What makes a great dancer great is their constant quest for self-improvement, their desire to push the limits of their dancing. I believe that awareness of or searches for weakness and a constant desire to learn and improve are hallmarks of a dedicated dancer. Knowledge of strengths and abilities are important to having fun on the dance floor and putting on a show for others, but I believe that it is a focus on weaknesses that helps a person realize their dancing potential.
Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Note: Perhaps I sound like a jerk in this article. Admittedly I am judgmental and sometimes have an inflated ego, but I hope that tough love and constructive criticism is a good thing.
Every dancer will reach plateaus, where some fault or choice they make in their dancing limits them from further progression and stifles their dancing in some way. The trick is dancing self-awareness and constant inquiry into one’s limits or seeking of feedback from others to break free of these technique plateaus. Spending time at these plateau levels can help with confidence and move repertoire on the dance floor, but I don’t think that it will make your dancing feel any better and I don’t think that it makes you a much better dancer.
It bothers me when people stay at these plateaus for so long, that they forget that they are only a tiny way up the mountain (terrible metaphor, sorry folks, and no refunds). I don’t like it when dancers who stopped trying to push their dance technique forward feel entitled/cocky/superior based solely on the amount of time they have been dancing for or the amount of moves they can do. I find that these people can be too quick to correct others, unwilling to learn new things, annoying to work with in dance classes, and not great at teaching others the dance.
Am I saying that I hate dancers who aren’t good? No! I prefer dancing with an eager beginner than with a cocky mediocre dancer. I have a little personal saying “I like intermediate dancers, but hate mediocre dancers”. But Kevin, you say, what is the difference between intermediate and mediocre dancers? Intermediate dancers are going somewhere, they are so called in reference to other levels (i.e. beginner and advanced). It is another way of saying “somewhere in the middle of the journey” to being good. But if you aren’t going anywhere, if you have no destination in mind, you aren’t intermediate, just mediocre.
The Moral of the Story: You shouldn’t expect others to put up with your consistent bad dance habits because you are cocky or unmotivated, but conversely if you are trying your best to learn the dance and be a good social dance partner, don’t let the quality of your dancing make you self-conscious. There’s probably some parable about the tortoise and the hare or the little engine that could that best illustrates this.
The Moral of the Story Part Two: Dancers, examine your own dancing, try to improve yourselves, ask yourself what the great dancers are doing that you aren’t. Don’t rest on your laurels just because you are better than the beginners. People get better at dancing through effort passion and (sometimes) sacrifice.
– Your (Somewhat) Friendly Neighbourhood Kevin Temple
NOTE: Kevin is not a particularly good dancer, but he tries.