You have taken classes, gone out social dancing on a regular basis, maybe you’ve even joined a student team, but you still don’t feel like you are a “awesome” dancer. You look at someone else on the dance floor or the stage who is rocking it, spinning fast, hitting the accents, showing a great deal of musicality, and moving their body in the most natural (and at the same time unnatural) way you have ever seen. On top of that, they make it look easy, almost as if you can do it too with ease… that is until you try it out yourself and find that it’s not easy at all. It may be hard to believe, but those dancers were in the same shoes as you at some point in time. Heck, many of them STILL don’t believe they are “awesome” dancers even though from everyone else’s perspective they are “awesome.”
So how does one become an “awesome” dancer? Is it practice? Is it pure talent? Is it spending loads of money on training? It is actually a many number and combination of things that can push someone from being a wallflower dancer to an “awesome” dancer.
*Before we proceed, we need to clarify what “awesome” is. You may notice that I keep putting “awesome” in quotes, and that’s because “awesome” is very subjective. “Awesome” can hold many definitions depending on one’s perspective, so for the purpose of this article, we are going to assume an “awesome” dancer is someone who you admire and wish to become like one day. That can mean that my version of “awesome” may not be your same “awesome,” and that’s ok because the most important part of this article is that you use the tips to help yourself become your own personal version of an “awesome” dancer.
- The very first step for everyone, no matter what level you are, is to change your mindset. Many people get to the point where they become discouraged and tell themselves they’ll never be able to do what the “awesome” dancers are doing. You have to get rid of those negative thoughts and begin thinking of becoming “awesome” as a journey vs. an end point. Negative thoughts block motivation and success and become like an obnoxious ex-boyfriend who won’t stop calling you begging you to come back. At some point, you just have to say enough is enough and get rid of it all together (both the negative thoughts and the obnoxious ex-boyfriend).
- Right up there with negative thoughts are excuses. Excuses for not going to class, for not practicing, for not trying something challenging, etc. Excuses get you nowhere, so get rid of those too.
- Growth is the keyword here. You must always think of becoming an “awesome” dancer as a journey of growth instead of an end. All dancers of all levels are growing all the time, and only those who embrace this become “awesome” dancers.
- Be patient with yourself and the pace you are going. Yes, there are going to be people who have a bit of an upper hand and can learn quickly, but that’s where we go into our next tip…
- Don’t compare yourself to other dancers. It’s important to have role models who motivate you to become better, but don’t compare yourself to where it discourages you. This always leads to negative thoughts, which leads to excuses, which leads to a lack of growth. It’s a vicious cycle.
- Stay humble! It’s so important to keep your humility while you are growing. Ego and pride are the crazy ex-girlfriends who slash your tires and put sugar in your gas tank. They keep you from getting where you need to be, so cut ties with them immediately.
- Take time to practice something everyday, even if it’s a small footwork or partnerwork combination.
- Always try something new, even if it’s scary.
- When you do something new, it very rarely will work out well the first time. It’s going to take practice and time. Don’t give up!
- Master one thing at a time. This is the best way to extend your dance vocabulary.
- Don’t stay comfortable, do something that is challenging for you! Nothing ever grows in the garden of comfort.
- Keep going to class and keep learning.
- Once you learn, practice practice practice! If you don’t use it, you will lose it.
- When you practice, don’t just go through the motions. Become very very aware of what your body is doing and the placement of everything. This is part of deliberate practice.
- Record yourself regularly and do some self evaluation. Allow others to evaluate you too if they are willing to.
- There are many other aspects to dancing other than moves and counts. Find out what those are and practice them. Actually, you can ask me what those other aspects are.
- Create small goals for yourself (ie: do a double spin, master 3 counts of footwork, take class three times a week) and use that as a way to measure how much more “awesome” you are becoming.
- Seek out mentors who are willing to help you and probe their brain for expert advice.
- Surround yourself with friends who will support and encourage you on your journey.
- Ignore the haters and naysayers. Don’t indulge into their “Haterade,” let them drink that all by themselves.
- Listen to music all the time.
- Take some time to play around with the music. Even if it seems silly to just dance around randomly to music, it will actually help a lot with gaining better control of your body and you will learn to improvise quickly.
- Put yourself out there! Start performing, keep on performing, and start entering competitions. This is where the biggest growth happens!
- When you put yourself out there, seek out feedback. Be willing to receive the constructive criticism from those who want to help. Also, be ready to guard yourself against the negativity of those who are jealous.
- Don’t wait for opportunities to magically appear. Be your own biggest promoter and actively look for opportunities that will enhance your dancing.
- Commit yourself to becoming an “awesome” dancer.
- The journey to becoming “awesome” never ends, so be passionate about it! You might as well have a ton of fun while on your journey!
Written by: Sarah Vazquez
Sarah Vazquez is a professional salsa dancer and instructor in Houston, TX and is the Co-Director of Culture Beat Entertainment. She has been dancing salsa since 2005, and has had previous dance training including jazz, hip hop, ballet, and lyrical.