Ask the Dance Diva: Resolve to Improve Dancing
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions—either making them or following through—but I’d like to do something to ensure my dancing improves over the course of 2016. Can you make some recommendations that could be helpful in upping my game and getting me to stick to my intentions?
Dear Falling Short,
The Diva isn’t much for resolutions either, but she does believe in making a sincere commitment to improving your dancing, whatever the time of year. Since we tend to waiver on any resolutions when we become discouraged, bored or broke, the key is to avoid all three of those obstacles. What follows are a few ideas that may help you to stick yo your vows and become a better dancer in the process.
Make dance a priority in your life.
Unless you are supernaturally gifted from birth, becoming the kind of dancer everyone wants to look at and dance with is a matter of deciding that you are willing to make the sacrifices of time, money and physical exertion to get better. And I’m talking on a regular basis. That means that you ust build lessons, workshops, practice sessions and social dance time into your weekly routine and rarely, if ever, deviate. Decide what you can build into your schedule—be it four hours per week or 14—and write it out proportionately on your calendar, In ink. Then hang the calendar where you will be regularly reminded of your commitment.
Define your goals.
I don’t mean that you have to speak them aloud or feel like a failure if/when you fall short. I mean figuring out in your own mind what it is you want to become. A Dancesport athlete? The most sought-after partner on the social dance floor? A competent, confident hoofer? Fred Astaire? Doesn’t matter what it is, only that you know what you are going after.
Set a budget.
Figure out how much you can realistically afford in a year toward your dance education and divide it by 12. That gives you a monthly figure to work with which you can divide between private lessons, parties, competitions and even dance trips. It doesn’t have to be apportioned evenly throughout the year; a dance cruise or a few sessions with an out-of-town coach may eat up your whole allotment for a single month. But if you set aside the funds in advance in a “dance account”, you won’t end up penniless and partnerless by August.
Take some private lessons.
It’s up to you to figure out how many private lessons—which are admittedly, pricey—you can fit into your budget, but your dance slate should include at least a few. You can learn new patterns and the occasional technique tip in a group class, but it’s in the private one-on-ones where you can address your individual deficits and questions and make a more significant improvement technically.
Find a practice partner.
Easier said than done, true, but it’s a fact that you will not make steady improvement without steady time on the floor. A rule of thumb is two practice hours for every hour of instruction you receive. Some things you can practice on your own of course, but in the end, this is partner dancing and you can’t master it solo. Having a dance “buddy” may also help keep you accountable to your practice schedule.
Dance with multiple partners.
Even if you have a regular practice partner, make it a habit to dance regularly with an assortment of leaders or followers when you are out socially. Part of your success as a dancer will come from your ability to sense the subtleties and adapt to the eccentricities of a specific partner. The more individuals you experience dancing with, the better the “listener” in you will become.
Shake it up.
One reason people don’t stick to diets or exercise routines is that eating or doing the same things over and over becomes a bore and a chore. If you start feeling like your dance schedule is becoming an obligation rather than something you anticipate and you know all your partner’s “tricks” before they happen, try something new. Take a class from a new instructor or at a different studio; sample a dance you haven’t tried before or hit up a different nightclub or party. If you’re really interested in upping your game, try taking some ballet classes, the best foundation for any dance style.
Too often, we dancers are of the self-critical and competitive sort. We compare ourselves with the best dancers on the floor instead of with someone whose skill level and experience match our own. We wind up feeling discouraged, intimidated and on the verge of quitting. Like any athletic or artistic endeavor, becoming a better dancer takes time and everyone’s trajectory is different. Accept the work ahead of you and don’t beat yourself up for not getting to your goals sooner. Attitude is everything!
©Dance Diva (aka Carrie Seidman). Previously appeared in newsletters of the Albuquerque Dance Club (www.nmdance.com). Reprints by express permission of the author only.