Posts Tagged ‘learn how to dance’

For The Love of Ballroom Dancing

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

When Jack was a teenager he loved to dance, but he didn’t really know it. When he looked old enough he would go to nightclubs, get drunk and then dance all night. He was self-conscious and didn’t want to look foolish in front of people. This was was why he thought he needed the alcohol. Standing around the dance floor with the other guys who were afraid to dance was not much fun. But the beer helped him to get out of his head and into his body and to feel the music. It helped him to overcome his inhibitions and not care about what others thought.  At the time, he did not realize that it was for the dancing that he went nightclubbing in the first place.

Now that Jack is in his 40’s. Well things are different. He realizes that he has, in many ways, wasted his life due to fear and laziness. He doesn’t even like drinking anymore; he hasn’t enjoyed it for years and years. The best time was when he was 15 – that was when it was new, fun and exciting. After that time, it just became old.

At last, now that he is middle-aged, divorced and podgy, he has decided to be bold and let loose his love for dancing. He has started to take dancing seriously. The first bold step he took was to enrol in ballroom dancing classes so that he could learn the art of dancing with a partner. Jack loves the intimacy of dancing with a partner. He loves the connection between the two of them and how they can move as one being – even with the most basic dance steps. He enjoys the structure of the dance patterns and the freedom to express himself within this structure, especially with the rumba and cha cha cha dance steps. The second bold step was to buy some real ballroom dance shoes after the first ballroom dance class.

It is ironic that when Jack was a teenager that he thought that the guys who did ballroom dancing were gay. Yet they were dancing with girls all of the time. They weren’t as cool as him and his friends, but they did not spend a lot of time on their own and with other single guys. If only he had learned to dance properly when he was young… he would be so good at it today.

Now Jack tries not to believe his thoughts and feelings. He knows he isn’t what he thinks or feels or experiences. He listens to a deeper knowing about what is good and right for him to be and do, and believes this knowing instead. It tells him what to do. (A bit like how the music tells a dancer how to move.) So when he feels like giving up  and thinks that he is a hopeless dancer because he cannot seem to do the dance steps and lead his partner around the floor, he doesn’t give these  feelings and thoughts any energy. He just keeps practicing. He knows that for him this is a common occurrence when he has to do something difficult. It will feel too hard at first and he will think that he will never do it. But over time he will find that it does become easier and he is able to do it. He actually will enjoy the whole learning process and will wonder what all the fuss was about when he first tried it.

This new way of being in life has made all of the difference to Jack. He is looking at what is next for his love of dancing. Maybe hip hop or jazz dancing… now that could be fun.

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.