I’m writing this article because I was asked to contribute something for the program of the 2020 USA Dance National Collegiate Dancesport Championships. I’ve been out of the collegiate ballroom scene for several years now, but the time I spent there is still some of the most important and formative of my life. I learned a ton on the U of M Ballroom Dance Competition Team, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.
I’m often asked for advice about dance and how to do well in it, and one nugget has proven gold time and time again. It may be obvious, but sometimes the ‘obvious’ things are the ones that go unsaid, and that’s a shame because not everything is obvious to everyone.
So, here it is:
If you want to succeed in dance, be so good they can’t ignore you.
It feels a little asshole-y to say that, but I’ll say it again: If you want to succeed in dance, be so good that they can’t ignore you.
Be so good they can’t ignore you.
So good, they can’t ignore you.
This is such a powerful idea in my training that I have playlists built around songs that remind me. I forget it all the time, but I bring myself back as I push forward. For me, the only way to succeed is to be so good they can’t ignore you.
Why do I think this is important? At least for me, it strips away all of the bullshit about politics, costume trends, biases, etc.
Do those things exist? Yes, absolutely.
Do they affect your results? Undoubtedly.
Do you have any control over them? Nope, so forget about them. They don’t matter because they’re outside your control.
The Things You Do Control
The only things you can really do, of course, are:
Practice. Train. Learn. Implement.
I’m going to say that first one again: Practice.
Not practice in the way that you mindlessly run through your routine. That’s the slow way. That’s the diminishing returns progress plan. I’m talking about focused, smart practice. Practice that looks at the long term instead of the short. Practice that improves every walk, every swivel, every weight transfer, because you know you’ll do thousands of those in every routine that you do. Practice that isn’t afraid of mistakes, but rather knows how to make the right ones.
The dirty little secret of dance is that the things that will place you well in Champ Standard will also place you well in Bronze Standard. It’s not complex, it’s actually quite simple, but it’s still hard as hell. Everyone loves a beautiful half-natural. Get good at the simple things, and they’ll carry you through all of the hard stuff to come.
At the end of the day, when you walk out onto those floorboards you stand on:
- some fancy shoes
- a quarter-inch of wood
- the mountain (or molehill) of skill you’ve put beneath yourself
Buy some decent shoes and then
Get. To. Work.
It’s the only thing that’s ever helped me in the long run, and it’s always helped me in the long run. If you find something else that works better, I’m all ears!
… but I’m also not holding my breath. 🙂
Do the work, get good, and nobody will be able to ignore it.
Good luck, enjoy the journey, and I’ll see you on the floor!
– Joel T