General Dance Discussion > Good Enough?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Zhena, Nov 20, 2006.

  1. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    Hi. I want to thank you all for the interesting and informative discussions I have found here - especially those where people are obviously passionate about the subject. You have given me a lot to think about as far as my own dancing progress, and the ways of the dance world. So -- here's a question for you.

    My husband and I are social dancers, but we have a lot of respect for good technique. We occasionally stop and think about where we want to go next, and a question came up a while ago that I haven't seen addressed on this forum (and I've read most of the general dance postings) in the exact sense I describe below.

    What started my thoughts on this is one evening we came to our studio for a private lesson at a different time than usual because of a scheduling conflict. We got there when a beginner group lesson was ending. One of the newbies was a woman we had met because she had attended one or two studio parties. As we were changing shoes, she asked something like, "do you really think you can get much more out of lessons?" My gut reaction was shock at the question, and my response was something like, "we haven't learned all the steps in the syllabus yet." But after thinking back to our expectations when we first entered the studio, the answer wasn't so obvious after all.

    I think what the newbie saw at the parties was a couple who danced almost every dance (including ChaCha, East Coast Swing, Fox Trot, Hustle, Rumba, Salsa, Samba, Tango, Waltz, and West Coast Swing) with each other or with other partners, obviously having a good time. Looking back to when we started x years and y lessons ago, we would have been delighted to reach this level of proficiency.

    But ... what the newbie probably didn't see, and what we are very aware of, were the missed lead/follow connections, the relaxed (sloppy?) frame, imprecise footwork, and awkward body positions. When we're not actually in a lesson, we can relax, enjoy the dance and laugh about our mistakes, but we still notice them. (OK, we also laugh during lessons - we just try to work on the mistakes.) The reason we haven't learned all the steps in the syllabus yet is because we have asked our instructor to make sure we get each new movement to the best of our ability before moving on to the next. That evening when the newbie asked us the question we spent over half our lesson on the tango basic, and we know we'll need more work to get comfortable with it.

    So why do we do it? Why isn't dancing a wide variety of dances with a reasonable level of skill enough for us? We question when we will be "good enough" to be happy with our social dance skills, and maybe cut back on the (expensive) private lessons. The answer we've come up with is we may be "good enough" when we can do each dance it its own style and character without conscious thought. Yes, we want to know enough steps and/or patterns in each dance that we don't get bored with repetition, but there is an elusive feeling of "flow" that we sometimes experience -- that we want to find consistently instead of once-in-a-while, and to get that feeling we need to develop our technical competence.

    We have found our private lessons to be absolutely necessary to us. Our instructor can identify the nuances that make the differences between "OK" and "aaahh". When I tell him something isn't working for me, he can make it right. Sometimes he knows what is wrong just by watching us, and sometimes he has to lead me and then follow my husband to identify the problem, but he can always make it work better. I've danced with leaders who have had good instruction, and those who have worked things out for themselves, and I prefer to dance with the ones who have had expert advice (all other things being equal). Given that, I think we're going to take lessons until we reach the "aaahh" level in most of our dances. Once we get there, I hope we can learn more steps in group lessons or workshops, but we may be able to cut back on private lessons and spend more of our available time just dancing.

    The question to the more experienced dancers, then, is -- what does it take to get that "aaahh" feeling? As you gain more skill, does it come more often, or is it always around the next corner? When can you stop working so hard? When are you "good enough"?


  2. quixotedlm

    quixotedlm New Member

    I'm pretty much a novice when it comes to just about anything, but the way I look at it, dancing is a new language I'm learning, and all conversations are deliberate and carefully spoken. When I have enough mastery with words that I can make up my own prose or poem, and be able to speak or sing extemporaneously, I'd have learned enough :)
  3. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Well-Known Member

    My music teacher told me that his objective was to train me to be my own "teacher". Then instead of needing someone else to listen to and correct me, I would be able to use my own ear to figure out what I needed to correct.
  4. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    Oh lord, Zhena... have you hit the head of the nail on this one. :)

    I bet we're all in pursuit of that "aaahh" feeling... and the feeling of being in that constant flow. I don't believe that the best-of-the-best even lose the pursuit of that.

    So identifying when you're "good enuf" is going to be a very personal thing for each individual, depending on what your goal is. If you & your partner succeed in creating a feeling of magic together when you dance that gets you high, you might have hit that "good enuf" place.

    But then, at that point maybe you'll suddently feel you're ready to take it to the next level of expertise & add more figures & more combinations... and you'll be starting all over. LOL

    My take on this -- relative neophyte that I am -- is that this is potentially a never-ending journey.


  5. Gypsy Wishing

    Gypsy Wishing New Member

    I liked your phrase, 'social dancers with a respect for technique' and Quixotedlm's description of dancing as a conversation.
    In my experience the 'ahhh' feeling happens about once in a hundred dances and there is no logic or prediction to it. The planets just line up, static electricity crackles in the air, the beat is intravenously injected, there is room on the floor and music flows through my body.
    But, part of that feeling is exceeding all expectations, so as you get better expectations are harder to exceed.
  6. PasoDancer

    PasoDancer New Member

    *I* know what it takes to get the "aah" feeling. *smug*:raisebro:

    (I said get, not give, mind you...:oops: )
  7. dnquark

    dnquark New Member

    I don't have an answer for you, but let me assure you that most of us ponder the same question every now and then. Those who don't are the ones who are really good and they know it, or the lucky souls that are content to have fun on the dancefloor regardless of skill level and don't obsess over improving.

    Keep in mind also that even good people can have so-so dances. A certain degree of "stars aligning just right" has to be present for these "aaah" moments to happen.

    Also, if you are doing ballroom, it's all too easy to get caught up in all the little things that are going on and forget about partnering (which is really what makes dances click). This is important. Good partnering and connection is what makes or breaks a dance. The steps almost don't matter.

    Now, do lessons improve partnering and connection? Yes, but I suspect it takes a much more talented instructor than your garden variety ballroom teacher.
  8. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    I think different social dancers have different answers. Some stop progressing when they feel they are dancing each dance. I see people who have danced a long time and stoped improving a long time ago. Initially for us, good enough was to be able to dance each dance and feel like we were dancing. Once we accomplished that, it became learning more technique and manuevers, to keep it more interesting. Now that we can do most dances without having to use any manuevers twice, it is just the challenge of improving our technique and learning new manuevers.
  9. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Well-Known Member

    Ha! I'm still working on whittling down my repeated maneuvers per dance to single digits. :oops:
  10. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    Differnet dances are in different stages for us. The dances that are played a lot, we do a lot of different manuevers. Dances like Merengue and Viennese waltz, that at most have one per dance, we are still in the second stage. Quickstep which we encounter about once every 3 or 4 dances is still in a beginning stage.
  11. SlowDancer

    SlowDancer New Member

    That elusive "aaaah" descriptive! I will have to remember that. :)

    I've been dancing for about nine years now, and I have taken lessons for most of that time and competed on and off during the past seven. I think the "aaaah" feeling happens more frequently as I progress but there are sometimes relatively long periods between "aaaahs."

    I don't think I'll ever feel that I know "enough" or that my dancing is good "enough" and so I will probably take lessons and work on improving my dancing for as long as I dance, which I hope will be until the day I buy the farm.

    As long as you are enjoying your lessons and feel that you are still learning, I think you can justify taking lessons. Everyone has different standards. There's nothing wrong with not being content to be just an OK dancer.
  12. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    I'm reviving this thread (my very first post on the forum!) because of some thoughts raised in a newer thread that got into the topic of tempos for dances played at (ballroom) social dances. It seems that one can achieve the full flavor of International or American ballroom dance only when the stars are aligned -- when the music is at the right tempo, the partner has the right skills, the floor is not too smooth or too sticky, and the other people on the floor know and follow the "rules of the road." This is a very high standard.

    I still have the goal of dancing to the best of my ability, but when I consider the requirements listed above I hesitate. When I read Chris Stratton's (among others) threads about proper technique, I find (to be perfectly frank) my eyes start glazing over. I'm not sure I will ever care about the level of detail those threads discuss so thoroughly! If that's what it takes to be really good, I don't think I want to go there. I have no interest in competing. I do have an interest in experiencing the "aaah" of moving to music in the company of like-minded people, but I think I can get that without the need to conform to the rigid requirements of "perfect" International or American competition style.

    I'm very lucky in that I have more opportunities to dance than I can take advantage of, so I have to choose where to focus my energy (or whatever energy is left after my job and other responsibilities). In the months since I posted the original question, I've come back to it in a number of ways from different directions. Ballroom lessons have made a great improvement in my ability to move well. On the other hand, I have come to feel that ballroom dancing is rather limited, even in its broadest social form, and certainly in its competitive form. Getting deeper into it has also made me realize how much I love the greater variety of movement and music to be found in folk dancing.

    Although folk movements tend to be less refined in one sense (less conscious thought went into developing the movement), they can be very refined in another (e.g., to a trained eye the difference in the "bounce" styles characteristic of different regions of Romania is obvious, while untrained observers can see little difference between the styles of all the areas of the Balkans). Like in ballroom, there are very few dancers who are able to achieve the "full" technique of each unique dance, but for those who do, the "aaah" moment is almost guaranteed. At the same time, getting into the true flavor of each dance is not essential. There's something about just moving to the music with others that satisfies some of my needs.

    Ballroom technique has helped me with balance and control, and I'm grateful it has helped me to feel way more of the "aaah" moments in the folk dances. I am experiencing those happy moments more often, so I don't think I will give up ballroom entirely. But, until I have a lot more time available, I think more of my effort will go towards folk dancing.

    So, after all this rambling, do I have a point? I guess I don't -- I'm just sharing the evolution of my perceptions about dance and my place in that world.
  13. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    The more I work on my dancing and the more I advance, the more I see that there is still so much more to learn. I can't envision stopping taking lessons. But I have crossed into competitive side.
  14. Phoenix

    Phoenix New Member

    When is a musician "good enough"? When is an artist "good enough"? If you study dance as you would study art or music, you study for the joy of learning, without focusing on reaching a peak. There's always something new to learn. It's up to each individual on how long to pursue the education.
  15. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    We're also social dancers with a respect for good technique. And it seems we keep reaching that level we thought would be good enough, then have to surpass that for what's "good enough."
    My eyes also glaze over when I get into a Chris Stratton technique thread, not because I don't want that level of technique, but because I don't think of things in that wordy analytical way and I have trouble visualizing spacial concepts. (Can I guess that Chris is an engineer?hehe!) So it may not be that you don't want or have the technique that those threads get into, you just may be more of a do and see kind of girl like me, instead of a hear/talk and analyze kind of guy that Chris is.
  16. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    great comments wooh, personal references to chris aside, there are wonderful ways to get folks who process info differently to understand good technique via the learning process that works best for them...analogies an feel work best for me, and also watching someone else, but long explanations of how "X" goes just here as "Y" iis begining to pass "Q" at a 3/8ths blah blah blah, and I am gone
  17. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    We have been dancing 6 years, the goals you stated were our third revision of what our goals were. First it was just to learn enough to go out dancing a few times a year, than it switched to feeling somewhat confortable in many dances and than to your goals. Now it just is to get better, learn new moves and adapt moves to our style. Mainly because all 3 make dancing more fun for us. This sixth year, dancing and practising are both even more fun than any of the first 5 years. We have to drive an hour or more to dance, so we go dancing once a week and do a lot of dancing that day or evening.
  18. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    You have a good point. Although I'm also an engineer, when it comes to learning dance I need to see, hear and FEEL what is happening. What's discouraging to me is that the level of technique Chris describes seems so distant from my current level. I can't imagine how I'm ever going to get there, if ever. The engineering side of me says that if I could actually follow his description, I would get to that magical place, but the artistic side says "it's dancing, not a blueprint" and refuses to pay attention.

    Then again... I can get just as technical about dance when it meets my needs -- DH was laughing about the spreadsheet/chart I made of the folk dance I am going to teach tonight (1 eight-measure figure and 1 sixteen-measure figure, so not all that complicated). We learned the dance last November and I have the written instructions, but I needed to translate them into something I can understand and therefore communicate.

    I guess learning and teaching are two different activities for me. Hey... what if ... maybe Chris has really been using his threads as a way to clarify his thinking, not just to scare or intimidate us lower level peeps. Hmmmm...

    OK, before I set off the moderators, I KNOW that Chris doesn't mean to scare or intimidate :p, and I don't mean to disparage him. I actually agree with some of his posts -- at least the non-techincal ones.

    I seem to be full of random thoughts today. It's been a little slow at work, and my mind wanders to more interesting stuff, hence the massive postings. Too bad the break is going to be short ...
  19. Zhena

    Zhena Well-Known Member

    Wow. I joined DF over a year ago. My first post ever was the start of this thread, so I thought I'd revive it in celebration.

    What's changed since then?

    I think our dancing has improved. Actually, it would be pretty bad if it hadn't, considering the amount of money we've spent on lessons! Our current work on continuity has led to some more "aaahhh" moments. Other than that, the good moments seem to be associated more with my mood than anything else -- when I'm "on" my dancing feels better (though I have no idea whether it looks better as well). But I've also realized it is extremely unlikely we will work towards technical perfection. We're more clear than ever that we want the dancing to feel good to us and "good enough" may be social dancing at the upper bronze/lower silver level.

    Our daughter has joined us in the dance world, so we see her more often and are learning to know her as an adult.

    We've done a couple of studio competitions and showcases, but we're still not drawn to the competitive or performance aspects of dance. We do them more to share the experience with friends than to win or to connect with an audience.

    And I've enjoyed participating in DF. I hope you forgive my tendency to write long-winded posts. I also hope you forgive me for letting you know about folk dancing, my first dance love. I like to share information, especially when I know people are not likely to hear it from any other source. (We also bore our folk dance friends with information from the ballroom dance world!)

    Thanks to DF for all the insights and amusement it has brought. May it long continue!
  20. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    congrats on all your progress

Share This Page