Confession time – I can be a bit (well maybe a lot) needy when it comes to dancing. This is still something out of my comfort zone and I can require a lot of positive feedback when learning something. The problem is that I need to feel that it is real feedback and not the canned “nice job” that sometimes accompanies dance lessons. I’ve been at the studio for many years and I have a tendency to get to my lessons early (I always allow way too much time for traffic because getting stuck in traffic is extremely stressful for me) so I get to observe a lot.
Common pattern is (a) instructor tells student(s) to do step X, (b) student attempts to do step X, (c) instructor offers additional feedback usually something like “better but now do this”. The cycle repeats a few more times until the instructor says something very positive like “That’s it. Now you’ve got it” or “That was your best one yet”. This is where my usual idealism can become bitterly cynical. It is certainly possible that there has been significant improvement with each attempt. But, at the end of the day, the business of a dance studio is to make people feel good about themselves so they buy more lessons. After all, who wants to feel like a complete moron who can’t get anything right? This is why people who should still be in bronze can continue to move forward. I know that different people have different goals and all that.
Look, I don’t fault them for this at all. But, you see it enough times and it starts to feel a little rehearsed. Like it is contained in some secret training manual in the chapter “how to make your student feel good”. For me, the issue is when I do something four or five times while trying to process what they are asking me to do and trying to do something different and not feeling anything different and then hearing enthusiastic praise. That sets up two different dynamics in my head. First, if it didn’t feel any different, I wonder how I’m really ever going to master something because if I can’t replicate the feeling, I can’t reliably do what they want me to do. The ugly shadow side then says that you didn’t feel any difference because there really was no difference and they are just feeding you a line.
I have to admit that Z was the worst at this. Her jabs were much more authentic than her praise and it just made it easier for me to believe that she was never genuine but just telling me what I wanted to hear. Kid T is a little better.
But you see my dilemma. I need the feedback. Give me a steady diet of nothing but criticism (even constructive criticism) and I’ll really fall into that dark hole of thinking I can’t do anything right. But, if your praise isn’t judged by me to be authentic enough, I can still end up in the same bad place. Yeah, I can be a real piece of work at times.
What I still struggle with is random comments from other students. For the longest time, I used to just assume they were being nice and that I really and truly sucked. I’ve gotten better at accepting what they are telling me.
Where this is all going is that teacher feedback by itself, is not always a reliable indicator of progress for me. I’m always on the hunt for other signs and symbols that indicate I’m moving in the right direction. It is like trying to follow some treasure map that doesn’t give good directions and you suddenly find a landmark that tells you that you are still headed for the treasure. (Oblique reference to Romancing the Stone when they stumbled onto the Devil’s Pitchfork – that’s the vision that popped into my head)
Alright, that was an incredibly long build up for what is likely going to be a disappointing finish. We were working on the formation last night. We finally got beyond the beginning and started the actual dancing. Basic fox trot progressive twinkle into an open natural and a run around. I do a run around in my closed routine and it has been drummed into my head to get my head to the outside of the circle so we create the tornado because that’s what gives the step its momentum and momentum in a run around is a good thing. It is simple physics but I really hated physics. Now I wish I had learned more.
Well, I’m going to be doing the formation with Sunny but she and Kid T were on lessons so I ended up dancing with another lady. They were two ladies short so Cosmo had to play the part of a lady but they let him dance with another guy. Anyway, we do the run around and my partner is telling someone (she was half joking) about how I intentionally sped up on that part. Not sure what her frame of reference was but it felt like we were really moving to her.
To me, it was a very positive thing. Cosmo didn’t talk about the timing of the run around but the one I do is a slow to get into it and then several quicks during the actual running around. So that’s what I was doing. But I had her wrapped around me and the connection felt solid so I pulled my head weight to the outside and just did what I’m supposed to do. The fact that she felt I was intentionally speeding up means I was doing something right. The best feedback for me is to really understand how something feels to the lady. If I can create something like that, then I’m doing something right.
She mentioned it again during the last run through and we came out right behind another guy. That is probably not how it is going to be laid out when we do it for real but I was trapped between the DJ booth and the wall so I had to go in a different direction for space reasons. The guy also joked about feeling the wind behind him. Its a little thing but it is the combination of all these little things that adds up to something big and the more weight you place on my mental scale, the easier it is to keep believing that I can actually do this.
Oh, and the Showcase is now locked in place (well its in pencil so it could change). I’ve got Quicksteps and Argentine Tangos with Sunny. Told her she needs to find a slot for me and she and Kid T are working on it.