Plateauing is the number one problem dancers face, according to my recent survey.
You feel so alone when you’re in a plateau, nitpicking every little thing you’re doing wrong. No one judges you more harshly than you. And you know that how you deal with this plateau will determine your progress as a dancer.
The problem of the dance plateau is almost heartbreaking for me. I nearly quit after eight months of lindy hop because I thought I was so bad at it. No one told me this then, so I’m telling you now. These are the things I found out as I’ve worked through my many plateaus:
It gets better. Don’t commit dance suicide because it seems so hard right now.
It’s good to take a break. You can go home early on nights you’re not feeling it. You can take up another hobby for several months. The brain still works on absorbing information even when you’re not actively trying. You’ll return to dancing more refreshed and with a more balanced perspective. After seven years of dancing, this still works for me.
Don’t mainly dance with people who are more advanced than you. It makes you focus on all the stuff you’re doing wrong. When you get in your head like that, it can take years to get out (ask me how I know this). There will be many wild swings in how you feel about your dancing. Dancing with people who are more advanced amplifies those feelings. And on a good night, you’ll feel fantastic. On a mediocre night, you’ll think you’re rotten. Which leads me to my next point…
Discover your deeper connection to dance. Don’t go chasing the good feelings. If you make it past a couple years, you’ll find out it’s about so much more than the euphoria of the fabulous dance night. It’s about music, self expression, creativity, growth, and connecting with others in a unique way.
Plateaus come in many varieties and feel a lot of different ways.
Talk about it, if you can. Anyone striving to learn any skill will be able to identify with you. Knowing you are not alone can be such a huge relief. And it’s likely that friends at your dance level are going through it at the same time.
Of course, people will give you lots of advice, most of it unhelpful. Who knows what you actually need to do? It’s a confounding mystery until you find out. In the end, there are only two eternal truths about fixing this dance plateau you’re in.
Number One: You have to get comfortable making mistakes.
Become friends with all the moments of fail you’re noticing, big and small. Mistakes are allies, not enemies. When you try to avoid them, you cannot learn from them. In fact, the harder you try to avoid mistakes, the harder you will fail. Your inability to accept your mistakes will become an increasingly crushing burden until it finally makes you quit. Be willing to make mistakes, and you open the door for learning.
Number Two: You have to do something differently.
Dancing with the same people at the same places, taking the same classes—it’s not going to work. You can’t simply “fix what you’re doing wrong.” That’s not the point. Your brain needs new input, new stimuli. You can only get that by switching up your surroundings so that your brain has to adapt. It could be as subtle as changing how you dress. It could be as major as traveling to exotic places to dance. Try something, anything. If it doesn’t work after a fair chance, try something else.
Lastly, be patient and have tenacity. Everyone who really cares about dancing goes through this. Not one person is exempt from the terrible frustrations of the dance plateau. Keep all of your thoughts in perspective, and don’t let them crush your love for this dance. You’ll have to work hard, and the effort is truly worth it.
Are you going through a dance plateau right now? What’s it like, and what are you learning?
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