Learning Plateaus

I'm mad as hell

and I am not going to take it any more!

By H. Leon Raper

If you have not experienced that feeling of frustration then you have not tried to learn to dance. Frustration is a common feeling that can occur many times when learning to dance. People reach what are referred to as "learning plateaus." Learning plateaus are experienced by almost everyone who tries to train their mind and body to perform some form of controlled physical movement. It is common to all physical sports, dancing, etc. How you deal with those learning plateaus and the resultant frustration can result in either continued positive progress or utter chaos, anger, and tension between dancers. Lets look at some positive approaches to dealing with learning plateaus and frustration. One method is to take a break, do something else - get completely away from dancing for a while. Another method is to change to a different dance from the one you are practicing - if you are practicing Swing, then change to Waltz or something else. Another method is to stop and examine the exact structure of the pattern you are attempting to perfect - discuss it with your partner in detail. Try to remember how it was described to you by the instructor or review the video from which you obtained the pattern, or ask your instructor for help. Another method is to ask your partner "how can I help you?" Another excellent method is to close your eyes, take a several very deep breaths, exhale slowly and picture the air swirling through your brain, washing it out, as you exhale. Try the breathing exercises several times during your practice session or any other time you may experience anxiety or frustration in your life - this really works. It is best to deal with anxiety or frustration the moment you become aware of it. This will lead to a much more productive and happier life. Partial credit must be given to Mike Haley and Patti Miller for some of these suggestions - which are included in their great video tape series of dance instruction.

(Published in Flagstaff Swing Dance Club, Inc. Newsletter, October 1994)

(Published in NTA (National Teachers Assn.) Newsletter, February 1995)