My journey from novice dancer to instructor

What do you do after winning the Mad Hot Ballroom Pittsburgh competition? If you’re Marcus Poindexter, you become a teaching artist for Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh.

Poindexter spends most of his time as a prevention /intervention specialist for Mercy Behavioral Health Prevention Services. In that role, he goes into school and community settings and provides services to students and their families in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Now, he will add Dancing Classrooms to that repertoire. Or is it his dance card?

Here, he chronicles his recent training in New York City.

By Marcus Poindexter

My experience in New York learning ballroom dance was a grappling, scary, overwhelmingly, yet, exhilarating event. It wasn’t simple. Learning how to ballroom dance and teach ballroom dancing was very hard.

On the first day, Sunday, we were greeted by smiling faces of people from all walks of life. Pierre Dulaine, the founder of Dancing Classrooms, was there to make sure we all would be able to teach the kids to “shake what their mama gave them.”

Of the 28 people in the group, some had years of training in the art of dance. Others, including myself, were just getting use to putting one foot in front of the other (still difficult at times). However, by the end of this training, I was forced to believe that I would be able to teach ballroom dancing like an official teaching artist; I was not buying into their madness.

At 9 a.m. on Monday, we were off dancing. It was nerve-wracking. From the moment we entered into the ballroom, we danced. And danced, and, oh, we danced. By five o’clock, I was all danced out and not looking forward to the next day.

Tuesday arrived far faster than I had ever wanted it to come. Before I knew it, I was back learning the art of ballroom dancing. I was maxed out. I was beyond tired and wondering if I had made the right decision in coming to New York in the first place, and if I would suck being a teaching artist.

My negative thought process did not make coping with my environment any easier. On top of dancing for eight straight hours each day, it was 99 degrees outside, and the warm air was starting to seep into the ballroom. It just made for a hot mess.

Wednesday was much of the same. By now, I was overcome with feelings of doubt, anger, resentment, and growing frustration. I was falling out of love with ballroom dancing and  feeling burnt out.

Thursday was a much better day. We started off the day by traveling to a school where students were going to learn ballroom dancing for the first time. I couldn’t believe that I was going to see it play out right in front of me. Twenty or so students had come into the makeshift ballroom in escort position. It was amazing. These little youngsters were so elegant.

Pierre led the first lesson of learning ballroom dance for the children. I sat in awe of how beautiful these kids responded to Pierre’s direction and did so gracefully. By the end of that class, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to become a teaching artist.

My transition had happened literally overnight.

By Friday, I was ready to go. I wanted to dance. I wanted to direct the class and I was pumped to go beyond our departure time back to Pittsburgh. I was ready to be a teaching artist.

Looking back, I wish I’d have put more thought into having fun then complaining about what I couldn’t do.

As I prepare for my fall residency, I take with me all the “Pierre-isms,” the rolling of the r’s, the swatting of the tie, and the fun and magical bliss of turning ordinary children into kings and princesses. My experience in New York will be a legacy I pass down to each student I get to coach this year, and in years to come.

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