Nicki Anderson: Dancing for a cause
By Nicki Anderson email@example.com September 4, 2012 4:04PM
Nicki Anderson poses with her dance instructor Mateo Catalan of Celebrity Dance Studio in Downers Grove. | Submitted
Updated: October 6, 2012 1:40PM
On Sept. 12, I will participate as a dancer in, Dancing with the Celebrities at Meson Sabika in Naperville — a fundraiser for Naperville’s Community Career Center.
When I was asked, I figured my high school choreography days would come in handy. I soon discovered that what I knew 30 years ago somehow escaped my memory.
On my first day of dance class, I was feeling pretty confident. My professional partner and instructor, Mateo Catalan of Celebrity Dance Studio in Downers Grove, told me I would do just fine. Although it’s been awhile since I’ve danced, he assessed that I’m in pretty good shape, and figured this should be a no brainer. God bless this young man’s optimism!
As Mateo took me through our routine (over and over again), I was amazed how hard it was for me to learn and retain each sequence of dance steps. The more I couldn’t remember, the more frustrated I became. It really shouldn’t be this hard, should it? But Mateo reminded me, “Nicki, this is all new for you. You’re a runner, and your mind is used to it, and it just flows. It’s no different for dancing. When you’ve been dancing, your mind becomes trained to pick things up naturally. You’ll get it.”
Mateo is right, I’m a runner, and my mind knows just what to do. When I go out for a run, I put one foot in front of the other, it frees my mind and allows me to relax mentally. I don’t have to think about what I’m doing because my body knows what to do. Dancing is a whole different ballgame. Suddenly, I’m forced to think about every move I make. I’ve had to count every step to remember if I was going backward or forward, two steps to the side or three, and so on. What I thought was going to be easy, turned out to be a lot more complicated.
Twenty-five years my junior, my instructor has the patience of a saint, and reminded me that, though it’s great to be in shape, if you want to be a dancer, you have to work hard to perfect your art. So my initial thought that it would be easy to win was trumped by reality smacking me upside the head. I was going to have to work very hard. I suppose it’s like anything else in life — if you want to succeed, you’ve got to work hard at it.
Though my lessons have been a lot of fun, they have also been very humbling. For those of you at a “certain age,” you’ve likely experienced that your recall of things doesn’t come as easily as it did in your 20s or 30s. Therefore, I’ve had to find tools to help retain what I’ve learned at each lesson. What I’ve discovered is that perfecting the dance is no longer the objective; it is simply making it through the whole routine. And for a competitor like me, that awareness has been tough.
This whole experience brought me back to the first time I exercised: how hard it was, how frustrated I was with myself because I couldn’t just go out and run 5 miles or execute perfect movements in an aerobics class.
For those of you who might be new to exercise, be gentle with yourself, it gets easier. For those of you who are veteran athletes, extend a patient hand to motivate someone to stay focused. We tend to forget how difficult both mentally and physically it is just to get started. But we also know the rewards of sticking with it, and pushing ourselves to new levels — it’s an incredible feeling.
So when I step out on the stage Sept. 12 at Meson Sabika, I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck. But I’ll also remember everyone has to start somewhere, and through my hard work and persistence, perhaps I just may have a chance of winning this thing!
For more information about the Community Career Center and the Dancing with the Celebrities event, visit www.communitycareercenter.org.
Do you have an inspiring story about your journey to fitness? Share it with columnist Nicki Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.