Dance Tips Archives

Ballroom dancing evokes many emotions;

the thrill of dressing up, the anticipation of meeting new people or just seeing your friends again, the buzz that surrounds the dance floor and the excitement of dance itself. All feelings are valid, justified, and welcome; they make the experience more than worth the wait. However the flip-side to that coin can be a discouraging one, so here are a few things to remember to better enhance the experience of yours and those around you.

First be kind and courteous, no one will want to dance with you if you’re judgmental of them or their ability. Always try to remember what it was like to be brand new to dancing. It is nerve racking, and scary at first so help encourage all you come into contact with.

Second, when on the dance floor be aware of your surroundings as well as the situation. When dancing smooth move towards those in front of you, most likely by the time you arrive there they will have progressed and moved on. Think 3 steps ahead, so as not to run up on the people down the line of dance from you, don’t start an elaborate 6 measure pattern 4 feet away from someone, it will usually end badly. When dancing Latin all those sexy arms you’ve been dying to try out keep in check till the right place and time. If now happens to be the right place and time consider how crowded the floor is and maybe consider making the arm styling  shape upward to avoid beheading the couple next to you.

And finally floor craft. Think of the dance floor like a Bulls eye, if you are newer to dancing keep simply to the middle of the floor so as to keep out of the way of experienced dancers as well as for your own peace of mind. When first exploring learning to dance, gaining confidence is the key. And the more comfortable with your surroundings you get the more confident you become. Second ring of the “Bulls eye” is for the next level of dancers, those that are comfortable on the floor but are still in the stage of understanding movement through pushing off and body flight. And our final outside ring is for those that are more experienced with the ebb and flow of line of dance, and are more confident in their ability to maneuver around other people. Most importantly and this is for all levels of dancers remember to be understanding.  Avoid being upset if you get “cutoff” more likely than not, it was unintentional, and was simply a mistake. No matter who you are, or how good you become you WILL make mistakes, accept it, learn from it, apologize for it when necessary, and move on. I always try to express to my students, and those I coach to not worry so much. I don’t mind that they make the mistake, I care about how they react to the mistakes they make. Learning to dance is a gift we all like giving as well as receiving gifts, so show your gratitude.

There have been a lot of things in my dance career that I have learned from taking classes, lessons, and private coaching, and over all these years there are a few “gems,” as one of my students calls them, that just stuck with me.  Whether it’s a vivid explanation or picture story, for some reason the “gem” just sits in your mind like a dormant storm just waiting to stir up when called upon.  So let’s call upon a few now.

When maintaining dance position, think on this:  worry less about staying there, and more about being there.  Now that may sound redundant, so let me explain.  Most of us can get into a pretty good dance position, but the real issue at hand is usually maintaining it through movement.   Once you get into proper position, don’t immediately start worrying about staying there.   Instead, worry (if you will), about being there from one step to the next.  Live in the “now”, not the “what will be 2 minutes from now.”  A golf instructor I once had told me to focus on one thing at a time…meaning when you posture up to tee off don’t stand there and repeat in your mind, “Don’t hit it in the water… don’t hit it in the water!!”  Why?  Because guess what will happen…yup… Blooop!   So don’t worry about if you’re in position at the end of the song, just be in position for each step, you might surprise yourself at the end of that 2 minutes.

There are constant issues with achieving and maintaining dance position for both men and women, but I want to share another tip with the ladies.  We’re going call it “The Airplane.”  This is a great exercise for ladies to practice for achieving and maintaining proper dance position.

1.  Stand with your feet together, stretch nice and tall (lengthen your torso), arms stretched straight out.

 

 

 

2.  Think wing span, now keeping your upper body as one, angle your “airplane” to turn left, make sure your head stays dead center of the plane.

 

 

 

3.  Keeping your head where it is, level your shoulders and arms back parallel to the floor.

 

 

 

4.  Now have your partner place himself into dance position with you.

There you have it, now just work on keeping your position by thinking one step at a time.  All right guys, the next blog is for you!

Working with a recent student made me remember an analogy that I learned from my mentor many years ago.  We were working on a new smooth step, and had been working on it for the entire lesson, keeping in mind proper frame, heels and toes, rise and fall, body flight, etc.  It was clear that all of the instruction was getting overwhelming.

As dance students, you can often have a steady stream of your instructor’s words rambling through your head…”123, 123…Heel, toe, toe…Line of dance…Nose with your toes…hold your frame…right shoulder back….”  My tip is this:  It is important to do as my mentor said.  He told me to imagine I was the feather in the movie Forest Gump.  Forget everything else, and just let the movement happen to the music.  Good luck, let go, and dance free.

Everyone wants to be a better Ballroom dancer, make your waltz smoother, your cha cha sharper. But also millions of people are just looking for tips to have more fun and relax when going out dancing. Here are a few tips on how to not only make your dancing experience more fun, but more enjoyable for those you partner with as well.

 

 

  1.   Be kind at all times. Have patience for not only your mistakes but others as well. We all make mistakes when learning to ballroom and Latin dance, just be able to smile and laugh at yourself.
  2. Be aware; always know your surroundings on the dance floor. Most importantly, be aware of the one in your arms.
  3. Floor craft, this is a lot like being aware of others but the next level up. In your smooth dances always dance to where someone is, chances are by time you get there they will have moved on. In your Latin dances remember arms up not out.
  4.  Keep the variety in your dancing consistent. Everybody leads differently, and everybody follows differently, variety is the spice of life and learning in ballroom dancing. 
  5. Mind your T’s and H’s. Toes and Heels are more important than “just because my teacher said so.” Proper foot placement is the first step to putting the body where it is supposed to be for better leading and following.
  6.  Back to basics, never be too good to go back to your grass roots technique and practice. As a 16 year teacher I still take time out to practice even those most basic of techniques. And remember never say I know that, whether it be if your teacher is correcting something or your partner offering you some friendly advice. Open ears means an open mind.
  7. There’s a time and place for everything. It’s great that you have learned so much, and there is nothing wrong with showcasing your talents. However when there’s 50 people on a 30×30 floor that is not the time to do it, choose your timing wisely.
  8.  Social is as social does. Ballroom dancing originated as a way for people to get together and socialize so do just that. Don’t just stick to one place, get out there, go to different events, and meet new people.
  9.  Plateaus aren’t just in Arizona. Everyone experiences an even plane in their progress at some point, don’t panic, and don’t get discouraged. At first all learning is progress, and then you have a period of what I call structure. This is where your progressive learning slows to what feels like a crawl. It is important to use this time to solidify previously learned techniques. Use this time wisely because your progress will resume shortly, be patient.
  10.  Have fun. It is a proven fact that if you have fun, relax, laugh, and keep your stress level low then the brain is 57% more receptive to retaining new input.

 

Remember dancing is what you make of it, if you want to enjoy your evening out more, as well as help others enjoy theirs, then follow these 10 simple tips. Before you know it you will be one of the most sought out dancers on and off the floor.

Ok, so we all understand that if you’re going to learn to ballroom dance then you HAVE to learn how to turn. There is not one single dance; ballroom, Latin, or Rhythm that does not have turns in it, so that being said lets break them down and understand how to properly do them.

First, you have to understand what connection your head and your hips have to with turns, so let me start by saying the most common misconception is that turns are done with your feet. Yes in fact the turn is “mechanically” completed by your foot placement, and yes your feet have a part to play in the turn, just don’t solely rely on the fact that your feet will get you through the turn smoothly. Your hips are the center of your body which carries a lot of momentum, so it is safe to say that concentrating on the continual rotation of your hips through the entire turn is quite important. If you’ve ever been out dancing and seem someone (woman or man) do a turn and they look as though they’ve had one drink…after another….after another….after another then one of two things is at play. One:  they are thrusting their hips forward into the turn trying to force the turn to happen or two:  they’ve had one drink after another…after another!!!  Either way don’t do what they’re doing, slow down, and when doing a turn think about keeping your hips moving from start of turn to finish, same tempo all the way through.  So again your hips are going to manage the constant momentum of your turn.

Your head is even more important in understanding as well as regulating through your turns. The crown weight is the upper back part of your head, this carries more balance then any other part of your body, especially when in motion. If you’re asking yourself “how is that possible?” then try this quick little exercise.  Put your feet together, think about the upper back part of your head (your crown), now lean it back without pushing your hips forward to keep your balance…..(jeopardy Theme)… started to fall backwards didn’t you?  That’s because like a tower that’s top heavy, if even a small amount of weight leans even a little past it’s center of gravity, or past it’s foundations point of balance then it will topple down. Now if you’re still skeptical, then try the same exercise but this time bring your crown weight forward (without dropping your chin)………yup started to fall forward. So now you understand the importance that your head, and hips play in all turns, plus if you tried either of those exercises in public you’ve gotten giggled at a bit as well. So go forth and turn ’til your hearts content, just do it with patience, balance, a whole lot of practice. And as always enjoy and have fun with it!