The “So, what kind of dance do you teach?” phenomenon…

I’ve been noticing something interesting.

Since my Dancing Mamas Tribe starts tomorrow (!!!!), I spent some time putting up posters early last week. Here is the jist of EVERY SINGLE conversation I had in the process:

Meg: [enters store/coffee shop] Hi! I’m starting a dance class for moms with babies and toddlers…could I put up a poster on your bulletin board?

Store Owner: Sure! What kind of dance are you teaching?

Meg: I’m actually not teaching any kind of dance. I’m just offering moms time, space, and permission to come out and do their own dance with their little ones.

Store Owner: Oh! That sounds awesome! [lets me put up poster]

I mean, I get it. “Dance class”…you automatically run through a mental checklist…ballet, modern, tap, jazz, ballroom, zumba, African…more or fewer types depending on your experience. You definitely go into the “learning a dance style” mindset. The teacher is the “expert” and the students are there to learn how to do what she (or he) does.

But in a freeform dance gathering like The Dancing Mamas Tribe, that’s not really the dynamic at all. Yes, I have dance and teaching experience in a number of disciplines. But really, my job isn’t to train other bodies to imitate my dance. It’s to help the attendees find their own dance. They’re the experts.

Even in a DansKinetics/YogaDance class, which is more structured, you’re not really “teaching” people “how to dance”…you’re helping them to bring their own dance out. They don’t have to know the structure of your class plan or even do the movements you plan in any given class. They just have to listen to their bodies and do their own thing. You’re only there to hold the space and offer support and encouragement.

That’s exactly why, on my website and in conversation, I’ve been trying to make a point of not calling what I do “dance classes” and not calling myself a “dance teacher,” (and may I just say that I still find it challenging sometimes…it’s hard to find the right words).

But when you’re just stepping into a business to stick up a poster and you need to make someone understand more or less what you’re offering in one sentence, “dance class” is the fastest thing to say. And you just need to be prepared to explain if someone asks.

What I find especially interesting (and encouraging) is that the people in question didn’t think less of my offerings once I explained. They didn’t dismiss the idea when they learned that I didn’t fit into their preconceived notion. They thought it was a fabulous idea. In some cases they got much more excited about it. But the assumption is always there to begin with. It’s kind of exciting to get to be the one to open someone’s mind.

And here’s the really good news in all of this:

In every single instance where this happened I didn’t go into my usual cringe-and-blush-and-stammer-and-feel-pathetic routine. Nope. I explained the real situation, and couldn’t help but add “I’m really excited about it!” to the end of my “elevator speech.” Because I am really excited. So incredibly, crazily excited. A little scared. But mostly excited.

And that, my dears, has got to be some kind of first for me. I’m taking it as a sign.

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3 thoughts on “The “So, what kind of dance do you teach?” phenomenon…

  1. That’s great that you were able to speak about your dance authentically. I still struggle to describe my “unusual” hobbies (5Rhythms, kundalini yoga) with others not familiar with the concepts. I usually end up blushing and stammering too, and after the fact feel like I have “let down” my passions. I am still learning to be more “staccato” when describing these types of things!

    And I see how defaulting to describing your class as “dance” is so natural. “Authentic movement,” “conscious movement” etc are potentially “scary” terms for newcomers. I still describe 5Rhythms as “yoga dance” to new people!

  2. Oh man, I remember when I was “teaching” Kripalu DansKinetics…I would do the stammer-ramble-blush EVERY TIME I had to explain what it was. And I had to explain A LOT. Actually, I wonder if that’s why they changed the name to YogaDance…so it was more self-explanatory. It had an unintended side-effect: Now I’m LESS comfortable saying I teach it, because my “YogaDance” classes were always WAY heavy on the dancing and light on the yoga. Which is why, if/when (it’s feeling increasingly like “when”) I teach it again, I’m going to call it DansKinetics. And if I get in trouble, I will invent my OWN thing. SO THERE! 😛

    And it’s also the “class” part…because when people think “class” they think “OK, I’m going there to learn something.” And you DO learn things in free-form dance classes (as you know), but it’s certainly not anything like “and-a-1-and-a-2” classes. It’s emotional learning, not practical/physical learning.

    The whole situation is just a perfect breeding ground for misunderstanding (although, one could argue that that makes it a perfect breeding ground for perception-altering…)

  3. Oh, but isn’t “and-a-1-and-a-2” so much easier to learn than “ohmigod, I’m so unhappy in my current life situation”? 🙂

    I say your breed of dance should be the “Journey of YogaDansKinetics.” Just throw ’em all in there. 😛

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