Have you ever stopped to think what you would tell your younger self if you had the chance? Imagine for a moment that you embark on a new hobby and you get obsessed with it. You put in the time and before you know it, you’ve become quite good but surely you’ve made mistakes along the way, no?
This is precisely why I’ve always been a huge proponent of seeking out masters so that their hindsight can be my foresight. They know the missteps they took along the way and can help me avoid them. With this in mind, I’d like to share the top 5 things I would tell my younger self to do to become a better dancer in less time.
1) Focus on the basics. when I originally wrote this post, it was shared across social media and I got some great feedback. One of the best comments about it was a quote I repeat often as it’s so wise and true in so many ways (Thanks Kyle!): “Beginner dancer rush to intermediate classes, intermediate dancers rush to advanced classes and advanced dancers take private lessons to work on their basics.” Sage advice indeed. It might be boring at first but do know that it will pay off big time as you advance.
2) Don’t rush to get into a dance group before you know how to dance. It might seem like it’s a fast track to getting better but in reality the main purpose of almost all groups is to perform first, train later. In any other dance discipline, students are encouraged to continue taking classes while they are in groups in order to become better assets to the director. The climate in Chicago has drastically changed since I started but I strongly believe that if you really want to get better, take classes AND do the group, you’ll grow exponentially.
3) Seek out a dance partner and actually retain the things that you’ve learned! Raise your hand if you have 2,384 videos of class patterns that you haven’t retained. Collaborating with a partner is a great way to actually work on the material you’ve learned in class and actually make it part of your vocabulary. As a growing dancer, you are learning to ‘speak’ and the teacher is showing you words. Practice the words and become a better communicator! Just remember fellas, don’t be a creeper with your dance buddy…
4) Overcome your insecurities. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve come a LOOOOOONG way with my own self worth. I was the king of being self-conscious and that reflected in my dancing both socially and on stage. I spent way too long allowing my fears to hold me back and missed out on many chances to perform or dance with some superstar girls because I was afraid to ask. Now, even as I compete or perform, I suck it up, change my state and rock it out as best as I can. It turns out, it’s way funner this way and I get more done too. I have a quote on my vision board right in front of me that says: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Indeed!
5) Cross train more. Over the last 13 years, I’ve taken Ballet, Jazz, Ballroom and club/street style classes and have settled into my own style. It;’s taken a while, but my ‘voice’ has been developed by being exposed to new and different things. If you’re really into the social Latin dance scene (Salsa/mambo, Bachata, Cha Cha, etc), that’s cool but look to take lessons from more than one person or work on more than one dance. Every dance style gives you new tools to add to your arsenal and before you know it, you’ll have developed your own unique style.
I do wish I could go back, but I’m also happy to have been on the journey. If you’re brand new or been this dancing thing for less than 2 years, these words will hopefully come in handy and give you things to think about.
What have you lessons have you learned as you’ve danced?
let me know and share this post if you found it helpful, it makes me super happy.
To your dancing….