Starting out, my goal was simple - to be a better dancer.
So I embarked on the journey of becoming a dancer and going to all the classes that I could afford.
But then, I hit a wall – or rather a question.
“Am I getting any better at this?” Have I made any progress in the last three months?” “Why is this STILL so hard for me?”
The good thing was – I was on the right track. Even though it didn’t feel like it at the time.
And you’ve probably felt the same way.
So first, let’s keep this in mind:
The fact that you are beginning to analyze your progress (and are maybe feeling some frustration) only means that you’re trying. That's good!
Now, let’s discuss some productive and positive ways to track your progress as a dancer.
In order to go forward, we’ll have to back track a bit.
When you set out, did you set some clear and achievable goals?
If not, no need to fret. We can set those right now! It’s never too late.
So what does a clear, achievable goal look like?
Let’s take, “I want to be the BEST dancer” as a (bad) example.
This statement is neither clear nor achievable.
Who decides who is “the best”, and what the heck does that even mean??
Furthermore, the word “best” implies perfection. And perfection isn’t possible in any art form.
You can be good. You can be great! But trying to be perfect will only lead to frustration.
Instead, a clear, achievable goal could be, “I want to audition for a dance team in six months.”
There’s nothing vague about that statement, and you have total control over whether or not you actually do it.
Evaluating your growth as a dancer can feel very subjective, but honestly, you can track your progress like you would track anything else.
With physical evidence that you can see, feel, and examine.
So, consider video your new best friend.
In those early stages of learning, you can take videos of yourself, right at home. There is no pressure to post it. Just use it as a tool for learning.
Watch for things like stiff movements, rushing, or moments where you lose confidence/dance small.
Then, when you identify something you want to improve on, make an effort to get in front of a mirror, run through your routine again, and focus on that one area where you want to level up.
* A fair warning – do not watch your videos and obsess over mistakes or beat yourself up. Look at it a few times, then file it away. Both physically on your phone and mentally in your memories.
In addition to video, keep a playlist of the songs you’ve learned choreography to. I keep a Spotify playlist and add to it each time I take a class.
This way, if you have a goal like, “learn a new routine every 2 weeks,” you’ll have an easy way to check up on how much you’ve actually learned over time.
This also helps you remember what you’ve learned, so you can come back and retry it later!
When you’re constantly learning new choreography, you might lose track of how much you're growing because you’re picking new pieces that are designed to challenge you where you’re at.
But it’s great to go back to that fun beginner routine when you have more training under your belt!
You’ll be able to refilm the routine and see just how much you’ve truly leveled up.
If you’re not challenging yourself with harder skills and choreography, you’ll never grow as a dancer.
So if you want to track your progress and actually see growth, you’re going to have to step out of your comfort zone.
For months, I convinced myself that I couldn’t take Heels classes.
But when I finally gave Heels a try, I ended up really enjoying myself, and I added them to my regular rotation of weekly classes.
Stepping out of my comfort zone helped me knock down a false boundary that I had set up for myself, and once I knocked the boundary down, I saw growth, not just in Heels choreography but in my ability to balance, use my core, and execute spins in any dance style.
So, dabble in classes outside of your comfort zone and even drop into a few advanced classes from time to time. You’ll notice that as time goes on, your body will respond differently.
While you’re gathering your data, you’ll also realize that you’ll need a place or places to keep it all.
A phone can work, but I suggest a handwritten dance journal.
Spending time physically writing about your dance journey can make the process feel extra mindful, and without the lure of TikTok or IG pulling you away from your notes app, you might find that you walk away with some epiphanies about your progress!
Try to document your struggles and successes each week.
Was your stamina holding you back this week? Are you having trouble with certain types of musicality? Did your first ever Jazz Funk class shake your confidence?
Write those things down and look for patterns so that you can address them –– and notice when those patterns start to disappear (hello growth!!!).
As you write down what made you feel great during a class, you’ll notice patterns there too.
You might just find out that you’re really talented at floorwork and you always look forward to it –– so maybe you should try a floorwork-heavy style next!
If you’re feeling particularly bold, you can also document your dance journey through a social media platform.
I eventually transitioned to documenting everything on my personal Instagram account when I was ready to share my journey online.
Then years later, my documentation process included a podcast with my dance friends.
Documentation can take any form.
The most important part is that you get it out of your head and into the physical world.
You will be your hardest critic – and yet, sometimes, you'll still miss things!
So, it’s important to look outside of yourself for critiques and feedback.
Dance instructors are instructors for a reason. They want to educate and to teach.
Find a few trusted instructors that you admire and ask for feedback.
But be sure you’re asking an instructor who has had the time to watch your body dance.
Keep in mind, the instructor whose class you take multiple times a month is a better source than the instructor whose class you take occasionally.
Your dance friends are also a great source of wisdom.
Even your non-dancer friends can let you know if you look a little wobbly during a certain section or tell you whether they like one facial expression you used more than another.
Dance is an art form that's meant to be shared, watched, and enjoyed by all, so there's no need to be precious about asking someone to watch you!
All feedback can be helpful.
Hope this helped you guys on your dance journeys!
You’ve already jumped through the highest hurdle. You’ve already made the decision to take on something new.
With anything that is new - it requires trial and error and moments of reflection.
But remember that progress is gained in centimeters, not inches.
Tomorrow you may not look back and see your progress - but in a few months those centimeters will add up to miles.
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