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How to Become a Great Dancer: Closing the Gap


I recently made a video about the 5 Qualities of a Great Dancer. Now I want to talk about the process of how to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen and go through these exercises with me!

The trick to this improving as a dancer thing is you have to be willing to be a human experiment, be unapologetically ready to make mistakes, explore, get weird, get uncomfortable, and just play.

4 Areas of Skill Development

  1. Skill: vocabulary, technique and execution
  2. Cultural and historical understanding of the dance
  3. Style and character
  4. Connection to the music and your partners

The practical approach we’re going to take to improving is called “closing the gap,” getting from where you are now to where you want to be.

Why Most People Fail

They don’t know what they want and they don’t take the time to figure it out.

Here’s a quick example: if you never had to worry about work or making money ever again, what would you do with your time? Do you have an answer?

If you had ten minutes today to practice, do you know what you would practice?

You need answers to these questions, so let’s do an exercise.

Here’s The Exercise

Let’s take 5-10 minutes and do this.

In one column on a piece of paper I want you to write your current state and in another column I want you to write your goal state – where you want to be. We’re going to talk about this for each of the four categories.

As I ask you questions write down your gut reactions your first instincts and let’s see what comes from it.

1. Skills

  • What skills do I need to get where I want to be? To help you figure this out you can talk to a teacher someone you look up to, a believable trusted source. If you’re one of our students we can help you with this in our online course.

2. Cultural Understanding

  • What don’t I understand about the culture or history that might help me better understand what I’m doing? Again, talk to a trusted source, pioneers of the dance, grab a book or watch a documentary.
    • A quick note on history: don’t take anyone at their word. Humans are good at creating stories and poor interpretations. Collect as many data points as possible, look for common patterns then decide who and what you think is most believable. Synthesize it and come out with your own opinion.

3. Style and Character

  • When a song comes on, do you feel good? Confident? Strong in how you express yourself? If not, ask yourself why 3x? Each time you ask “Why?” you’ll peel back another layer. Explore those different layers of explanation that you come up with for yourself.
  • When I watch myself dance am I happy with my presence and how I carry myself?
  • What’s missing?
  • Where do I feel a lack of confidence? Keep in mind the way you dress will affect your mood your energy and confidence, so make sure you explore that too.

4. Connection With the Music and Your Partners

  • When I’m dancing or watching myself dance am I connecting with the music and my partner?
  • Are there parts of a song or types of music I’m uncomfortable with or don’t know how to move to? What are they?
  • Are there moments with a partner where I’m confused or uncomfortable? What are they? Why?

Once you know where you’re at and where you want to go, you can work on closing that gap.

Without any idea it’s hard to make progress.

What Does Closing the Gap Look Like?

When someone is learning to dance the gap between what feels good and what looks good is really big.

A quick story…

When I was learning to breakdance as a teenager I would go down into my basement, put on a song and dance in front of  a big mirror on the wall.

I did whatever felt good and I remember doing some moves that felt really cool. I was recording myself and was really excited to watch it to see what it looked like.

I hit stop. Put it on the TV and pressed play. As I watched it I got such a terrible feeling. Everything I did felt so good in the moment, but when I saw what it looked it wasn’t what I expected at all. It kinda sucked.

And that’s the gap.

The gap you want to close: what feels good and what looks good.

With practice, what feels good will start getting closer and closer to what looks good, and that’s what makes an amazing dancer.

They’ve programed their bodies so well through practice that they don’t have to think anymore. Whatever they do, however they express themselves, whatever feels good, now looks good.

To Close the Gap Do These Two Things…

1. Expose yourself to the dance enough that you can develop a taste for what you like and what you think looks good – the feel, the vibe, the energy that you enjoy.

This is important because you’re mentally setting your goal state, the details around the dancer you want to become.

Once you start to understand your tastes and your values, you can start focusing on your movements. As yourself as you try each skill or movement:

  • Does it feel good?
  • Does it feel like me?
  • Does it look good?
  • Why or why not?

At first don’t dismiss things too quickly. It’s easy to think, ‘Oh I’m not good at this move,’or ‘I don’t really like it.’ If you do dismiss something definitely come back to it in the future to re-explore it.

2. Film yourself to analyze your dancing and close the gap between what feels good and what looks good

If you’re not getting feedback, you’re holding your progress back.

It’s that simple. Filming yourself is the most important piece of the feedback and improvement.

The more self-aware you are, the sooner you can edit your movement, avoid bad habits, and close the gap.

Next up: How to make a practice plan