Goals. They are what keeps a dancer moving forward. Whether your goals are long-term, short-term, small or huge, they are what will determine how you go about your improvement. So what is the big deal with goals and how do you go about making them?
First, you need to ask yourself, "what do I want out of my dancing? Is my end goal to be a world- class professional dancer? To be on a T.V. show like Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance? Just be an excellent social dancer?" The large end goal should help dictate the rest of your smaller short-term goals. I have learned that if I don't have a large end goal, then that is the problem which needs to be figured out as a soon as possible.
The next undertaking in the goal journey is creating a timeline. A competitive dancer could have a year- long timeline or just simply for the next competition. You could say "Over the next year, I want to improve by one place each competition." or "This competition my arms were good, but my feet were messy. The next three competitions, I want to work so that my feet become better than my arms." If the large goal is to end up on a T.V. dancing show, the short-term goal could be "by the time auditions come around, I want to have my routine down so well I could do it in my sleep." A social dancer's timeline for the year could look like learning 5 new moves by the end of the year. It all depends on the one overarching goal.
People get bogged down simply by the thought of goals because they don't realize how much easier the process can be if they break everything down. Even though I have one large goal, everything I do is done step-by-step. Goals build upon one another. The best way is to start small and work your way to larger things.
An example from my personal experience:
My End Goal: To have the prettiest feet and legs possible for myself as a latin dancer.
1.) Once a week, I will practice my rumba walks in the mirror for 20 minutes.
2.) My teacher says my rumba walks have drastically improved in two months, but now I need to make sure to do it in cha-cha as well. Every practice with my partner (5 times a week), we will go over cha-cha walks and locks for 30 minutes.
3.) Wow! My coach says my leg action has improved over the past 3 months. Now I need to learn how to articulate my feet (point them and roll through the ball of the foot). I will practice in front of a mirror by myself twice a week for 20 minutes each dance (total of 3 hours and 10 minutes) making sure my toes are pointed where they need to be, I'm rolling through the balls of my feet and keeping all 5 toes on the floor where necessary.
4.) Great! My coach is now saying that I'm getting there, but it still needs work. Next, I need to learn how to brush my legs so that my ankles are draped. Each day for 15 minutes, I will do swivels with my ballet bar.
5.) This is an ongoing goal, so my next step is actually what I'm doing with my partner. Every practice (6 days a week), we are taking 30 minutes doing each dance and making sure that each step I take my weight is over my foot. If my weight is not over my foot, then we go back and re-do the figure. My partner also does "balance checks" where he let's go and if I'm not on balance we also have to go back and do the move again.
As I have been going on my journey, I have realized that my goals may change and that's ok too. I may eventually decide that my feet and legs are where I want them to be and I want to focus on something else. It is ok that things change because life also changes. If we're happy in one aspect of our dancing we can move on to the next so that we keep progressing forward.
The most progress I have ever made with my dancing was when my coach sat my partner and I down right after our national championship and said "You would have won had you not been so horribly off time in Samba. Next year, you are staying on time in Samba and winning that trophy." My partner and I spent months making sure we were always on time in Samba. Every time a timing wasn't clear, we would re-start the dance and make sure we were on time. The next nationals, we won our division.
It's also good to have goals, not only for yourself, but also for your partnership. Setting individual goals that work within your partnership goals help move you forward. My goal right now is about my legs and our partnership goal is to listen and be in balance with one another. By working on my leg and foot action, I'm helping contribute to my partnership goals. It is important to talk to your partner about what your goals are and how you can each contribute to them. You also should both be aware of what your individual goals are and what step you are on in terms of those. Communication is always key.
Goals help us. A goal without a plan is just a dream. A goal with a plan of action is reality.