Know Your Limits

We had screwed up.

A local orchestra had asked us to accompany one of their songs with a waltz showcase in an upcoming performance, and they were specifically looking for an amateur couple. My partner and I were honored and excited, so of course we said yes. We’d connected with the orchestra director and examined the stage. We’d set aside time to choreograph.

But now, as we were listening to the music, we discovered that the song was actually a Viennese waltz, a much faster dance that required more space — and stamina and knowledge — than we had. Six minutes of Viennese? Could we survive? Would it get too repetitive? How would we fit the steps onto a small stage? Could we dance a regular-speed waltz instead? Was it too late to back out?

We had screwed up — and now we had to deal with the consequences.

You Can’t Do Everything

Nobody can. There’s a lot of nonsense out there that will have you believe that you can do everything and anything, no matter how ridiculous or lofty your goal is.

Don’t believe it.

My partner works full-time. I’m a full-time graduate student with multiple part-time jobs. We had three months to choreograph for a stage far too small for a Viennese waltz. Expecting to pull that off anyway would be the same thing as expecting to win a marathon after jogging a mile once; there’s a fine line between pushing your comfort zone and being unrealistic. Is it possible to learn to run a marathon? Of course, but it takes practice — and time. One run isn’t enough.

My partner and I knew we didn’t have the time required to create and perfect a Viennese showcase. That left us with two options: we could back out, or we could get creative.

We chose to get creative.

One, two, three, one, two, three — can anyone dance that fast for that long?!

Fix it, Felix

The easy lesson to learn from this is that we should have listened to the song BEFORE agreeing to do the showcase. My partner and I were told it was a waltz and never bothered to double-check — and that was pretty foolish, but we’re human; we make mistakes. Being able to recover from mistakes is almost as important as trying to avoid them in the first place.

My partner and I didn’t want to cancel the showcase, but six minutes of Viennese waltz was beyond not only our comfort zone but also the realm of possibility. We had to come up with something else. Though we didn’t have Felix’s golden hammer to fix the situation, we both pursued alternatives: my partner consulted a professional dance instructor. I contacted the orchestra director. My partner and I brainstormed how we could enter and exit the stage, how long that would take, and if we should take breaks during the song. Doing this opened up a number of new options, and suddenly, it didn’t seem like we had screwed up so badly after all.

Maybe we couldn’t dance a Viennese, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t dance at all.

Dance shoes on floor

Image Credit: Loki1973

Instead of forcing a sloppy showcase, we got creative and found a way to push ourselves while remaining realistic — and as of now, we’re on schedule to perform at the end of April.

Want to see how it turned out? Check it out here.

43 thoughts on “Know Your Limits

  1. Wish you two all the very best for the preparations.It is admirable of both of you that you are aware where you stand at this moment and have taken alternatives for things that need quite a fixing.I also applaud you for choosing the difficult path instead of giving up wholly.Give your best shot at it.Loads of power to both of you!


  2. You KNEW you had me once you said “dance show case” and “Viennese Waltz”! Yeah, VW is viewed by some as the most difficult of all the ballroom dances (well Jive is definitely a killer too). I started learning it last year and after 3 months of private lessons could do a half-way decent job at it, but the first time we did a full 3 minute song I was exhausted! I was relieved to see you both realized the plan had to be adapted. This sounds more workable and I can’t wait to hear more. Are you doing a real VW for some of the figures or adapting a classic slow waltz. You can do a slow waltz to a lot of VW, but it takes work to know how to make the changes.

    At the end one of my lessons last year. a bridal couple came in with their music for my instructor to teach them a waltz in ONE lesson. When he turned it on, it was actually a VW from the Nutcracker, so there was no way they could do it. But it wasn’t his first rodeo so he knew how to fill and changes the figures for beginners so it looked good and everyone was pleased. (Dang, that is an incredibly fast, classic VW!! Even “slow” sounding VW are still very fast once you start dancing to them.)

    Good luck!


    • My partner and I know a little bit of Viennese, but not enough to do it that quickly — or that long! The professional my partner consulted showed us a way to count the VW as a waltz (though I’m not sure how to explain it in words, exactly, without using my feet to demonstrate!). It’s a much more manageable speed that lets us use our waltz moves, which we know way more of πŸ™‚
      And the Nutcracker — yikes!! That’s another tough song to pull off, especially for beginners. One day I’d like to be fully proficient at VW; for now, I’ll have to settle with a slower waltz πŸ˜‰
      Thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, it doesn’t get any more Viennese than that. Good Luck!

    That reminds me a bit of the time when I did a ball opening with a group of about 40 couples where we had a 9-minute-VW. It was quite fun but the choreography was demanding (choreographed by a former ballet dancer). One of the couples was quite good (close to open level) and they were the center-piece of the choreography. The rest of us were total amateurs – most of which only did social dancing. But it was fun. (Video:


  4. Wow! Good luck for your performance! (A bit of a side note, Carlos Kleiber is a wonderful conductor, there is a video where he holds the audience in silence for a whole 4 minutes after a piece!) this was definitely an interesting read. Maybe you could visit my blog and photo gallery and tell me what you think? Thanks!


  5. Where there is a will, there is a way. Glad to see your resilience helped you and your partner find a way. These stories are golden. I LOVE IT!!!! I will follow to see how everything goes πŸ™‚


  6. Great post highlighting the very fact of knowing your limits! One great point highlighted was: Being able to recover from mistakes is almost as important as trying to avoid them in the first place.
    Wish you and your partner the best for your performance!! ☺️


  7. This is awesome! I really hope you’ll do well! I mean, I think I know you will cause you two are vedry aim-focused (if it’s the right way of saying)) You’ll be fine)) I now want to dance)))


    • Thank you! I appreciate your feedback. πŸ™‚ Dancing can be a lot of fun, if you’re into that sort of thing, but it’s definitely challenging, and this is no exception!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, it is important to know your limits and you have done the best thing and agreed to the performance but in your own creative way. Often in life, you find it is the best approach. Do it your way. Have a fantastic time. I quite envy you and it is great to push yourself and do things that are challenging. I’m sure it will be an experience you won’t forget. Axx (ps found you on the Comm Pool which I have recently discovered!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Do it your way.” — Well-said πŸ™‚ I’m looking forward to it, but I know it will be challenging!

      Community Pool is a wonderful resource — make as much use of it as you can! It’s amazingly helpful.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!


  9. Are you going to create a blog or updates or whatever you call it about your dance journey for this event? I’d love to read it. I think others would too (hint, hint).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps! Part of it depends on my school schedule and how much I have time to write. At the very least, I’ll definitely post something about the event itself (likely with a video of the final performance). I’d like to do something at the halfway point as well, maybe thoughts about how things are going so far. Time management is key for me!! πŸ˜‰


  10. I found this post really relevant to non-dance related aspects of life too…. Great reminder that it’s not always possible to do everything! Nice suggestions for problem-solving the situation of overcommitting, too. Get creative!


    • I’m glad the post had meaning beyond dance! Sometimes it’s hard to say ‘no’ to something, especially if we really want to do it — even if it’s not practical or possible. There’s a fine line between challenging yourself and stressing out.

      Thanks for stopping by! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Very well-written piece! Great job. At first I was hesitant about your header, “You Can’t Do Everything,” but was pleasantly surprised to see you meant it in terms of self-reflection and realms of possibilities. In the end, we CAN do everything, but everything depends on time, strength, and ability.

    Can I be a dolphin trainer? Yes I can. Can I be a dolphin trainer RIGHT NOW? Absolutely not. That requires learning, training, and time. You’re absolutely right – we can’t do everything at the absolute time we want to and with the skills we have, so reflection is always so precious.

    Good luck!


  12. Henry Ford said, whether you think you can or think you can’t; you’re right. You could’ve quit but you adjusted and carried on, kinda like we all do in life.
    My husband and I built a farmhouse table. Neither of us had built any type of furniture before but we didn’t let that stop us. We did it anyway.


    • Rock on! That’s awesome πŸ™‚ It can be really intimidating to take on something we don’t have any experience in, but it can also be very rewarding.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Yikes! Dancing? In front of people? No way. I can barely manage a subtle “white boy wiggle.” Kudos to you both for making the commitment and for putting in the creative effort to showcase your best talents. Good luck!


    • Life can get rather monotonous if I don’t challenge myself, so I make a point to do something way out of my comfort zone every once in a while. Though it’s terrifying, it’s also rewarding!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Hey πŸ™‚
    You’d left a comment on my blog a while back asking to check yours out, and I’d promised I would once my exams are over.
    I’m so glad I did, because I like how easy you make it look to write about incidents from your life. My blog, on the other hand, is pretty abstract. I’m inspired to try to narrate, too, some time soon :).
    I also really like how you picked up an incident from your life and used it as a small lesson that all of us know is true but often forget.
    So glad I found your blog!
    Have a nice day πŸ™‚


    • Congrats Natalie! This update came at an opportune time. I was going to compete in rhythm, for the first time and also needed to buy a new dress. But like you, I have spent time thinking about it and realize I need to scale it back. Thanks for reminding me again, that’s OK to do. Check my FB page for more info.


      • I saw the pictures! πŸ™‚ Sometimes it’s difficult to step back, but I’m glad this post was able to help you. Best of luck competing in rhythm!!


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