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"Perfect Practice Makes Perfect"

v.s.

The "Feel Good" Method

By H. Leon Raper

Most people have heard the saying "practice makes perfect." That can result in massive frustration and probable failure. Those familiar with the problem restate the saying correctly: "perfect practice makes perfect." However, in the early stages of learning to dance most dancers use the "feel good" method of learning. That is, rather than practicing exactly what they were taught by their instructor, they practice over and over again until the pattern starts to "feel good." Odds are that the only reason the pattern feels good is because the dancers are compensating for each others mistakes - and if the truth were told, it really does not feel that good, they are struggling. Then they wonder why they are unable to execute more advanced patterns that require expertise in the earlier patterns - which were learned incorrectly. Many people use the "feel good" method because they can not remember all the instruction they were given and are embarrassed to ask for help. Dancing is supposed to be fun, so if you are frustrated and not having much fun then ask your instructor for help. Don't just examine the step pattern, examine dance technique such as: frame, body movement - including the FFF principle (feet follow frame). Also, developing an understanding of Skippy Blair's "Universal Unit System" (TM) will be a great help in improving your dance abilities very quickly. If you don't remember everything, ask the instructor again. Instructors really enjoy helping people who are trying hard to learn - ask a lot of questions and really listen. Also, do not get in such a big hurry. If you slow down you will not have to work so hard and will learn much faster. "Don't work hard, work smart." Really listen to your instructor - understand exactly what to do on each step of a pattern. Then, practice what you understand. If something still does not feel right after a little practice then ask your instructor for help. "Perfect Practice" results from entering your practice session armed with a good understanding of what you wish to accomplish and devoting sufficient time for practice. "Makes Perfect" will automatically result from sufficient "Perfect Practice." Dancing will be a lot more fun.

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