The smartest way to improve your dancing even more rapidly
Most sites offer up pretty much the same old tips for improving dance, things like: Practice, the more the merrier, Practice on your own, hmm! can get boring, preferably practice in front of a mirror, keeps it somewhat interesting, watch videos of others & video yourself, definitely find a good instructor, social dance your pants off, cross train (try various dance styles), travel to weekend dance events or workshops, listen to loads of music (start counting), learn to stretch or take a yoga classes, it’s a big list right. Yes, these are all great tips but there are some cool key elements I think you will love, elements that definitely add more value to accelerate your learning curve to dance and learning to ‘dance well’.
Now assuming you have already chosen a dance style, if not, ask yourself what type of music gets your juices flowing, for example if it’s pop try West Coast Swing or Modern Jive, if it’s more latin based try Salsa or Bachata or it could be country music for some Two Step.
Every dancer or athlete needs a plan and please remember dance is not a race, it’s not the first to complete 20 patterns wins or is the best dancer, dance is a journey, a very enjoyable one if you let the experience of learning guide you. ShaneKeriDance are going to give you 10 key elements to follow a very simple outline allowing you to measure your growth plus set small personal goals. My first recommendation is being relaxed, the more organic you are with your dancing… will allow it to grow naturally, creating good habits,
Let’s check out Your new Plan.
Choosing Your Instructor – Choosing your instructor is not always easy if you haven’t danced before, as time goes on you may even need to try a few out different teachers. My recommendation, Check out what to look for in a Dance Instructor.
a) Once you have chosen an instructor these tips will help get you off the ground. A big one for me is the teacher should as what type of learner you are; Auditory, Visual or Kinaesthetic. That way the teacher can start where you are most comfortable and over time you might want to work on honing all 3 learning skills.
b) Always ask your teacher permission to do a brief video synopsis at the end of each lesson so you can practice at home. Check if the teacher has any plans are for your next lesson. This can help for a more productive practice out social dancing.
* NOTE: when practicing outside the classroom, take notes on your iPhone or droid so you can ask questions in your next lesson, helps you to be more productive in class. Teachers like students that come to class prepared with questions and show and tell, it helps to understand where you are in your body and head space to progress through the learning curve.
c) At any time you should think about trying a lesson from someone else, especially if you are already going to dance events, it doesn’t hurt every now and then to hear things from someone else, even if you have heard it before. You again can come into your regular teacher with ideas or questions that need clarifying.
Top 9 Tips
- Practice –
When practicing generally choose one thing to work on until you feel you have nailed it. Also get a second opinion, especially from your teacher, make sure you work on your lead/follow so it works on all levels of dancers, cool moves might work with advanced dancers, but you should be able to lead to all levels. When you are right into social dance it’s always a good idea to relax in your first few dances of the evening, just dance your basics and feel your way into the night, your partner needs time to warm into your dance as well, Once you are warmed up, find someone you know, let them in on your new move, then try it once or twice to see if you’ve got it before banging it out.
2. Music –
You know your steps, your patterns, you are counting the steps, weight changes 1-4, 1-6, 1-8, or you are focused on the patterns but you really want to look like Keri McLean, you really want to take it to the next level, musicality is what you’re looking for. This is usually one of the toughest parts of the dance, switching from counting patterns to musicality, counting music and how to count, the big question??? The number one question on every dancers lips.
Let’s start with 4/4 time music and lets keep it simple. Turn on some music… in the car, at home or while taking a break social dancing, wherever you are… you need to start counting in 8’s. Eg: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Although music is written in “Measures” or “Bars” 1 2 3 4 – 1 2 3 4 we want you to think like a dancer not a musician, count in 8’s. We do this by just listening to the music, you must learn to start counting the music from 1 then all the way to 8, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 and keep repeating this. Repeating this exercise over and over and over for the whole song, no matter the genre and for us right now we are working 4/4 time. (note ¾ time if you are learning Waltz and you will count in 1 2 3 4 5 6),
Once you have mastered counting to 8 I would recommend you get with your teacher to then learn counting to 16 and eventually 32 or 48, the benefits are tremendously rewarding and in the long run will give you a very strong foundation to help you understand musicality and start adding it to your dancing.
3. Training – Cross training (this is different to practice)
Cross training is definitely a great idea, not essential, but dam you get really good once your brain wraps around learning other styles. Yes, I get it, learning one dance can take time, some people need to simply or just concentrate on one dance style they are learning, especially with all the various musicality to different styles, techniques and many new steps to learn. If you can learn from an instructor who has multiple styles of dance under their belt they will be able to structure slowly adding other styles into your lessons and over time you will have mastered multiple dance styles, sometimes the best way to learn is to build a few variations to your “Expression Session” (type of line dance) then start working them to all the various music genres and you can also start to work on your 32 count musicality along with your movement, rhythm and technique, all designed to enhance your dance build-on your ‘SKILL’ set. Once you have been dancing for a while and as you improve people will start to notice and want to dance with you more, this may also lead to finding a practice partner that wants the same thing out of dance, you can now have a training buddy and this allows you to start working on both lead follow more intricately. Dance buddy’s are a great way to maintain your enthusiasm and fun while having another person to share ideas with and growing in confidence.
4. Technique –
Dance is not a race. Learning how to do 20 cool patterns doesn’t make you a winner. Learning how to Lead and/or Follow any level of dancer DOES make you cool and a winner. Being a great social dancer takes skill, and learning how to have a good time on the dance floor with any level dancer, along with understanding that your worst dance this week may be your best dance next week, counts for a lot. Dancing with all levels allows you to work on your one special item (listed in point #2) in order to refine it and see how well it works on all levels of dance partner. Once you master this it is time to move on.
5. Videoing –
Definitely start if you haven’t already to video yourself both when doing your expression sessions and partnering and also remember to video in as many environments, like when social dancing or practicing, as often as possible then have your instructor critique your dancing as part of one of your lessons. You could even try videoing yourself dancing in your lesson with your instructor one time then your practice partner another to compare how differently you may dance socially compared to the lesson with instructor and even in your expression sessions. It’s only going to help with confidence. And the more you get used to seeing yourself, eek, the more aware you are of your own body and movement and you will grow in confidence as you fix the likes and dislikes.
This is a big one for me, it’s something we all tend to neglect unless your teacher starts out your lessons with some sort of warmup and simple stretching, as they should, injury prevention starts with warming & stretching for longevity! You want to and should be able to dance for a lifetime.
If your teacher does warm ups but isn’t as much into the stretching side of things then the stretching is up to the you, arrive early & ensure you warm up and stretch yourself. Take a Yoga class, or ask if there is a teacher in that studio that does stretch and strengthen classes… You will appreciate it in the long run, as we age we should be focusing on flexibility.
7. Social dancing – My Fave activity
Social dancing is why we dance, a chance to meet new people, catch up with friends and work your skills for multiple hours at a time, it keeps you fit and healthy. There is one big thing to remember and it’s your “Dance Etiquette”: this is a major keyword, an integral thing in dance and if you are new to a particular venue or style you should always take note or even ask if there are etiquettes to be mindful of. Now before I rant on, we all come to social dance with good intentions, have fun being social, laugh a little or a lot depending on the night you are having. But foremost please ensure your own personal hygiene, be clean, wash your hands after the bathroom, wear deodorant, have a change of shirts.
Now when dancing, be polite ask for ONE dance per couple and it is the role of the leader and follower in the modern world of dance to ask for another to dance, we know it’s not always easy to smile while you are concentrating (hell I have some of the best poker faces in the business) but do your best to smile and at least always say thank you at the end.
Please also note: some social dance venues may dance a particular direction – with the floorboards, especially in America – some may cater to multiple genres of dance during the course of the night, at ShaneKeriDance first Friday of the month party we have Modern Jive, Country, West Coast Swing and Line dancing. So you may have a Line Of Dance (LOD) genre like Country 2 Step, Waltz or Fox Trot which travels around the circumference, or edge, of the floor traveling Counter/ Anti clockwise and at the same time Line & Swing dancers in the centre or corners of the room for a song or two.
Take a few minutes to at least observe and learn what the particular etiquette is for how many dances one must have with the same partner normal one maybe two, how to ask for a dance is important and how to politely say no until next time. Some dances styles are very casual and some such as Argentine Tango have a whole culture of its own that goes with their dancing, how to invite someone to the floor & how long you are expected to stay on the floor with that one partner.
8. Traveling to events –
If you are set and ready to start taking your dance from the local social dance floor onto a bigger stage, a national dance event I would discuss this with your instructor as they are already doing this. They will know what are the fun events (that’s the best type to attend for your first), make it about the experience, you don’t want to be sitting all weekend watching dance comps, you want to social and take workshops, meet new people. Don’t expect too much the first time you attend, just take as many workshops a physically possible and meet new people, this way you won’t feel like the new kid on the block for very long. Chat to people as much as you dance and after a couple of hours you will have made many new life long friends.
9. Competitions –
Well if you chose a competitive weekend sure why not give it a go, again speak to your teacher who can help you prep for what to expect, your teacher may even offer to dance you in a ProAm, In reality the best tip I can give here is always use competing as a way of motivation to become much better at your craft, results don’t matter because know one remembers who won anyway. You will quickly learn once you attend events to never judge a book by it’s cover as you realise that look vs. feel are 2 different things.
Note: the first few times you compete you will think your dance felt like crap, but that’s not usually the case, it’s more the nerves and then there are those times when you think your best dance was a complete train-wreck but, in actual fact, it ended up being your best!
Don’t worry about the judges as they only get to look at you for 5-10 seconds a dance, if you’re lucky. You will be loved on and off the floor, both socially and competitively if you smile and just enjoy the ride.
Take your time, let it happen as organically as possible, seek help if you get frustrated, remember why you started, fun and people. Movement is medicine. Learning to dance may feel super challenging at times, especially in the early stages of learning, but following these 10 tips will definitely help put your mind at ease. Take it one step at a time and you should find yourself improving more easily, don’t focus on how good you are … focus on making even dance fun. Sometimes it takes a lot of practice to dance, what doesn’t? There’s no better way to meet people than dancing all night long!