Determination and 'not giving up'
Dance is about determination – determination to learn a routine, persistence in perfecting your steps and sustained commitment to improve your technique. Everything that a dancer is today is a result of what they have put in, and we know all too well that it takes 99 'lessons' of what not to do before we finally manage to get it right. Giving up is not an option: ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ In the same way that a dancer learns very quickly that practice is the key to success, we can apply this to all areas of our lives.
If you’re struggling with lack of motivation, working on a project with no end in sight or if your goals seem completely unattainable, the moment you give up mentally you lose the ability to achieve. It starts with your attitude, with removing self-limiting beliefs, repeating positive affirmations and visualising the outcome – these are the cognitive tricks that can equip us with the strength to continue and ultimately succeed. There is no such thing as ‘failure’, it is a lesson in how it could be done better next time. Life and dance are about growth, about development and about striving to be better.
Precision and Excellence
Precision and dancing go hand in hand. The street Latin style I have come to love is less precise and ‘technical’ than say ballet or ballroom, however the same principles apply. Dance is about mastering technique, about understanding weight placement, refining turns and ‘lines’ and interpreting the mechanics of lead and follow. It’s about continuous improvement of your musicality, technique and choreography, and regular re-evaluation of both where you are at and where you need to be.
The same can be said about life. While far from a precise art, there are certain ‘truths’ we need to understand about our lives. These form the foundational elements of happiness, of contentment and of improvement. Firstly, although we shouldn’t strive too much ‘precision’ or ‘perfection’ in our lives (as perfection is unattainable), we should always strive to be our best and approach everything with an attitude of excellence. This doesn't mean we are prohibited from falling short of ‘excellence’ – far from it, actually. Mistakes are a part of life. They bring with them colour and vibrancy as we learn more about ourselves; about our strengths and areas of development, about how we respond to the world around us and importantly many lessons about how we can be better. With an attitude of excellence we pick ourselves up when we are down and continue with the same commitment to be our best.
Teamwork: We all have a part to play
Dancing in a group is all about synchronicity, team energy and connection with each other. It requires peripheral awareness and continual adjusting to ensure consistency. If one person is lagging or slightly ahead of the beat, the entire team is affected and so is the final product for the audience. If one person or couple has too much, or too little energy in comparison with the rest of the team, again, the whole team looks visually ‘off’. If one person is out of line or leaves too much, or too little, a space between their teammates, the positions are impacted. All dancers need to take responsibility for the part they play in the team. You no longer are dancing just for you, but for the sake of those with whom you are sharing the stage.
On the grand stage of life, we must also recognise the part we play in the grand scheme of things. Our actions affect those around us and continue to have a ripple effect far beyond our involvement. In the same way that a single dancer who is out of sync can negatively impact a team’s overall performance, the actions we choose to take can negatively influence those around us. Negativity breeds negativity. On the converse, this also means that our positive behaviours can positively influence others. Positivity attracts positivity. We know this because we have all experienced the contagious influence of a genuine smile, or the warming impact of someone else’s kind words. We have the power to positively influence our team on the stage of life – it is a choice we can all make each and every day.
All professional dancers were once beginners. All dance champions had their first class at some point. What made them who they are today is their commitment to keep going and the confidence they gained with each small improvement. As a dancer, you are perpetually comparing yourself to others. In competitive dance, this is even more the case, as you not only compare yourself to those around you, but you are also judged accordingly. It is so easy for dancers to fall into the trap of not feeling good enough and wanting to give up. I have known countless incredible professional dance champions who have doubted their abilities because they cannot stop comparing themselves to others. Of course, like anything in life, there are always other dancers who are have more experience than you, who have better technique than you do or who display greater stage presence. When dancers focus on everything they ‘don’t’ have, they forget all of their own talents and lose self-confidence. As a dancer, it is so important to learn – and learn quickly – that self-confidence comes from within and no one can strip that of us. While we want to improve and be better dancers, we should never discount everything we ‘do’ have. We should even be more comfortable in learning from those who posses what we are looking for.
In life, we often attribute our self-confidence to something external to us – how we performed in our last round of exams, our job title or the type of car we have. Firstly, these only ever provide a temporary sense of self-confidence whereby we attach our sense of self-worth to something (or someone) else. Rather, we should recognise that we have a right to be happy, just like how a dance has a right to enjoy their performance on stage. We don’t need the validation of others to feel confident or capable. All that we can ultimately control is our attitude and how we choose to explain the world around us. We should be thankful for what we do have and should know the inherent value that we all have.