One of my friends commented that I always seemed to associate everything with dancing. It's true and it's probably because it had the biggest impact on my life. I draw a lot of parallels between the journey down my dance path and the road that I'm currently on with this software project. Maybe it'd be easier to understand if I explained a bit about my dance life.
When me and my friends started dancing, we originally focused on breakdancing because it was the flashiest of the dancing styles. It was the most impressive at the school dances and got the largest amount of attention. However as we progressed, we realized the limitations of our choice. Although it was high energy and acrobatic, it couldn't be used in a standard five minute performance. We would tire ourselves out too fast, it was hard to coordinate spinning on your head to music, it was hard to get other people to do it in sync with you, and people would just get bored if they saw it for a sustained period of time.
We later tried to increase our dance vocabulary by adding different styles. One of the styles was called locking. It was a style invented in the late 60's to 70's by a group called "The Original Lockers" in response to the funk music that was dominant at that time. If you ever watched the show "What's Happening Now", Rerun (the fat guy) was one of the Original Lockers and his stage name was Penguin. Adding locking to the repertoire made it easier for us to coordinate our movements since the basic locking techniques were rather simple.
We also branched into other dance styles such as popping, where you mix illusions of fluidity with fast contractions of your muscles called hits. Other styles built on the foundations of the breaking, locking, and popping that we worked on. Adding other styles to the repertoire gave us more depth and range when we were dancing, both at clubs and on stage.
However once we had the movements and increased our dance vocabulary, we realized that we needed to improve on our choreography. We had to understand choreography and to do this required an understanding of music. Songs were normally composed of multiple sets where each set would consist of four 8-counts of music. That's why you always hear choreographers say "five, six, seven, eight…" before they start rehearsing a piece. There would usually be some kind of effect that occurred at the end of either the last beat of the set or every other set. You tended to get more dramatic effect if you did something flashy at that effect followed by a transition to change up the pace of the dancing. There were many other aspects to choreography as well such as matching the feel of the music, moving on the upbeat as opposed to the downbeat, etc... but it's probably better not to get into that too much.
Once we understood how to choreograph a piece, we realized that to attain the maximum effect, we had to control our own music. That way, instead of just choreographing a piece to match someone else's music, we could actually tweak both the movement and the music to get the most dramatic effect. To do this, we had to learn how to edit music on the computer. It didn't require a full musical background because mostly it was just about taking the exciting parts of songs, looping them, adding some effects, and organizing them according to how you want the piece organized. But once we were able to synchronize the music, choreography, and movements together, our levels went up a few notches.
By this time, we were performing almost weekly and were gaining some degree of recognition. In addition to the regular performances on the stages at a lot of the indie clubs, we would get called to do shows on MTV, dance videos, and as backup dancers at concerts.
As we developed our skills, we gradually begun to realize the most important skill of all. It was something that we were never able to attain through practice. This was the realization that feeling is more important than technique. The feel of a dancer is like a signature that you slowly grow. It's the reason why you can tell a dancer is skilled, even if they're doing a simple move, and its something that you can't get by doing instructor-led routines in dance studios. Unfortunately, there's no way to learn or practice it. It's just something that naturally evolves over time by continually doing something you enjoy.
I'm often nostalgic about the time I spent dancing. The reason I use it as reference point for many things in my life is because the journey is the same, no matter which path you decide to go. I can see the analogies as I work on this software project; in the skills I need to build, the evolving realization of new things I need to learn, and even the indie spirit that comes with open source.