Are you a Dance Consumer or Producer?
By Joel Torgeson
In 2017 it is easier than ever to consume dance. Youtube videos abound of professionals doing the latest tricks in amazing venues, while DVD courses promise to revolutionize your arm styling in just 60 minutes. Competitions and showcases put the best of dance on display for everyone and their families to enjoy, and instructors are there for you to dance with when you want to experience something beyond your level.
The business of dance is alive and producing!
It’s really fun to consume dance, I get it. I, like you, have spent tens of hours of my life bouncing from Youtube video to Youtube video, convinced that I’m actually teaching myself how to do some advanced technique while, in reality, I have only succeeded in making the butt-dent in my chair a little deeper.
If only butt-dents counted for something.
Seriously though, to a limited extent this is perfectly fine. You should go out and find the dancing that inspires you, because ultimately that’s what’s going to take you forward. People have put these videos and experiences together for you to enjoy and there’s nothing wrong with that...
If you are willing to acknowledge that it’s not much more than that: consumption.
Even social dancing can be consumption if you’re not intentional about it.
I am going to assume that you, like me, want to take your dancing somewhere. Maybe it’s not to being a champion-level dancer, maybe it’s gaining the confidence to ask that handsome local pro to dance. Maybe it’s getting proficient enough with the music that your wife doesn’t need to count you in every time. Maybe it’s just for the thrill of having something new to try.
Whatever their goal, 91.256% of dancers have this desire to improve. You need to produce to improve.
Yes, I made that statistic up.
Why you need to produce dance
If you want your dancing to progress you need to produce.
That may seem obvious when I say it out loud, but it is shocking how easy it is to forget it, ignore it, or convince yourself that you really are producing when you are not.
I’m going to say it one more time, for emphasis. Maybe put this on a sticky note above your desk:
You need to produce dance to improve dance.
Dance is an iterative process. Nobody wakes up one day suddenly able to perfectly able to execute an attitude turn with a hair whip! It takes concentrated practice and a willingness to constantly make active mistakes to move forward in dance.
Ask any professional you know how they got to where they are, and they’ll tell you: practice. It’s no great secret. And for most of them, those first practices sucked. If they look back at old videos they probably laugh and shake their heads about what they thought back then.
But that’s the point. Even though they were wrong, they did it. Even though it was ‘bad,’ they put it out there. Only by doing so can you move from where you are to where you could be.
You need to produce, even when it sucks.
Get out there, find a partner, and do something that scares you a little bit. Try a variation that you don’t know will work. Experiment with looking directly into your partner’s eyes as often as possible. Get in front of an audience and experience what it’s like to perform for them.
It’s going to be a little uncomfortable, but I promise that’s the point.
The less comfortable you are, the more you're learning
The more vulnerable you are in your dancing, the more likely you are to improve quickly. No, I don't mean vulnerable in the damaging sense that, if you have sore shoulder, you exploit its vulnerability to hurt it more. I mean vulnerability in the way that Brené Brown employs it, as an emotional openness, applied to dance.
Give yourself over to trying things without knowing where they will go. Lean in to the uncertainty of the moment with the grace to accept whatever comes. Produce something even though you know it will not be as good as it would be a month from now. A month from now will never come if you never try.
A quote I think is pertinent here comes from Reid Hoffman, one of the co-founders of LinkedIn:
"If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."
Though intended for the entrepreneurial world, it's just as cogent in dance. Whatever it is you're working on, it's never going to be ready in your own eyes, because you alone know the potential of what could be. You are painfully aware of the gap between what is now and where it could go. If you never let anything come into being for fear of falling short of some imaginary ideal you will never get any closer to it. Let it see the light of day.
While it's easy to consume and hard to produce, production is the way forward. Nobody is going to give you diddlyboo for consuming. That's right, diddlyboo. The key is in producing work, and the only way you get better at producing good work is to try it, fail, and then try again.
So, will you produce or consume today?
This might be the most important dance question you ask yourself on a daily basis. Are you producing or consuming? The producers will reap the benefits.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some body isolations to go produce and fail at.
See you on the dance floor!