Stages of learning Dance. Where are you?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Ampster, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    This article has been floating around for while. Its very poignant and relevant to us all (IMHO). I thought I might resurrect it.


    Dances and 4 Stages of Mastery
    1. Unconscious Incompetence
    2. Conscious Incompetence
    3. Conscious Competence
    4. Unconscious Competence
    Here perhaps is a more useful way to approach the pleasant discipline we call "learning to dance." Instead of picturing the classes you take as a linear sequence - say, progressing through four levels of Swing - imagine yourself in an evolutionary process called the learning cycle, four distinct stages through which all human beings progress whenever they learn anything new.

    First is Unconscious Incompetence. In this stage you have little experience or skill. In fact, you're likely quite bad, but because you don't know how truly bad you are, you don't feel bad, and your self-esteem isn't crippled. Yet.

    True damage to self-esteem (and the false confidence that coexists with the bliss of ignorance) often occurs in the second stage of learning - Conscious Incompetence. As your awareness evolves into this stage, you begin to realize how little you know. Perhaps you notice how impossible it seems for you and your partners to do much of anything smoothly. You certainly convince yourself that practically everyone at every dance or class is so talented that you'd never think of dancing with them. You may well flee the dance early, and might even avoid such terrifying places of public exhibition for weeks.

    In truth, Conscious Incompetence is a vital step in the learning cycle. For once your exaggerated sense of self-loathing finds an equilibrium, you have the chance for some valuable self-assessment -- you can begin to determine your strengths and weaknesses, and from this sense of where you really are you can begin to focus on strategies for improvement. Much learning occurs here.

    As your skills get better and your body works with your mind to integrate new steps and moves into your dancing, you evolve into stage three -- Conscious Competence. This is enjoyable and exciting for most people, because they not only start seeing themselves as good dancers, they realize how much they have learned. Others tell them how enjoyable they are to dance with, now that they've reached a certain competence, so a reborn confidence repairs their self-esteem.

    Nevertheless, dancers in the Conscious Competence stage spend much of each dance thinking about what move to execute next, and how to balance the effort required to choreograph the next eight bars with the excitement of connecting with their partner. Brains occasionally go on overload, and feet still get trampled, but in general Conscious Competence is an enjoyable stage. Most people spend considerably more time here than in the first two stages. It is also a plateau where many dancers choose to remain.

    True mastery isn't attained until the fourth stage of learning - Unconscious Competence. This is the place where there is little or no difference between what the body has practiced to perfection and the mind has learned. You no longer think about your frame, or what move comes next. In fact, you don't think much (about the moves, at least). Instead, you're free to enjoy the moment and genuinely connect with your partner. Those who manage to reach this level of mastery are sought after, indeed revered on the dance floor.

    The trick is in the getting there. Anyone who manages to take most of the classes offered is pretty much guaranteed to reach stage three -- Conscious Competence. After a year or so of Walter, Julie, or any other instructor, drilling you with new steps and old jokes, you'll dance comfortably with most partners and have a good time.

    To achieve mastery, however, you may well have to abandon the linear approach -- give up the convenient notion that simply by progressing through a prescribed sequence of classes you'll end up a great dancer. When we think linearly, we tend to think in terms of quantity instead of quality, or we make alienating comparisons: I want to learn more slick moves; I'll only dance with partners at my level; she's better than I am (or I'm better than him). The trap here is that you risk becoming a dance snob, a stylized technician with the moves of Fred or Ginger, but the heart and soul of Schwarzenegger's Terminator.

    When you dance with someone who has achieved mastery, you know it within a few seconds. These partners allow you to look and feel grand, not better than you are, but as good as you can be. You connect. You'll dance with them again and again. Such mastery is an art form, a gift they give to each of their partners. You can choose mastery, just as you can choose to stay at stage three. Both options are valid.

    If you opt for mastery, however, part of the prescription is to start seeing each Living Traditions class not as a step in a finite sequence but as a timeless opportunity for learning. So what if you've taken Slow Waltz 2 twice, or Foxtrot 2 three times? Go back and take Slow Waltz 1 again. And again and again. Plunge back into Foxtrot 1, or Swing 2, or try role reversal. What you learn will not necessarily be a published part of the curriculum, but as you guide a less experienced dancer toward new confidence and grace, as you forget about your own footwork and simply enjoy moving with your partner to a new level of competence, your own dancing will transport you to a place of uncommon joy, and you will learn far more than you ever learned the first time through. About dancing, and about yourself.

    That's the real magic of any dance class. No matter how many times you take it.

    - by Dean Paton

    The original Article: http://www.nwdance.net/4_stages.html
  2. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I am all over the place. :) I believe it has been a mix of 4 abovementionned stages, from the day 1, and will probably always be, for me. Only the proportion changes.
  3. Cortado

    Cortado New Member

    Me too. The reply to the question posed in the thread title is too funny not to be repeated!

    I am all over the place. :)
  4. Angel HI

    Angel HI Active Member

    I believe that the article omitted the stage where I have professed to be for quite some time:

    Omniscient Discovery
  5. DancePoet

    DancePoet New Member

    Where am I? It depends. ;) :lol:
  6. Cortado

    Cortado New Member

    Is there anybody who does not feel the ebb and flow in his/her dancing progress?Like everything else in life really.







    However the "stages" as identified above give a good description of our feelings and common reference points when we are expressing ourselves.
  7. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Heh...stage 2 (conscious incompetence) is exactly where I'm at (egads, sorry about the hideous grammar) with ballroom. That description hit the nail on the head--so well it's almost scary.

    With AT, though...good question. Possibly stage 3 (conscious competence), but then I'll have a lesson which seems to tear everything down to the fundamentals and I'm back at stage 1. Although I STRONGLY hesitate to say my dancing is good enough to be considered in stage 3.

    Possibly the best is in stage 2, again. But with AT, I have never experienced that crippling lack of self confidence that I feel with ballroom. I have loved it from day 1, and all of the frustration and difficulty has been welcomed. I have no fear with AT (would actually love to perform it, which is very unusual for me), and haven't run across anything yet that makes it less enjoyable. So...don't know if #2 is relevant. Learning wise, probably...emotion wise, never. (Maybe this means I'm still in stage 1, where I'm just blissfully ignorant, lol!)
  8. delamusica

    delamusica Active Member

    Just by admitting to being at stage one, don't you automatically advance to stage two by virtue of becoming conscious of your incompetence?

    :razz:
  9. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Tango highs / lows (or plateaus and peaks) seem to be more intense than in other dances, however - or is that just me?

    Personally, I'm definitely at Stage 2, and I suspect I'll be there for quite some time yet...
  10. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Very good !!!
  11. Cortado

    Cortado New Member

    And my level of modesty is absolutely freaking brilliant too!!! :p
  12. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Oi. You're going to get me into trouble and have all WitchFinder Generals here on DF pointing my way, hollowing "J'accuse". When I said "very good", I meant the posting itself was very good. Ha, ha, ha...

    Besides, if I were to fit myself in any category, it would be somewhere between Conscious Competence and totally losing it.
  13. jhpark

    jhpark Member

    *shrug* i'm in all 4 categories, depending on whether i'm working on something new, or something that i already do well and have incoporated into my regular dancing (which means it's on stage 3 or 4, depending on what it is)

    and then i'll learn a new bit related to something i already do well, and then that goes back to stage 2,3,4...

    i suppose compared to people who are real experts, i'm still in stage 1, but you don't know you're in stage 1 till you're out of it, sort of by definition ;)
  14. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    gunfighter good: ie I know that there's always someone out there better and faster
    (but not many in this area)
  15. DancePoet

    DancePoet New Member

    :lol: :notworth:
  16. Hock Siew

    Hock Siew New Member

    I usually think I`m in stage 2. But inevitably always end up finding out that I was in stage 1!
  17. dldbm

    dldbm New Member

    Beautiful Article

    What a beautiful article. I've heard of these learning stages in a business setting, but it is so nice to think of it for dance. Thanks much for sharing.
  18. spectator

    spectator Member

    conscious incompetence.
  19. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    3 with a handful of moments of 4 that make heaven irrelevant...and a few weeks here and there of 2 that make 4 possible
  20. etp777

    etp777 Active Member

    2 when I left, and now mayb have been demoted to 1. Or I'm even MORE conscious of it, or there's more to be concious of. :)

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