Have you ever felt like you weren't sure where to start with improving your dancing? It can be an overwhelming feeling—we understand this struggle, and are here to share some simple strategies that may help you on your journey to becoming a better dancer.
These come from a principle called Deliberate Practice. This term was coined by psychologist Anders Ericcson, while he researched how people become experts in their field. Deliberate practice, by definition, is a specific type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. It challenges a learner to focus on tasks that are beyond their current level of competence and comfort. Deliberate practice, as opposed to random practice, allows a framework that is proven to produce more successful learners. It can be broken down into five steps.
To explore these steps, let’s pretend that you are hoping to improve your frame while dancing the Quickstep.
Step 1: Identify an Area of Weakness
- While this may seem obvious, it is important to clearly identify what you are working on and why. This is likely something that you decide with your instructor. Write down an overall goal, which stems from identifying an area that can be improved.
- For our example, a dancer may write down that they would like to improve their frame while dancing the Quickstep. The more specific, the better!
Step 2: Identify Steps/Exercises to Fix the Problem
- With the help of your instructor, decide on steps and exercises you can perform during your solo practice time.
- For example, keeping dance position stable could be supported by first ensuring that one is in a proper position individually, then with one’s partner; remembering to engage the back muscles as you move, and letting the lower body move while your upper body maintains position.
Step 3: Develop an Action Plan/Set Goals
- According to Ericcson, who coined the term Deliberate Practice, it is essential to get outside of your comfort zone. Goals should be an opportunity to push yourself.
- Relating to our example, perhaps the first goal is to maintain a stable position for the first thirty seconds of the routine alone, then the full routine alone, then alongside an instructor or dance partner when connected with them in dance position.
Step 4: Seek Honest Feedback
- A feedback loop is an essential aspect of progressing towards your dance goals. Come back to your instructor with confidence that you have practiced deliberately, working towards specific goals, and seek their feedback on the specific steps that you have broken down to practice.
- Perhaps the dance position stays very stable alone, but when connected to a partner, it starts to get a little wiggly. Coming to one’s instructor with these specifics will assist them in supporting one’s learning best.
Step 5: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!
- Evaluate your progress. Are the desired results appearing? If not, perhaps it is time to seek more feedback or redefine the steps that the learner is working towards.
Deliberate practice can prepare your practice for efficiency and inspire improvements within your dancing. The best part is that you can adapt it—after all, there is no end-all-be-all when it comes to learning.
Give deliberate practice a shot and see how it can improve your dancing! If you're looking for support on the specifics of deliberate practice, check out our blogs on How to Set Dance Goals and Practice Tips for Ballroom Dancing! Next time, when you’re feeling lost about the structure of your practice, you can use these resources make a specific plan for how to unleash your potential.
Wondering about how to begin your dance journey? Check out our blog What is Ballroom Dance!