The Dancer's Journey
You are a hero and you may not even know it.
According to author Joseph Campbell's "A Hero with a Thousand Faces" you are. Your story, the circuitous route that eventually took you to your dance studio, and everything you've gained, or been challenged by, along the way fits the description of The Hero's Journey.
What is the Hero's Journey?
The Hero's Journey finds all of the common ingredients of a great adventure. Who the hero meets, the villain, the crisis, the learning experiences, and the transformation that occurs. It's also referred to as "the Monomyth".
The Goal of the Dancer's Journey
Our goal is to share how your dance journey compares with the critical junctures of the monomyth, and shed some light on how much bigger your dance accomplishments are. After all, we all know how that there was something much bigger in store for the young moisture farmer on the desert planet who eventually became a Jedi, so why couldn't that be possible with your story as well?
So let's follow along the path, and see if we can find some familiar moments that may have as much in common with your Dance Journey, as they do with your favorite heroes from the movies.
Stage 1: Separation - The Ordinary World
It's during this stage that the hero (that would be you) transitions from the world that they know it, and begin their journey.
The Dance Story - The Ordinary World
We find our future dance hero in a moderately sized work space staying late to meet another quarter end deadline. Behind the computer screen weary eyes she has a look of disquiet. She traded hard work for delayed gratification, and the second part is far overdue. In addition to her work related screen time, her browser history includes search terms such as "night life", "vacation", and "life coaching".
She's more successful than ever, yet she's looking for a way out.
The Ordinary World - The Matrix
Neo in the Matrix and his green hued, cubicle trapped, existence. He feels like there's something else out there for him, and he's actively seeking answers.
Stage 1: Separation - Call to Adventure
This is the moment when the new opportunity comes crashing into the ordinary world for the hero. Whether it's bumping into a future soul mate, finding an alien in the shed in your back yard, or getting a phone call from your best friend to take a road trip to Las Vegas.
The Dance Story - The Call to Adventure
We find our character scrolling through her social media account and catching site of an advertisement for dance lessons. She clicks, her pulse quickens, and the faintest hint of a smile develops on her face.
The Call to Adventure - The Goonies
With their neighborhood set to be sold off to snooty country club developers, the Goonies were a group of young friends were down on their luck and preparing for the inevitable. Then they found a clue that could potentially be the miracle they are looking for - the promise of pirate treasure.
Stage 1: Separation - Refusal of the Call
The pull of the ordinary world is real. It's what is comfortable and familiar to the main character. It has a gravity-like force that can keep the greatest opportunities from taking place.
The Dance Story - Refusal of the Call
Our hero reached the final step of the website form for her introduction lesson, and the pangs of fear, uncertainty, and every dance myth she'd ever believed or heard came bubbling up like acid reflux. So there it stayed, like an abandoned shopping cart, her call to dance adventure refused.
Refusal of the Call - Star Wars: A New Hope
"Alderaan? I'm not going to Alderaan". A simple, and perfect, example of the Refusal of the Call by Luke Skywalker. As dissatisfied as he was with his life as a moisture farmer, as stuck as he felt on his desert planet, and as promising as the adventure was with the lightsaber wielding Obi-Wan Kenobi - he still declined. The gravitational pull of the safe choice kept the adventure firmly rooted to the ground.
Stage 1: Separation - Acceptance of the Call
Sometimes it takes a series of subtle clues, open invitations, and obvious opportunities for it to happen, but eventually, the hero accepts the call to adventure.
The Dance Story - Acceptance of the Call
While our hero may not have finished the form on the website, she did keep the screen minimized. As a funny sort of psychological ploy to warm up to the idea. After a week, and then forgetting about dance lessons after a deluge of new work deadlines, she gets the call. "We are all going Salsa dancing after work on Friday". Fortunately for her, she's got a minimized web browser with a free dance lesson handy. It's just the nudge she needed.
Acceptance of the Call - Harry Potter
Surrounded by the crashing sea, the Dursley's thought they had taken every measure to stop a young Harry Potter from receiving one of the hundreds of magical invitations to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Although Harry himself never refused this invitation, his acceptance only took place after the door came crashing down and his invitation was hand delivered by the half giant, Hagrid.
Stage 1: Separation - Meeting the Mentor
The phrase "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear" is very appropriate for this stage. This stage only occurs when the hero has committed to the adventure and needs guidance. This is the point when
The Dance Story - Meeting the Mentor
Our hero finds her way into the dance studio. The dance floor seems to get longer like a carnival mirror as she walks in. Although there are people smiling at her, or completely engrossed in their lessons, her ordinary life voice is convinced that everyone is plotting against her. Just as she has prepared how she can pull off a perfect "oh, I think I forgot something" move back to the car, and home - someone greets her... by name. It's her teacher. A few reassuring words, and an escort across the dance floor, and she officially becomes a dance student.
Meeting the Mentor - The Karate Kid
Daniel was the new kid from the wrong side of the tracks. This made him an easy target for the karate kicking bullies in his school. He had had enough, was ready to give up, and his mentor arrived in the form of his apartment maintenance man fighting off his attackers, and agreeing to teach him karate.
Stage 2: The Initiation - Into the Void
This is the point where the hero detaches completely from their ordinary world. It's the point of no return, the elimination of any possibility of an ordinary world again, a step into the dark potential of a new world.
The Dance Story - Into the Void
The teacher is ready, and now it's time to begin. Our hero looks at that same dance floor she walked in on, but this time it's with an intent to learn how to dance. Her feet leave the carpeted waiting area and step out onto the floor, and into a world that will change her forever.
Into the Void - The Matrix
Neo chooses the red pill, he opts to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, and chooses to find out, first hand, what the Matrix really is.
Stage 2: The Initiation - Find Allies
The interesting thing about stepping into a world of adventure is that you rarely are doing it alone. This is the point where the hero discovers a support system, a team, or a group of people with similar superpowers all wearing matching spandex uniforms.
The Dance Story - Find Allies
Our hero is now a dance student. She attends her first Newcomer Group Class. There, she meets others who are on a similar quest. There she finds that there is a community of teachers, all working in harmony with these goals. She will not be on this path alone. There will be more classes, and coffee, with her new band of dance friends.
Finding Allies - Fellowship of the Ring
As soon as Frodo volunteered to take the ring to the fires of Mount Doom, the fellowship was silent. Then, one by one, his allies spoke up.
Stage 2: The Initiation - Threshold Guardians
A threshold guardian challenges the hero, but is not necessarily a villain. They serve as the pressure test for the hero's resolve to continue on the quest, while a lesser hero would withdraw.
The Dance Story - Threshold Guardians
Our hero has a friend who lives to play the devil's advocate. Upon hearing of her decision to take dance lessons, she immediately starts to question the choice, offers less expensive alternatives, and makes not-too-passive aggressive comments about he endeavor.
Threshold Guardians - The Last Samurai
Nathan Algren, played by Tom Curise, was a Civil War veteran and brought to Japan to help train the Japanese army. In the process, he is taken prisoner by a group of Samurai where he later learns from them. While some begin to warm to his interest in the Samurai ways, Ujio does not approve.
Stage 2: The Initiation - Road of Trials
With each challenge and trial, the hero grows stronger on his quest. However, it's not perfect. While the hero will utilize the teachings they have taken in thus far, they have yet to master the skills.
The Dance Story - The Road of Trials
Learning is both exciting and awkward for the hero. There are some basics in a few dances that begin to feel more natural, but there is still plenty of work to do. Overall, she is comfortable dancing with the teachers, but has yet to dance with other students.
The Road of Trials - The Matrix
In the Matrix, Neo begins to acquire skills quickly - like Kung Fu. But the true test of this new knowledge is through a series of trials that begin in the dojo with his mentor, Morpheus.
Part 2: The Initiation - The Inmost Cave/Ordeal
This is the point where the hero must face their inner demons, and overcome their biggest obstacle. It will be the result of this battle that will teach the hero what they need to succeed moving forward.
The Dance Story - The Inmost Cave
It's safe to say that the first practice dance party for our hero was a work in progress. There were some toes stepped on, a few missed steps, but all under the watchful eye of her instructor. After about 10 songs, 5 pep talks, and some laughs she throws caution to the wind, spots another new dancer, and asks him to dance.
The Inmost Cave - Star Wars: A New Hope
He had rescued the Princess from the most dangerous space station in the galaxy, but everything changed for Luke Skywalker when he watched as Obi Wan Kenobi was struck down in a lightsaber duel by Darth Vader.
Part 3: Recognition - Reward, Knowledge Gained
The moment of clarity that comes when the hero is challenged, applies their training, and realizes why it was all worth it.
The Dance Story - Reward and Knowledge Gained
Our hero reaches her car and when her hands touch the steering wheel, she pauses. A smile develops on her face when she realizes that it was only a few weeks ago when she was too fearful to walk into Arthur Murray, she was mortified at the thought of embarrassing herself, and she had locked herself in an environment surrounded by things that made her feel safe and unhappy at the same time.
Reward and Knowledge Gained - The Karate Kid
There may be no greater example of this proof of knowledge gained quite like this moment in Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi charted a path for his pupil to become disciplined, to repeat movements that were familiar to him, and to hone and condition his skills even as an impatient teenager. All of this creates the moment where his true skills are revealed.
Part 3: Recognition - The Road Back
Once the hero has gained the knowledge, received the reward, or unlocked the hidden truth about their ninja training - it's time to put it to use. The Road Back is the part of the story where the hero unleashes their new power for good to triumph against evil.
The Dance Story - The Road Back
Our hero shows up to work on Monday beaming. She's walking like a CEO, with better posture, and with the kind of grin most people would only have on a Friday before a 3 day weekend. Her co-workers take notice, as she seems to be the only one in a 250 mile radius who looks happy to be there on a Monday, no less.
The Road Back - The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie - Emmett didn't think he was one of the special Master Builders until he realized that he just needed to Believe in himself. His Road Back is part celebration, and part test drive of his newly found super skills.
Part 3: Recognition - The Final Battle
The hero is now equipped, and at any other time the villain would make quick work of him, but now things are different. This is the point where the hero is finishing their circle of development, and the final stage to completion is guarded by the ultimate villain.
The Dance Story - The Final Battle
Our hero walks down the hallway into work, and she's stopped by her friend. As a self-prescribed "realist", she pelts her with questions about her dance lessons, the cost of it, and what she could be using her time and money on instead. Our hero explains, in a voice she didn't realize she had, that learning how to dance isn't paying for dance lessons, it's an investment in confidence, happiness, and health. The co-worker takes a moment, her devil's advocate defaults have become disabled, and she looks at her friend with a completely different perspective.
The Final Battle - Rocky
Rocky - The street thug that was down on his luck wouldn't have had the money to buy tickets to the title fight, let alone fight in it. Yet with unbelievable preparation, guidance, and sheer willpower - Rocky Balboa evolves and becomes the fighter worthy of the title... and wins it.
Part 3: Recognition - Return with the Elixr
The hero returns to the origin, but with a newly found courage, perspective, or remedy for others who may have been in the same position as the hero had been in. It's the part in the story that let's the audience know that positive changes are on the horizon.
The Dance Story - Return with the Elixir
We find our hero at another studio party, but this time there's a sign that reads "open house". There she is, with her co-workers watching, performing a demonstration of what she has learned. Everyone from the teachers to her friends watch and see, first hand, what dancing has truly done for her. She is smiling, knowing that it wasn't that long ago that she came one browser window from missing out on this world she now calls her second home.
Return with the Elixir - The Goonies
We've intentionally started and ended with the Goonies. The characters came in contact with the secret treasure that could have saved their neighborhood, but after a series of booby traps, and a frantic escape for their lives, they returned with an even greater treasure - a deeper bond as friends and family. Unfortunately, that bond won't save their homes.
But, what good is returning with an elixir without a little movie suspense?
Hidden in the pocket of a jacket is a small bag of precious gems, and more than enough money to keep their property. Now the friends had each other, and defeated the country club developers.
If there's one thing that you take away from this it's that no one starts out as a hero. Whether it's Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, or you. Your Dance Journey is made up of a series of scary decisions, challenging encounters, and friends you meet along the way that reveals the hero .
Your journey will always start with a choice to start taking dance lessons.
That decision isn't easy, and that gateway has stopped many would-be dancers from passing through, but it's that risk that makes it an adventure. It's the risk that reveals the reward.
Whether you have just started it, or you're working on your 5th sequel, you're a hero in our book, and congratulations on being a part of the Dancer's Journey.
Your journey begins here. This is that moment. This is your call to adventure, and if you're sick and tired of refusing that call, we are here to tell you that your mentors are ready to take you through your journey.