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.