“This time I want you to really sell it.”

“Try that again.”

Laughter. “What was that? Again.”

A raised eyebrow. “Not like that. Again.”

“What was that?!”
“I don’t know!”
“Why don’t you know? You did it!”
“Because I don’t know what you want from me!”

 

This is a conversation between me and my teacher of a fairly recent lesson. I don’t think I have to say who was who. While he’s always pushed me, lately the level he does has jumped, leading to this lesson where it felt I could do nothing right in his eyes. And after doing the same move over and over under his scrutiny, more self-conscious with each time never good enough, I for the first time legitimately shouted at my teacher.

As soft spoken as I normally am, he didn’t even flinch. “I know. I’m being hard on you today.”

At this point, already fighting off the tears of frustration, and angry because this isn’t how things are supposed to go, I continued to snap at him. “Yes, you are!”

This also happened on the heel of another conversation: one that made me feel on top of the world. Phrases like “my students come first” and “all my students are important to me” while can be sincere (and it’s true, I’ve never doubted his sincerity), are still generic and impersonal and professional. This day, as we chatted quietly in a corner of a full studio, he got honest with me. Truly, personally honest in what he sees in me as a student. Because it was said for my ears only, I won’t repeat, but I’ll say he sees a lot in me. Possibly more than I see in myself.

Fast forward two or three weeks, and he’s decided to prove this conversation wasn’t just talk. Whatever potential I have, he’s putting it to work. Nothing is sliding. “But that’s what we did before” is no longer good enough. I can’t help but think that he has a vision for me, of the dancer I could become, and he’s determined to see it realized.

Does that mean the teacher I rave on about has now been replaced by the merciless, cane wielding, instructor of movie archetypes? Fortunately, no. That day, off-guard by this sudden, harsh venture outside the comfort zone, that breaking point seemingly swooped in out of nowhere, and he pulled back the second it appeared. That isn’t to say I spent the rest of the time angry and embarrassed at myself for my outburst.

It’s difficult to say how I feel about this new direction. When I commit to something, I commit. When I decide to do something, I want to be my best at it. And I always thought in lessons I always gave my best, and now I’m wondering if I didn’t. If I only gave as much as he demanded of me. I’m left to wonder what my best really is.

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