Being the best dancer you can be

As many of you know, we recently asked Swing Des Moines members to participate in a survey to gather their opinions and thoughts. Several of the responses have made me do quite a bit of thinking about what we do here at Swing Des Moines and why, and a few of the responses have given me some food for thought regarding my own processes.

One of these responses was an answer to the question “What goal should Swing Des Moines be pursuing” and it was along the lines of “Make sure all your students are good dancers.”

I’ve been pondering this during recent months, as I compare students to one another – something I don’t normally do. Though I’ve never really defined my personal philosophy about this in words before, I came to realize that it’s long been my goal as a swing dance teacher to help each student be the best dancer they can be. Not to help them measure up to anyone else, or to some standard of what makes a “good” dancer, but to be the best that they can personally be at that time.

This means that some students, I am ecstatic to see them come to Jive Junction and move their feet more or less in time with the music, because I know from watching them struggle that just doing that is an accomplishment to be proud of. A few months down the road, maybe I’ll see them leading moves I know they’ve worked hard on, and even though those moves are not exactly smooth and seamless, they represent an accomplishment nonetheless. They are being the best dancers they can be. They might not measure up to anyone else’s ideal of a “good” dancer, they might be awkward to dance with, but they are trying their hardest, they are really working at it, and they should be so very proud of their achievements.

Other students learn more quickly, dancing comes more naturally to them. The bar is higher for these students. Seeing them dance slightly out of time with the music and using choppy leads would be a disappointment, something I as a teacher would encourage them to improve because I know they are capable of doing better.

Each class brings us a mix of these types of students, and it can be a challenge to keep the class challenging enough for the faster learners without leaving the struggling ones in the dust, but our feedback shows that we do at least a reasonable job of this, which makes me happy.

I also want to add one final thought to this – we don’t tend to compare one student to another in terms of ability or ease of learning to dance. Please don’t compare yourself to others, either.

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