Learning to Dance in a Year

Posted on July 23, 2013 by

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How many hours of practice does it take to learn how to dance?  It took Karen Cheng 500 hours over a year and her video tracking her progress over time is a viral hit with almost 3 million views in two weeks.

I was blown away when I saw this video and have been thinking about it ever since.  First of all I was impressed with the overall production of the video, especially the final performance piece.  I love the backdrop of the BART train, the music, and her choreography.  I think it stands alone as an entertaining dance performance.

I am also intrigued by the fact that she practiced on a regular basis, documented her sessions with video, and  tracked her progress with a tracking app (Lift).  Not many people have the motivation, discipline and stick-to-itiveness to follow-through on a project like this and I think her effort should be applauded.

I don’t practice every day because I’m disciplined.  I practice every day because I’m obsessed.  I love dancing and my body craves it.  If I didn’t have this raw hunger, there’s no way I would’ve had the discipline to practice every day.  Karen Cheng

I can’t help seeing a lot of similarities between what she did with dance and what I am doing with guitar.  I also see some differences.  Part of my motivation to track, record and share my attempt to teach myself guitar is that I hope it will help answer the question, “How long does it take to learn how to play guitar?”

I think Karen had the opportunity to answer that question about dance but she left out too many details.  If another young woman wanted to follow in her footsteps there is very little guidance.  We see her practicing on day 4, 30, 86, 136 and 365.  It is not clear if she spent the last 229 days practicing that one dance routine or if she has a whole repertoire of pieces under her belt.  It is not clear if she chose to focus all her energy on one style of dance or if she made progress in a number of different styles.

I am obsessed with the idea that most people think it takes way longer to learn something than it actually does.  They think that they just aren’t good dancers, musicians, or athletes, when in reality they have never applied themselves over sufficient lengths of time.  I think that we need more examples of people showing where they started, how long they practiced, and how far they progressed.   It isn’t enough to just show the beginning and the end.

Despite our slightly different approaches I feel that Karen and I have a lot in common.  I certainly will be subscribing to her blog and looking forward to her progress reports on her next project: learning how to draw.


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Anything You Can Do I Can Do Also
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Who Wants To Be A Master? I Want To Be Good Enough
300 Hours of Deliberate Practice on Guitar