Thursday, February 7, 2013

Performance Metrics

How do you measure improvement? Shouldn't there be some sort of performance metrics, for without them how am I to know if I'm improving?

In pilot training, all a student has to do is look at his (or her) older logbook entries to recall what he was working on, and how those things that used to cause such trouble no longer seem challenging. What do we have in dance?

I guess those who train in the Royal Academy of Dance methodology have their myriad of exams and levels. The rest of us have only the title of the classes we take. One can spend a long time in a class named "Beginner Ballet", yet still be making significant progress. Much like a student pilot's logbook, this blog is the way I keep track.

I found a new metric tonight. I hadn't been to my Thursday evening class in quite some time, and the instructor has been sending me "We miss you! Come back!" emails. Tonight I decided to go, as much to catch up on the personal goings-ons as for the classwork. One of the differences in this class is that our center work is more long sequences rather than short, repetitious exercises we do elsewhere. I think I've really benefited from the latter, boring though they may be. One of tonight's sequences included chaînés turns leading into an arabesque; I've always had trouble with chaînés turns, but tonight I fired off sequences of four fast turns and didn't slip or feel off balance. I had a bit of trouble with the transitions to the arabesque, being slightly behind the music and a touch off balance, but I was able to hold the pose and the instructor thought the problem was lack of anticipation and planning in the transition. Honestly, though, I was so shocked by being stable I hadn't given any thought to a transition. She then suggested I tighten up my foot spacing, and I was able to do that too, even on the comparatively slippery wooden floor. Attempting the same sequences to the left weren't quite as stable, but still far better than I'd ever previously been to either side.

My instructor finished the night by commenting that as much as she hates to lose students to another school or instructor, she'd like it even less to lose one because they stopped dancing. And she said she could tell that I'd definitely been dancing. Wow.

So despite my concern that some might read this as unseemly bragging, I'm posting this so I can look back on it when I'm feeling like I'm not getting anywhere. Just like I did as a student pilot.


  1. I always think the way it works is exactly how you experienced it - that "a-hah moment" when you're suddenly* able to do something that was out of your reach before.

    *Suddenly meaning: you've been working and making incremental improvements all along, but you suddenly notice that those increments have added up to a giant leap forward.

    1. Yup, just like that. :-)

      I sometimes feel like I'm banging my head against a wall, and then suddenly the wall cracks and falls away. Leaving... the next wall for me to bang my head against. In this case, the wall seems to be labeled "en Dedans". :-)

      When I saw that I had a comment from the "Tacoma City Ballet", in my mind's eye I pictured the entire ballet company crowded around a large-screen monitor, all reading my blog together. I'm guessing you're the webmistress or PR individual for the company, but the image is stuck in my head. *waves madly at the assembled dance company*


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