Social dancers tend to covet the idea of becoming an advanced dancer. When beginners first start out, they ask “how long will it take for me to be an advanced dancer?” (Answer: depends completely on your skills, how seriously you take it, and how willing you are to learn.)
Meanwhile, the advanced dancers in the scene are frequently sought out for dances. Depending on the genre, maybe multiple dances. Newcomers look up to them, intermediates want to be them, and fellow advanced dancers treat them with a sense of camradarie.
It’s very easy to see that some things change when you become an advanced dancer in your scene. Some of those changes are good, some neutral, and some are actually negative.
What constitutes an advanced dancer can be drastically different between scenes. I’ve seen “advanced” dancers travel to events and realize they’re “novices”, and I’ve seen “novice” dancers from well-established scenes become minor celebrities in newer or less-developed areas.
So, the definition of “advanced” isn’t a fixed point; it’s relative. You’ll generally be “advanced” in a scene or event if you are perceived as a stronger dancer than most of the people in the room with you.
Note the use of the word “perceived.” This means that there are sometimes technically proficient dancers who are seen as ‘less advanced’ by some of their fellows because of an underdeveloped component of their dancing. There can also be less technical dancers that are perceived as ‘advanced’ because of aesthetic, connection, or imported skills from other dances.
This means that, unless you are significantly more developed than most of the other people, your identification as an ‘advanced’ dancer can be largely subjective rather than objective.
The Good Changes
When you become recognized as an advanced dancer, you’ll often find it easier to find a partner – with one exception. If you travel to a new scene, you may find it difficult to get partners until they recognize your skill.
This is especially (unfortunately) true if you do not ‘fit’ the idea of what a dancer of your genre should look like. For example, if you wear jazz shoes to a Tango milonga, you may find yourself sidelined more often.
But, when people know your skill, they will be much more likely to say ‘yes’ if they are basing that decision on skill.
Sometimes, skill may even overrule other sit-out decisions. For example, a tired person may decide to get up if they really like a particular partner. Or, an undesirable song may become tolerable.
More Physical Capability
As you grow, your improving technique will make you better able to complete movements that are more challenging. For example, multiple spins generally require a higher level of technique and balance. This means you will be able to ‘unlock’ more interesting movements that typically left you stumped before – as a follow and as a lead.
Conditioning your body outside of dance can also lead to increased repertoire – particularly for movements that require greater strength or flexibility.
More Community Inclusion
Typically, advanced dancers become more popular in scenes where they’re known. While this doesn’t guarantee that you will have more friends, it does make it easier to open the door for future friendships or relationships.
Of course, less experienced dancers can still be deeply valued in a community. But, it won’t necessarily be their dancing that opens the door.
Keep in mind that great dance skills don’t magically turn someone into a better person. If you behave like a dick, you may still get dances – but find people avoiding your company off the dance floor.
Better Physical Endurance
When you gain better technique, dancing will become easier. This is because you will become more efficient at dancing – especially if you dance on a regular basis.
Most beginners spend far more energy in a dance than advanced dancers simply because their movements are less optimal than someone with good technique.
A Sense of Confidence and Achievement (Sometimes)
Being recognized as an advanced dancer can create a feeling of confidence and achievement in people who were formerly insecure. This may not happen if you are in the habit of comparing yourself to others, or if you can’t recognize your own achievements.
Typically, this confidence only works around people you perceive are at your level or lower. You may still get a sense of anxiety around people who you perceive as stronger.
The Neutral Changes
Your Challenges Will Change
Getting better at dance will not make it any easier to learn. It simply means that you will have new goals and challenges.
For example, you may have nailed single turns. Next is multiple turns. Then, multiple turns on one leg. Then, multiple turns on one leg with styling.
The concept that you’re working on may evolve. But, make no mistake: you’ll still need to overcome challenges. And, you’ll still find new challenges in movements you’ve already “mastered”.
Your Priorities May Shift
This doesn’t happen to everyone. But, advanced dancers typically view dance differently from beginners.
Some stop taking classes. Some take more classes. Some shift to private lessons. Some focus more on performance. Some do less social dancing. And, some do more social dancing.
Whatever the shift is, it’s typical for more experienced dancers to find their ‘niche’ in the scene – and to pursue it more.
The Bad Changes
It’s really easy to develop ego when you feel you are advanced. Maybe no one ever says ‘no’ to you. Maybe people shoot you awesome messages about how great you are. Maybe you just think you’re awesome.
Regardless, advanced dancers need to be active in curbing their ego. This is more about evolving your mindset than about dance skills.
Otherwise, you may get a reputation as a ‘dance snob’.
Some advanced dancers get less enjoyment from social dances that would once have thrilled them. This happens because it’s not as easy to really be pushed when you’re advanced.
It’s necessary for advanced dancers to find ways to ‘up’ their enjoyment level during non-challenging dances. Whether it’s adding more personal expression or getting joy from giving great dances, it’s necessary to find new avenues of fulfillment.
Perception as Property
If you achieve near-celebrity status, you may be treated a little like an unfeeling dance robot. This is especially true in role-imbalanced areas. Typically, it happens most often to male leads – but not always.
You may have lineups of people who refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer. This includes no’s when you want to take a break or drink water.
You need to reserve the right to say ‘no’. But, don’t abuse your community status by being mean. You can be honest and kind.
Becoming a more advanced dancer comes with several advantages and disadvantages. I personally feel the benefits far outweigh the cons.
But, there’s nothing to stop you from simply using dance as a fun, social time. You don’t need to be advanced to have a fulfilling dance life – though very often that goal can help you continue feeling passionate about dance.
Regardless of whether you are advanced or not, you still belong in the scene. And, advanced dancers aren’t necessarily better people. Skill is not a substitute for kindness. In my opinion, it is far more important to be a kind social dancer than an advanced one.
Did we miss anything on our list? What observations can you make about advanced dancers? Leave your thoughts in the comments.