Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ballroom and Writing: Commitment


I'm starting to be able to tell when someone has gotten to the point that ballroom is so obsessing their lives that they hate it. In the writing world we call this problem "perfectionism".
The ballroom antithesis to perfectionism would be "commitment." I had never heard this word until Tal, a young professional dancer from New York, came to teach some workshops.
The simple fact is that neither James nor I knew how to dance Paso Doble when Tal chose us to demonstrate the routine, which consisted of struts, spins, dramatic head tosses, flying arms, intense glances, and marches across the floor. "You have to think you're the hottest shit to ever walk out there," Tal kept saying.
Hottest shit. Right. I laughed nervously. James shook his head.
So we tried. Tal said to try it again. And then again. We danced the routine three times before he let us stop. My face flushed from embarrassment, but I was doing it. Each time, my feet moved a little more confidently. I threw my head a little more. I started walking like I was the "hottest shit out there" and lost awareness for the audience. Jolene just kept saying, "Wow, they really don't have the technique but they win on commitment alone!"
I called my ballroom groupie friend Jesse that night and asked him what Jolene meant by "commitment."
"It means that you looked like a complete idiot but went for it and didn't care."
It is easier to care and feel the awkwardness of sitting at the desk or in the classroom. Writing and writing badly can be as awkwardly visceral as learning Paso. Muscles tighten, heart rate rises. Tight neck muscles, oncoming head ache. The audience does not exist for the writing yet, but I blush to imagine them reading my sentences nonetheless. Why not just let go and let them look ridiculous? Why care? Why not let characters and words strut like mad peacocks to a dance of their own invention?

1 comment:

Steve said...

wow, that sounds like fun! I just got back from swing dancing and I know what you mean... dancing as if you know what you're doing actually makes you better, even if you haven't a clue! I'm big into the commitment of dancing--I just wish I could get some of those technique lessons too. =]