Posts Tagged ‘dance’

How to Learn Ballroom Dance Steps

Monday, September 28th, 2009

ballroomdancing3

My First Ballroom Dancing Steps

The first basic steps that I learned at my ballroom dancing lessons were the Jive dance steps. I remember watching a demonstration of the basic steps with some turns thinking that the dance looked cool. I doubted that I could do them as well as that. When I also had to learn the basic steps to the Rumba and Waltz in the same first dance class, I thought that there was no way I was going to be able to do these dances any time soon.

Although the basic dance steps seemed straightforward and easy to do. It did take me some time to get the hang of them.  I had trouble harmonizing my feet and my mind. I knew what I wanted to do, but couldn’t seem to do it. I kept messing up and making mistakes. So did my dance partner too. But it was okay because we were still having fun.

Practicing Dance Steps At Home

I now know that this is a common experience for me when learning any new dance step. There is always a learning curve before I can do them well. It takes me awhile to get  used to transferring my body weight from one foot to the other within the period of time required by the music. Once I get to know the feel of having all of my weight over the next foot, I tend to make progress because the foot must be supporting the body on each step for dancing to happen.

What works for me is to practice and learn the steps at home on my own soon after doing them for the first time in a ballroom dance lesson. Every day, or every other day, I like to try out the steps for 5 minutes or so – without music at first – until I feel like I know what I am doing. There comes a point with enough repetitions when it just clicks and I can do the steps consistently. Sometimes I practice along with a dance steps video so that I can see what others are doing while I practice the steps.

Learning the steps for such dances as the cha cha cha, jive and rumba etc. is simply about repeating an action the same way each time. If we do the basic steps 1000 times, we might not become brilliant dancers, but we will know a lot about doing those basic steps in time to music.

Learning Dance Steps Without Music

When learning without music, I find that there are three things that help harmonize my mind and body:

  1. To say the steps out loud while doing them
  2. Exaggerate the steps (raise my feet higher than usual)
  3. Look up (rather than looking at my feet) all of the time while practicing the steps

Learning Dance Steps With Music

After practicing the steps without music, I start trying to dance the steps in time with the music – a slow song first, then faster ones as I get the hang of it.

Copyright: Stefano Bussolon (flickr)

Copyright: Stefano Bussolon (flickr)

When learning with music, I find that there are three things that help harmonize my mind and body:

  1. Move my feet on the spot to the beat of the music following the basic pattern of the particular dance (e.g. slow, slow, quick, quick)
  2. Take little steps forward in time with the music following the basic pattern of the particular dance
  3. Keep the steps small when doing the correct footprints of the dance

Learning Dance Steps With A Partner

When learning dance steps with a partner, I find that I must commit myself to the movement. My body has to move before my feet do. When I move my body first, my legs and feet respond accordingly and accommodate this body movement. I see that the direction of movement has more to do with my body than my foot placements.

I have found that I have to commit to the movement in order for my dance partner to know what we are doing. When I step forward, she will step back and vice versa. She can only do that once I have started to move with certainty. Committing to the movement as a couple allows us to feel the movement and come to know what a dance step is meant to feel like.

When I first started dancing, I used to worry about stepping on my partner’s foot. But when I commit myself to the step, my partner automatically moves and leaves the space for my foot to step into. If I am hesitant in my movement, I often step on her foot.

When learning with a partner, I have also learned that we must be proficient in the dance steps before we can teach others how to do them. People are different. Some pick up the steps faster than others. That’s just the way we are. When learning, patience and kindness always help.

And Finally,

Even though it’s normal to do so, I find it best to not compare my current dancing ability with others. I know that over time with practice and attention I will improve as a ballroom dancer. I know that there will come a time when the dancing becomes automatic and I realize that I can do the steps of a dance consistently without thinking.

Music for Ballroom Dancing

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Apparently, the last thing that men pay attention to when they are learning to dance is the music. This is because they are more focused on learning the following fundamentals:

  • How to do the steps
  • How to lead the steps
  • How the frame feels when doing it right

I have found that this is true for me at first. As a beginner to ballroom dancing, I do need to understand the pattern before leading someone else. I believe that a solid understanding of the fundamentals is essential. (This was the case when I was learning rock climbing, golf and soccer.)

However, once I have learned the basic footwork I find that I learn more quickly when the music I am dancing to has a clear beat and I know what the timing of the music is. When I can feel the rhythm timing in my body, I find that I can do the steps to the music more easily. I also feel like I know what I am doing because my partner and I are dancing to the music.

As a beginner, some music seems easier to dance to than others.

Liking the music really helps me to be on time with the music. I have been buying songs that I like – where the timing is clear –  so that I can practice what I have learned in a lesson in a fun way at home. I often listen to this music while doing things around the house so that I learn the timing of the music without conscious effort. For more on this, read my article How to Hear the Music and Know What Dance to Do.

I have listed the songs that I like for each dance below. I will update this list as I go.

Cha Cha

  • Sex Bomb - Reload – Mousse T & Tom Jones
  • I Wanna Dance - Afro-Disiac- Willy Chirino
  • Kiss Me Honey Honey – Shirley Bassey
  • You spin me round – Dead or Alive
  • I’m gonna getcha good – Shania Twain

Foxtrot

  • The Pink Panther - 100 Greatest Film Themes –  The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Sixteen Tons – 100 Hits: Rock & roll 1950’s – Graham BLVD
  • Walking my baby back home – Nat King Cole

Jive

  • Hit the Road Jack - Anthology -Ray Charles
  • Wake Me up Before You Go Go - Make it Big – Wham
  • Candyman – Back to Basics – Christina Aguilera
  • Jack is Back – C’lan
  • Hound Dog - Elvis Presley

Mambo

  • Baby Keep Smiling – A Little Bit of Mambo – Lou Bega
  • Mambo No 5 – A Little Bit of Mambo – Lou Bega

Rumba

  • Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps -
  • Under the Boardwalk -
  • Take my breath away – Berlin

Salsa

  • Corazon Espinado – Ultimate Santana –  Santana

Tango (American)

  • La Comparsita
  • Libertango – Sharon Shannon and Kirsty Macoll

Waltz

  • Come Away With Me – Come Away With Me – Nora Jones

The Dancesport site can help you find more music.