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Dance To Your Own Beat: Putting Your Life’s Passion into Practice

Librada Estrada

We continue our commitment of highlighting Latinas who are transforming their lives by living in choice. 

Dance is at the heart of Amanda Cardona’s life. With over 20 years of professional experience, Amanda combines dance with teaching, travel, and digital marketing to share her calling with others. When she isn't leading or taking a class, putting on a show or recording videos to share her globetrotting adventures, you can find her working on some fancy footwork. To see some of her performances or to get in touch with her, check out her YouTube Channel at Amanda Cardona Dance or follow her on Twitter @AmandaCDance.

A fan whirs in the distance, a bell whistles “toot toot”, sneakers crunch across gravel… in an instant, my foot is tapping, my head is bopping and I spin a little twirl, when I realize that the store employee is smirking at me.  Instantaneous blush, a shrug of the shoulders, a quick thank you and out the door I go as I think to myself, yep, I’m a dancer people.  I hear music in everything and that in turn, inspires me to move, to create, to dance….

A Dancer is Born

Dance is simply my life force.  It’s like the air I breathe, constant and steady.  It’s my happiness when I’m down, my inspiration when I’m unmotivated, and my jolt of energy when there is no caffeine around.  

I’ve been lucky enough to have dance in my life since the age of 3 when I was a bratty kid refusing to actually participate in the dance classes my mom dragged me to.  Little did she know then that I was quietly refusing to try it until I knew I could do it well.  Week by week I would sit there and WATCH the class for an hour; until the fateful day when, without any prodding or threats, I mean gentle supplications, I stood up and executed the entire month’s routine perfectly.  And so, a dancer was born.

A Rude Awakening

Now, on the flip side, I grew up during a time when “dance” wasn’t seen as a viable career path, there weren’t as many options available as there are these days and quite simply, I didn’t have the “dancer” body type that was necessary to pursue dance in any form other than a hobby.  For example, in my 20s, when I wanted to get into Latin dance on a more professional level, I thought, “I’m Latin, I’ve got flavor, this should be a shoo-in!” Uh no, I was a served a plate of rude awakening.  

I am a relatively tall and pretty curvaceous Latina that is often not accepted by certain groups, not given the opportunity to perform on a stage, regardless of my two decades of training and experience. These experiences have at times shaken my confidence.  But I keep getting up and putting myself out there.

A Physical Art Form

Those situations haven’t completely disappeared. Dance is a physical art form, which by design places your body under the magnifying lens for inspection, evaluation and judgment (especially at its highest levels). The minute I step on a dance floor for a warm up dance, especially where I don’t know anyone and vice versa, I can feel them making a judgment that about me. It usually goes something like this… “Hmmm, new person.  Don’t know what level she is.  She’s a bit tall, she’s “thick”, and I don’t know if she’s heavy on her feet.” This then translates to a dance where you’re “tested” or “evaluated” on your skill level.  One turn, good she kept her balance.  She reacts quickly and moves quickly and hence the door is opened to a more “advanced” dance. 

I actually advocate this type of “warm up” dance.  You should begin slowly because you don’t know the other person’s skill level, not because of their size or shape. Many people equate size and skill. It can be a bit disheartening when you take those first steps, especially to a song that you just want to JAM out to!

Making It Work For Me

But even in those dark moments, when the negative voices are chirping incessantly, needling in the back of my mind, I also had another voice that I thankfully pay more attention to that reminds me, “Yeah, yeah, so what.  You love to dance, so make it work for you.” And that’s just what I’ve done, made it work for me. If you have ever even had even the slightest thought of giving dance a try, do it and most importantly make it work for you. 

Easier said than done?  True but the work and overcoming those nagging voices is what makes it worth it. Here are some examples from my personal experience and how I have made it work:

  • I go see a dance show.  I’m inspired and melancholic at the same time.  Inspired by the sheer skill of the performers, melancholic as I compare my own skill level.  Solution:  Change my thinking. Reflect on what I have done and what I can do. Translate the positive thoughts into action- what kinds of dance can I do, what exercises can I do to get stronger, more agile, and more flexible and get moving! 
  • I would go out to dance, but wasn’t being asked to dance.  Solution: I ask others to dance.
  • I went out with girlfriends to dance, amazing songs would come on and perhaps everyone was already dancing.  Solution: I learned how to do the leaders role (and damn well if I say so myself).  I know I was doing something right when my dance card filled up, except I was leading!
  • I wanted to perform, but couldn’t find a partner. Solution: I joined forces with other women and created an all-female dance company.
  • I wanted to travel the world teaching & dancing but wasn’t “well-known”.  Solution: Start out with cold-calls.  Offer to be part of an event without pay or for barter, then show & prove what I can do. 

Does it require work? Absolutely! Is it worth the time & investment? Undoubtedly! With each obstacle and the resolution that follows, I changed my attitude and my reality. I make it work for me and in return I fall deeply in love with dance over and over again.

Promoting Dance

Why am I such a cheerleader for the art of dance?  Let’s take a look from the outside in.  

Physically speaking, dance can do wonders for your coordination, mobility, endurance and stamina, muscle tone and fitness.  Who doesn’t want to look and feel better in their own skin!  The physical exertion also produces endorphins, which in turn leaves you feeling happy.  

Dance can be mentally and emotionally stimulating as well.  It allows you the freedom to move, occupy your space and be comfortable with yourself and the movement you can create.  It allows you to leave all the nonsense, obligations and minutiae of daily life at the door- just check it at the door- and move.  You’d be amazed at where your mind can go when you allow yourself that freedom.  When you combine all these elements together; physical, emotional, mental health- it’s a recipe for overall well being.  

Dance has a special added bonus.  Many dance styles are social, meaning they create the opportunity for a person to socialize, to get to know people who share a similar interest.  Stick with it long enough, and before you know it, you’ll find you have a new “family”.

Your dance family looks for you when you’ve missed class, is ready to give suggestions and recommendations when you’re taking the plunge into buying dance shoes, and welcomes you with a smile when you walk through the door.  

For me, dance has given me so many individual benefits and a feeling of home no matter where in the world I go.

Dance To Your Own Beat

Everything begins and ends with… YOU.  We live in a world full of structure and even confinement.  There will always be some obstacle trying to block you from your passion, interest or goal.  Sometimes those external factors will play a role in what you are able to achieve or accomplish and the key that will always influence how far you get is YOU and YOUR attitude. 

You can let others dictate your worth or value or you can MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU.  We have to be our own cheerleaders, because only you hold the key to unlocking your potential.  Instead of focusing on the limitations, exercise your brain and your body and discover how you can work with what you have been given.  Challenge the boundaries and perhaps stretch them a bit.  Soon enough, you just may find yourself “dancing” to a masterpiece of your own design.

Your turn: How are you honoring your passion?

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