One of my favorite things in life, is dance. I started when I was three years old, and to this day, it’s something that allows me to be myself and truly makes me happy.
For the first three years of college, I took jazz dance from a particular teacher whom I loved, Jason Britton. He was funny and confident and open and engaging. Before I started my senior year, he asked if I wanted to be a teaching assistant for the beginning jazz class. I was so flattered I didn’t even hesitate to accept.
On the first day of the class, Jason asked that I stand at the front of the class with him. Our dance studio was on the 2nd floor of a renovated older building on the Berkeley campus. One whole wall of the studio was covered with mirrors and on the wall to the left of the mirrors, was an open door that led out to a small rounded balcony that overlooked Bancroft (a street that borders the campus), letting in sunlight and a great breeze in the afternoon.
Jason stood about 8 feet from the mirrored wall in his short sleeve t-shirt and cotton shorts, in the center of the room. The rest of the class faced front and spaced out behind him. I moved to the front of the class, to the left of him, and also about 8 feet from the mirrors. Jason proceeded to go through a warm-up which the class and I followed. Once he was done, he began to teach the beginning portion of a dance routine. He slowly pieced together the first 2 8-counts and then asked, as he turned his back to the mirrors and to face us, “that [we] do it on our own.” I quickly and horrifyingly realized that “on our own” meant I was still at the front of the large class, having just learned the routine as well. With about 30 people now looking at me for direction and with him looking expectantly at me and the others, Jason began to count out loud. I had been so focused on the fact that I was at the front of the class and so concerned about how I looked and how I was dancing, that I didn’t even attempt to memorize what he was teaching, I had just been following-along. To my horror, I fumbled through what he’d taught us and just stood there for a portion of it, looking at him and smiling awkwardly to try to cover up my embarrassment, waiting for him to rejoin us.
At the end of that first class, once the rest had filed out, I went up to him and apologized profusely, adding that I would completely understand if he chose to back out of his offer and didn’t want me as an assistant for his class after all. He immediately responded with warmth, “It happens to the best of us. I still want you to be my assistant. Try again next week.” I told him that I wouldn’t let him down, thanked him and ducked out.
That next week, I was laser-focused, directing my attention entirely to our teacher and the choreography. After teaching a portion of the routine, Jason turned around to face the class, and this time I didn’t stop or fumble, relieved to see my focus pay off.
I always try to keep with me the lessons Jason taught me that day -- be patient with those around you and focus on what’s important. And don't look at yourself in the mirror too much.