10,000 hours (not in a row!)

I love Tina Fey. Like in the normal way where I saw Mean Girls and went "who's that nerd hot chick?" and secretly aspire to be Liz Lemon (I love sweater weather). But my favourite thing about Tina Fey is reading her interviews. She says some of the best things about improv/art/practice/study that I've ever heard. And just, art in general. What she says about her early experiences with Second City mirrors in a lot of ways how I felt when I first became serious about dance.

In the beginning I was probably more motivated by SCTV and Saturday Night Live than anything else. I knew that most of the actors on those shows had come from Second City, and that at least inspired me to get to Chicago. The first time I went to see a Second City show, I was in awe of everything. I just wanted to touch the same stage that Gilda Radner had walked on. It was sacred ground. But my perspective changed pretty radically when I finally got into the training center. I became immersed in the cult of improvisation. I was very serious about it. I was like one of those athletes trying to get into the Olympics. It was all about blind focus. I was so sure that I was doing exactly what I’d been put on this earth to do, and I would have done anything to make it onto that stage.

I started with one kind of motivation (I wanna be a belly dance superstar!) and it pushed me into this whole new world where everything was sacred and overwhelming. And then I started training and it became so real and tangible and every week I see my body and my movements change, and instead of getting scared off I feel sometimes like I've been sucked into another world, another life.

And in the same way I've felt my motives and my goals changing over time, until I do feel like I've changed my whole life so that it revolves around dance, and am pursuing it with unshakable certainty. But it's not so I can be a famous dancer (at least, on a good day, it isn't), it's so I can just be a dancer. When I read what Tina Fey had said above I was literally reading and nodding my head because it just felt so much like what I've gone through in the past year.

With that change I can feel my practice sort of maturing and taking shape too. I journal more regularly and sort of feel weird if I don't. It's a big part of the reason I've been blogging less, actually. And I've started taking a look at the hard numbers. I'm not getting enough hours in to see the results I want. When I think about dance I have always thought about the movements you use and drill reshaping your body, almost engraving the path they take onto your muscles and bones. That visual really works for me, and has always encouraged me to practice. But if I continued to practice at my current rate, it would take me 30 years to hit my 10,000 hours.

I don't take that kind of thing literally, but I remember my sister telling me about the concert pianists and the 10,000 hours when I was pretty young, and thinking "well if it takes that long, I'll probably never be an anything". It just seemed impossibly large. It always did, until I decided I'd use it as an inspiration instead of a template. Doris Humphrey said it took 10 years to make a dancer, and I can believe that too. But it probably takes 10 years at a more dedicated level than I have been over the last year, even working as hard as I have been. I need to work harder and I need to work better.

So my 2011 goal is to dance for 750 hours. Which is so, so much. It's two hours literally every day of the year. I think it's going to mean more sacrifice. Which isn't my intent whatsoever, but I kind of wanted to set a big goal and then push myself towards it without necessarily being married to the idea of finishing. 600 hours would still be a major success compared to 2010. And I'll keep you guys looped in about what happens.

So here goes nothing?


  1. 10000 hours is a lot.....but if anyone could do it , it would be you.

  2. I am somehow just reading this now. It seems that I'm behind in the HSL love.

    I think this is really an inspiring post, not necessarily to boost your bellydance, but to boost passion and endurance in movement. If I'm being all mathy, in 2011 I averaged about 7 hrs/week, but 3 or 4 of those were teaching classes, and not practicing what I needed to practice on personally. In 2012 so far, I'm averaging 6-8 hours of practice, plus 3-4 hours of classes each week. I can feel a big difference and it's really motivating to work hard, and see that subtlety and improvement. I'd be happy, at this point in my life, to reach the 500 mark, and continue going up from there.

    It's like eating the last piece of broccoli on the plate only to realize that broccoli isn't really that bad after all, and you could probably eat another piece. Thanks for being my melted cheese on my broccoli, HSL.


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