Are you super, duper passionate about social dance? Are you ready to take advantage of every opportunity possible? Are you prepared to dig deep and put in all the work to become great at this new passion you’ve discovered in the past few months?
Have you told your teacher or community leader all about this deep passion only to be met with “That’s great! Keep working at it!”, when you were expecting them to give you more, better, or cheaper opportunities to blossom in this wonderful world? After all, dance needs more passionate people – and you’re one of them. Shouldn’t people be trying harder to engage you?
The thing is, there’s a reason why they may not have been as hyped as you hoped.
In this article, I’m not talking about hobbyists that are treating this as a fun pass time by paying for a service (classes, socials, events) in exchange for a fun time. These people make up the majority of new beginners – and even our communities – and are an integral part of community health.
Rather, the focus here is on those who come in with a strong desire to be a major part of the community in an organizational, teaching, or other capacity – but then fizzle out soon after.
Passionate Beginners Everywhere
If your teacher or community leader has been around for more than a year or two, they’ve met many passionate beginners. In many ways, passionate beginners are the “New Years Resolution” yogis of social dance. Usually, those beginners are super excited and happy to share how much they love dancing. They come in, bright-eyed and excited, going to all the classes and socials for a couple months. They are sending messages to their teacher about how much they love dancing, and asking all their questions about dance. They know they want to teach someday! Then, suddenly, they just… disappear.
The first few times this happens, a teacher is likely to be really excited to have someone so passionate in their classes. They may do whatever they can to try to encourage or lift the person up. They may provide volunteer opportunities and really try to mentor them. But, the feeling of futility when those students just drop out or don’t show up can become difficult for teachers to cycle through over and over again.
That doesn’t mean that these beginners weren’t passionate – but it’s a different type of passion than the long-term committers.
Out of the many super-passionate beginners I’ve worked with, only one stuck around long-term as a meaningful contributor. Unlike many other passionate beginners, she really put her money, time, and effort where her mouth was. In contrast, many of the fleeting passionate dancers were more interested in what dance could give them – but were often less willing to really get their hands dirty in the foundations of community involvement.
Most of the time, those who really stick around and get involved on a community level show their dedication over time. This can look like one or more of the following:
- They actively take opportunities offered, but are willing to give back in some way (volunteering, assisting, etc) even when it isn’t glamorous and fun – and they take that commitment seriously (on time, showing up, etc.);
- They develop a strong genuine bond with a teacher or other members of the community beyond “just dancing”;
- They ask about and seek out opportunities to get involved beyond getting free stuff or discounts;
- They aren’t pro- and advanced-partner focused (they dance or interact with everyone);
- They’ve been around for a while, and naturally grow into the role over time as they are noticed; and,
- They have concrete goals for what they want to accomplish, as opposed to being just “passionate” (performance, competition, teaching, DJing, etc).
It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean they weren’t passionate beginners, but they’re generally not the ones spending a lot of time talking to their teachers about how much they love this thing. Instead, they’re the ones that are doing the dancing, looking for classes, signing up to volunteer, and generally getting involved.
Talented Future Teachers: The Exception
There is an exception to the dancers that I’m talking about, and that is the talented future teacher. These dancers usually aren’t geared towards assisting or growing with a specific community, and usually have a strong sports, dance or other competitive background that translates into self-motivation and concrete professional goals.
Often, these people are working very hard to translate their talents professionally and actively seek out improvements. They also may align themselves with mentors or idols that they feel can push them to the next level. These people are usually most likely the ones to become travelling artists – particularly if they can find a home school or mentor that really facilitates their growth.
The thing is, these people usually aren’t your standard passionate beginner. The average passionate beginner is looking at a fun, sparkly hobby; these beginners see an elite “sport” that they need to train for like an athlete. These are very, very different mindsets. Neither is wrong – but they definitely lead to a different trajectory.
“My passion is different! I want to stay around for a long time!”
“That’s great! Keep working at it!”
In all seriousness, I believe you. I don’t think for a second that any of those super-passionate beginners was lying to me about how much they love this hobby. But, please be a touch forgiving on those of us that have seen many a passion fall after a couple months.
If you are passionate and want to prove it, stick around! Get involved! We want to see that this is more than just a fling for you if we’re going to invest time and energy beyond the standard social interaction and paid class environment. We definitely want more super-passionate people growing, teaching, organizing, and volunteering. We just need to see that you’re willing to invest for more than one or two months as well.
If you’re lucky enough to have a teacher that’s newer and hasn’t gone through this cycle enough to be wary, you can be the person who shows the reliability of passion. All I ask is to be honest about how much you’re willing to give for what you get – and to really be sure it’s a two-way relationship before they start investing in you.
Dedication > Passion
At the end of the day, scene leaders and teachers are going to be more interested in a person’s dedication to their community than their initial passion for dance. As much as we want to nurture passion and growth in everyone, time and energy are finite resources. So, if there are only so many dancers we can mentor, it’s in the interests of our community to find those who have proven that they’re willing to stick around and get involved.
So please: keep your passion alive. But, if you want to catch your teacher’s eye as a future community star, back it up with your dedication.