Motivating yourself to practice dancing is like motivating yourself to diet, or study for your MCATS: It’s not fun at the beginning, but it gets easier, and carries major rewards for your efforts. Just think of how much faster you could learn if you came into each lesson with last week’s steps fresh on your mind, feeling confident and ready to move on to more exciting moves!
Despite that, we are all pros at talking ourselves out of practicing. Let’s look at some of the most common excuses – ahem, objections to practicing.
Objection #1 – I don’t have time.
Even 5 minutes a day can help the muscles remember what they learned, and there’s plenty of places you can squeeze that into. Practice during commercial breaks on tv, on the elevator to work (find an empty elevator), while brushing your teeth, or on hold on the phone.
Objection #2 – I don’t have space.
If your apartment is the size of a postage stamp, it can be a bit difficult to practice. For Latin/rhythm, just make the steps smaller (think crowded Latin club). Standard/smooth is a bit trickier, but most studios allow students to practice before or after their lessons, or even to use the floor during off-hours.
Objection #3 – I’m too tired.
Exhaustion can be seductive, but unless you career choice is body-builder or crate-packer, it’s probably just mental exhaustion. Because dancing is more a body exercise, most people find it energizing, even if they felt tired when they started. Try to practice when you have the most energy – for instance, I can (usually) motivate myself to work out in the morning, but not-so-much at night. If all else fails, jump up and down a few times to get the blood flowing.
Objection #4 – I can’t remember the step/technique when I get home.
Even if you have the memory of a lizard (believe me, I understand), there’s plenty of tricks that can help you connect the dots later. Try taking notes during or just after class. Or bring a camera and ask your instructor if they would mind filming you at the end. Try and find metaphors or visuals that help jog your memory. For instance, a pivot turn involves turning with the legs open, like the blades of a scissor.
Objection #5 – I’m going to practice it badly.
As long as you’re not about to take a year-long hiatus, it’s extremely unlikely you will practice anything poorly enough that the instructor cannot correct it in a single class. For now, just practice what you know, or are the most sure of. Let your muscles get the gist of it. A ship that sails a few degrees off-course will still be closer to its target then if it never sailed at all.
Objection #6 – I don’t have a partner to practice with.
If Sergeant Pepper had let his lonely heart get to him, would he have still produced such great music? There’s plenty of ballroom dance that can be practiced without your partner, and some are actually more effective when danced solo. For instance, practicing your turns alone allows you to improve your balance, without grabbing your partner like a drowning sailor.
Objection #7 – I’ve more important things to do.
There’s a lot of enjoyment you could get by practicing – which in turn, raises it’s value, and makes it more important, see? We can get stuck in loops where we tackle dancing in a half-hearted way, then feel disappointed when it fails to live up to our expectations. To really experience the joy of dance, you must put forth a concentrated effort. You might find dancing is worth more to you then you realized.