Skip to content

Why We Need To Stop Trying To Do Things Right

You’re not supposed to open articles with “I,” but I need to share an unpopular opinion that’s been weighing on me so let’s break the rules a bit:

I. hate. modern. dance.

Hate. It.

I love what it stands for. I love what Isadora Duncan, Merce Cunningham, and Martha Graham were trying to do (err – did). It’s not that I don’t believe in the mission.

It’s just the dance moves hurt my eyes.

Watching someone with impeccable form, take a perfect leg extension and then bend their knee, makes my stomach turn. To invert the laws, to break them, destroys the fabric of everything.

Her elbows in this piece make me insane. Lift! LIFT!!! 

But that was the point, wasn’t it?

I mean the reason modern dance was so revolutionary was because it was a giant middle finger to traditionalism, constraint, and restriction. It allowed for more body types and “forbidden” taboo movements to join in. It allowed color and flavor and pain and happiness to erupt onstage. Hell, they even went offstage, like in this 1965 performance in the streets of Paris and London.

Trigger warning: that video it will hurt your eyes. There’s a moment (min 1:05) where this woman loses her balance and looks like she’s falling. Like something’s wrong. She’s bent over, whirling around like a kid who is oblivious to the fact that she’s in public and people are watching.

She’s totally in control, but you wouldn’t know it because the point of modern dance was to make you a little uncomfortable.

To create tension.

The irony is that in order to perform these (atrocious) pieces you had to be a master of your craft. You had to be a master technician. You had to know the rules in order to break them. Some of the best modern dancers of their day were classically trained.

You see the same thing in acting. To act badly, on purpose, requires a tremendously talented actor. And with writing. Mark Twain blew our socks off because he used vernacular language and made it come alive to us on the page. That’s because he’d mastered how to do it the traditional way and figured out how to make it better.

To invert the norms you must master the norms.

But don’t let them trap you.

Modern dance was about freedom from constraint.

Listen, it might not be my cuppa tea, but what modern dance did for dance, for society, was a big deal. It destroyed our obsession with perfect, broke rank, and brought humanity back onto the stage. It stood for personal expression and improvisation. It allowed us to feel something again (even if, in my case, that feeling was disgust).

Too many of us get stuck trying to be the perfect ballerina. Obsessed with “getting it right” when we should be focused on the greater question: What are you trying to do?

This obsession with “getting it right” is why we waste so much time on things that don’t matter.

If you’re curious about how marketing works, learn about it. But if you’re searching for templates, trying to follow the rules, aiming desperately to do it “right,” you are going to fail. There’s a reason no one is going to the ballet, but everyone is watching Connor McKenzie and Harper Watters on Instagram.

We didn’t stop loving dance, we stopped trying to be perfect.

The dance that survived paid attention to the zeitgeist. Hip-Hop lives on where ballet died because it dared to be something different. It took the straight lines of a perfect releve (where you stand on your toes, creating an unbreakable straight line from the top of your head through your torso, down your hips, to your toes) and said, “Watch this” and turned it into a squat!

Hip-hop took the lightness and airiness of ballet and took it to the floor. TO THE FLOOR!

It was bold and innovative and controversial and beautiful.

That’s the skill we need to work on. Your boldness.

Your marketing form and technique are just fine (or they’re good enough, this isn’t the Royal Academy, good enough works just fine here). It’s your courage that needs work.

Marketing is about understanding people. Reading markets. Dancing with the zeitgeist. Trying things that might not work. Creating tension.

Hone that skill.

And you’ll be just fine.

Or maybe you won’t…

But you’ll bounce back.

Because that’s what we do.


Get on the list that yells at you inspires you to stay the course: