Only a few months ago Maree and I were sitting at breakfast in a Canberra hotel with some very successful ballroom dancers and teachers. While I was enjoying my bacon and eggs, I began to ponder … why are there so many ways to enjoy an egg … why is it one dancer will struggle to achieve, while another will soar to great heights … what has that got to do with eggs? Well … let me draw an analogy between eggs, dancers and in fact everyone else who seeks to achieve a high level of success that became intriguing for me as we continued our breakfast.
Raw egg. Imagine a raw egg as untouched talent, its basic nature undeveloped, raw material ready to be developed / modified… to become. All dancers start here; some never move past this point.
Hard boiled egg. This egg is still inside its shell. From the outside, nothing is different. We often see this in beginning, and even more advanced dancers. It all becomes too hard for them, and the barriers go up. Unless you can break through the barriers nothing will change. They are not willing to try something too new; it scares them, and they fail to progress as a result.
Fried egg. Here is an egg that has been changed by outside forces, its structure now modified. However, it will never be more than it is now. It always ends up as a fried egg no matter how it is cracked open, and no matter how it’s “cooked”. It can be big or small, over or under cooked, but it is still just a fried egg. Dancers like this also produce the same results every time – they may take lessons, even train, but nothing new happens, no further growth occurs – they never break out of their shell and “test the waters”. Typically, such dancers “know everything”, and are usually unwilling or not prepared to listen to teachers and peers and unlikely to make any changes in their approach to dancing. Basically, they have their head between their legs, and will continue to produce the same outcome time after time, just as a fried egg will be essentially the same, no matters who cooks it.
Omelette. Imagine cracking open an egg, and pouring the contents into a bowl. We have the same raw material as with all the eggs above. However, it is what happens to the egg from here that makes all the difference. As the egg is beaten and milk added, change occurs. An omelette will be as individual, and as successful, as its maker would wish. It reflects a combination of initial raw material and influence from the chef. If this were a dancer, we would have someone who is prepared to listen and look for change. They have the same potential as the other eggs, but are different in that they are prepared to allow someone outside themselves to make changes to those resources. By changing the structure (beating the egg – teaching and training), and adding ingredients (spices, tomato, mushrooms – belief, expression, attitude) we create a unique dancer – one who is looking for, and accepting of, change.
The end product will reflect the input.
Real difference comes from how the egg changes and grows.
What you add is what you get. For example, from a dancing perspective adding certain ingredients will lead to a ballroom dancer, others may develop a hip hop dancer, and so on. So, have you determined what type of “egg” you are? If you are still reading this, I guess you must be an “omelette”.
Now we’ve established that, let’s see how a dancer can put themselves “at risk” of advancing and growing. You … your teacher/coach … your dance partner(s) – together you form a team whose aim is to critically:
- identify who and where you are now
- determine who and where you need to be
- investigate and plan how you intend to get there
- recognise when you have “arrived”
- accept there will always be more to achieve.
Sounds a bit like writing a recipe for a fantastic omelette? Well, a chef may put his resources, ideas and creativity into a book of recipes. Where might you, as a dancer, store your ideas, resources and the like? Imagine a box – you can create it in any size, colour and shape. This will be your Performance Toolbox – the place in your mind where you can store your collection of mental and emotional resources that can be drawn upon at will to support you when dancing. Your Toolbox is a collection of advice from your teacher/coach, along with those thoughts and beliefs you have already seen elsewhere (eg in other dancers) that you believe can benefit you as you progress – focus … attitude … motivation … perseverance … determination … and more.
Your Toolbox is an open box – ie one from which you can draw inspiration, and one you can easily add to over time. So, be a sponge. Listen to teachers and coaches. Be prepared to experiment with new ideas. Don’t judge until you have fully explored a concept or a piece of advice. Your Toolbox will follow you everywhere – to training, to a performance, even when you are quietly thinking about things in general. It is your recipe for dancing success. Treasure it, and nurture it over time. Be willing to look inside it when necessary and draw upon any and every element that will assist you when needed. You may need only some resources, you may need quite a lot. In any case, they belong to you, and they will become your signature, your defining character.
So, Bon Appetite, because a menu is but the beginning of a great meal …