Correctness–our Dance Bête Noire (and how to stop it from eating us alive)

My brain snags on the tiniest detail. Anything that is out of place, that’s where it goes. It’s annoying, especially when I am talking with someone about a big-picture issue, and my brain is lighting on some tiny factual error (for example, in a conversation about which trees to thin in the forest, I might hone in on a tree that is not even under consideration, because it is a spruce, not a pine). Literally, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees ; ).

This is the issue with Correctness

We’ve been talking about the writing assessment model, Fluency, Clarity, and Correctness (in that order), and applying it to dance. Last week, we looked at Clarity, and the week before, Fluency. Both of these are what’s known, in writing terms, as Higher Order Concerns (HOCs). They are big-picture issues–the forest, if you will. In terms of fluency, if a writer can’t turn out the words, nice clean sentences will not help. If a dancer can’t move with ease and grace to the music, all the perfect moves in the world will look stilted.

Clarity is also like this. When a dancer has nothing to say, their dancing just doesn’t have that engaging spark. Generally, folks enjoy dancers who enjoy themselves, who love their guests, and who bring them the gift of their dance. If a dancer just goes through the motions of their dance, eh. People eat their diner instead.

These are HOCs because they have the greatest impact. Folks will generally forgive technical errors when they are entertained. Except when they focus on those trees…

Trees (and Correctness) are Lower Order Concerns (LOCs)

Lower Order Concerns in writing include typos, spelling, and sentence-level errors. These don’t impact the overall quality of the writing–but they can be annoying and distracting. As a writing teacher, I had to learn to overlook LOCs as I read, to more accurately assess the student writing. Having rubrics (such as Fluency, Clarity, and Correctness), helped me do this.

In dance, LOCs are things like hair, hand position, costume adjustment, and so forth. They are small elements that have the potential to snag the eye and focus all the attention–even though they are secondary to Fluency and Clarity. Correctness issues can be far more easily, well, corrected, than HOCs. Yet who among us hasn’t been castigated for some small infraction with no attention at all paid to what we did right? And the way we treat ourselves?

We have been taught to focus on the most minute, perfectionist issues, on what is wrong, rather than on more important things, and what is right.

Focusing on what’s right is revolutionary

I was brought up in a family that generally focused on small details and what is wrong (no wonder I didn’t like myself very much ;). Plus we were sarcastic and disdainful. Maybe you were, too. Or your teacher. Or your friends. Many people are. It took me years to A. see this, and B. change it.

It was important. So I learned. As a college-level writing teacher, a subject area frozen with fear, it is vitally important to help students see what they are doing well, so they can do more of it. The same goes for dance. We have been terrorized by perfectionism, squinting at ourselves in the mirror, looking for errors. So errors are all we see.

Correctness has its place

Of course, line, makeup, hair, hand positions, etc are important. Technique is important. But they are not the be-all, end-all of the world. Like the people who completely discount the content of an article because a word is misspelled or a sentence has a dangling modifier, dancers discount their own beauty because they made some tiny error. It’s like the way we hate on ourselves because we don’t like our nose, or our thighs, or our left pinky toe.

And the tone! The shaming! It’s ridiculous. There is a lot of “I’m better than you” in the critique world, a lot of keeping people small. I don’t hold with any of it. And we internalize all of it, and shame ourselves when there is no one else around to do it for us.

But it’s a simple matter of, “I loved how joyful and fluid you were–I’d love to see your hands carry that through. What if you extend the energy all the way out your arms?” A focus on HOCs, on what’s right, and a follow up with a suggestion for how to improve.

This is why we talk about Fluency Clarity, and Correctness–in that order.

First things first. A dancer’s ability to dance is more important than flawless technique. For the dancer to share joy with their guests is more important than their styling. To have confidence, joy, brio–these are what make a dancer.

In my experience, most people have not a clue on how to give productive critique. Even worse, they give their nit-picky, perfectionist observations without being asked. Nobody needs to walk off the dance floor and have someone tell them what they did wrong.

But all of us want to improve. So what is the answer? How do we step away from a focus on the wrong? How do we even know what is right? How do we say it without hurting anyone’s feelings–how do we give critique that is supportive, compassionate, and productive? We focus on what’s right. We give specifics. When we correct, we give a path to improvement. We avoid unsolicited advice.

And, there is a class for that. I made it from my decades of experience as a writing teacher who also teaches dance. Announcing…

Focus on the Feeling: How to get (and give) great critique for Oriental dance.

The course runs 6 weeks, from Sunday, October 13 — Friday, November 22, 2019.
It’s on a private forum–no Facebook groups. It has daily homework and feedback (M-F). And it’s a sure-fire way to like your own dancing more, and to have a much better way of talking about dance and improvement.

I’m updating the page now, and will share it next week.

In the meantime…

The Bellydance Bundle is coming!

What shall I make this year? What would you like to learn?
Write me back! Now is the time.

With all my love,
Alia

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