Talent Versus Work: What Makes a Ballroom Dancer GREAT

What makes someone great in any field? Is it the fact that we are born with some kind of predisposition to it or that we can achieve greatness as a direct response to how much work we invest? The famous writer and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, said that what is rare among people is effort, not talent. In dancesport, it’s hard to make a difference between talent and hard work because they complement each other. Imagine someone who starts dancing in their first years of life. That would be what we call talent.

Without classes, motivation, practice, and continuous learning, the talent would remain untapped and unused. You need discipline, a good work ethic, and ambition. If you have this, talent becomes irrelevant. Maybe it’s that small cherry on the top, but the whole cake is there based on the work that you put in.

In our previous podcast, we had the pleasure to tackle this subject with Dirk Heidemann about the difference between inborn talent and hard work in dancesport. These are some snippets from our conversation with him who were edited for better understanding and better readability.

I hear a lot of people saying that “Oh, I don’t have talent, I can’t do it.” What do you think about this?

Well, I must say that this kind of approach is not productive at all. For me, talent is something around 15% to 20%. You simply cannot say that people who don’t have talent won’t be able to dance and reach a certain level of professionalism. Many of my students, especially couples,went very high in the ranking system in dancesport competitions but they did not rely at all solely on talent. Of course, it matters but not in a way that should make you give up dancing.

So what do you believe then, to be the right approach towards transforming oneself into a professional in dancesport?

As I stated before, talent is one part of the game but everything else falls mostly under the scope of hard work. You want to achieve greatness and be one of the top dancers in the world of dancesport? It’s tough and you have to keep going no matter what. There are a lot of ups and downs and you must be a survivor. Success won’t come so easy in the beginning and you must know how to take it when you lose. I can’t stress this enough: surviving all the way is very important.

I can strongly relate to what you say. There were times when I wanted to give up because there were no positive results. That’s when I learned that you have to keep pushing if you want to break the ice. Never stop working towards what it is that you are trying to achieve. Moreover, do you think that mindset is important?

Yes, it has to be in sync with your goals. I always say to my students to be positive, clear and honest. When I say “honest”, I think that they should be themselves. Their own unique self is what I want to see on the dance floor and they must always believe that everything is possible. It can be tricky if you work very hard but deep down you don’t truly believe in yourself that you are able to succeed. Going to the gym helps you stay fit and have a good self-esteem.

Do talent, hard work and mindset go hand in hand?

There is no way to separate them, they stick to each other like glue Although there is always the possibility that you have no talent at all, through hard work and the proper mindset you can reach the top. But the other way around I find it hard to believe that you can go so far only with talent. We can go deeper and talk about the whole package involved. Everything matters: how you dress, how you look, your personality, your moves. How do all these things fit together in a unique way? It’s something I always take into consideration when I teach and judge.

Do dancers need to stay in touch with what is happening inside the world of dancesport? How should they keep up with everything?

Of course, it is very important to stay informed and be up to date with everything around you, not only in dancesport. How can you improve if you don’t follow some relevant people in the industry? I am always reading the newspapers and checking the international websites.

What do you think is the best advice you can give to those who are about to take the first step into dancesport?

Don’t get influenced by this talent thing. It’s kind of a relative concept in my opinion and that’s why I said it matters so little. Instead, focus on what you can control and by this I mean: how much work you put in, how passionate you are about dancesport, how serious, and how ready you are to face the challenges. Are you willing to be a survivor? What I know for sure after this talk is that hard work can surpass having talent. It’s amazing if you have them both but don’t fall for the talent myth. If you want to be successful in dancesport, find a good teacher for you and work, work, work.

It was an amazing opportunity to have this talk with Dirk Heidemann and get to know his enlightening perspective. He is an inspiration for anyone involved with dancesport!


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Dancing has been my passion since I was 13 and since then I've been doing things in that direction. Writing, creating and putting together the biggest community for dancers around the world!

Tags: mindset work

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