Ballroom dancing can be very frustrating at times, especially since we often feel like we’re running to stand still. Sure, beginners can measure themselves by the number of steps they know, but the more advanced you get, the longer it takes to reach the next benchmark. So, how do you know that you’re improving?
1. Determine what the end goal is.
Before we know how we’re progressing, we need to know what we’re progressing towards. Spending some serious time figuring out exactly where you want to be through dancing is probably the single most important thing you can do to motivate yourself.
When choosing your goal, pick something that excites and motivates you. ‘I want to get better at dancing’ is a bit vague and not likely to move you, but ‘I want to be good enough to never wait for a dance at a social’ gives you a reward worth pulling for.
2. Set tangible mini-goals.
Once you’ve set the major goals, start thinking about the steps needed to get there. Your instructor can help you with this as well. Where the major goal can be based around a feeling or just an image of yourself, the mini-goals should be more specific and measurable.
For example, with the major goal above, you might aim to:
- Master the footwork for ten patterns.
- Stay on time for an entire song while dancing.
- Dance with a partner without stepping on them more than twice in a song.
- Attend your dance social.
- Get 5, 10, or 20 dances in one night.
3. Ask for objective feedback.
When we get frustrated, our mind tends to over-react with thoughts of futility: ‘I must be your worst student!’ or ‘I haven’t been getting even a bit better!’ are common examples. If we let these thoughts run riot, they can leave us feeling like we just aren’t cut out for dancing.
This is why honest feedback from someone we trust is so important – on both our strengths, and our challenges. They can give us an objective opinion on our performance when we can’t give it ourselves.
4. Film yourself.
Speaking of objectivity, most of us are out of touch with how we actually look to other people – we think we know, but that thinking is coloured by all the negative and positive biases we carry about ourselves. Filming yourself, and then watching that film, shows you how your dancing looks to the outside world.
It also makes it easier to spot the smaller improvements that we may not feel, as we gradually develop and take on the ‘look’ of a dance. Remember that the body learns steps and technique before the mind does, meaning there will be a period where your dancing looks better, but it might not feel better, yet.
5. Be aware of the reaction to your dancing.
Although the criticism or pandering of others can distort our view of our dancing, they can also provide a measurable tool we can use to gauge our progress. Higher judges scores, more social dance partners, and praise from people who usually reserve it for when they mean it – like your instructor – are all very good signs.
Ultimately, the enjoyment of learning to dance comes not from spotting where we need to improve, but seeing how far we’ve come, and allowing ourselves to be proud of that. The tips above will help you plan solid goals that show you beyond a shadow of a doubt, that step by step, you are becoming the dancer you always dreamed you would be.