Posts Tagged ‘learn ballroom’

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.

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.