How Starcraft
Helped my Dancing

29 April 2016

This was written on r/DanceSport on April 22nd, 2016 by twyderko, an Amateur PreChamp Standard dancer. It used here in a revised format with the author's permission.

My Experiences with Starcraft

Before I started dancing, I used to play a ton of Starcraft II (mostly WoL - I quit after two seasons in HoTS). From Starcraft I learned to understand the difference between mechanical skills and knowledge of your craft, and that has helped me tremendously in ballroom dancing.

When I started playing Starcraft, I messed around in bronze league for a while because I had no game knowledge, and effectively no mechanics. A friend of mine showed me how to do a 4gate, and just spamming that got me to gold league. At that point I had learned a little bit of mechanics and game knowledge, so I decided to try and diversify my strategies. I stayed stuck in gold league for a while. I was always trying to be clever and metagame my opponents, but my apm was too low, I constantly got supply blocked, and I never produced enough workers so no matter how clever I thought I was being, my strategies never worked.

Eventually I got bored of playing Protoss so I decided to switch to OP Terrans. One day I was on the Starcraft subreddit, and someone made a post about basic mechanics such as using hotkeys and getting into a routine where you make new workers and supply depots constantly. I started practicing those things, and within a month I got to diamond league.

Once I got to diamond league I was like "Aww yeah, I'm the best," and I tried to start giving lower level people advice. My advice usually got downvoted, and for good reason. At this point I had alright mechanics, but pretty lackluster game knowledge. I was awful at figuring out what my enemy was doing based on little clues, I was bad at adapting my army composition, I never knew when the good attack windows were, etc.

I made friends with the higher level people in my college's Starcraft club, and they taught me a bunch of stuff, so eventually my game knowledge caught up to and then surpassed my mechanical skill. I made it to masters league and was climbing the ladder there, but eventually I could not keep up with how fast and precise a lot of the other players. I would get hit by 3 pronged attacks and just fumble around unable to micromanage all of my forces while staying on top of my economy.

Eventually I had to take a break from the game to study for finals, and when I came back mechanics had deteriorated so much that the game was just frustrating. So I quit, then started dancing later that year.

How that Affected my Dancing

A lot of dancers do not understand how this distinction between "mechanical skills" and "knowledge of dance" affects their dancing. I see a lot of people who spend a tremendous amount of time trying to increase their knowledge of dance without putting in enough time to improve their mechanical skills. The end up knowing every step by the book and can point out a hundred things everyone is doing wrong, but they can't necessarily execute any of it. They tend to spend so much time nitpicking the details of what they are doing that they don't spend enough time actually dancing. A lot of these people tend to get very upset when they don't do as well as they expected in competition. But the reason they don't do well is usually because their execution was bad. Dancing is hard and has a lot of moving parts. It is important to develop sufficient mechanical skills and get stuff to happen automatically in your body.

Similarly, I see a lot of dancers who don't really understand what they are doing, and just practice the mechanics exactly as demonstrated to them by their teacher (or as they think it is done from watching youtube videos of Mirko). For example, I see a lot of followers who know to keep their head away from the guy to increase the size of the couple's shape, but they have no idea how to do it functionally so that their head weight balances the leader's head weight and they don't destroy the leader's right arm. Also, a lot of leaders know that they have to keep their elbows up but they don't understand how to position the rest of their body so that they counterbalance the follower and stay relaxed in the frame. It is important to use the correct mechanics so that you don't fight your partner and so that you can move efficiently.

From Starcraft, I learned that the person with better mechanical execution will usually win in competition. Knowing that, it has always been easy for me to convince myself to practice. From Starcraft, I also learned that doing the right mechanics is way more rewarding than doing the wrong mechanics (seems obvious but most people just don't get this). Knowing that, it has always been easy for me to convince myself to take lessons and study dancing.

I think that a lot of dancers would benefit from understanding the balance between mechanical skills and knowledge.