After about a year and a half, I took myself to a dance studio again. This time it was a samba class at Alvin Ailey. It was a whole lot of fun, and I’m definitely sore, but it really got me thinking about professionalism within a…well, a profession.
In dance, some of the more obvious characteristics that set apart a professional or advanced dancer from a student or amateur are things like strength, flexibility, and mastery of technique. (I say “amateur” not to be negative, but simply to clarify someone at a basic skill level.) These three things come along together, depending on the dance style. Greater technical skill is much easier to accomplish when a sufficient amount of strength has been achieved. With strength comes flexibility, which is typically required for many athletic activities and to achieving the gracefulness associated with dance.
Some of the less obvious characteristics that separate the advanced dancer from the amateur are a sense of artistry and musicality. At some point, you have to be able to break away from the rigidity of classroom technique and get into dancing as if it were a performance. Another is a commitment to movement and finishing a dance phrase. By commitment to movement I mean, not holding back from fully being in the dance moment; i.e., dancing it out, so to speak. At the same time, it also means an attention to detail. That is, not fudging through a step just to get to the next one faster, but actually doing as good a job as possible to finish one dance step before going on to the next. Sometimes it’s not actually possible, but there’s a difference between attempting to fully finish each movement phrase and simply giving up without really trying.
If any of this sounds weird or confusing, just think of how upset an audience would be if they attended a concert for a performer who did not fully commit to their show. Imagine if they fudged through the dancing or had an underdeveloped sense of musical timing or artistry. I think most people would try to get their money back, or just never see that artist again.
I think what sets the professional apart from the amateur is the combination of knowing how to do the work as it should be done, and the determination to do it. This is true for any profession. However, the question that I have been struggling with lately, as related to User Experience Design (UxD), is the knowledge of what I need to know and how it should be done. Part of this struggle has been with the fact that UxD tends to be rather undefined. In dance, I know what technique I can improve upon. In UxD, I am unsure of the basic technical skill that I should have and, in relation to making the move to becoming more advanced, I have found it frustrating to try to understand and learn the details that will help me improve.
Well, maybe this is simply something that I will gain with more experience. Perhaps experience is the strength and flexibility I will gain to help me master the UxD “technique”.