The Art of Getting Better

by Ana Gherasim

Have you ever watched a great salsa dancer and wondered why your basic step doesn’t look as smooth as theirs? Or taken a class, learned the move, then got discouraged because your teachers seem to flow through it while you look like you’re fighting for your life?

I have. And I’m here to tell you it gets better!

It’s easy to put it all down to natural ability – “they were born dancers; I’m too uncoordinated / too old / too white” (I’ve heard it all and thought it all) – but the truth is, in most cases, that’s just not true. Most great dancers are made, not born, and they were made through years of practice.

Recently, a few students told me I look “so naturally graceful” when I dance. I’m flattered, but I have to tell you, there’s nothing natural about it. I spent most of my life as a hopeless klutz, tripping over my feet and bumping into furniture at least 4 times a day. When I started learning salsa, my dancing was clunky and awkward, and I had all the grace of a tortoise trying to jump rope. But time and practice and practice (and practice) trained my muscles and my brain to find these moves increasingly normal, and as a result made them look better.

Ana & Jeff. Now slightly less clumsy than rope-jumping tortoises.

Ana & Jeff. Now slightly less clumsy than rope-jumping tortoises.

Ask any dancer who’s been around a while, and they’re likely to tell you the same thing: learning a new move is the easy part. The hard part is practicing it until your brain rewires itself and your muscles reshape themselves to make it look effortless.

Yes, some people are naturally more agile or graceful or flexible or coordinated than others, but this alone never translates into great dancing. Never assume a good dancer got good without effort and practice, and never assume that effort and practice won’t get you there – because it will!


  1. Practice often
  2. Keep track of your progress with videos of yourself dancing
  3. Seek feedback and help when you need it

and you’ll become a better dancer than you ever thought you could be. And in a year, everyone will assume you were naturally gifted.

I’m still nowhere near where I want to be in my dancing, but a few years of practice have taught me that a few more years of diligent practice will get me there. And if the girl who uses her shins to mark the height of her furniture can do it, then so can you!


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