A Little Hard Work Ahead
& Dan Finch
“If you think you can, or you
think you can’t, you’re right.” —Henry Ford
Most of us are coming off 16 months of the covid pandemic and of being
idle in the activity we have loved passionately—dance. Many have not
danced at all; others have tried kitchen dancing. Either way, we have
probably reached what the psychologists call the “plateau of arrested
development,” where we have stopped learning and may actually be
forgetting what we know.
Angela Duckworth, psychologist, author, University of Pennsylvania
professor, former math teacher, and founder of the Character Lab,
quotes other experts who say it takes long hours—as much as 10,000
hours—of practice to go from rank beginner to a world class expert,
whether you want to be an Olympic competitor, a chess master, or a
But in the blink of an eye, much can be lost. Human skill atrophies if
not practiced, either with focused effort or even just casually, she
She speaks on many YouTube presentations on this theme. She gives
examples of Olympic swimmers and pro basketball players who say when
they practice, they are consciously aware of one thing at a time that
they are trying to improve. Those who put in the work, willing to fight
fatigue and boredom, will be the most successful, she said.
So what does that mean to us? After more than a year of not using our
skills, we should expect those skills have atrophied. Don’t beat
yourself up coming back to dancing if much is forgotten. Don’t quit
teaching just because you find it harder to remember the words or
examples to get across a skill to a class. Just focus and do it.
Duckworth cites an early 20th century experiment at Harvard where
students were required to work out on a treadmill until they became too
tired to go on. Those students were tracked into adulthood, and a
correlation was found between lifetime successes in work and
relationships and those students who had persisted in the treadmilling.
She quoted Will Smith, the actor, explaining his success with “I will
never get off the treadmill before you will.”
We have just started back with some of our classes. Our last year’s
beginners wanted to start over. Our more advanced dancers just wanted
to dance for awhile, no teaching, nothing new. The requests have been
for oldies where muscle memory should help re-develop the skill. Some
come to class early for practice on specific dances.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t remember a tsunami or even a check and
weave. And don’t give up. Get on that treadmill and be the dance
champion that you are, at whatever level you want to be.
From a club
newsletter June 2021,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, August 2021. Find a DRDC Finch archive here.