How Dancehall made me more coordinated and body confident

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been known as the ‘uncoordinated’ and ‘clumsy’ one. Whether it was riding a bike or learning to tie my shoelaces, I always learned to do physical things much later than anyone else. I was always picked last for team sports. I never officially got my pen license. Until the age of about 10, I couldn’t tell the difference between left and right. I’ve always felt like I knew logically how to do things, but something got lost in translation between my mind and my body.

Guest Post By Emma Norris

Me as a cheeky uncoordinated kid. Just look at how I was eating that burger!

My parents always suspected I had dyspraxia, which is kind of like the dyslexia of movement. It’s a neurological disorder where messages sent from the brain to the muscles are interrupted, leading to problems with movement and coordination. If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably because Daniel Radcliffe aka Harry Potter has it!

However, I was never officially diagnosed with it, because there’s no cure and it didn’t affect my life too much, anyway. I was never going to excel at sports, so I instead focused on my academics and writing. I never had a problem getting jobs after high school—although when I worked in cafes and food places, they always put me at the front counter because I had good ‘soft skills’ (translation, I was utterly shit at carrying plates or chopping up tomatoes). By the time I finished uni and started working as a journalist, my dyspraxic tendencies well and truly didn’t matter. After all, you don’t need to be coordinated to sit on your ass all day and type!

Still, it showed up in my life in little ways. I would constantly drop and misplace things (RIP iPhone I smashed on the second day I got it). I dreaded cutting up food ingredients for dinner, due to fear I would end up chopping off a finger. I would get frustrated when my partner would try to explain little things and I couldn’t get it, like how to put up our tent while camping. On the very rare occasion I would have to partake in physical activities that required coordination (for example, going bowling with my partner’s family) I would feel so angry and embarrassed about how hopeless I was.

To stay fit over the years, I’d found a type of exercise didn’t require too much coordination or fine motor skills, lifting weights. However, there was always one thing I wanted to do that would require me to be able to tell left from right—and that was dancing. I’ve always loved to dance, and had been enrolled in various classes when I was a kid. However, I’d always struggle to keep up with everyone else or get put up the back in performances. So, eventually, I’d become disheartened and quit.

In 2016, I watched a video of Rihanna’s Dancehall Medley performance at the VMA’s. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out because it’s pure fire.

I immediately knew I wanted to do that (okay, let’s be honest, I just wanted to be Bad Gal Ri-Ri).  If you’re not familiar, Dancehall is a Jamaican genre of music that often features fast, catchy beats. It reached mainstream success thanks to artists like Sean Paul. I started researching dancehall classes in Sydney and came across Dance Central, a studio in Surry Hills.

My first Dancehall class

When I turned up to my first class, I was SO freakin’ nervous. I had no idea what to expect and was terrified of making a complete fool of myself. The fact that it was a beginner class made me feel slightly better about the situation, but I was still shitting myself. However, it was such a supportive, non-competitive environment and the teacher Krystal was so encouraging that she put me at ease. That first class, I felt like the biggest white girl as I gyrated my hips and dutty wined to the pumping reggae beats. I struggled to keep up with the choreography and when Krystal invited us to come up and perform in small groups, I just about had a heart attack. I felt myself become crimson-faced every time Krystal would call me out to correct my form (which was a lot).

But here’s the thing: I survived. I realised that nobody really gave a shit whether I was a good dancer or not, because they were too busy worrying about themselves. I had so much fun that the small amount of discomfort I felt was totally worth it. When I turned up to my second class, I already felt so much more confident and it showed. Not because I thought I was any good — I’m sure I looked like one of those inflatable waving men you see at car washes— but because I knew it didn’t matter if I failed. Even Krystal remarked on how much I’d improved that second session.

How Dancehall has made me more coordinated and body confident

Now, I’ve been coming to Dancehall at Dance Central on and off for three years. Sometimes, life or travel gets in the way and I can’t come for a while. But every time I do go, I always think “I need to do this more often!” I’m not going to say that it’s made me into a professional dancer with absolute grace and endless swagger. However, even just coming sporadically, I’ve seen a huge improvement in my coordination.

The fact that I can actually keep up with the choreo when I do go to Dancehall is a godamn miracle and my brain seems to communicate with body a lot more easily. Science backs me up on this one, as research shows that dancing can improve your nervous system coordination. I’m also more confident to give new things a go, because I’m not quite as scared to fail.

With the one and only Blogger On Pole, Dancehall extraordinaire Awa and her friend Reilly at a Club Tings event

IDancehall has also done great things for my body confidence. People in all different shapes and sizes and from all different races come to that class. Generally, it’s not the people who are super lean and supermodel-esque who excel at dancing. In fact, it usually pays to have a little more junk in the trunk, especially when it comes to making that booty ‘bunx’, as they say in Dancehall. Going to Dancehall has made me think of my body not only in terms of how it looks, but also what it can do.

So, if you’re looking to improve your coordination, confidence, body image or even just have a freakin’ amazing time, I highly recommend booking yourself into a Dancehall class, Gyal! I know I’ll be doing the same.

More info about Emma

Emma Norris is a Sydney-based freelance writer, fitness junkie and pizza addict. She’s the founder of the lifestyle blog A Girl In Progress and the copywriting business Content in the City. Having worked in the media industry, Emma noticed a trend of influencers and bloggers who present a polished, perfect image of themselves. As someone who worships at the altar of carbs, almost always has a bird nest-sized knot in her hair and falls over/drops food/says something awkward at least once a day, she couldn’t relate. So, she decided to start her own blog — one that celebrates being raw, real and perfectly imperfect.

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Today was not my best or most productive day. An argument with a loved one last night led to a crappy night sleep and more than a few tears, which always makes me feel hungover next day (without the fun leading to it, which is SO much worse!) . Today, I didn't smash through my to-do list, tick off any big goals, get to the gym or do my best work. It took me 4 hours to do something that would normally take one. But you know what? That's okay! I'm learning to be kinder to myself and remember that sometimes, it is okay just to exist and do the bare minimum. . Tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to kick butt ☀️ // vis @janellesilver . . . . . #WorkingOnMyself #SelfCare #SelfDevelopment #GoGetter #FemaleEmpowerment #GirlBosses #GirlBoss #AGirlInProgress #BloggersOfInstagram #Femtrepreneur #CreativeEntrepreneur #BeingBoss #WomenWhoHustle #FemaleEntrepreneur #BlogLovin #YourVibeAttractsYourTribe #BeYourOwnBoss #MakeItBlissful #MindsetCoach #LMBDW #BusinessCoach #EveryWomanCan

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