Monday, November 14, 2011

Ever Been Discouraged at Dance Class?

Most people over estimate what they can do in a few classes, and grossly under estimate what they can do over a year or more. Don't give up too early!

Over the years I've developed a theory that great classes require attending repeatedly just to get a feel for the material. If I'm "not getting it," I don't allow myself to leave even if I'm seriously uncomfortable. If I left classes because I wasn't "good", I'd would have quit dancing long, long ago. You go to classes BECAUSE you don't know the material, not to show off what you already know.
Great classes are like puzzles

Challenging classes can be a puzzle, where you have to find the corners and edges, and fill in the center over time. The picture on the box looks cool, but great classes with room for you to grow will take some time to get into the groove and really fill out the center.

I went to a hip-hop class last summer and was a bit disappointed in myself. I've been dancing a few years, took the new class and it was so over my head, I tried to keep up but mostly watched.

Side note: The video below is NOT the class I took, but the same instructor, same class, different song/routine but I was totally over my head. I like watching it full screen directly from YouTube (stop the one below, double-click and YouTube will open in another tab... Enjoy!)

The instructor went too fast for me, but it seemed like EVERYBODY else was getting it. A huge class with a mix from near beginners, to touring professional dancers. The I suspect a few others struggled, but I was so, "me, me, me" focused and feeling like a loser that I didn't see anybody else struggle. My self-talk was terrible as in, "wow... everybody is so good, I don't know if I can do this..."

I had an attitude adjustment with myself both during and after the class, knowing each time we start something new, there is a period of discomfort/orientation. (I literally stopped and closed my eyes, and said something like, "...just see if you can get a few counts right, do what you can rather than worry about what you can't do..." )

I stayed until the end, reset mentally and worked on getting the first 16 counts working, even though the class was way down the road by the end. It wasn't pretty, I never really got it, but I did make some progress. I stood in the back, but I didn't leave. When it was over I complimented myself just for staying, because it wasn't fun being about the worst in the class. Celebrating small victories is important when we struggle, be sure you do it too.

It's easy to quit after one or two classes. A better strategy is attend a set of classes before you give up. Do as much as possible and look for little victories along the way. In a few cases, just staying to the end is a challenge. Being uncomfortable is OK sometimes, just don't quit in the middle.

Repeat classes get easier. Things that appeared "impossible" on day one seem like "no big deal" a few months later.

Instructors repeat things, they have their own tendencies and after a while you start figuring them out even if it was difficult at first. You may not be perfect, but you'll find more and more of the puzzle getting filled in over time.

If you really feel over your head after half a dozen classes, look for an easier class, then return to the more challenging class in a few months. As you grew your foundational dancing in another class, you'll see that experience pays off as you return to the earlier class a few months later.

If you can handle it financially, take a private lesson (or ten) with the instructor. They can give you some foundational clues that really accelerate your growth and add additional pieces to the puzzle. If not, find some other dance friends who are a little stronger, work with them on the foundational issues. Don't forget to look for YouTube clips too. Every week there is more and more available online.

If you continue to attend, in a year or so others will think you're a natural and it was all easy for you. You'll be laughing inside, but that's the way it works.


  1. I've been there. When I first started out, I really felt like a bull in a china shop. I took a look at some of the girls in class at thought, I'm going to hurt someone (inadvertently of course). But I kept at it and I'm still here. And there are days when I feel like I can't find the beat with a road map. But I realize that it is a journey and there will be ups and downs. I had a golf instructor tell me, it's all about the forward progression. 10ft closer to the hole is still 10 feet closer to the hole.

  2. "The instructor went too fast for me, but it seemed like EVERYBODY else was getting it. "

    I feel like I always feel like this, LOL.

    "Most people over estimate what they can do in a few classes, and grossly under estimate what they can do over a year or more. "

    This is good advice.

    (Love the new site design!)

  3. I loved this article. I remember when I first started dancing and thought for aaaages that everyone else was better than me. I also notice now that a lot of my better, new students feel like they're the worst person in the class. I think that maybe some people (perfectionists maybe?) feel like they're a lot worse than they really are. It's hard to see yourself how others see you sometimes. I've recently started videoing people dancing and usually when they see themselves in the playback, it makes them reaslise that they're better than they though and this gives them a needed confidence boost to carry on.


I love feedback. Your thoughts, feelings and comments are appreciated. Civil disagreements and other points of view are always welcomed!

Feel free to send me private mail if appropriate.

Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero