Dance Classes are Learning Opportunities

Ever been in a class and thought ‘yep I know this’ and then just went through the motions hoping that an unknown snippet of information will escape the teacher or for the manifestation of some happy insight? I’m pretty sure that’s how most people operate anyway, either copying or waiting for a eureka moment.

Once upon a time…
When I decided to start dancing I took a class where we remained partnered with the same person for the whole lesson, my partner was rather large and uncoordinated. My initial reaction was stereotypical; resigning myself to struggle, not achieve anything, generally being unhappy, because I wanted to dance with fit, sexy partners who made everything easy. Simply copying the basic step proved unattainable, however during this lesson something changed, I stopped focusing on how my partner could not perform the steps, and started focusing on how I could help. I stopped caring about completing the turn pattern, and started caring about how well we could achieve the things we could. It transformed from a frustrating lesson about a turn pattern into a study about timing and momentum and how I could use it to benefit my partner and the dance. I stopped learning what was taught and started learning what was available. It was transformative, frustrations turned into opportunity for growth and a bad experience turned into a positive one for myself and my partner.

 Instead of my expectation for learning coming externally, I chose something to learn. So if I’m just going through the motions, I’m not paying attention to all the opportunity for learning  that exists. If the turn pattern is new, then that may be what I am focusing on, or else it could be body movement, playfulness, styling, eye contact, posture, floorcraft, smiling, etc, it’s about what I am bringing to my own practice. Having my own personal focus to my classes adds a new layer of learning that fills in the gaps.

This transforms a class into an opportunity to learn, and the different ‘levels’ offer a different set of constraints on what possible opportunities are available. For instance, during an advanced turn pattern class I may well just be struggling getting the pattern, but in an intermediate, or beginner class I will have the space to explore my body movement, playfulness, etc. I attend my dance classes like I attend yoga, with a view to practice, not achieve. With this in mind, when you think ‘practice makes perfect’ the more hours dancing at any level will improve your skill, and each ‘level’ changes what skills dance those might be.