Some of our students often express frustration about not having regular partners to practice with. Believe me, I know the feeling. I haven’t had a Hustle partner for more than a year. Right when I feel that I need it most (because I’m competing in Advanced, Open and Professional divisions now), I simply don’t have it.
But my last few Hustle competitions have been my most successful ever. At Swing Fling I made finals for the first time in the top division, full of the current Champion followers. At C.A.S.H. Bash last weekend, I placed 1st in the Advanced/Open Hustle Jack & Jill – a first for me and despite my not having danced a single Hustle dance for two months.
Perhaps having a practice partner is not the most important thing – or even a requirement – to progress one’s dance.
If No Partner, Then What?
I thought I would share a few of the things that have helped me improve my Hustle despite rarely getting to dance it of late:
- I created a “vision” for the style of Hustle that I wanted for myself. It is a combination of two of my favourite Hustle followers, and I watch them dance whenever I can – including watching videos of them dancing.
- Partly to realize my Hustle “vision”, I started training in Latin dance technique about a year ago.
- I play Hustle music and visualize myself dancing to it. I play Hustle music and solo-dance to it.
- I get my Hustle fix whenever I can – usually at WCS events (I favour the events where I can dance both dances). During these opportunities, I play the virtual videos of myself in my head (the ones I have created by doing steps 1-3 above) and try to “be” the picture I have in my head.
- I watch video of myself from competitions, evaluate how close to “the vision” I am getting, and then make the necessary adjustments – first mentally/visually, then in action.
Are You Mental?
Even when a person thinks they are “practicing” they may not be. I also defined what I think “practice” means and today I realized that my definition of practice doesn’t include having a partner. All three elements that I wrote as defining “practice” are reflected in what I’ve been doing about my Hustle: goal setting, mental engagement, and repetition.
For elite athletes, the mental aspect of sport, performance, and excellence is often – perhaps always – what sets the Champions apart from the rest of the pack. So if you find yourself dance-partner-less, I hope this will inspire you to stick with it. Make it your own!
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