In every craft there is a skill set. It is the list of abilities that are needed and evident in the expression of the craft. Those with experience can tell if a practitioner has done their homework by comparing their final products against the list of skills. Using this method one might also be able to track who taught a particular practitioner – from where they got their skills.
This works in all craft work. The visual arts, woodworking, blacksmithing, glass blowing, and dance all follow this model. The variance in approach by individuals, often separated by geography, doesn’t negate the common skill set that underlies the craft.
In the tap dance world we can find a large variety of stylistic approaches from Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell to Jimmy Slyde and Mable Lee. However each dancer may be measured against the skills of rhythmic accuracy, physical accuracy and control, speed, endurance, control of sonic dynamics, tone, and others.
The one thing skill sets don’t measure is artistic merit. Only an audience can honestly do that (a topic for another day). We should use skill sets in training environments, in measuring ability, and codifying the learning of technique. We should not let the metric of skill sets begin to infiltrate the artist’s voice. The skill sets are a metric, a part of the means, definitely not the end.