In dancing, there are three stages where most dancers deal with deep feelings of frustration or apathy – and sometimes even leave the scene. Some dancers get stuck in these for a long time – while others may only spend a short time there. But, it’s rare to bypass a stage completely.
I call these stages the three circles of Hell for dancers:
- Beginner’s Hell
- Plateau Purgatory
- Snob Inferno
Circle 1: Beginner’s Hell
Beginner’s Hell is what happens when you first start learning a dance – but nothing quite works yet. It’s also the only hell a dancer will always encounter each time they start a new dance. Most of us have heard of this before.
In this stage, the frustration stems from not being able to do anything right. Staying on time is a struggle. Steps are confusing. Connection is a difficult task. Dancers crossing over from other genres may also struggle with accidentally inserting completely unrelated movements into the flow of a new dance.
For some, this stage passes quickly. For others, it can last an impossibly long time. It lasts until a person has learned how to navigate and survive the social dance floor.
The best way to leave this stage quickly is to practice – both in a classroom and on the social dance floor. You can also practice at home, watch videos, and listen to the music. Regardless of how long the stage lasts, take solace in the knowledge that you only ever have to go through this once in each dance you try.
Circle 2: Plateau Purgatory
Plateau Purgatory is when you have reached a functional level in dance… but fail to grow further. Every attempt at bettering your dance feels like the endless input of energy for no gain.
Typically, dancers first encounter this plateau at the early to mid intermediate level – but it can recur several times at different levels. Even advanced dancers are not immune to plateau purgatory!
Many dancers equate this purgatory with the feeling of being on a comfortable (but boring) autopilot feeling. Leaders may get into a pattern rut, where they keep regurgitating the same things over and over. Follows may keep messing up the same things repeatedly or using the same styling and body movements, even if they’re able to follow most common social dance patterns.
Plateaus can last anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years. The only way out is through – so buckle up, and keep working away at it. You may feel like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill, but you will eventually reach your next breakthrough. And when you do, it will be glorious!
Circle 3: Snob Inferno
This is a hell that [usually] first strikes dancers between the early-intermediate and early-advanced levels. And, many of them feel shame about it.
Typically, dancers get to a point where they’re happy with their dancing – when they’re with a ‘good’ partner. But, things are less fun and go less smoothly with a ‘bad’ partner. Thus, the ‘snob ego’ develops. These dancers feel comfortable with their own dance, but have yet to master the ability to compensate for their partner.
Some dancers know they’re becoming snobby, and feel terrible about it. They feel guilty for not enjoying dances with so many nice people. So, they put on a false happy face and pretend to make the most of every dance – even if they’re bored or frustrated. These dancers typically escape snobdom earlier than others.
Others feel they are entitled to act on their snobbiness. They make no effort to hide their disdain for partners they feel are less accomplished or savvy. They may have a disinterested air when dancing with novice or newcomer dancers. Some of these dancers never leave the Snob Inferno.
To escape the inferno, dancers need to come to terms with how to create a good experience independent of their partner. They need to learn how to work with dancers who have poor connection or uninteresting movements. They need to create fun – rather than wait to be entertained.
This is why the ones who feel guilty typically escape the inferno earlier. They don’t like what they feel themselves becoming – so they are motivated to get out. They want to figure out how to work with less-savvy partners to create a good experience.
“This will never be me!”
If you think “this will never be me,” be careful. The Snob Inferno can be very hard to detect. For example, there are some dancers who say “I have fun with everyone – except for all those people with poor connection and basics.” As a preference, this is fine. For example, “I prefer dancing with people that have good connection and basics.”
But, if you claim that they “don’t belong in our scenes” or feel like they “don’t work hard enough” in their dancing simply because their basics or connection aren’t that great, you may be in the Snob Inferno.
Luckily, the dance hells don’t last for eternity. They are a passing state of frustration, apathy, or ego. They may take longer to work through for some, but you can leave each of them. Whether it’s through learning your basics, challenging yourself, or changing your attitude, all three can be overcome.
Perhaps there’s even a dance heaven on the other side… [*Hint*]
Have you found yourself in any of the dance hells? Let us know what you think in the comments below.