Sunday, July 14, 2013

Better Dancer: More Peer Critics

Is someone talking down your dancing?

They seemed so nice, but now they're saying unkind things about you.

You probably don't deserve it, but it will happen if you're improving regularly.

Over a year ago I wrote an articled titled "Better Dancer: More Partner Lying." It outlines the fact that as you improve, you'll get less constructive feedback from partners. They may tell you your strengths, but they avoid saying anything about your weaknesses. Overall that's a great thing, although it can leave you blind to the areas you could easily improve. (Check out the article for details.)

Your peers can be a different story. The more you grow and the faster it happens, the more someone won't like part of your dancing, your attitude or your hair style. If it's not your dancing, it's who they think you are dating, how you think you're better than the rest or that your "being nice" is just so fake.

The strongest dancers get the most praise and the most criticism. If you start getting more attention, some will feel threatened, jealous or sick to their stomach because they thought they'd always be better than you.

If you're seriously working harder than others, you'll pass them in time. If you grow quickly, you'll gather a small subset saying harsh things about you, whether you deserve it or not.

Some feel better about themselves by finding something that's your work-in-progress area.

My advice: Ignore most critics, keep on going, but don't get a big head about your progress. Be nice to everybody possible, and let the critics say what they will. A few people will never be happy with you, especially as you grow into the above average group.

If you are working like crazy and improving, there's no reason to be a snob. Even the best have plenty of room to grow. Find a couple mentors you can trust to tell you the truth, but otherwise ignore the few critics and keep on working it.

In other words, take it as a badge of honor if you have a few running their mouths about you. It means you're strong enough that somebody is paying attention. Everybody encourages the beginners, they don't threaten anybody.

Occasionally you should check with someone you trust in the scene, probably an instructor type. Ask them if the critics actually have some decent feedback you can use, but discard the rest. You certainly want to verify you're not blind to issues you could address, but most of the time it's just noise you don't need. It's just like high school all over again, with adult drama.

Social dancing is a great vehicle for improving yourself. Part of that growth includes developing a thicker skin in terms of criticism.

If you don't have anybody saying something negative about you, you're probably not growing toward your potential. Having a few talking you down is not unique to dancing so don't let it ruin your day.

Head up and move on.
I know a man who thinks a marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition,
which convinces us that he doesn't understand women or percentages.
--Henny Youngman

Originally published in Feb 2009. Revised and updated before republish.

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  1. Last night I got a series of critics from one of my peer, just in front of the whole class.I got mad inside but I just held it . Thanks for your article. Now I understand critics sometimes mean something positive.

  2. *applauds* Many of the things you've touched on are very true. This blog entry is a great reminder about the improvement process a person experiences for many of us who have been dancing a long time while also shedding some light for new dancers. I've always kept to heart the idea that we all started somewhere and in order for a dance community to grow, we need people in this world to welcome the "newbies" by dancing with them, encouraging them, & providing constructive feedback if asked. It's always good to remember "how it was when you started dancing" and being gracious to those stronger dancers who danced with you when you were a beginner & "returning the favor" to the newbies by dancing with them. I also have learned/discovered things about technique while dancing with newbies so they have indirectly taught me things that help me grow as a dancer. Humility is always best as there'll always be someone better than you and someone who isn't at your level yet. Thank you for this blog entry!

  3. Very true. I surpassed my former classmates when I took private lessons three times a week. I got trashed. Rumors, lies, and gossip were spread about me. People who were once cordial ignored me. People who were never cordial tried to physically bump me off the dance floor. People pointed at me and sneered when I danced. They burst out laughing when I'd dance an advanced pattern. They jokingly mimicked me, exaggerating my style and laughing with their group of friends. I heard strangers bad mouthing and criticizing me to their partner when I would leave the dance floor.

    And these are all people over 40 years old.

  4. I'd like to add this this...

    In that it's not only just people bad mouthing you, when you show considerable progress very also find a subset of people that were Advanced dancers, when you were a beginner/improver/intemediate dancer...that never used to give you the time of day, but are now keen to be friendly to you.

    There used to be a point, where I would stand and watch these dancers that were considered the 'Advanced Dancers' of some of the social dances....but over the last couple of years, I've worked so hard on the dances that I do (quite a few), that I've transitioned from 'Someone that Dances' to a 'Dancer' (does that make sense?)....and I now find that they tend to stand around and watch me a weird role reversal kind of way.

    And that's fine...but the odd thing, is these people, that never used to say anything to me, or have any interest in dancing with me...are slowly starting to aknowledge me, like I've been accepted to some sort of exclusive club..

    The Guys now generally say 'Hi', to me...or give me a friendly nod...or shake my hand to say 'Hello'....and the girls, will come up and actually ask me for a dance!!

    Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying that these are horrible or shallow people (a lot of them are quite nice people), but when you do start to stand out from the rest of the pack, it does feel a little like 'Why are you friendly to me now?....I've been coming here for years?"

    But going back to the point about people bad mouthing you.....yeah, I get it, and in a slightly perverse kind of way...I understand and accept would feel a little deflating to have started off on a similar level as someone else, to only have them start dancing on a much higher level then yourself...

    One guy, that started dancing at roughly the same time as me, a few years ago...recently was dancing with girl, and he finished dancing with I asked her for a dance, and danced with her....and after my dance with her finished, and I walked off the dance floor with her, he said to her "So, who is the better dancer, out of us??" The poor girl was horribly embarrassed by the whole thing (and so was I, to be honestly)...and didn't know what to I merely said to him "Don't're the better dancer, and politely walked off".

    I've worked so hard to improve as a dancer...that the year's of considerable effort (and money) are really starting to show in my dancing, I've had to give up certain social parts of my life to improve my dancing....being constantly exhausted from pushing myself...and even leave behind dance partners, and go on my own...when I became obvious that we no longer both on the same dancing level...

    I've put so much on the line to get there....that I fully expect there will be negative talk pointed in my direction :)


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero