The 5 Biggest Mistakes Students Make That Keep Them From Improving

There are some mistakes that almost every student makes, be it beginner or advanced. Some mistakes are expected at certain skill levels, some "mistakes" are simply a lack of technique. But there are a few things that will suppress your improvement, no matter what level, no matter the amount of technique you have.

1. Practicing Too Fast

When we move at the speed we're used to, our movements are on autopilot. There is no way we can change what we intend to do differently. So especially when we work on details, we need to do that at a slow speed, a lot slower than we think. Cut your tempo in half, and then do it again. If it feels like slowmotion, it's about right.

Of course you need to build up your tempo eventually, and there are things that you can't practice slowly (like multiple spins) but you should always aim for making things as slow as possible until you have a good understanding of what you're doing, or doing wrong.

2. Not Paying Attention To Details

The devil is in the details, and so is good technique. If you practice too fast, you're bound to miss things. But also a lack of focus or simply not looking close enough will cause you to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Most beginners simply lack body awareness. But even intermediate and advanced dancers are often surprisingly little aware of what they are doing. Learn to watch and analyse your movements, directions in space, levels of tension, posture and alignment, timing, connection, and so on. 

Building up body awareness needs time, and it can always be improved. It's absolutely crucial to highten your sensitivity about what's going on if you want to make major changes in the way you dance.

3. Underestimating The Practice Time Needed

Becoming a good dancer takes time, a lot more than you think. Usually the dancers we admire have a few more years of experience than us, no matter what level we are. So don't let yourself get frustrated when you're not improving as fast as you'd like. 

Especially beginners will have to accept that 6 weeks of dance classes are not gonna make you a dancer. Not even 6 months. Not gonna happen...

Intermediate dancers face a different problem: they are used to the relativly quick learning curve of the beginning and improving stages and expect that to continue. Not so. The better you get, the more time you'll have to invest to reach the next level.

The advanced dancers will eventually reach a comfort zone, because they know, or at least suspect, that going from good to great can take a few more years of intensive training. A significant improvement on a high level takes a lot of time and dedication.

4. Practicing In Too Big Chunks

Often a mistake we make happens on one or two beats of the music, but we insist to go through the whole 8 counts or more, missing that little beat everytime.

Pick the move apart and break it down to the exact point where things go wrong.

If something is not working or your teacher told you to do a certain detail differently, practice up to that beat and then STOP. Analyse what you're doing and if it is what you should be doing. If not, correct it and go again, until you do the correct thing without effort. First then continue through the rest of the move.

5. Focusing On Your Partner ('s Mistakes) Instead Of Yourself

Especially ladies do this in regular classes focused on turn patterns. While the guys are occupied with getting both the steps right and figure out how to lead them, the ladies easily become bored and start helping their partner. Generally the more advanced partner (or the one that grasps the move first) tries to "help out". Don't do this!

The roles in partner dancing are different, and both take time and experience to master. Don't cheat yourself out of learning your part. Most of the time you will be not in a position to know what your partner should be doing or is doing wrong.

Focus on your own stuff. Implement what your teacher told you to do and try to perfect it. Don't assume you know what your partner is supposed to do.

Of course we feel when something doesn't work, and with experience we'll also have a good guess at why things are not working. And of course feedback is always appreciated (and necessary) if we want to improve. So giving your partner feedback about how thing look and feel like FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE is great. But don't try to teach each other.

Try to keep these things in mind the next time you're learning something new. You'll quickly notice the difference in the quality of your practice time and the improved results.


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