Goal setting in any field is extremely important for progression and growth. Dance is no different. However, a lot of people tend to make the mistake of having only one overarching goal. One of the most valuable skills to learn in dance is how to develop different ‘tiers’ of goals. These different tiers work in a few ways:
- They allow you to measure short-term growth
- They prevent you from becoming frustrated or bored by long-term goals
- They give you a road-map on how to structure your dancing
All three of these things are important for your dance development. Without short-term growth goals, dancers tend to hit ‘plateaus’ in which they feel frustrated and unable to improve. Sometimes this has to do with a long-term goal that they can’t quite reach yet, and sometimes this also stems from lacking a defined goal for their dance. Goal-setting isn’t a cure-all for plateaus, but it does help. It also gives you a way to mark progress and to create a road-map for your future dancing.
Loosely, I personally like the following tiered system for goals:
- Tier 1: Your 1-month goals
- Tier 2: Your 6-month goals
- Tier 3: Your 1-year goals
- Tier 4: Your BIG Goals
- Tier 5: Your dream.
Tier 1: Small Goals That You Can Accomplish Relatively Quickly
These are goals that, with a reasonable amount of work suited to your schedule, you can accomplish within a month or two. These will be highly varied from person-to-person because of time, resource or other restrictions. It also largely depends on your current stage in dancing, and any physical limitations you may have.
- Mastering a single/double/triple free-spin
- Committing to a dance practice schedule
- Learning a specific pattern or movement
- Learning to find the beat in more songs
- Signing up for a specific set of classes
- Actively asking people at local dance nights to dance more often
- Committing to an external exercise regime to help your dance
These goals can be things that contribute to your larger goals, or stand-alone items that will make you happy. Never judge your goals by someone else’s. For example, my personal 1-month goal of doing a right-side split may be a 6 month or year goal for someone else depending on your flexibility.
Tier 2: Small Goals That Require A Bit More Work
These ones should require more maintenance than the one-month ‘instant gratification’ variety, but not be so out of sight that you can’t actively plan for them. These ones should generally be in line with a larger goal that you have, but may also still be a one-off special event goal. Examples include:
- Mastering a more complex movement that takes body training to achieve (ie, splits)
- Attending a specific event
- Dancing with and/or getting feedback from specific pro’s
- Reaching a certain level that is not too far off (ie, moving from being a novice to an intermediate dancer skill wise [for my Westies in the house: WSDC points are a different animal.])
Tier 3: Assessing Long-Term Improvements
This is where goal-setting tends to become more a strategy for reaching your ultimate goal. At the 1-year + goal line, things start to take more work and require more patience to achieve. These tend to be more overarching as opposed to specific goals:
- Becoming a better lead/follow
- Learning to choreography
- Putting together a performance
- Launching a successful dance night
As you can see, these tend to be more abstract. If the year-goal is to become a better follow, then a 6-month goal may be to improve your frame and a 1-month goal may be to not hold on too tightly with the fingers. The further out the goal, the less specific they become.
Tier 4: Finding Your “Dance Calling”
Your Dance Calling can be anything:
- Becoming a great social dancer,
- Travelling the world to dance,
- Becoming a teacher,
- Organizing events,
- Scene building, or;
- Going pro.
There are many other areas as well. Whatever the goal, this is something that takes time and a lot of effort to develop. If you’re ‘achieved’ your goal, then it turns into a maintenance and attaining higher levels within that goal. For example, if you already teach, how can you improve your teaching? What professional development classes could you take? How can you strengthen your own dancing? If you already perform, how can you fix your problem areas?
Of all the Tiers, this is the one where you need a road map to get there. It really helps to make your smaller goals things that will feed into your end goal. Using the teacher example as the Tier 4 goal, maybe your Tier 3 goal will be to become a teaching assistant in a class, or take a teaching program. These are goals that you don’t put a timeline on because they are a state of constant evolution and improvement.
Tier 5: Getting Inspired
Tier 5 is not a ‘goal’; it is more an inspiration. For example, it would be my ‘dream’ to dance with the proficiency of Tatiana in WCS or Larissa in Zouk. These are dreams in the sense that they’re pretty much 99% unattainable for someone in my position. For example, both those examples have been dancing since they were kids. I started dancing in university. They also likely spend several hours training on dance per day because they are full-time professionals. I have a life outside of dance that demands too much attention to spend that much time on my dance – even if I would love to do so.
These are the items that you use to constantly push yourself to new heights. Without this, it is easy to be complacent once you reach your ‘big goal’. These are the items that remind you that you can still grow much more.
I also recommend that, in addition to having a ‘dream’, to also pick a Tier 5 that motivates you from a different angle: the person you could actually become. This can be someone pro or not who inspires you and that you want to be like, and where you feel like it’s actually possible for you to achieve that height.
What happens if I don’t know what my goals are?
That is perfectly OK, but I would recommend looking into it. It’s fine for the goals to be smaller or more conservative, but it’s important to assess your dance and find out where you want to go with it. Otherwise, there is a strong likelihood you will get bored with your dance.
One thing is for certain: you won’t know what your goals are until you explore the possibilities. Want to see if you like performing? Try it out – it doesn’t hurt. Feel like maybe teaching would be cool? See if you can become a teaching for a series or a free drop-in class. If you don’t like it, there’s nothing lost, and your focus can move elsewhere. It is also perfectly OK to only view these experiences as tools towards another goal – such as becoming a great social dancer. Make your scope and your goals as narrow or wide as you like.
Now. Go forth, set goals, and reach your dance greatness! Share your dance goals below to get inspired and inspire others.
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