New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year: time to think about what we hope to achieve by this time next year.

I’ve had dance resolutions before, some I’ve met and others I haven’t. They are all personal goals and they are all personal goals related to competition: making finals in my division, placing in the top three, moving out of a division, etc.

When making New Year’s resolutions, it helps to have “SMART” goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. I mean, I can say I want to be a world champion in three months, but odds are that’s a foolish resolution that will not be achieved. So we strive to set some goals for ourselves that can be met, that can be measured, and that can be achieved within a year’s time.

Which is why, I suppose, I set my goals based on competition. It’s hard for me to say, “I’ll be better at whips” or “Add more level changes to my dancing.” I suppose I could find an objective way to measure that (tape my dancing and record the number of “good” whips or level changes) but in many ways these goals remain subjective and/or difficult to measure. Competition, however, provides concrete measurements of my progress. Or does it?

Competition itself is subjective, and there’s a danger in judging our own dancing based on such an arena. Competition is another animal altogether, separate from social dancing, with a particular required skill set and its own set of values, all based solely on how you look. Does it provide some benchmarks? Sure. Do we aspire to be better competitors? Perhaps. Should competition be our only goals? I hope not.

Some people set specific goals like, “Be able to do 3 finger spins in a row,” which is specific, measurable, and perhaps realistic. But do these skills alone capture what we hope to be as dancers? I mean, what about feeling good? What about making our partners feel good? What about being better leaders or followers or being better at covering mistakes and making the dance work? What about being nicer, on the floor and off? What about fostering a greater sense of community, helping newcomers and reaching out to people we don’t know?

I offer this challenge: make resolutions for 2010, but keep in mind what kind of dancer you want to be and what kind of dance you want to create.

For me, sure, I want to be more expressive, I want to dance more through my patterns, I want to play with level changes, I’d like to discover some new “wow” moves, and, for goodness’ sake, I want to make finals in California some day. But I also want to dance with someone new (or someone I haven’t danced with in the last month) every time I go out, I want to dance with more newcomers, I want to dance with more people from different cities when I’m at events, and I want to make my partner smile at least once during each and every dance.

What are your dance resolutions for 2010?

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