I understand that dance studios are a business. There is going to be competition for patrons. There is going to be competition for the community’s dollars. This is the nature of business in America. As such, people will try to undermine each other – charge less, offer more hours, offer a greater variety of classes – to get a leg up in the industry. There is going to be good hearted competition in any industry and there will be nasty competition to offset that.
Competition breeds options. That is a great thing. Competition also can breed segregation. This especially true if restrictions are placed on what other dance industry businesses can be solicited by the patrons of one dance business. Patrons include students and teachers. I understand that there is an attempt to control chaos within the business. You want to know that those that are yours are truly yours. However, that restriction can increase the grass is greener on the other side mentality. As I’ve told you before, if you tell me that I cannot do something, I’m going to try to do it. I like to get as much information as possible as to why things are as they are, especially when a boundary is placed on me. I have found that boundaries are often enforced out of fear.
In the dance industry, this fear grows for a number of reasons. Allowing patrons to see that there are other options that might suit them better at another business is a common one. Allowing patrons to patronize other businesses dilutes the business you get to keep for yourself. Allowing patrons to patronize other businesses may have those patrons realize the weakness in what your business offers. Fear holds people back in so many ways. I see it in business frequently. Holding patrons back out of fear will actually hold you back as well.
So much energy ends up expended on the silliness of fear when it could be better used. It could be used to expand your skills as a business owner. It could be used to expand the talent patronizing your studio in the form of students and teachers. It could be used to get a marketing edge. Rather than putting bars on your students’ and teachers’ windows, how about you take out the windex and clean those windows so they can clearly see what dance can do for them. When was the last time you looked at this aspect of your business? Spending that fear energy on researching and developing the delivery of this to your patrons would be a far more efficient and effective use of energy, brain power, talent, and time. In the end it would also be better for anyone patronizing your business. Be innovative rather than fearful. You will see how much happier life will be.
I hear people say this regularly: “I want to take my dancing to the next level”. I hear it from some people on a weekly basis. Then I see no change in their dancing. Is it because there is no will? Is it because they just enjoying making it seem like they will change? Is it because they like the attention of someone telling them they can do it? All these are definite possibilities and likely not the whole story.
The will to be better has to be present. Saying you are going to do something and not doing it is not going to get you to the end point you keep mentioning. If you have the will though, you can find a way. Sometimes you just need to be pointed in the right direction. I remember being at a cross roads about a decade back (yes, I am aging myself here). I had the option to stay in the city I was living or move on to a different city. A bigger city with shinier dancers and opportunities than I could currently see. There was a lot of soul searching that was done to figure out what I needed and what I wanted, I had the opportunity within my own community – if I sought it. I would have to help myself though. No one in the business was going to do it for me or try to prevent the door from hitting me on the way out.
Though dance is a world of beauty, there are a lot of ugly people in it when you dig deep. It can be cut throat. It can be two faced and just plain mean. At this cross roads, I had to take off my blinders and see that there ware a lot of people that were happy to misdirect me with a sprinkling of a few that actually wanted me to succeed. I had to pay close attention to my interactions with the good and the bad to really discern with whom I could align myself.
Once I aligned myself with those who would do me good rather than harm, my dancing changed. I could not only see my shortcomings more clearly as I had people around me who were truthful about where I was at in my dancing and where I could go. I could also see those around me who were monsters and suddenly I didn’t care if they saw me make errors in my dancing. I didn’t care if they watched me during the learning process. Their opinion no longer mattered to me and I had this sense of freedom that I had never had in my life.
So how does this relate to advising how to take your self to the next level? I suggest you do a bit of research before you invest with anyone. Watch the teachers in your community. Pay attention to how they dance, their technique, their freedom, their energy level. Take a look at their flock as well. Everyone ends up with a brand stamped on their dancers whether they realize it or not. The brand can be that they all only know the same 10 moves. It can be that they are very grounded. It can be that they are flashy with no substance. It can be that they progress slowly, but have amazing results at the end of their journey.
I also suggest to take from teachers who are hungry for students. They are going to give you their best as they are trying to build their flock. Those who are established and haven’t much extra time in their schedule, are not likely to be able to give you the attention you need simply because of a lack of time to accommodate you. Those ones are teachers that I treat myself to when they get an opening, but I want a hungry teacher for my regular training who is as invested in me as I am in them.
Once you have yourself aligned with the right people, that is where the journey begins. It will take hard work. You will not be able to just study with them once per month and expect quick changes. You will have to put in the time when they are not in your presence. This time will involve putting into regular practice what you learned. It will take self-analysis to watch to see that you are incorporating the information correctly. It will take breaking apart what you already know and inserting the information you learned into it. Progress takes discipline to train your body into new things. It will happen. You have to believe and have patience with yourself.
Professional communities even if they are large, they can seem small. Dance communities are not exceptional. Everyone seems to know everyone or at least know someone through someone else. This can make information sharing a vulnerability and liability. Why? You never know how something you said might get to someone with whom you do not want to that information to be shared.
In small communities, it is easy for word to travel all too quickly. I have heard things about myself that had no foundational fact to it. Most of the time I try not to act even remotely moved by the inaccuracy. Most of the time, I am actually quite annoyed on the inside. Those who know me can tell when the annoyance is happening, but to the untrained eye, it goes unnoticed. This is part of developing a hide thick enough to withstand non-sense.
So why do we talk in small communities when we think no one else might hear? Is it a fact finding mission? Maybe. Is it a way to gain understanding about someone? Maybe. Is it a way try to find out more about someone who is our idol? Maybe. I had a room mate at one point who seemed to know the dish on everybody in the community. She was barely even part of the community, but someone who idolized those in it. If you didn’t know something about dance that she knew, she would look at you like you were an idiot even though she had no ability to do what she might be talking about. It was endlessly entertaining to watch her slight those around her to feed her own ego.
I think the main reason we talk is to justify opinions and try to find supporting data for it. For example, I get this weird vibe when I have to work with this person. Have you heard anything weird about him? If we find supporting information, then we don’t feel bad about not liking someone. Sometimes this is a means of survival in an often cut-throat community. Is it right? Maybe not. It is always better to ask people directly when there is an issue – in all aspects of our lives.
I admit that I have slipped and found myself discussing things without the thing I am discussing being present. I think we all do. For the most part, people know where I stand as I typically have little filter for my opinions – they just seep out of my mouth without warning. This makes it so that I am easy to deal with as you are rarely going to wonder where I stand on an issue or with someone. This makes it not so easy for me sometimes though as I am terrible at political maneuvering as I have no poker face. My face tells the truth just as my mouth does. I think we should try for a week to not gossip. For a week, try to speak directly to those we have concern or wonder about. Let this go beyond your dance dealings and see if the truth sets you free. Fly away now 🙂
What happens when I perform and I don’t live up to my or my partner’s expectation? I’ve talked about ego in a few postings and it comes back into play here. Ego can be dangerous as it has an effect on how I interact with myself and others. It can mess with my head if I don’t feel I live up to the expectation of my ego.
It doesn’t seem to matter what caused that shortfall. It could be an injury. It could be distraction. It could be illness. It could be life getting in the way. Whatever it is, it can be harmful to my self-esteem. The kind of harm where I start talking to myself negatively. You weren’t good enough. You didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t prepare well enough. There are so many negative chants that I hear coming from my ego.
What is the point of being so negative though? When I look at the grand scheme of things, one bad performance, rehearsal, or combination doesn’t define who I am as a person or dancer. Though, in the moment, I can let it feel that way. What I present in my dance career doesn’t define me either. So why do I put so much weight on it? Yes, it maybe the way I express myself when my words fail me. It maybe the way I earn a living. It maybe the way I feel good about myself. In the end though, if all that was taken away, what would I be defined by?
Life, career, relationships – these are all fragile things. A dancer’s career can end in an instant with one bad jump. Our careers are short anyway whether they end abruptly due to an accident or injury. There has to be more to life than career. That goes for non-dancers as well. Too often in North American life, we get defined by what we do. What’s one of the first questions I ask on a date to try to get a conversation going? So … what do you do for a living?
It has been engrained in us that our jobs define us. It is okay to be entwined with a job by which I am impassioned. However, what happens if I wake up one morning and I am no longer able to do that job? Do I end up living a miserable life because I no longer can dance or do what I love? I hope not.
Painful as it is to think about, I have to be more than my career. If that isn’t true, it might be valuable to find more meaning in life than just career as it can be taken away so easily. When it does, if there is nothing else to my life, I will become a shell. I will become a shadow of what I thought I was supposed to be. Life’s too short when these curveballs hit me. Find passion in many parts of your life so that you are not defined by a single action. One trick ponies are rather boring after all. I want to be known for more than just what I do for a living, don’t you?