So tonight is the first of two shows by the breakdance performance class that I’m in. It’s a complicated, six minute piece with difficult tricks and freezes throughout. The Thursday night show is sold out, and we’re first on the bill. We’re understandably concerned and nervous about executing it perfectly.
So last night was not the time to have our egos shattered by some punk b-boy crashing our practice. (Not the b-boy pictured above, BTW.)
Last night, Marie, Matt, Will and I were getting ready to do some final run-throughs of our routine at PMT. I’m about the cue up the music so we can get started when this kid, who looked like about 16, walks in to our studio.
"Hey, are you guys practicing? Can I join you?" he asks sweetly. "Sure," Marie shrugs. "We’re just getting ready for our show tomorrow."
The kid then proceeds, without any kind of warm up or hesitation to do some amazing shit: flairs, floorwork, handstands, freeze combinations, the works.
"Shit, who are you?" Matt asks. He tells us his name and explains that he’s only been dancing for two years and that he learned from some school in the village. Then he immediately begins to tear us down.
"See, your problem is that you are practicing in isolation," he observes. "You aren’t part of the breakin community. That’s the only way to get good."
You could feel all of our confidence fly out of the window. I realized now that I should have just grabbed the punk kid by the collar and kicked him out of the studio. Instead we half-heartedly run through our routine a couple of times, but it was like moving through molasses under his critical gaze. None of our freezes popped, all of our blocking was sloppy.
Later on, the kid invites us to come learn at his school if we want to REALLY learn how to break. He then proceeds to simultaneously hit on Marie and not-so-subtly criticize our teacher for not being known in the breakdance world. It’s then that I am convinced that the kid is the devil in disguise — come to steal our dance mojo, take our women, and trash our idols.
Reflecting back, I am reminded me of the wise words of Master Miyagi from that timeless classic, "The Karate Kid" : "There’s always someone who knows more." That is, no matter how good you are, and how hard you practice, chances are that you are going to run into someone who — through natural talent or youthful exuberance — is going to do some shit that makes you look like a rookie again.
As a dancer, you can’t let that crap get you down. I wouldn’t have done any of the dancing that I do if I spent my time worrying about someone being "better" than me. There’s always going to be some 19-year old Baryshnikov ready to pwn you. Becoming a great dancer — a great anything — means putting aside self-doubt and your internal critic, just turning off your head. It means letting your spirit and the music lead your body. It means trusting and supporting the dancer beside you.
And that’s what I’m going to tell my friends tonight before showtime.