Lately I’ve been thinking more about what to teach in order to help my students become better dancers. This, of course, leads to the question: What does “better dancing” mean?
If we think about what “dancing” or “partner dancing” means, I think we can all agree that we want to be someone that everyone enjoys dancing with – someone with whom people feel good dancing, with whom people want to dance again and again. Sure, there’s a lot involved in that – partnership, musicality, technique – but it is a good North Star towards which we can orient our learning. (And also a goal that is both noble and, in some ways, measurable.)
In our effort to become “better dancers” we set lots of different goals for ourselves. It’s good to have goals, both immediate and long-term. In fact, it’s not only good, but I would argue it’s necessary if you want to improve. After all, if you’re not working at getting better, then you’re just doing more of the same, which is only maintaining the status quo. If you want to change something, you have to actively do something about it.
But equally important is knowing what to do to reach our goals, and what to do is wholly dependent on what your goal is. If you know what you’re aiming for, then you can set some concrete long-term goals and determine some specific and immediate steps to get you there.
Sometimes we set broader, long-term goals, like “be really musical” or “be a champion dancer” or, sometimes, “dance like [so-and-so].” Sometimes we work on more specific and immediate goals (which are often suggested by our instructors), like “stand up straighter” or “relax my arm” or “practice this footwork variation.”
Yet I sometimes find that there is a disconnect between our immediate focus and our ultimate goal. As a teacher, I ask students in private lessons what their ultimate goals are, because I believe that should inform the more specific “homework” I give them. For every goal there are certain steps I would recommend to getting there. So if you want to be a better dancer, you should first think about what that means to you.
So, what do you think it means to be a “better dancer”? What are your goals and how do you plan on getting there? What are you working on now and how will that get you towards your goals?