For many, a fair dance world would be one in which hard work + time = a better dancer. The person who has taken two classes a week religiously for four years would necessarily be stronger than a dancer who has taken an occasional private or event workshop in the same length of time.

In reality, this isn’t how things work.

Why certain people get better faster

Very often, people excel quicker than their peers for one of a few reasons:

  • Physical conditions (which may include age, flexibility, strength, health, etc)
  • Movement experience
  • How they think
  • Quality of instruction/dances
  • Talent

Accepting Progress Rates

Some of these reasons are easier to swallow. Generally, it is easier to accept that someone’s background or their environment contributes to their success. These are factors outside of their control. But, when it comes to advantages bestowed by their body, talent, or mind, it can almost feel unfair when they progress more quickly.

Obviously, people each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some of those strengths and weaknesses happen to affect how quickly a person can learn dance. Some people just happened to get ‘lucky’ – whether  it’s because their parents put them in ballet at age 5, or because they just happen to be talented.

Further, a handful of people have the capacity to become a brilliant social dancer, or jaw-dropping professional… but most of us won’t. Put simply, most of us just aren’t that talented, that hardworking, and that lucky. That’s when we have to confront the fact that sometimes, a dancer who started after us or worked less hard is just downright better at dancing than we are – even if it’s not “fair”.

For Social Dancers

In social dancers, that jealousy may come from a fellow student who seemingly “gets good” overnight. People are talking about how great it is to dance with them, and how talented they are. Then, we’re left thinking: “Why does no one talk that way about me? I’ve been working harder, dancing longer, and love this thing more than they do. It isn’t fair that people talk that way about them and not me.

You’re correct: it’s not fair. But, it’s also not the other dancer’s fault. And, it may not be as dire a situation as you think it is.

First, some people may talk about you that way – you just don’t know it. Some people may absolutely love your connection and style, even if you don’t reach the fever-inducing popularity of the most sought-after social dancers.

Second, you may work harder. And you may care more. But, your best measuring stick is against yourself, and your progress. If you aren’t happy with your own personal progress, you have the power to change that. You can change your training schedule, your teacher, and your situation. What you can’t change is the other person’s perfect blend of circumstances and aptitude that is taking them further faster.

Regardless of your aptitude and skill, there will be people who enjoy dancing with you. It’s just up to you to value those partners, and to find the ones you connect with in an enjoyable way.

For Teachers

When the upcoming person has teaching aspirations, this issue can become magnified. Very often, established-but-not-world-famous teachers can become guarded or jealous if an up-and-coming artist starts surpassing them in popularity or success.

I get it. Really, I do.

I’m also going to acknowledge here that some people who claim “teacher” status really shouldn’t be teaching yet. Some talented people get a little bit ahead of themselves, and overextend their reach before they’re ready. But, when you are ready to jump to that excuse, ask yourself: is the feeling stemming from jealousy of their early success, or from a critique of their actual readiness?

If the feeling may be stemming from jealousy, this is for you.

Every teacher has their limits. Some of us may be great local teachers, but are not destined to reach world class superstar status. In fact, most of us fall into this category. This isn’t because we’re bad teachers or dancers (in fact, some of us may be wonderful dancers or teachers); we just don’t have that magic combination to captivate the world.

If you are among the many who will not be the best in the world, you can still support those with the capacity to be great. Some of the best coaches have never been world champions at their sport. You may even be someone that the upcoming dancer looks up to and admires. Remember that even if they ultimately reach higher than you, it does not mean that you are unsuccessful or bad at what you do.

If You are the Talented Dancer

If you think that you are the person who is far outpacing their peers, enjoy the fact that you are in a highly desired place. But, recognize that it’s also up to you to craft how you will be received by the rest of the community.

If you begin integrating only with the dance world elites, ignoring the ‘average’ dancers, and develop a sense of aloofness from those you have outpaced, people will resent you more. But, if you can find the humility and genuine desire to interact and grow with people despite your talent, you will likely turn into a celebrated member of the dance world.

Further, it’s also important to realize that being an extremely talented dancer does not automatically make you a great teacher, community builder, or thinker. There are people of average dance skill who have a better mental understanding of mechanics and movement. There are people who are excellent at conveying knowledge. Do not underestimate the value of seeking out these people, and learning from them – just as they may seek to be elevated by your ability to dance beautifully.

Value beyond Crazy Dance Skills

Remember that each person within a community does have a role to play in its success. You can be an average dancer, and amazing teacher. You can be both an average and inspiring dancer through dedication and hard work – rather than for insane abilities.

Even without extraordinary talent or skill, many people can admire your dance and your contributions. So yes, at the end of the day, that newer dancer may be better at dancing than you. But, that’s no reason to stop chasing your dreams on your own timeline, and becoming the dancer you want to be.