I played soccer for the majority of my life. I like to think I was quite good at it. I remember watching the World Cup on TV where I saw a player do a bicycle kick. Probably one of the coolest moves you can do in the sport. So I did what every kid did, I went out and tried it. The first couple times I did what I know now to expect, I fell on my head, hurt my back, the normal stuff. I thought it would be like when I learned how to play soccer, easy. But it wasn't. It took me a few months to get the move down and then another few months after that to try it in a real game. I whiffed my first few times, made contact a couple times after that until finally I could hit the ball with some gusto. Like a light bulb going off in my head. Aha! It wasn't a surprise when one day I would eventually use it to score the winning goal in a game. Mainly because I had been practicing so hard.
Fast forward several years later. I would experience the same thing when I started to learn to dance. Have you ever felt that? Like you learned something and then all of a sudden learn something new and you have to go through the same learning process all over again? For me it was the dreaded West Coast Swing. Just when you get one swing down, you have to go and see another cool version of swing to learn. I love it now, but it was my nemesis for about a year. I know better now. I know that this process happens every time you learn something new. No matter what it is. From learning how to communicate with my wife, to learning how to make a great ice cream. We all have a learning curve to go through. Some of us go through it faster than others, but in the end, it's all the same.
The Stages of Learning originally came from the psychology term, Stages of Competence, which explains the process we go through when learning new elements. It's important for us as students to know that despite how hard we try, we are always going to learn something new. And with it comes these four stages. So let's take a look deeper into what each stage is and what to expect when we hit them.
THE STAGES OF LEARNING
1. INITIAL STAGE
This is the beginning stage where you first learn the dance or step. In the beginning, everything is new and exciting. Kind of like learning to drive a car. You don't know what to do, but you know you want to get out on the road and give it a shot. The great thing here is, the excitement, newness of learning different patterns, how to move your body and learning about the whole world of dance, keeps your mind off of anything in your way.
2. AWKWARD STAGE
Eventually you learn more and pass stage one and go to stage two. Here, you quickly realize that you maybe need more time to get this stuff down. That's when your body is taking time to learn and things start to feel awkward. You know this stage well. This is when you feel like your learning isn't so much learning and you start to question if you really are learning to dance or not. Trust me! You are learning to dance, your body just takes longer to learn than your head. Stick with it and trust that there is another stage to get to.
3. CONSCIOUS STAGE
If you stick with it long enough, you reach the conscious stage. This is where you feel like you have it, but you still have to think about it. Kind of like driving. At this stage, it would be easy to drive, but you still have to remember to signal and stop completely at a red light (not the California roll). Dancing can be fun, but you still have to think about what move you have to do next, or worry about other people on the floor. This is where muscle memory is being built, so it may take time before getting out of this stage.
4. NATURAL STAGE
Finally, you made it to the last stage. The Natural Stage! This is where dancing becomes easy and flows from one move to the next. It feels...Natural. Like you don't necessarily need dance lessons anymore, but do it because you love it. Now when people say the words "They're just a natural born dancer." You can say, "it's learned".
ONE LAST THING
The Stages of Learning are a constant and never ending process. As long as you keep learning, you will always have a learning process and another stage to go through. Most importantly, don't get discouraged. Know that every dancer (including your instructor), however good they are, were once in your very uncomfortable, self- conscious type shoes. Just remember, that when you're feeling down, it's probably your body taking time to learn and/or you are about to breakthrough to the next level. Just keep moving. Just keep Dancing!