Follow these steps below for the smartest way to improve your dancing rapidly.
Most sites offer up the same old tips for improving dance, for example: Practice more, Practice on your own, watch videos of others & yourself, find a good instructor, social dance your pants off, cross train, travel to events, listen to music, stretch and so on. Yes, these are all great tips but there are some key elements I think you will love that definitely add even more value to acceleration in learning to dance and learning to dance well.
Let’s assume you have already chosen a dance style (if not go to The 3 Big Questions), you are getting more confident every week and you’re ready to continue to take it up a notch.
What you need is a plan. We are going to give you 10 key elements to follow below. A simple outline that will allow you to measure your growth & set goals if you like. But I am thinking more along the lines of being relaxed & organic with your dancing… letting it grow naturally, through good habits, by following the plan below.
Next are your key elements, in no particular order, and a plan on how to ensure they work.
a) Once you have an instructor our next few tips are often overlooked & will help guide you grow to to the next level. This is a big one for me as we think you should ask the teacher what type of learner you are; Auditory, Visual or Kinesthetic. If you are a serious dancer you might want to work on honing all 3 learning types.
b) Next you should ask your teacher permission to do a brief video synopsis at the end of each lesson. Follow up by asking what his/her plans are for the nest lesson. This will allow for a more productive practice at home & out social dancing.*
* Remember when practicing outside the classroom, make notes so you can ask questions in your next lesson & be more proactive. Teachers love a student that comes to class prepared with questions. This allows the teacher to understand where you are in your head space & your progress along the learning curve.
c) Take a lesson from someone else every now and then. This will help keep you fresh and let you absorb techniques and theories in a different way. If you are at an event, a great way to ensure you remember what your given in this lesson is to ask your regular Instructor to sit in on the lesson or be your Demo Dolly.
2. Practice –
Choose one thing to work on until you have nailed it. Get a second opinion, like from your teacher, and make sure you can lead/follow it on all levels of dancers not just advanced dancers. Usually when we have been working on an item for several weeks at a time, we’ll go out social dancing and when we’re ready to try something new we’ll start out our first few dances with that tiem and then add new ones once we’re warmed into the dance a little. It’s always a good idea to relax in your first few dances of the evening, warm into your dance & then try something new once you’ve gotten a few dances under your belt. If you are working on a really advanced move you might want to make sure you clear it with the person you are dancing with before you go for broke
3. Music –
This is usually one of the toughest parts of the dance, musicality, so before we jump the gun let’s go back a step in order to move forward. Counting music and how to count:
While you are listening to music… in the car, at home or where ever… you need to start counting if 4/4 time in 8’s. Eg: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Music is written in “Measures” or “Bars” 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 etc. When you are learning to dance we understand that your teacher will primarily be counting the steps or weight changes eg; 1 2 3 4 then 1 2 3 4 5 6 and so on. For now you may be learning in patterns/steps and that’s OK. But when you are not dancing, just listening to music, you must learn to start counting the music in 8’s 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Repeating this exercise over and over for the whole song, no matter the genre (if you are learning Waltz you will count in 1 2 3 4 5 6), will benefit you tremendously in the long run because you will give yourself a strong foundation which will help you understand musicality. Also try to avoid quicks & slows, they are not wrong and a great tool especially once you understand how to count music. However, in the initial stages it won’t give you a strong music theory base to understand how music is built but rather how the movement is built. You will be more colourful when dancing learning to understand music the right way.
4. Training Cross training / Solo training / Dance Buddy –
Cross training; this is definitely a good idea but not a must. Some people need to simply concentrate on the dance they are learning… especially with all the musicality, technique and new steps to learn. We feel that one of the best tips we have for you is one that offers a much simpler way to cross train. If you have a really great instructor they will be able to structure this for you and, over time, you will have many different versions of the one “Expression Session” to suite all music genres for your dance style. “Expression Session” or “Line Dances” can start as a 32 count phrased solo dance that has styling, movement, rhythm and technique designed to enhance your dance AND IT’S A WAY you can work on your SKILL. When it comes to the couple’s side of the dance: If you are able to find a partner that wants the same thing out of dance or similar, GOLDEN. You can now have a training buddy and this allows you to work on both lead follow. A dance buddy is a great way to maintain your fun and have another aspect/eye on your dance. You can work on lead and follow by switching roles, they will be able to video your expressions session so you can self critique and measure your growth and you’ll have the opportunity to chat with each other regarding ideas on how to improve so that your dancing is more fun… and a fantastic way to grow your confidence.
5. Videos –
Definitely continue to video yourself in as many environments as possible and have your instructor critique your dancing. Also video yourself dancing in your lesson from time to time to compare how, if at all, differently you may dance socially compared to the lesson and in your expression sessions. Some of the secrets to being good at something is confidence. And the more you get used to seeing yourself, the more aware you are of your own body and movement and you will grow in confidence.
6. Stretching –
This is something we all tend to neglect and hopefully your teacher starts out your lessons with some sort of warmup and simple stretching. For us injury prevention starts with warming up, then stretching… After all, our goal is longevity! You want to, & should be able to, dance for life.
If your teacher isn’t as much into the stretching side of things and prefers to leave that up to the you, arrive to your lesson ahead of time & ensure you warm up and stretch yourself out. Take a Pilates or 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.
7. Social dancing –
Etiquette: this is a keyword in dance and if you are new to a particular dance style or venue you should ask you your instructor, or event director, the different floor etiquettes. We will say this, it’s not always easy to smile while you are concentrating but do your best to smile and always say thank you at the end.
Other things to note: some social dance venues may dance a particular direction – with the floorboards – or cater to multiple genres of dance during the course of the night. For example, you may have a Line Of Dance (LOD) genre like Country 2 Step which travels around the circumference, or edge, of the floor traveling Counter/ Anti clockwise and at the same time Swing dancers in the centre of the room for a song or two.
Learn what the particular etiquette is for how many dances one must have with the same partner, how to ask for a dance and how to politely say no. Some dances are very casual and easy going but there are other disciplines, such as Argentine Tango, which have a whole culture 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. 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.
9. Travel –
If you are set and ready to start taking your dance from the local dance floor onto a bigger stage, that being a national dance event, our biggest tip is to travel to a regional or national dance event. Simply go for the experience. Don’t expect too much the first time. Remember you might be the new kid on the block for a little while so be patient Try to chat to people as much as dance and after a couple of hours you will have made new, life long friends.
10. Competitions –
Sure why not, our big tip here is to use competing as a way of motivation to become better at your craft. Don’t worry about the results. For the first year of competing just go out there, learn how to have a good time while under pressure all while knowing you only having 90 seconds to give your partner the best experience you can. PLEASE NOTE: never judge a book by it’s cover and certainly realize the look vs. the feel of a dance(r) are 2 different things.
We guarantee the first few times you compete you will think your dance felt like crap but that’s not usually the case, it’s just nerves. Sometimes you think your best dance was a complete trainwreck but, in actual fact, it ended up being top shelf!
The judges really only get to look at you for 5-10 seconds or less during a dance, if you’re lucky. Have a good time and the pat back will come 10 fold. You will be loved on and off the floor, both socially and competitively.
Learning to dance may feel challenging at times, especially the initial stages, but following these tips will definitely help. You should find yourself improving better & more easily… Maybe even more swift. Sure it takes a lot of practice (and really what doesn’t?) but what better way to meet people than listening to music and dancing all night long?