Dance Smarter, Not Harder

One of the most important mindsets I've acquired has been summed up in a few words: Dance smarter, not harder.

I’m also going to be giving you a couple of scenarios that show you how to utilize this mindset for your dance career or business.

What's the most common thing dancers strive for?

I started a Twitter poll in May to ask my followers (who are mostly dancers) what they strive for most when it comes to dancing. The most common thing that all dancers strive for is improving their craft. I'm not surprised because I too, strive for this. Here comes a big but.


If you ONLY focus on dance skills and nothing else, this will lead to an unsuccessful dance career. PERIOD. I repeat,

If you ONLY focus on dance skills and nothing else, this WILL lead to an unsuccessful dance career.

You're probably saying, “Can! Are you saying I shouldn’t try to get better? Are you saying I shouldn’t try to go hard? What else does a dancer need to be successful besides dance skills?”

What I’m saying is, you have to be more than a good dancer to be successful. You have to know how to think like a boss and learn how business works. Most successful dancers understand that it takes more than dance skill to have a sustainable dance career and they focus on both aspects.

Let’s do a quick case study. I'm gonna do some googling. Go ahead, you can google this too. Let’s Google search:

The richest dancer in the world

At the time of this writing, this was the result:
Coming in at number 1 is a man named Michael. Not Jackson. Not Jordan. Michael Flatley.

With $288 Million in net worth, Michael Flatley holds the Guinness world record for “Highest Paid Dancer in the World.” How did he make all this money? Was it JUST from dancing? I'm betting it wasn't.

Besides dancing, I believe he became successful because of the way he thinks and the way he marketed himself to build his brand. He wanted to do things that no dancer has done and he made the claim that "he will dance until the day he dies." He dreamed BIG. The point is, he knew how to do more than just dance, he knew how to dance smart AND he had a whole lot of confidence.

By focusing his efforts on creating shows, selling tickets, marketing his brand, doing interviews, producing videos, even writing a book, and many more things that don't involve actually dancing, he's created a huge name for himself.

If he's the richest, Is he the best dancer in the world?

In my opinion, no one is the best dancer because there'll always be someone better.

Do YOU have to be the best dancer to be successful?
Absolutely not. But you can be the best at being YOU.

My point is, dancing is only a small part of the equation for Successful Dancing. The more important part is the MINDSET, the CONFIDENCE, and DRIVE to go beyond dance.

I know you've heard THIS before,

"Work smarter, not harder"

Sound familiar? I first heard it from a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It's a book that teaches you the mindset of rich people and how to work smarter. It's a great book if you're someone who wants to learn that mindset.

Working smarter means doing less work but achieving better results.

Here's an example of working smarter:

Instead of spending hours working at a job and getting minimum wage and being stuck on a schedule, you can spend time building a business that allows you to control your schedule and have more time for more fun things like dancing. This is optional but if you're gonna be a dancer, your schedule might have to be more flexible.

Another example:

If you've saved up enough money to buy a house, instead of living in it, rent it out to people and use that money as passive income. You'd be able to make money while you sleep. You get the idea. Spend less time, make more money. This is similar to the job of choreographer. You choreograph once, teach it once, and it lives on forever in media.

A good ratio for work vs money is about 80/20. 80% of your results should be coming from 20% of the effort. I try to implement this ratio as much as possible. It doesn't have to be exactly this but if you want to read more about it, check out the 80/20 Principle.

Now that we have this concept in our minds, let’s translate it for dancers. Let’s dance smart and not hard. How can we apply this mindset to our dancing to help us become successful?

Dancing smart really just means being efficient with your dancing so that you can have more time to focus on the other aspects of your dance business. Let’s create some typical dance scenarios to help you understand this better.

Scenario 1

Your team just got booked for a gig that is happening in one week. You’ve only got two days out of the week to rehearse with your team. You are tasked with coming up with a performance for a corporate party where the audience doesn’t know too much about dance. Your goal is to deliver an entertaining piece so that your audience is happy. What’s the most efficient way to do this?

Solution 1: Use/Revamp An Older Piece

You should use an easy crowd-pleasing piece that you’d already created from before so that you can have more time to clean the piece. With this method, you might even have time to make minor changes that will 'wow' your audience.

The more entertained they are, the more likely you will be hired again, usually. You end up spending LESS time working on your dance but get the FULL benefits of an entertaining show.

Remember the 80/20 rule. Just make sure you always have material to pull from your dance library. If you don't have a library of moves, you should start building one so you can dance smarter.

Solution 2: Stick To Your Strengths
You should create a piece that focuses on the strengths of the team. Let’s say your team specializes in robotics. There is NO point in creating a piece that is out of your element especially if it’s difficult for your team.

Remember that for this scenario, you’re not focused on improving a skill, you’re focusing on what your team is already good at (which in this case is robotics) and making smarter choices for choreography. Because you’re on crunch time and you want to deliver entertainment, you have to choreograph robotic moves that your team can learn quickly and clean quickly.

The only downside to this option is you may be sacrificing moves to make everything feel “easier.” Even if it’s easy to you, you have to think back to what your audience knows. They are expecting to be entertained. Do you really think they are expecting to see really difficult dance moves? Unless that’s what you’re known for, I’m gonna go ahead and assume that’s a NO.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying you should ONLY stick to your style. You can definitely expand your skills but there’s a time and place for that. Knowing how to focus on what's important is apart of dancing smarter.

Solution 3: Leverage Your Team or Outsource
Let’s say you have NO time to choreograph. Pick a person from your team that can choreograph something your whole team can learn fast. It's like a boss hiring an employee to do the work so that the boss can focus on more important things.

If you don’t have anyone who can choreograph on your team, ask a guest choreographer to come and create for you and make sure you pay them for their time using the money you get from the gig. If they are willing to do it for free, find a way to compensate them for their time anyway to build a good working relationship.

You can always owe them a favor. It's always smarter to focus on building good relationships because those are priceless. This method will require you to spend no time choreographing and more time working on relationships with other choreographers and take some of the stress off of you so that you can perform better.

With someone else worrying about choreography, you can learn from them AND you can have time to oversee the routine from the audience's perspective. This is a perfect example of dancing smart. If you had to choreograph and teach everything on your own, you won’t have enough time to look at it as a whole since you’ve only two days to do all of this.

Scenario 2

You’re learning a new routine so that you can create a dance video but you barely have time to practice due to school or work. You only have about 30 minutes to an hour worth of practice time each day. You have to be ready to film this routine by the end of the month because that’s the only window of time that you’ve got. What should you focus on?

My Recommended Solution: Schedule and Commit

Before you do anything creative, you’re gonna sit down and fill out your calendar, then you’re gonna stick to that schedule. It’s a simple task but most people just start working without even scheduling anything and that will definitely result in an unorganized video shoot or an incomplete dance routine.

Figure out how much time you actually have reserved for dance practice and fill in the exact times you will practice during the month. Now, fill out the exact times for the video production end.

If you don’t have enough time for video production, you might have to take out some of the practice time. If it’s your first time doing this and you aren’t sure how much time you need to practice, just fill it out anyway and adjust it each week until you find a good pace.

Scheduling everything is super important but it can be a tedious task. When you start making money from dance, use that money to hire an assistant or a friend to help you schedule things so that you have more time to create. Get used to working with others because if you want to grow a dance business, you’ll eventually need a team. This is a good way to dance smarter because you're assuming the role of boss.

I Didn’t Stick to My Dance Schedule:
So now you’re rehearsing for about a week and let’s say you missed a couple of rehearsals due to emergencies or whatever the case may be. Now you’re running out of time and you start to freak out. No worries. You’ve got a few days left to make changes. Look at your routine and see what parts you’re struggling with.

Change it. Switch out the tough parts with something more manageable and save the difficult move for your next video. It feels like you’re giving up and not trying hard enough but listen to me carefully when I say this. You’re not here to dance hard, you’re here to dance smart. You’re simply storing that move into your library of moves and you can pull up that move at a later time.

Side note: I know it seems like I’m telling you to settle for easier moves but there’s a good reason for it..

Dance is subjective.

The “easy moves” could be lame in your mind but it could be extremely entertaining to someone else. If this is your business, the customer is always first. Successful dancers don’t start businesses to please themselves, they do it to serve others and are rewarded for doing so.

Even if your moves are easy, your amount of confidence and enthusiasm will put life into those moves. Never dance without confidence in your moves. As long as you dance with confidence, it won’t matter. Just remember Michael Flatley. Confidence.

My Video Plans Fell Through:
Let’s say your video plans don’t work out and you couldn’t find a location or a videographer. You can either postpone this or set the camera on a tripod and film it down the street. Dance videos are more about the content than the actual setting.

You can film a dance video anywhere and as long as the dancing is GOOD. Some people won’t care if it’s in your bedroom or if its in a dance studio. But they WILL see how much effort you put into a video so if you're planning on doing it in your bedroom or down the street, make sure you find the best shot possible and be resourceful.

Plan carefully. The only GOOD plan is having MANY plans.

A word about commitment..

Treat this as if it were your FAVORITE job because you ultimately want dancing to be your main career, right? Getting into that mindset and committing are the most important qualities to have when it comes to building your career.

There are so many more scenarios to cover but I’ll have to save those for another time. If you ever want to discuss a challenge that you’re currently facing, let’s talk about it! I hold group mentoring sessions every weekend where I dedicate my time to helping dancers like you overcome those challenges.

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Thank you so much for reading and I hope you found my advice helpful. If you feel confused or want to go more in depth with this topic, click here to learn how to dance smarter.