It’s funny how the best dancers always attract the most interest. People compliment how good they are and ask “How long has that student been dancing?”, only to be shocked to find how short of a time it has been. A lot of times people think it’s an innate gift someone has, or that the person is just more adept to learning dance. But honestly, 99% of the time this is not the case!
Dance is a skill that must be developed within one’s self and those that do the “Other Stuff” find themselves enjoying their dance experience so much more! They feel good and seem fearless on the dance floor sooner than those that stick to individual lessons only.
I have seen talented individuals with lots of potential become mediocre dancers, and bad dancers get a little less bad. I have also seen talented dancers do amazing things and terrible dancers become really good. The difference? It’s the “other stuff”.
Most people fear the “other stuff”. They believe things such as they are not good enough, think they will have to compete even though they don’t want to, they worry about the additional cost, or that they might become a "professional". All valid concerns, but it leads me to one question, did you decide to dance so you could only dance with your instructor, or did you start so you could dance anywhere? That "other stuff" can take your dancing anywhere and everywhere!
I’m thinking of three stories from my own life where the “other stuff” made the difference. Join me back in high school Spanish. This felt like such a waste of my time and my only goal was to pass class so I would not have to take it again in college. In an effort to just get by I skipped the “other stuff’ like doing extra credit or joining Spanish club. My “just get by” attitude never helped me speak better or develop conversational skills. It was only when the female exchange students from Costa Rica came to school did I look back on years of Spanish class shaking my fist, mad about a missed opportunity because I did not do the “other stuff”!
Let’s journey back to piano lessons when I was 10 years old. My mom might say otherwise, but I don’t remember wanting to take piano lessons or participating in a recital, but I do remember enjoying the experience. I can remember preparing for my recital drilling and rehearsing classics like “Chopsticks”, “Mississippi Hotdog” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. In my mind I was Beethoven banging away on the piano, with the crazy hair to match. On the day of my recital, walking out in front of several people to the piano, a magical thing happened, my muscle memory took over and I played! All that extra effort to do well made the applause that much sweeter when I finished. By participating in the recital, aka the “other stuff” beyond regular lessons, I felt more accomplished and confident with my ability than if I had just continued lessons with no real test of my abilities.
This brings me to my dance journey. When I first started dancing, I would say I was ability-wise equal to the worst student. I liked what I was doing but felt in no way ready to show anyone or tell anyone what I was doing. This was my own secret for 8 months before I told a soul! For me as a training teacher the “other stuff” was teaching actual people or assisting or leading a group class. Well before I felt ready, I was assigned my first group class. I was so afraid of failing that I practiced, drilled and rehearsed everything I knew to make the class a success. In the end people left the class hugging me and thanking me for such a great class! The confidence gained from this experience lead me to want to do all the "other stuff” you do as a teacher and with each experience my opportunities became greater and more fulfilling.
If you want to know why the best dancers are the best dancers, your answer is the “other stuff”. Going to group class, coming to the parties, participating in local and national events, coachings, the list of opportunities to reach higher goes on and on. So if you want to experience immediate results, have fun sooner, and become the person you envision yourself to be faster, ask your teacher about the “other stuff”.