Thoughts from One Student

One of my students has been going through some fantastic, personal a-ha moments and gave me permission to share some of her writing with all of you.

“Do what you love, and you’ll be great!”

Well, um… Not really.

I’ve discovered that my body naturally loves certain belly dance moves… I love those moves. Even as a beginner of less than three months, I’m willing to just go ahead and say this: I am good at those moves. You may admire me when I do those moves, and I will be pleased, but not surprised.

And there are moves my body doesn’t want to do… And the zils. G*D, the zils. Trying to zil makes me wonder how in the heck I was so good at playing my flute or dancing with my flag at the same time as marching in formation in high school and college marching bands. Honestly, I feel like an uncoordinated doofus when trying to zil.

If I do what I love, I will soon have the world’s best [moves that I love]. And I will NOT be a great dancer. I won’t even be a good dancer. In my drills today, I did each of those moves for about a minute and a half, maybe two minutes. I love those moves, but I’ve pretty much got them down.

And then I did all the moves that my body doesn’t enjoy… I did each move that I “hate” for five minutes. More than twice the time I spent on the stuff that I love and find easy.

Do what you love, if that means dance (where “dance” is any broad category). But when it comes to dance, or whatever your “thing” is, do what you “hate.” I mean, definitely do the easy stuff you love (everyone’s easy stuff will be different from everyone else’s), but don’t spend the bulk of your time there. Do the moves, the drills, the patterns, the motions that you find difficult and unenjoyable about your “thing” (dance: strength, flexibility, fluidity, speed, nimbleness, grace, balance … music: range, tempo, enunciation, vocal clarity…). Whatever your “thing” is, do the aspects of that thing that you find the least enjoyable. Work your fundamentals, but work the hard stuff, the boring stuff, and the least appealing stuff at least twice as much as the stuff you find easy and fun.

Because that’s how you get good all-around. That’s how you become a good dancer, or computer programmer, or clothier, or whatever you’re trying to be. The only thing that separates a good dancer from a sucky one is the number of hours that dancer has spent sucking.

I love that she gets it. There are a few students who are a tiny bit frustrated with me because I won’t drill them on the next moves that they know how to do already. The point is: These women are already naturally good at the moves we haven’t been drilling yet. And I’m asking them to work on the moves they hate right now. Drilling them slowly, thinking about different portions of the technique, trying them again at tempo, back to drilling only parts of the moves, back to putting all the layers together again.

My student writes again in another post.

BTW, “I suck” is, I hope, understood to be a temporary situation. Sucking right now, as a beginner, is only to be expected. What separates a complete derp from a complete dancer is hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours… (repeats “and hours” about a hundred more times) …and hours of sucking, after which one sucks a bit less, for a lot more hours. And then a bit less suckage for a lot more hours. And so on. And then, “suddenly,” you’re a dancer. Or whatever you are. “I suck” doesn’t mean “I give up.” It means, “Watch me suck at this! And keep on sucking, until I don’t! I know I have work to do, and I can actually SEE what separates my attempts from true dancing, and I’m actually working to get rid of the distinctions! Yay!” In other words, I love that I suck. I *LOVE* that I suck. The sweatier and huffier and tireder I get in a practice, or the gym, or whatever, the better and more serene I will eventually look. I am embracing my suckitude and making it into an impetus to practice. So that, you know, I feel less awkward and sucky when people are watching me.

Amen, sister. Amen.

If you cannot laugh together and have fun, why exactly are you doing this?

According to Outliers: The Story of Success, written by Malcolm Gladwell, mastery or greatness comes with enormous amounts of time, or the “10,000-Hour Rule.” My student just posted, “9982.70 hours of suckage left. That’s not bad at all!”

I love this attitude!

3 thoughts on “Thoughts from One Student

  1. Laurie J says:

    Love it and the application to other art forms: If you only do the stuff you love you never get any better and never master anything else. Push the boundaries of your art and skills.

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