by Patti Smith
To become a great dancer, you need a great dance teacher; that goes without question. But that’s not all you need! We can argue that without great instruction you will not have great results, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. Forming the big picture and reaping all the benefits of being a great dancer involves many more pieces.
First of all, there’s equipment. Every sport has its own gear, and dancing is no different. Having the proper shoes, venue, and practice tools make all the difference in the world. Michael Jordan would have had a rough time had he been in dress shoes and not his Nikes.
Next is action, otherwise known as practice. Even the greatest dance teacher in the world cannot create a great dancer all by themselves. Each dancer has a responsibility to take the information that they are learning and put it into action. I can tell anybody, “Bend your knees, straighten your legs, pull your weight forward,” and I can say these things a thousand and one times. But if my student doesn’t put these concepts into practice, then they will never achieve great dancing.
Another piece is the company of others. Many great authors of self-improvement books have let us know that surrounding yourself with people who are characteristic of the person you want to be will help your own advancement to becoming that person. This little pearl of wisdom goes all the way back to the time of King Solomon, if not further. Simply put, if you want to be a great dancer, surround yourself with other dancers. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that you should only surround yourself with dancers with more knowledge and skill than you. Just surrounding yourself with people who have the same drive and interests as you will help you meet your goals, and everyone can teach you something.
That drive to succeed is one of the things the most successful people in the world have in common. They are constantly learning to improve their craft; the same is true of champion dancers. They don’t go to win world titles by saying what they have is good enough; good as they are, they still continue to practice (remember that point above?) to hone their skills to the best that they can be. Your goal may not be to become a world champion, but when you’re constantly learning to improve, whatever your goal may be, you will always find success on the dance floor.
Now, success doesn’t come in one day through one giant action. Can you become a great dancer in one lesson? Nope. Can you become a great dancer in five lessons? Highly doubtful. That’s something that you achieve over a period of time, through small, everyday improvements. Let’s say I want to be a great Latin dancer. There are so many hundreds of things I need to know and do to achieve this goal, and there’s no way I can do them all at once! But I can take one aspect today and focus on that, and only that, for one week. Once I have improved that skill, I can move on to the next. Like building a block tower, eventually all those little things add up to something that people will notice and pay attention to!
The whole time you’re improving, you want to keep a positive attitude to keep up your momentum. But don’t keep it to yourself; you should bring that same positive attitude with you when you actually get to dancing with someone. In that situation, there’s really two directions you can go in, mentally. You can look for greatness in others, or you can expect them to fail. Really, you want to focus on all the good things that they’re doing rather than pointing out mistakes. The golden rule should apply to everything, even dancing: how you want to be treated is how you should be treating other people. Besides, no one wants to leave a dance with a sour taste in their mouth, and being pedantic is one of the surest ways to do that.
Fitting these pieces together to form the beautiful picture that is a great dancer isn’t hard. It just takes persistence and patience to put it all together, just like a real puzzle. But if one of the pieces is missing, the picture is incomplete. Putting the pieces of this puzzle together can be a fun and rewarding experience, and the end result is something where everyone can see the time and effort you put in!