USA Dance, Member Services
P O Box 126
Southampton, PA 18966-0126
United States


Magazine » Social Dance » Socially Yours: What Does It Take To Become A Better Dancer?

Socially Yours: What Does It Take To Become A Better Dancer?

Jean Krupa

Here's the research: In 95% of cases natural talent does not determine who will be an
expert at something.

So what does it take? Hours of Deliberate Practice. It's both quantity and quality. You will need tons of time practicing but it has to be the right kind of practice. Just showing up is not enough, you need to continually challenge yourself with the right kind of effort. "Deliberate Practice"* is a specifically defined term. It involves goal setting, quick feedback, and countless drills to improve skills with an eye on mastery. It is not "just showing up" and, plain and simple, it is not necessarily fun.

Here are some key elements:

• Don't be passive. Video yourself for review.

• Practice is not just repetition. Be critical and keep trying to improve on the elements of the skill.

• Alone time. Why? You need alone time to really engage in deliberate practice.

• Practice a lot. It'll likely be eight weeks before you have a basic level of capability but years before you are proficient. "One factor determined how better dancers improved and that was how much they practiced."

• Know the "Sweet Spot". While practicing, you want to succeed 50-80% of your attempts. Fewer than that and you'll be confused and feel like it's all luck. More success than that and you're not pushing yourself. How do you know when you found the sweet spot? Sensations: Frustration, difficulty, awareness of errors. You're fully engaged in an intense struggle— as if you're stretching with all your might for a nearly unreachable goal, brushing it with your fingertips and then reaching again.

Have Determination

It takes perseverance along with persistence. Plain and simple, you can't improve if you give up. Researchers have found determination is more predictive of success than IQ. And you must be committed, it may sound cliché but it is "the key".

Find A Great Mentor

You want someone who does not go easy on you, who will give you quick focused feedback and stresses fundamentals. The best coaches use the system of "Explanation, demonstration, imitation, correction, and repetition." Breaking down proper technique, quickly correct errors and getting you to repeat until it is second nature.

Focus on the Negative

How often do you hear that recommended? It's true: An eye for the negative will make you more likely to learn from your mistakes. Novices focus on positive feedback ("good job!") because hearing they're doing well helps them stay committed. If you are committed to improving your dancing you need to focus on negative feedback ("You're doing that incorrectly") if you are interested in progress. The shift to focusing on negative feedback is the mark of a better dancer.

Focus on Improvement

When challenged, focus on getting better — not doing well or looking good. Focusing on getting better increases motivation and make practices more interesting. When perfectionism is focused on internal goals it's great and enhances performance. When you are trying to impress others, it's
a negative.

Fast Feedback

You need to know what is working and what isn't so you can course correct as soon as possible. Whether feedback comes from a teacher, a friend, or even a video of yourself, you can't get better without it.

It's Worth it

It's important to keep in mind that training for improvement does not live in a vacuum. Deliberate Practice is stressful at the moment but will bring greater joy and ease in dancing later. Using your best skills is one of the most powerful ways to increase happiness. This has been proven time and
time again.

Happy Dancing!