Got Strategy? What the Top Performing Dancers Know that You Don't

To those dancers wishing to take their dance performances to much greater levels…

This article is not for dancers that dance for recreational or personal enrichment.

While dancing to gain performance experience is helpful in some regards, many improvement-driven dancers leave a few important things out. These are things that can make a much greater impact on their dancing and help them get to the skills and level of performance that they truly desire.

In this article, I will share with you a far too often underutilized strategy to become a much better dancer, as well as discuss a few ways of thinking that can really doom a dancer to mediocrity.

You Must Have a Plan

Going into performances without having a clear objective first, is like driving a car and not knowing where you are trying to go. Not that dancing for fun is bad, of course not, it’s great. However, if a dancer wants to improve and they desire to attain those higher levels of performance, they must do a lot more than just dance for the sake of dancing. Dancers need to have a goal and a plan on how to reach it, as well as tools that will specifically prepare them to achieve it. It is also necessary to be able to review these performances in hindsight and determine what was done well and what needs to be improved.

Getting Out There isn’t Enough

Just getting out there and dancing is not going to make the things you dislike about your performances magically go away. And if you think that you can clean yourself up, think again. There is a reason why the best performers, whether they are dancers, athletes, or singers, all have coaches. Their secret is that they know, in order to be your best, you need a well trained and objective eye telling you what you need to be doing, how to train to get the results you want, and to hold you accountable. Keep in mind, if you already knew what you needed to do to be better, you would already be better. This isn’t something you can do on your own, nowhere nearly as effective as you can with a good coach on a consistent basis.

Doomed Before You Even Start: What May Be Holding You Back

It’s not the money, it’s not the time, nor is it any other excuse. Because one thing I know for sure is that if someone wants something badly enough they will do whatever they need to do to satisfy that desire. Dancers know that they need to seek help in order to improve their art. But many do not. Many resist it. And there is an unconscious unwillingness to look at the reasons for this resistance. Dancers may be too afraid to admit to anything less than perfection. So, a vicious cycle exists of wanting to be better, but being too afraid/ashamed to get the help they know they need.

Some dancers can’t bear the thought of being truly vulnerable, even (and especially) in front of their own teachers, because they fear embarrassment or that admitting any weakness will somehow diminish them. Nothing could be further from the truth. As an experienced teacher, I know that the student who is willing to admit they need help and is willing to get it will be among the best-performing students, hands down! It’s the ones that don’t come for help that don’t grow nearly as rapidly.

Don’t doom yourself to needlessly slow growth, or worse, failure before you even start. Be vulnerable and be amazed by what some gentle, consistent guidance can really do for your dancing.

Sometimes, it’s not even for lack of desire or vulnerability…

It can also be a lack of vision, an inability to know what is possible, or even ignorance of what it takes to be a great dancer. As an example, let’s imagine that a dancer needs to work through six levels of skill and experience to be a great dancer. If a dancer, only knew of the first two levels and knew nothing of the four that followed, you can see how that dancer would be at a disadvantage for not knowing that much more growth was possible and needed to take their dancing to it’s fullest potential.

This problem is very common in closed dance communities, where the dancing is, well, not that good. Dancers within that community rarely exceed the skill of the “best” local dancers, because they haven’t had exposure to more highly skilled performers in order to see what is possible within the dance form. So they are stuck in a very limited proverbial box of what is possible. 

Poor teaching can also be a big problem here, as some teachers may have a shallow education themselves and are not equipped to teach something they do not even know about.

It’s Not You – It’s Your Strategy! 

Hopefully, this isn’t you, but some might think, “maybe it’s me and I’m just not capable of what I want to do!” This is, most likely, not the case. I have seen dancers who began dancing and didn’t have any special talent, but they were dedicated and determined. They sought consistent help with the right teachers and were able to attain high levels of skill. One even went on to win multiple competitions and star in big shows. 

One or Two Coaching Sessions is Not Enough

Unfortunately, there is no magic “one lesson” bullet.

The best dancers know that consistent guidance over the long-term is the secret sauce. One or two private lessons isn’t going to amount to much. Not saying that everyone needs to take privates every week, but growth-conscious dancers need to check-in on a consistent basis. The best strategy looks at a dancer’s current situation, sets the right goals for the right performances, has performance preparation objectives (tools) to work on, and gets feedback on the results of each performance. None of these steps should be left out and it can’t be accomplished by oneself. Keep in mind, if anyone had what was needed, they would have already gotten to the level where they wanted to be.

And Don’t Hold Your Breath

One mistake that dancers can make is waiting for their teacher to say something to them. If you have ever tried to tell someone they are doing something wrong and have gotten a less than grateful response, you can understand why teachers don’t say anything to their students. Teachers know that in most situations, it’s best to wait for the student to come to them because that’s when they are most emotionally prepared to receive feedback and are most willing to do the necessary work to improve. Giving unsolicited feedback usually falls on deaf ears and is rarely taken well. It’s best to not wait for your teacher to say something to you. Trust me, you need improvement, and your teachers are just waiting for you to be ready and willing enough to receive it, but you must take the first step and schedule some private lessons.

Want to Learn More? Read The Most Important Private Lesson You Probably Never Take