Sharing The Joy Of Dancing
LEARNING TO BALLROOM DANCE
What's the best way to learn to dance? This is a question that I get asked quite often. In my opinion, private lessons are the best way to learn to Ballroom Dance. As any of you who have taken a group lesson from me know, dancing is about feeling. You don't see your partner, you feel your partner. You can't watch and imitate Ballroom Dancing, the instructor must get his/her hands on you to convey the feeling of the dance. The man must understand the feeling that he is trying to give the lady. In order to do this, sometimes it is important that he dance the part of the lady to understand this feeling. The next best way to learn is to take small group classes where the instructor can get his/her hands on each student during the class.
"My partner and I have taken lessons before and we still can't dance together, why is that?" I hear this remark often and most of the time the answer is very simple, men and women learn differently. While it is true that both partners are learning the same pattern, the man must also learn how to led that pattern, what the timing of the music is and what the frame should feel like to both himself and his partner. As you can imagine this is a lot to take in and can take a while. So if you are a woman, you should be patience while your partner digests all this new information. This is one of the reasons that small groups or private lessons are important because the instructor can work more closely with each individual. The remaining of this article will give you information that will help you when taking lessons.
There Is No Wrong In Dancing, Just Better - It is important that you practice what you learn during a lesson (group or private) as soon as possible. This will further solidify what you learned and make it easier to learn additional patterns or information at your next lesson. This will also bring to the forefront any questions or misunderstandings that you have from the class. You can then get these questions resolved at the beginning of the next class before you receive any new information. You must learn from the basics up, there are NO shortcuts to advance social dancing.
Men and women learn differently - In most cases, women learn from the music down and men learn from the floor up (the last thing men do is listen to the music).
Men need to understand - There is nothing "mystical" about dancing. Everything in dancing happens for a reason. Dancing is based on physics and geometry to help create the feeling. As Spock would say "It is very logical". Since men dance patterns, they need to understand the pattern and how it is led so that they can relay that "feeling" to their partner. A lead is defined as initiating, creating and planning ahead which pattern you will be doing. As soon as you touch your partner, your mission is to become one being (a four legged animal as it were). You now have to adjust the physics and geometry of who you are because you now have an additional body to deal with. You should dance with as many different partners as possible to enhance your dancing and practice your leading. As the man, you should learn a few patterns very well instead of a lot of patterns so-so. Then you can take those few patterns and learn to dance them. As those of you who have taken my group classes know, dancing is what happens between the steps. Once you have developed this technique of learning, new patterns will be easier to learn.
Women need to understand -The man leads the pattern and you dance one step at a time, the one you can feel. Even if the man is not leading, please do not be tempted to lead for him. As a woman, you should be dancing with the man's body and the man dances to the music (hopefully). As a woman, you should also understand that when a man is just beginning to learn, he may not always be with the music (since this the last thing he thinks about) but you should always continue to dance with the man's body. The women's responsibility is carry her own weight and respond to the man's lead (not guess).
Instruction - There may be several different ways of doing something, none of them wrong. The instructor teaches the "best way" based on his/her training, experience and background. Sometimes an instructor will teach an element differently to a beginning student than an intermediate or advanced student. The instructor should be able to explain the "why" behind what he/she is trying to teach.
Feeling - The music you dance to can affect the "feeling" of the dance. Dances (Foxtrot, Rumba, etc.) are designed for strict tempo music and a specific range of speeds (mpm - measures per minute). Strict tempo means that the music does not speed up or slow down, stop, etc. See January Newsletter on music for more information. Wearing the correct type of shoe, specifically Ballroom Dance Shoes, can also affect the "feeling" and control of your dancing. See the February Newsletter for more information.
Just as any other sport, practice, practice, practice is the only thing that will make your dancing feel easy, comfortable and natural.