This weekend, I had the pleasure to dance with my wonderful girlfriend at the Balticon science fiction convention. We performed in the masquerade costume contest, doing a paso doble based on the movie series Pirates of the Caribbean (video is not up yet, but you can see pictures here. For the record, my Terri Ann made all the costumes herself). The dance went reasonably well, but both before and afterwards we discussed whether it was ready – whether we were ready – to perform it publicly. Were we good enough?
Whenever you ask that question, you need to follow it up with, “good enough for what?” As always, it is important to know what your goals are. For a dancer to compete (and win) he or she must be much better than to survive a social dance. Yet to be an acclaimed social dancer may require even more developed skills than to compete. Performance may require more developed skills than both. And to make matters even more confusing, each of these activities requires different skills.
Furthermore, one must recognize there are different levels of “good enough” for each goal. As I mentioned above, one requires minimal skills to go social dancing, yet to be a popular and renowned social dancer requires very advanced skills, particularly at lead/following and floorcraft. This is important because dancing is not an all-or-nothing skill. Growth usually occurs in stages. The chart about halfway down in this article (read the rest of the article, too!) does a great job of illustrating how progress as a dancer is often staggered, occurs in jumps, and takes time.
So once your goals are identified, how does one move through the stages? The obvious answers – private lessons, classes, practice, videos, etc. – are correct but they leave out too important elements: patience and determination. You must be patient with your progress but also determined to make more progress. Every time you take a lesson you should be saying to yourself, “I may not dance perfectly today, but I will come out of the class dancing better than when I went in.”
So one takes lessons and improves one’s dancing, but how do you know when you’re, “good enough.” That’s when those initial goals come back. Are you winning your competitions? Are you a popular social dancer? Does your performance generate praise and requests for future performances? If so, you’re good enough for what you want to do. If not, you need to work harder and take more lessons. The problem, however, is that upon reaching those goals students are often unsatisfied. That’s when it’s time for a new goal.