I've just come from one of my ballroom dance lessons. As usual, I learned more than just dance steps and technique.
I've always loved to dance. Put some music on and if I wasn't out on the dance floor, I was be-bopping in my chair. The dancing I've always done before the ballroom dance lessons was I guess what you would term "club" dancing. Just getting out there and moving to the music. No steps (unless it was a line dance), just movement. Interestingly, dancing is where I've always felt the least self conscious. As a consequence, I've often been told I'm a really good dancer.
I became interested in ballroom dancing when I was in middle school, perhaps earlier. I would watch ballroom dance competitions on PBS more often than not hosted by Juliet Prowse. I loved the smooth elegance of the waltzes and foxtrots and the fiery stalking moves of the tango and the romanticism of the rumba. As I got older and they stopped airing the competitions on PBS, I gobbled up every dancing movie I could. I had always thought about taking ballroom lessons but had always left it as a "someday" idea. Last year, I realized I could wait around forever for the exact right time to take lessons, so I bit the bullet and signed up for some introductory lessons at a studio close to my house. I was immediately hooked.
My instructor is the right mix of demanding and gentle for me. I am challenged by what he asks of me and I don't always get the steps perfectly, but he never allows me to feel bad about it or beat myself up about it. I have learned dance steps, yes. I have refined my technique within the different dances most assuredly. But I have also learned patience with myself. I have learned that I can do something difficult and be good at it. I have learned that I can be elegant and graceful--two words I would never have used to describe myself a year ago.
Ballroom dance lessons are the best gift I have ever given myself.