Is there a perfect way to learn to dance? : Dance Musings
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Is there a perfect way to learn to dance?

by Jersey Dance Team on 10/21/12

I often hear the question "What is the best way to learn to dance?"  While I understand the drive to be better and get to the "destination" quicker, I believe there is no real answer to this question.   To understand my opinion on this, you must understand that before my passion for dancing was kindled, my creative energy was directed toward playing piano.   While learning to play piano as an adult, I learned many things that I now apply to learning to dance.  I am going to share one of those lessons here.

I’m a pretty process centric and logical guy.  I spend a good part of my day as a business consultant managing projects and working on how to improve the efficiency of various business systems for corporations.   It only made sense that I would take that mindset and apply it to learning a new skill such as piano or dancing.   I knew there must be a step by step plan to becoming a great pianist and I knew I needed one if I was going to succeed!

As any artist would, I would get frustrated when learning to play piano that I could not create  exactly what I heard in my head.   I could hear exactly what I wanted to come out but I just could not play on the piano what I heard.   I finally decided that it just must be that my piano teacher was not  teaching me things in the most efficient manner.  I walked into my next lesson and declared "It’s time.  It’s time we stop fooling around and put together a plan that says that if I do such and such, I will become a great piano player and I will be able to play what I hear in my head at the end of the plan. "  It seemed like a logical approach.  Hey.. that is how we learned Algebra so it must apply to piano--right?   There must be the perfect set of steps I can follow to get to my goals most efficiently.  Anything less than the perfect plan would slow me down so I needed the PERFECT PLAN.

Fortunately for me, my piano teacher was a lot smarter than I was and a far better piano player than I ever will be.   He  flat out refused to lay out a plan.  Instead, he responded in a manner similar to this:  "Piano and the arts in general really can not be learned in a serial/logical way.   Here is the truth.  To learn piano, you have to spend countless hours practicing scales, you have to take lessons, you have to listen to music all night, you have to practice singing and drumming, you have to dance, you have to  go out and perform with your band, you have to play Chopin from a score, improvise all night over jazz music and a bunch of other things that you might not expect.  Then, one day, one day when you least expect it, you are going to be able to do what you want to do even though I am never going to be able to explicitly show you every step to get there.  I can show you key pieces of the puzzle but a good part of the puzzle has to come together within you.

Here is the bottom line I learned.   Artistic skills can’t be learned like math skills.   Part of learning an art is just trusting that if you enjoy the journey and keep the vision of what you want to be, you’ll wake up when you least expect it and be that vision.  Your mind and body will integrate things you learned in ways that can not be taught explicitely.   You will take dance classes, private lessons, practice leading your partner, lead your friends, perform with your teacher, watch "Dancing with the Stars", perform choreography in front of an audience, listening to music and other experiences and subconsciously combine them and create something new...you as a dancer.   (with all of your own uniqueness)    Then, one day when you least expect it, someone will watch you and say "Just how did you learn to be such a great dancer?".

-- Jeff

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