What you need to get better now

If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing that you want to get better. (I mean, why else read a bunch of articles on dance if it isn’t something you’re passionate about?) And improving at any skill requires passion and motivation, proper instruction, and mindful and focused practice. A lot of us are passionate and motivated, and there are plenty of good instructors out there to study with. The clincher, at the end of the day, is practice.

I recently had the privilege (it’s always a privilege) to take a workshop with Brandi Tobias. Among the many amazing insights she shared with us, one that stuck was this: “It’s not about years. It’s about hours.” And the truth is that few of us put in the hours. Acquiring any new physical skills requires frequent and consistent repetition, drilling the new behavior until we develop what we call “muscle memory” – the ability to execute a task well without mindful focus. And as Brandi also reminded us, practice doesn’t make perfect – perfect practice makes perfect.

For my students, I know many of them don’t put in the hours. Heck, I personally don’t put in as many hours as I’d like to. But when I do put in the hours, when I’m social dancing, I’m working. I’m focused and mindful, all the time, every dance. (Which is probably why I don’t smile often. Sorry to all my followers.) Because I know staying focused and practicing is the only way to get better. After all, if you’re not working on developing a new skill, you’re just going to keep doing the same old skill, the skill that keeps you where you are.

So as February rolls on, and we renew our commitment to achieving those New Year’s resolutions, here’s one for you: resolve to practice – and to practice frequently and consistently. Because without practice, your New Year’s resolutions might not stick.

How often do you practice? How do make sure to practice regularly and consistently? Teachers, how do you help your students commit to practicing? Leave your comments below.

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