Posts Tagged ‘ballroom dance’

The Most Important Part of Ballroom Dancing

Monday, December 21st, 2009
Rumba

Rumba

What is the most important part of ballroom dancing?

Practice is the most important part of learning how to dance.

You probably don’t want to hear that. I am no expert, but I believe that the only way to improve our ballroom dancing skills is through the physical development of our body and muscle movements, particularly our upper leg muscles and back muscles. It is this muscle memory that ensures the predictable outcome of dancing to the music with a partner. I find that dancing is like any physical skill in that it can be learned well through practice.

The correct technique feels wrong at first.

When learning new dance steps and patterns in ballroom dancing, I often find that the correct technique feels wrong at first, while the incorrect technique feels natural.

If what I am doing feels natural, right and comfortable, I tend to receive feedback during the dance classes from the instructor that corrects errors that I am making. I learn from my mistakes. Practice is where I make mistakes and find my errors and weaknesses. It gives me something specific to work with.  Once identified, I can turn these weaknesses into strengths through practice.

Failure is a vital part of the learning process.

As a new ballroom dancer, we must be willing to fail. When learning new patterns or steps, we need to commit our entire body to the step. We need to ‘act as if’ we have been doing this step for years already.

It’s OK to make mistakes when we are learning something new. In fact, it is desirable. In dancing this is how we train our muscles. The same mistakes will only persist if we keep doing the same thing and are expecting a different outcome each time. Learning to dance can be like learning to walk all over again. After all, children learning to walk make mistakes and never give up.

I do find that with practice – over time – the correct technique and dance steps will feel right and become more natural. This is because through repetition we can transform unfamiliar body movements into the familiar, consistent movements required for effective dancing.

Practice increases confidence.

During practice time, we build our confidence naturally. The use and training of our muscles will increase our confidence on the dance floor. The confidence comes from our increasing competence – knowing what to do and how to do it.

Only after lots of practice is it wise for us to attempt in public what we have nailed in practice. I believe that it is better to raise the level of our physical capabilities before learning more complex steps and patterns. That is, get the basics right first.

Set attainable goals for each practice session.

When we want to learn to dance, setting short-term and underachieving goals work best. Especially if we write them down. (It is well-known that people who write down their goals are more successful than those who do not.)

Taking baby steps works better than giant leaps forward. This is why we set underachieving goals. The intention is to do less than we want to. Instead of practicing for an hour, commit to only 20 minutes or less. By doing so we will feel underwhelmed and look forward to practicing, instead of being impatient and pushing ourselves to overachieve. Too much effort may well work against us and be counter productive. Once stress, pressure or emotional reactions have occurred in the practice session, it is time to stop.

There is no need to practice for long periods of time. Shorter, frequent intervals are best. For example, two times a day practice for 10 minutes is better than one hour once a week.  It is easier to find this time than a few hours per week. This approach lends itself to the step-by-step way of learning ballroom dancing. Each new step is dependent on successful learning and improving the correct technique.

In summary

By being willing to fail and creating an authentic, practice schedule with realistic and easily attainable goals, we will find that our dancing becomes better and more enjoyable when we do.

How to Hear The Music and Know What Dance to Do

Monday, December 14th, 2009

As ballroom dancing comes from music, it is all about recognizing the fundamental elements of timing and rhythm. Each dance, such as the Foxtrot, Waltz and Rumba, expresses the rhythm and timing of the music that the dance was created for.

We dance to the rhythm of the song, not its melody nor the words. This is a skill that can be learned. Being able to recognize the rhythm of a song is the way to hear the music and know what dance to do. The ability to recognize the same musical elements in your favourite dance music (e.g. cha cha cha) is an important learning for beginners to ballroom dancing.

ballroomdancing4

How do we start to recognize these elements?

We listen for the bass line to discern the timing of the music. Play one of your favourites songs to dance to and listen for the consistent beat of the drum, percussion or bass guitar.  Turn up the bass on your stereo and turn down the treble in order to hear the bass line more clearly and aid your ability to clearly hear the rhythm of the music.

The first thing to realize is that it is possible to hear the differences between songs for the different dances. We can hear the difference between a jive, a tango and a rumba. Each dance was developed to match its own music. The more songs we listen to, the more we will be able to identify the music type and what dance to do to it. By listening and dancing to many different songs, we will unconsciously learn the differences between music types.

When beginning, it is helpful to listen and dance to songs that have a strict tempo e.g. the music of Glen Miller. Strict tempo is a consistent and dependable beat – the number of beats and bars remain the same throughout the song. I find that dancing to songs with a dependable beat makes dancing more enjoyable. It is therefore vital that we learn how to find the beat in a song.

For some suggested songs to practice dancing to, read my article on ballroom dancing music.

Ballroom Dancing Benefits

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

There are many health and physical benefits associated with dancing. Many new dancers find that their physical fitness, body language and physical confidence improve as they progress in ballroom dancing.

Would you like to lose weight and have more shapely legs?

Dancing for 30 minutes burns calories equivalent to walking, swimming and cycling. Repeatedly doing dance steps is a cardiovascular exercise and works out the major muscle groups. In a short period of time of dancing, you will burn fat tissue and increase muscle mass in your legs. As you continue to dance you will experience an increase in the strength, size and firmness of your legs. You can think of it like this: every time you go dancing, it is like going to the gym.

Now isn’t this kind of exercise a lot more fun than doing squats in the gym? To read more reasons why dance classes are better than gym memberships, check out this article from the site: Dance Classes in Wellington. You can even work out at home with ballroom dancing videos.

Do you slouch and have poor posture?

Ballroom dancing will improve your posture and the way you walk. You will develop correct postural movement if you practice regularly dancing over time.  Gradually, you will train your muscle memory to correct the habitual movements that have led to poor posture. As you learn to dance, your normal movement will improve. Your self-image will improve as you walk tall and straight.

The way to accelerate this process is to consciously apply the the elements of balance, timing and carriage of your body to your daily routine. If you would like to improve your posture specifically through exercise (and in turn improve your dancing frame), check out the Posture Exercises Guide.

Are you stressed and tired most of the time?

Dancing will alleviate stress and increase your feeling of well-being. Stress is a daily reality for us all and can lead to some serious health problems. Consistent dancing exercise over time leads to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.

In today’s fast pace of life, reducing stress is a necessity, not an option. Dancing can give you a break from difficult circumstances. Dancing is a great stress relief for both your body and your mind. Through dancing, you can release emotional blockages (e.g. anger, sadness, worry) in your nervous system and learn how to relax through movements.

Would you like to have more fun and enjoyment in your life?

Women dance because of the music. Men dance because of the women. They both love to dance because it is fun and intimate. Not only is it fun, ballroom dancing balances your mind and body, strengthens your muscles, improves your self-confidence, and maintains your health. What’s not to like?