d nice said:
Personally I think having one person in an advanced level class can make a big difference, I've seen it happen.
That's the sink or swim approach and I totally like that way of dealing with it. I definitly think that a disruptive misplaced dancer is a bad thing, but again, I don't think it's a big deal if an instructor knows how to deal with it. I tend not to ask questions if I feel in over my head, although I try and illicit feedback from those I encounter in rotation.
As far as competition goes, I can't speak to it being an American thing or not. I haven't danced enough out of the country to comment on it, but I can say that our scene is not competitive at all, although I don't have anything against it the way IW describes. I think that's awesome. It's the political/popularity aspect that sometimes accompanies it that turns me off. I tried competing once and I got extremely nervous. I haven't competed since. I just don't like that feeling. I'd rather watch, although if I had a partner that encouraged me to compete, I might be talked into it... It's the same way I feel about public speaking. I used to compete/audition back in school for placing in orchestras and I got extremely nervous back then too even though I typically ranked very high and was confident in my skill. I'm just afraid of freezing up.
My desire to improve my dancing doesn't stem from wanting to be better than anyone else. I just want to look cool and have a great time. I'll admit I will strut around and show off, slide up to girls, etc. I'll admire the skills others have and study their steps and sometimes steal moves. Guys do that with my moves as well, but my thoughts are not to be better than anyone else other than me. I want to be better than "me". It's like they say: imitation is the highest compliment. It doesn't have to mean that you're trying to be better than them. It just means that you thought that what you saw them do was really cool.
Sometimes I think that if I lived in a bigger scene with more & better dancers, it would push me to improve faster. I'd be inspired by what I see on the dance floor from others. That's why I have so much fun at workshops and exchanges and I always come back a better dancer because I see so much that inspires me. However, I don't think that's necessarily indicative of a desire to strive to be better than anyone else. I think it's a product of being infested with the spirit/joy of the dance itself - not that there's anything wrong with a competitive nature (it's just not me).
I greatly admire and respect humility, but I have the same admiration and respect for skill and talent. I think it's great when people have the courage to compete and if it's someone I know, you can bet I'll be cheering the loudest, but you more often than not won't see me out there competing myself despite the fact I try and talk myself into it. And I'll be the first one to encourage my friends to compete as well.