Sunday, February 3, 2008

Critics and Learning from Others: Part 1

It seems like everybody is a critic, and the better you get, you'll find more people pointing out your weaknesses. Occasionally they’ll criticize you to your face, but mostly behind your back.

Get used to the fact that it will happen, assuming you continue dancing and improve beyond the beginning stages. People argue endlessly about the dancers who compete and/or win at the ESPN Salsa Championships, the Mayan or any other competition related to salsa. If they can find faults with those dancers, they can spend months documenting my issues, but that is just too easy so why bother.

When you take classes at a professional grade dance school, many instructors primarily criticize or correct the best in the class, and everybody else has to look at the corrections for the elite, and fix the same issues themselves. It becomes a badge of honor if the instructor is picking on you; because the instructor only corrects the top tier dancers. Many dancers attend classes a couple years before the pro instructors starts correcting their form regularly.

In a social context, few people criticize the beginners, because we all cut them tons of slack (as we should). As you progress and become stronger, then you get the “Oh… that’s a nice move, but he’s too …” type of comments. If you hear them about yourself, realize you've finally grown enough that others are noticing your advancements. It may not feel great to hear the negative, but if you hear it, don’t let it ruin your day, it's a sign you are making positive progress.

Sometimes it does makes me wonder about people focusing so much energy on others faults. No matter what your level, it makes sense to learn from everybody around you, even those with less experience or taking different approaches. In a social scene, once you decide someone is "not good", you often miss opportunities to learn from them, because you've written them off as "below you". They may be less experienced than you overall, but that doesn't mean they can't contribute to your growth.

We can learn from anybody, even if what we learn is what we don’t want to do. Instead of being the critic, use your observation skills to find the good things someone is doing, and make that your focus. Sometimes it’s just what you don’t want to do, but as a rule everybody has something you can adopt and put into your dancing, especially once you focus the people who have a couple years experience.

This all assumes you are looking for their best, rather than paying attention to their current weaknesses. Again, the idea is to watch for the good things, and ignore their rough spots.

Part II of this article outlines a conversation I had with a very advance dancer, which highlights the points above. That article will go live in a couple days.
Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reminding me of "seeing the good-side of others." This week I went home from the social dance scene with disappointment. I didn't encounter a higher-level dancer. Nearly everyone gentleman did the similar patterns. I was worried that I would be stuck in the same level. However, the next day in the private class, I soon realized that my spinning became more stable when doing it with my instructor. No doubt it was the contribution from all the gentlemen last night.
    I guess as a follower, expecting surprise from a leader is not fair. After all, it takes double time of practice before the leader can smoothly execute a new pattern. :>


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero