Most of us have encountered another dancer always seems to dance better than us - not matter what we do. We sometimes look for reasons to explain away their better dance so that we do not need to confront the frustration this can bring. However, many of these reasons we produce are myths. If you confront each myth to find the truth, and use this truth to improve the way you learn dance, then you will become the one that others make myths about.
Here are the 8 myths that people hold about those other dancers who dance better and how to confront them to be a better dancer.
1 They are naturals
Depending upon which country you live in you might or might not follow cricket. If you do, then you will likely know of a man by the name of Shane Warne. He is known for resurrecting spin bowling and delivering the Ball of the Century. He is for this reason considered a remarkable athlete and some would say a natural. However, he is also known for Warne’s rule:
There is no such thing as a natural.
He is certainly not the only person to posit this notion. However, it is noteworthy that one so talented and considered a natural would say this.
The notion of there being no such thing as a natural is also supported by the researcher into expert performance: Anders Ericsson. Ericsson found that all world class experts in their chosen field had completed a period considerable practice to become as good as they were. This was the case for Shane Warne and for those people you think are naturals.
If you know someone who dances better than you and it seems that they have done the same amount of practice as you, then one (or maybe more) of three things has probably happened:
- They engaged in a hobby or pastime prior to starting dance and developed skills that carried over to dance
- They actually practice more than they let on – many people do this to create an air of mystique
- They practice in a more focused (deliberate) manner than you
The fact is that the people who dance well are either now or were once engaging in deliberate practice to develop the numerous attributes that make for a good dancer.
If you want to dance as well as them, then review how much deliberate practice you put in and how focused that practice is.
2 They have a dancer’s body
I have used this one a few times myself. I know men with trim builds who can more easily wrap theirs and their partner’s limbs around their torso. They can also move a little faster because of their leanness. It is true that some people will have a physique that gives them an edge, but it’s not a huge edge so don’t go thinking that this is the reason for someone dancing that much better than you.
And there is a lot more to dance than body shape.
I know I have said this before, but John Lindo is a perfect example of how much more there can be to dance.
Nevertheless, depending upon the dance style, you will likely find that a bit of deliberate practice to improve strength, flexibility and endurance will help.
3 They were born in the right culture, which gives them some je ne se
This one is heard a lot. It is especially espoused by people from the respective culture. I personally find it odd that someone would rather try to exclude others from enjoying their culture than try to promote their culture to others and take pride in how it is loved and mastered by so many. But I think this gets back to people needing to find other ways of feeling good about themselves.
But getting back to the point – it is not that they just have some je ne se because of their culture. It is simply that they:
- grew up with the respective music so they can express it more in their dance and
- they get the attitude to goes with the dance so they can also express the style easily as well.
The solution to this is once again a lot like practice.
You would be well served first by listening more to the kind of music you dance to. Second, think about the attitude and try expressing that. I only know a few teachers who actively encourage this so if you work on it, then you will quickly improve.
Learning to express attitude can take a while, and is more like acting. However, acting is a component of dance, and is worth trying.
4 They pay for more dance lessons
There is certainly an advantage to having more lessons. However, if you know how to practice properly in your own time, then you will make much more out of a smaller number of dance lessons. In my experience, people who pay for more lessons often grow complacent in their practice, and the benefit of the extra lessons is lost.
Remember that much of learning is actually processing what you have learned in your lesson, and not just doing the lesson. Thus, doing more lessons are often just a substitute for practice. Twice as many lessons will not make you improve your dance twice as fast.
Doing the following will make up for any difference that comes from someone else taking more dance lessons than you:
- Focus on processing what was covered in a lesson by going over it regularly (at least once a day with physical practice) and before going to sleep each night in bed to drive it all to the unconscious mind for greatest benefit.
- Record video footage of the key things (figures, techniques, routines and such) taught in each lesson.
- Dance socially – this will really test you. When the other person has learned elsewhere, the leads and follows are different. Which means you need to lead/follow properly instead of relying on the other person knowing what they are meant to do. This will really force you to know and learn the figures.
- Book practice times with other students – it’s free, they might know what you don’t know. And vice versa. You can go over routines with them, and, like social dancing, but not as extreme, you will improve your ability by dancing with another. There are many places that you can practice too.
5 They don’t work, and have more time to practice
It is certainly the case that more practice will help, but quality will always win out over quantity. Practice can cause fatigue if done too long in the wrong context. Focus on the quality of your own practice and make it deliberate.
- Do you take notes at the end of each lesson to remind you what to work on until the next lesson?
- Do you take notes when practicing so that you have focused questions at your next lesson?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to both of these, then you’re going to find that practice quantity counts for less. This is because the quality of your practice will now be so much greater.
6 They are the teacher’s favorite
Teachers do have their favorites. However, apart from when it’s because of sexual attraction, it is a result of solid learning habits and a focus on improvement by the student. If you take your learning seriously, then you will likely be the favorite.
And even if you’re not the favorite, your learning is your responsibility. Utilize your teacher to become a better dancer, and their lack of motivation teaching you when compared to other students will become meaningless.
7 They have a better teacher
There is such thing as a bad teacher, there is also such thing as a bad student. However, there is no such thing as a good teacher or a good student; only a good student teacher relationship. The key is to match the learning style of the student to the teaching style of the teacher.
You have a few options here if you think someone has a better teacher/student relationship:
- Change teacher – obvious really.
- Manage your lessons – by focusing the attention of your teacher on the things you need and extracting the information you need in a form that works for you, it will matter less how your teacher naturally teaches.
- Adjust your learning – it’s like the opposite of option 2. I would be careful about trying this. If you adopt learning methods that don’t suit you, then it’s hard to conceive how you will dance better. However, you might find that your teacher is actually on to a better method if you give it a go. So be cautious, but try it.
8 They are more confident
Probably because they practice properly or because they can fake it.
Once you are up and dancing, much of what worries you disappears, and it's all down to practice. Practicing under stress can also negate the effects of nerves when performing. Therefore, confidence (or lack of it) is not a reason to not dance well.
Nevertheless, it is more enjoyable to dance when feeling confident. This is one of the best methods I have tried to boost confidence in dance.