In my lifetime I have dabbled here and I have dabbled there. With the exception of height related activities (although I did force myself to go in a helicopter once) I do believe there is very little I haven’t tried, if the opportunity presented itself. I’m not saying I have done it all, just have rarely said no when given the chance.
There comes a point, however, when it is necessary to settle down and focus on one specific form or type of activity – or else you never have that feeling of accomplishment, never have that basis with which to launch yourself. Also, you won’t any basis to compare if you just continue to float around without purpose.
I have seen this time and again. I’m a strong believer of seeking a solid basis before I explore other options. This is especially true when learning something completely new and out of your norm. When I began learning martial arts, I studied a Japanese form of combat called Ju Jitsu. I would watch as people would come and go – some because they couldn’t handle the pain, the intensity; some because of time or money constraints; and then there were those who thought they could come into our dojo, train for a month, and leave knowing everything there is to know about this ancient art. It was difficult on the students, because this person often felt they knew it all and didn’t come to learn – they came to show off. It was difficult on the instructors (which I became one of over the course of over a dozen years of training) because our job was to make sure our students were safe and, most of us had an honest to goodness desire to see our students get better. Ju Jitsu was never about just basic forms or moves – it was a true combat style, designed for self protection. I took that job seriously as an instructor, wanting my students to be able to handle themselves in various situations. Having a know-it-all in the class made this difficult. After awhile you could pinpoint those who were going to leave. You could see it in their eyes.
I didn’t pick up other forms of martial arts until after I became a sho-dan, or 1st degree black belt in Ju Jitsu. It was at that time where I also tried other forms, although I continued my training in my base art. I became proficient in a few, gaining rank, but it was always Ju Jitsu that I gave the most attention. I have since stopped actively training in Ju Jitsu – due to injury, time, my instructor moving away, and lack of patience to cultivate a student base – I still study my notes and do visualization exercises so I don’t lose all the years of knowledge I cultivated. I have taken this philosophy and applied it to my dance, however.
There are many dance forms out there, so I can only speak from my experience. I still strongly believe that it is important to choose one form of dance to dedicate your time or energy. Only after you have the basics down, have an understanding of the requirements, and have cultivated a deeper understanding of the form itself should you branch out and give other dances a try. It is difficult when you are first beginning, but if you do a little research and gravitate toward what interests you, you will most likely find that is the best place to start.
It is true that you have to build a foundation, before you can build a mansion. At some point your mind will get confused if you keep changing things. You will take a tap class, and then clunk your way into ballet, hurting your heels in the process. You have to be able to compartmentalized your training, but you can only do that if you have enough information there to box it up in the first place. Otherwise you are just using a cardboard box on a rainy day.
I like the thought of being a well-rounded dancer, being able to perform different styles with ease. I have only recently started branching out myself, and then I am careful to keep my ballet training up. I don’t want to discourage anyone for continuing their desire to dance, but I do want to urge you to go about it the right away. I have too many times muddied the waters myself and can understand the difficulty the ensues. Give yourself the opportunity to be good at one style – you will be glad you did. You have your entire life ahead of you to pursue your love of dance.