsu training. Here are four of the biggest “new student dance class fears” and tips to overcome them, brought to you by my jiu-jitsu academy:
- FEAR: It is terrifying to walk into a new school, sport or activity for the first time. I’m so at home in dance studio life that I could eat sequins for breakfast. While every dance school is different, there is still a general understanding of the expectations, protocols and behaviors no matter where I’ve gone. I can walk into any school and pick up on their norms and fit in within seconds. Well, I’d never walked into a jiu-jitsu class before one month ago. I had forgotten that gut-wrenching nauseous feeling brought on by stepping into completely unknown territory for the first time. I had shaky hands, sweaty pits, and shallow breath. Even though I really wanted to try a class, I still stood at the front door and seriously considered backing out. I was paralyzed with fear.
- Tip To Overcome: Take a deep breath, drum up 20 seconds of courage like Matt Damon said to do, and walk through the door with a smile. Face your fear for just that moment, and you will survive to live another day.
- FEAR: It is terrifying to KEEP walking into that new school, sport or activity for at least the next several times. I thought walking into jiu-jitsu for the first time would be the hardest part. Turns out, walking into jiu-jitsu for the 2nd and 3rd times was the hardest part. The first time I walked in, I was afraid of the unknown. I was making up scary scenarios in my head. What if nobody will be my partner? What if I get hurt? What if the coaches don’t like me? What if I can’t do anything? Surprise! None of my worst fears came true. People were happy to partner with me. I did not get hurt. The coaches were all nice. But, it was super true that I didn’t know anything. I mean, duh. I had never done jiu-jitsu! So the second time I walked in, I was afraid of the known. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew some of it was going to hurt. I knew I was going to fail a lot in order to be successful. I was walking willingly into the fire and I knew it. It was scary all over again!
- Tip To Overcome: It’s human nature to want to be great at everything the first time we try it, but that’s not how the world works. Dance is likely not going to be life-changing fun in the first few classes. In fact, it will be grueling or tedious work most every time you go, but you will find joy in the journey and it gets better every time. Consistence is the key. Keep finding 20 seconds of courage and do not listen to the negative voice in your head trying to talk you out of the thing you say you want to do. You are not too old, too young, too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short, too ANYTHING. You are just right, and today’s the day. Just keep showing up and imagine how your future self will thank you.
- FEAR: Besides all the technique, there’s a whole dress code, language and etiquette to learn too. Hand me a pair of tights and a leotard and tell me to tombe, pas de bourree, glissade, saut de chat? No problem. Clap and curtsey at the end of class?Totally normal, and I do this in my sleep. But dress me up in a gi, tell me to sit in butterfly guard, and remind me to bow when I get on and off a mat? I might as well be in outer space; it all feels SO alien and uncomfortable.
- Tip To Overcome: First, do your homework. The studio website is going to give you a solid head start on how to prepare, what to wear and how to act. Look at the school’s pictures on social media. You’ve probably been sent an email or a newsletter. READ them. When you arrive, be a phenomenal noticer. Look around at the more experienced people in the room, and do what they do. Make a friend, and ask questions.
- FEAR: Everyone looks super mean and they’re all staring. The first time I walked into the jiu-jitsu academy, there was music playing and people were chatting and warming up. Then it was time to line up for class. As soon as I stepped on the mat, there was a loud record scratch followed by dead silence. You could hear a pin drop. 30 pairs of eyes- that’s 60 eyeballs- were suddenly glued to ME! There were no smiles on faces, just blank stares and scowls. Then somebody shouted, “Get to the back of the line, White Belt!” And they all threw their heads back and laughed and laughed. Then they went back to talking with each other and ignoring me.
- Tip To Overcome: Absolutely none of that actually happened. Truly, nobody but the teacher even cares you’re there the first day you go. Let that be a relief. How freeing! Don’t take yourself so seriously. Absolutely nobody is paying attention to what you’re wearing, how you look, or whether or not you know anything. They are way too preoccupied with themselves! As soon as you make eye contact and introduce yourself to someone, you will realize they are so nice and quite willing to help you. You make a friend, and pretty soon you make another. Your new friends start greeting you and fist bumping you when you walk in the door. They ask you why you missed class if you were absent one day. Suddenly you’re part of a community, and just like that, you’re home.
Take if from me, I know how daunting it can be to start something new. If you’re thinking about joining dance class, don’t wait any longer. It’s okay to be scared, but do it anyway. We’re here to answer your questions, help and support you at every stage. Your new dance family is just a class or two away, so show up and let’s d-a-n-c-e!