Man on the Silver Mountain

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I’m in the mood to rant a little bit so I may ramble a bit.  Just wanted to get that disclaimer out of the way first.

Let’s start with a hypothesis.  The primary purpose of a dance studio is to make money.  That does not mean that instructors don’t love their jobs.  Nor does it mean that a dance studio can’t teach you to dance.  But those simply flow from the primary purpose which is to make money which allows the studio to stay in business.  For an instructor, it means retaining students and encouraging them to take more lessons.

Now, I don’t want to come off as totally cynical here because there is nothing wrong or evil about this.  My company exists to make money.  We sell products that help people but if we didn’t make money, we wouldn’t stay in business.  Harsh truth.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t feel good about what I do or the stuff we make because I do.  You just have to remember that the bottom line is making money because that is the only way to stay in business.

And, yes, a dance instructor can take some pride in watching students learn and grow.  And, as students, we get to live in the magical world that is dance for a bit.  We all take lessons for different reasons and we all get something out of it or we wouldn’t continue.  In the best of worlds, the relationship provides something for each person outside of the money.  But, at the end of the day, it is primarily a business relationship.  We want a service that the studio provides and the studio wishes us to keep coming back and paying for that service as long as possible.  Nothing wrong, bad or evil about it.

Why did I start there?  Well, it was based on a partial conversation I had with Kid T towards the end of our lesson yesterday.  The lesson was technical and tough for me to grasp.  Basically it was working on the concept of keeping forward poise and connection in Rumba while moving backwards.  Oh, and doing that while keep my posture up and staying in the balls of my feel but not forward enough so that my heels left the ground.  And, keeping my toes on the floor at all times.  Yes, these are all points I’ve heard before but this was the first time that this became the primary focus of the lesson.  And, there are a few muscle groups waking up this morning and asking me why I was doing what I did last night.

As is typical for me, I was walking off complaining about how difficult it was and how I could never be sure that I’d be able to put all the pieces together.  This is just me and I try to stop but it is hard.  Put me in awkward position where I have to be all vulnerable and exposed (like learning a new thing) and I’m going to start taking shots at myself.  Some kind of bizarre and strange self-defense mechanism.  I was awkward because this is hard and I can’t do it so don’t make me try again because I don’t want to be vulnerable again.

Of course, Kid T was buying none of this and she’s much nicer about calling me on my own BS than Z ever was.  She starts going on about how this was new and that I’ve made improvements in other areas and that if I just believed in myself a bit more, then I would see that I can do this as well.  Then, she made the mistake of talking about how my timing has improved and, if it hadn’t, then I wouldn’t be getting the positive feedback from people like OwnerGuy.

Now, you may be able to connect the dots and understand why I started where I did, but I’ll go ahead and do it anyway.  Because the first thing that jumped into my head was that OwnerGuy has a built in incentive to lie to me about improvements.  After all, what student wants to be told that they suck and they really aren’t getting it and they should consider a new hobby?  Pretty much cutting their own throat if they told me that.  No, I’m not saying I suck or that I should consider a new hobby.  It is certainly possible and likely true that there has been real progress.  It is just that you have to consider the source and the source is potentially not 100% reliable.

That last paragraph was a bit harsh.  “Lie” is too strong of a word to use in that context.  There is some improvement.  If you do an activity long enough, you will get better at it.  But there is still that built in incentive to keep me coming back and buying more lessons.  So maybe they sugar coat things a little more and blow some smoke up your nether regions to make you feel better about yourself.  And, maybe I just get in those moods when I’m convinced of my own suckitude that I just automatically reject opinions that don’t meet that world view of myself.  (Whoa, that was kind of deep).

And now this post is in a whole different place than I expected.  How did that happen?  Guess that is the risk of doing stream of consciousness stuff because it can take me in a whole different direction.

My basic problem is that I crave some kind of validation but I find reasons to distrust all the positive stuff I hear.  That seems a little warped.  Ah well, such is my life.

There was more going on that just the lesson that reinforced the point I was making at the beginning so let me go into that as well just because I want to.  And who knows where it will all lead.

Group class was Tango and taught by Z and was almost a carbon copy of the group class on Tuesday.  It was a step I knew so I had a built in advantage.  There were four couples on the floor.  The lady from Tuesday was there again.  The group was an advanced group and it was a Silver step.

Two of the ladies got it and two did not.  The same thing that happened on Tuesday happened last night.  At first, this lady was actually doing the man’s part which never works well and Z noticed that and tried to correct it.  When she got to me, she made a comment that it was just like Tuesday night.  I tried to be reassuring but that worked about as well as it does when Kid T tries it on me.  It got to the point where Z had me demo it with her twice so she could show the lady the women’s part done correctly and the where she was screwing it up.  Z even told this lady to let me lead and to just try to follow what I was doing.

All along, there is part of me that is thinking that OwnerGuy dances with this lady all the time.  Does he not bother to teach her to follow?  Does he just muscle her through the steps all the time.  I know she really loves doing solos with high entertainment value so has he just focused there and given up on the rest?  Seriously, this is what I’m thinking.  I know she enjoys it but is he really doing the best by her?  Or does he try but then gives up because it isn’t what she wants to do?  I don’t know but this is part of what was rolling around in my head.  I hate sounding harsh and mean and judgy but she’s really not fun to dance with and as an “advanced” dancer, I would have different expectations.  In other words, if they allow someone to advance when they really can’t follow, then are they doing the same thing to the rest of us?  Sorry, that’s mean but, unfortunately, it is kind of true.

But it wasn’t just her.  Our Medal Ball is coming up and I noticed a couple on the list checking out of Silver 1 and she was the other lady who really had no clue about this step.  How are they being allowed to check out of Silver 1 when she really can’t do this particular Silver step?  Maybe Tango isn’t in their program??  I know I’m being particularly harsh here but sometimes you have to tell the truth even when it is painful.  She’s another one I have to fight all the way down the floor and I watch their posture and cringe (which is saying a lot coming from me).  And they are theoretically checking out of the same level I’m in??  Seriously?!?  OK, now, this is my ego slightly unchained here but it bothers me.  I can make all the excuses.  They are just in it for social dancing because they rarely do Showcases and would never do a comp.  So the bar is set lower???  Yes.  Have they improved since they came in?  Yes.  Would I consider them “Silver” dancers?  Um, HELL NO.  Why do I even care?  If they are happy, and the studio is making money, then what business is it of mine?  None, really except that if that is what a Famous Franchise Silver dancer is, then does it really mean anything?  I know, that doesn’t make much sense because we have different goals and different expectations and blah, blah, blah.  All it does though is reinforce that there are times when the Famous Franchise just pushes people along and then that just seems like the only reason is money.  That’s what brings out some of the cynicism.  What are the minimal standards for advancing?  Is it just a matter of “we’ve done the best we can do, just keep em happy and moving along.”

This may be why OwnerGuy was pushing me to move on up to full Silver.  There are several people now in Associate Silver so I’ve been there long enough that I should be moving along.  (Unchecked ego comment – there may be people at my level but that doesn’t mean they dance as well as I do).

I guess in closing, it all comes back to my stupid insecurities regarding dance.  And the need for some kind of validation.  But dancing is not something that is easily measured by objective things that I’m used to.  And I find all kinds of ways to discount the subjective feedback I do get.  See the nice little corner I’ve painted myself into.

OK, I’ve now officially run out of things to say except this.  I’m on vacation next week.  It’s been planned for a bit but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it.  Finally got the spouse to commit to a time so I could have the fun of booking tickets and hotels and a car and all that fun stuff.  Going to a state we’ve never been to before.  Posting next week will depend on internet connection, time and ideas.  May just cop out and post travel pictures just to give you something interesting to look at.

3 comments

  1. Fully agree on the issue of “social promotion” at our own ballroom franchise. Most advancements are earned but some others – no way! But, it keeps the revenue stream going and so from a business perspective, I get it.
    Enjoy your vacation.

  2. We have a similar issue here. We have a dance society that just advances people every year without any sort of checkout. We have people doing ‘gold’ steps that can’t do newcomer steps, but they have the pre-requisite 1 year in all the previous levels. Most of these people have no idea that they are not ‘gold’ dancers, and have never really been taught any technique. These are people who think that my closed silver competition routines are ‘cool’ and that I must be a pro. So for them, someone with silver technique is top level. It’s sort of sad 😦

  3. I have lots to say here. One, I’m glad my studio isn’t like this. My teach won’t advance me until I get certain technique down, hence why I’m still a bronze beauty. Two, those who choose to be primarily showcase dancers (I have no issues with that) shouldn’t take advanced technique classes. They don’t need it. That part feeds into what you said about them being more concerned with money.

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