Whether it’s my regular students or someone I’m working with for the first time, I always ask the question, “What are you working on?” I ask this to get a sense of where their focus and areas of concern are, as well as to get a sense of how they think about the dance.
And time and time again, I get answers like: “Posture.” “Connection.” “Creating space for the follower.” “Not being heavy.” “Frame.” “Anchoring.” All good things to be working on, to be sure, but they’re also abstract constructs and concepts. What does it mean to work on these things? In other words, when you’re practicing, either by yourself or with a partner, what are you doing differently to achieve your intended goal?
I’ve written before about the importance of self-awareness, mindset, and focus for improving one’s dancing. Equally important, however, is having a specific, concrete action to work on. If you can’t say in specific, concrete terms what you’re doing to improve your dancing, it will be more difficult for you to make progress.
Learning to dance – and developing our dance – requires specific instruction on how to do something new or how to do things differently. Abstract constructs and concepts are important for understanding the why of what we’re learning, but at the end of the day, in order to do something new or different, we need the what and the how. Therefore, we need a specific and concrete action to perform that helps us develop a new habit or skill.
So while it’s important to not just focus on what not to do, it’s also important that as students and teachers we talk about specific, concrete things that we can do to improve our dance.
Can you say right now what specific thing you’re doing to improve your dancing? As students, do you make sure you walk away from lessons with concrete things to work on? As teachers, do you make sure your students have concrete actions to work on?