No experience required

The first time I walked into Warren Eaton’s dance studio I was nervous.

I was there to meet him as my new dance instructor and training partner in a fundraising show for hospice. Me, dancing? Good grief.

The perennial wallflower who never sets foot on a dance floor was about to step smack dab in the middle of a very public one after agreeing to dance in a popular community event called “Swinging with the Stars.” The very notion of it gave me the jitters. But it also made me feel more alive, and that’s how I knew I was doing the right thing.

“Anyone can learn to dance,” Warren assured me. “Anyone.”

Turns out, 17 years earlier, this incredibly talented dancer was one of the “anyones” he was referring to.

Not the least bit interested in dance at the age of 20, he happened to notice a help wanted ad looking for dance instructors. It wasn’t the job that caught his eye. It was the subheading in the ad: no experience required.

“I thought that was weird,” said Warren. “How could they be hiring dance instructors who didn’t know how to dance? It didn’t make any sense to me.”

After seeing the ad a few more times he decided to call the number out of curiosity. Once he hung up the phone he took a giant leap of faith and decided to sign up.

He quit his construction job and started an intense full time, two and a half month instructional program that taught him, one other fellow, and a room full of ladies, how to dance and teach others to dance.

“I had to survive without a paycheque for a while – so that was rough,” he said. “But I also didn’t have to pay for the course, so it was a great opportunity.” Not knowing what to expect, he figured he’d meet some nice girls at the very least.

To his and his family’s surprise, he discovered that he loved to dance. His newfound passion directed him to a fork in the road that he never would have imagined for himself.

After completing the program and instructing for six years, he decided to take his skills to a whole other level. Packing up, he moved to London, England where he trained for the next five years at the world’s top latin ballroom dance school.

Back in Canada with his own dance studio, he has been instructing grateful students like me.

Why am I so grateful? Because he took my two left feet and magically made one of them right in just 15 lessons. He also helped me get over my intense fear of performing in front of an audience.

Terrified to do our routine in front of even the small group of people at our recent dress rehearsal, I was somehow okay two nights later performing it in front of the large, elegant audience at the main event.

Not only did I get through it with a huge smile on my face, but I had the time of my life doing it. No kidding – the time of my life.

Warren Eaton was right: anyone can learn to dance. Anyone can learn to do just about anything – no experience required.

(To view us dancing together, please check out the video clip below. The tongue action at the end happened because I thought one of the judges was about to quote from my article “Note to self: keep tongue in mouth.” He didn’t and quoted from another article all together. Oops. I’m such a freak.)

To view the video clip of Lori Welbourne and Warren Eaton in Swinging with the Stars 2010 click here.

To contact Lori or to read her other columns visit loriwelbourne.com

So you think you can’t dance

I  was given some new shoes today, and they’re not just any shoes, they’re proper dance shoes. Since I got to pick them out myself I chose sparkly gold ones that would be certain to make my little girl shriek with delight.

But with these shoes comes big responsibility. I now have to learn how to dance in them. Easier said than done.

You see, whenever people are dancing, I become a wallflower. Off on the sidelines, I chat with others and admire the people who aren’t afraid to strut their stuff. The only time I end up on the dance floor is if I’m literally dragged onto it.

So, when I was asked to perform in Swinging with the Stars, a local fundraiser to support the Central Okanagan Hospice Association, I had to laugh. Clearly these people had never seen me in action.

“I have no rhythm,” I told them. “I’m like Elaine from Seinfeld.” But they didn’t care.

Modeling the event after the TV show “Dancing with the Stars,” the organizers pair the competitors with professional dance instructors who have the ability to take people seemingly hopeless like me, and transform them into someone watchable and entertaining.

Hmmm. I had no doubt I’d be entertaining. But watchable? The 10-week challenge seemed so ludicrous and out of my comfort zone that I just had to say yes.

Now, with sparkly gold dance shoes in hand, reality has set in. On March 26th, I, along with seven other novice dancers, will be performing in front of goodness knows how many people. And if that weren’t intimidating enough, there will also be a film crew filming us before and during the event.

Good grief. I wonder if any of my competitors are asking themselves the same question I am: “What in the heck have I gotten myself into?”

But it certainly helps to look at the bigger picture.

I just found out that my friend’s beloved father passed away in hospice with his family at his side. Learning how to dance now seems such a trivial concern in comparison to the pain they must be experiencing.

The hospice association is committed to helping people with a terminal illness live their lives to the fullest until they die.

It is also committed to helping their loved ones to be supported in their grief. If I can help this deserving non-profit organization raise money for this admirable cause, I definitely will. My feelings of anxiety are insignificant.

Of course, I can’t make any promises as to how I’ll perform. An incredibly gifted dance instructor has been assigned to be both my teacher and partner in the show. But as great as Warren Eaton is, he’s not David Copperfield.

I’ve had three lessons so far. After the first two I felt like a stiff legged toddler learning to walk. And then about halfway through the third lesson, it started to feel a little bit like fun.

Yet I notice a distinct difference in the way I learn in comparison to my children. They are fearless, I am not.

Oh, to be a kid again. I remember it well. Not worrying about looking silly, we are all such natural dancers when we are youngsters. What a shame we lose those inhibitions.

And if you’re one of those people reading this thinking that you’re not self conscious in the slightest, well I’d like to dare you to run through the park wearing absolutely nothing but a smile. And I’d dare you to do it sober and in the light of day like a two year old would.

The fact is, like most people, I’ve become more inhibited as I’ve aged. Especially when learning new things.

When I came home from my last lesson, my six year old daughter said, “Show me your moves, mama.”

After I did, Daisy raised her eyebrows at me and asked, “That’s it? Let me show you what I’ve got.”

She then put on a self-taught performance that was energetic, expressive and without a speck of insecurity.  So, I’ve decided that before my kids have a chance to follow my lead, I’m going to try to follow theirs.

A famous dancer once said, “To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.” I guess that’s why my instructor told me to channel someone grandiose for my performance.

Daisy Welbourne will be the person I channel, in my sparkly gold dance shoes and all.

For more information about this fundraising event, please visit

www.hospicecoha.org

To read other columns by Lori visit her at loriwelbourne.com

To view her comedy skits visit loriandlisa.com