Why Practice Parties are More Important than You Think

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Almost a year ago, I discussed practice parties and what kind of things you can expect from the usual and special parties at Celebrity Dance Studio.  If you don’t already know, practice parties are events where new and experienced dance students can put their instruction into practical use.  They are events that are designed to imitate a night out dancing at a nightclub, wedding, or other event with a dance floor.  Imagine these parties as a “tutorial” before you go out and dance in the real world.  Even though dancing is the main focus of these parties, attendees have many things to look forward to, including food, drinks, entertainment, and fellowship!  Anyone who has ever been to a practice party can tell you how fun they are, but they are also quite important for dancers.  I am going to list some reasons why it’s valuable to drop by a practice party every once and a while.

 

Parties Help You Become Better Social Dancers

Social dancers can benefit a lot from practice parties because social dancing is essentially what these parties are made for.  Most people who want to learn to dance do so because they want to prepare for weddings or other large events where there will be lots of dancing.  Practice parties are the perfect place to prepare for those events because dancers will be in a live, social setting with a floor full of other people.  There are also a few dance floor rules that social dancers can test out and experience at practice parties.  These include travelling in the line of dance, staying towards the inner part of the dance floor if you are moving slowly, and dancing with someone for an entire song.  You can also try asking different people to dance.  Ladies can also ask men to dance, too, so don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zones!  Parties will also give you the chance to dance to many different styles so you can practice almost everything that you have learned.  When you go out in public, people will wonder how you got so good at dancing.  Little will they know – you’ve had a lot of practice!

 

Parties Help You Become Better Competitors

If you’ve ever been to a competition, you would know that you will likely be dancing on a crowded floor.  Competitions will usually have many couples out on the floor at the same time competing against each other. Parties are great ways to practice maneuvering around a crowded floor because there will be many dancers out there.  Even though most of the party goers will likely be social dancers, you can still work on weaving your way through the couples and practice avoiding collisions.  You will also get the chance to dance out multiple styles and you could even grab your instructor for a dance so you can get in a little extra practice.  At a typical party, you might not spend as much time dancing Viennese Waltzes and Quicksteps, but you can really build up your skill on a lot of the popular dances like Foxtrot and Rumba.  When competition time comes around, some practice is really better than no practice!

 

You Have the Chance of Learning New Steps

Even if there are steps or a dance that you aren’t familiar with, there’s always the possibility that someone could show it to you or lead you in it.  While practice parties aren’t the primary place to go for new steps, you could always end up learning something neat from a fellow student or instructor who dances with you.  This happens all the time when people of different levels and experience dance together.  Even the most advanced dancer can learn a thing or two from a fellow dancer.  There are so many different styles and variations to learn and billions of moves and patterns to play around with!

 

You Get to See Performances

Every once and a while, students and instructors will prepare dances that they can perform at practice parties.  This gives attendees the opportunity to dance and enjoy a little show, as well!  Many of the pieces students put out there are routines that they are preparing for competitions or showcases.  However, there are quite a few students who prepare dances specifically to perform them at parties.  Whatever the reasoning is for performing, practice parties can allow individuals to polish their performance skills before getting in front of bigger audiences.  This brings us to the next point…

 

You Can Perform in a Safe Space

Practice parties are also a great “tester stage” for those who have never performed before, but are trying it out for the first time.  If you are thinking about performing but feeling a bit nervous about being in front of an audience, then practice parties are the perfect place to start.  At parties, your audience will likely be people you know – the students and staff at your own studio.  The environment will be close and judgement-free so you can have fewer worries.  Parties will definitely warm you up for larger audiences in the future. 

 

Getting More Involved with the Studio

Attending more parties can help you stay updated on all the events that are happening in your studio.  The studio may regularly post updates and send emails, but if you go to parties, you’ll be able hear announcements with special information that you may have missed.  You may also get the chance of receiving special offers just by being at the party.  You never know what you could be missing out on!  If you are new to the studio, attending parties can also get you more acquainted with everything the studio has to offer.  You can get a feel for the environment and get involved in the culture.  It will also give you a chance to meet new people and potentially form lifelong friendships!

 

As a final point, you can just think of practice parties as a lab or beta test.  In a school setting, labs are structured time where you can test out the theories and practices that you have learned in class in a controlled setting.  Practice parties are exactly that: they give you the chance to try out all of the techniques that you have learned in your lessons, putting them to good use in a friendly and fun space where instructors are even available to help you out when you need it.  They are definitely beneficial for any dancers’ life, so make sure that you take advantage of the opportunity and drop by as many parties as you can!

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Dance Video Games

 

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We are three weeks into our Spring Festival here at Celebrity Dance Studio!  So far we’ve celebrated board games and game shows, and this week we are diving into video and arcade games!  There are billions of video games that you can play, but if you are playing at home, you could be spending hours sitting on the couch.  While your favorite games might be engaging, it’s nice to get moving every once in a while.  Thanks to advancements in video game technology, players are able to utilize motion sensing devices to play games.  Many consoles like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox have components that capture the movements of players.  These features have made it possible for many dance-based games to be developed.  A lot of these games are loads of fun and they also get your blood flowing.  Many people even use these games for exercise!  This week I’m going to list some video games that feature some awesome dance moves and might also allow you to learn some cool moves, as well!

 

Dance Dance Revolution

Dance Dance Revolution (also known as DDR) started out a video arcade game in 1998 and is considered the pioneer of the “rhythm and dance” genre of video games.  The original arcade machines had players standing on a “dance stage”, stepping on light-up arrows in time with visual and musical cues that appear on the monitor.  The cues they must follow are on-screen arrows that always match the speed and rhythm of whatever song is playing.  Players are judged by how well they time their steps to the patterns presented to them.  There is also a “versus” mode where two players can compete against each other to get the highest score.  A console version of this game has also been released which allows players to enjoy the game in their homes.  Instead of a huge dance stage, players use a “dance mat” which acts as the game controller.  This game has become so popular that there are even DDR tournaments held throughout the world!

 

Dancing With The Stars (video game)

Yes…we are talking about Dancing with the Stars again, but did you know the show was made into a video game, as well?  Based on the premise of the show, the game has you playing as one of the many celebrities featured on the show and their professional partners.  The mechanics of the game are similar to DDR – you must follow a sequence of arrows in time with the speed and rhythm at which they appear on the screen.  In addition to playing as a celebrity from the show, you can also dance to a variety of different dance styles including Jive, Salsa, Quickstep, and even Viennese Waltz.  This game is available on many different consoles, but the most notable is the Playstation 2 version which allows you to use a dance mat to step in time with the arrows that appear (just like DDR).  There is also a unique version of this game available for mobile phones so that players can enjoy the game wherever they go!

 

Just Dance

Following DDR, Just Dance has become the most recognized and popular dance and rhythm game for video game consoles.  It was originally released for the Nintendo Wii in 2009 and allows players to mimic the motions of an on-screen dancer’s choreography while using the Wii Remote to capture how accurately the players match the on-screen dancer.  After selecting a song, players try to following along with the dancing avatar, as well as a scrolling display of pictograms representing dance poses.  While holding the remote in their right hand, the players’ goal is to try and score as high as they can.  The game was praised for its soundtrack featuring familiar and popular music and simplistic gameplay which made it accessible to casual gamers.  Just Dance has also become a popular game to play at parties because up to four players can play at once.  There are eight sequels to this game; each year a new game is released with the most recent one being Just Dance 2018.  There have also been different versions and spin-offs of the game, including a kid’s version and a Disney series.

 

Dance Central

Another great rhythm game for consoles is Dance Central.  This game uses the Kinect for the Xbox 360 which is a motion-sensing camera device that allows players to interact with their games without the use of a controller.  This means that players can dance as they would in games like Just Dance, except they don’t have to hold a controller!  The gameplay is also similar to Just Dance – the players perform given dance moves with are tracked by the Kinect and represented on the screen by the game’s avatars.  The only downside to this game is that only two players can play at a time as compared to four from Just Dance.  There are also three more sequels to this game that have been released.  This game stands out because player’s full body movements are able to be tracked, not just the movements from their arms and the Wii remote.

 

Kinect Star Wars

This game is primarily an action game released on the Xbox 360 using the Kinect motion device, but it also features a mode called “Galactic Dance-off”.  This game mode is actually a silly and comical contrast from the rest of the game because it is modeled after the Dance Central series, but uses characters and themes from Star Wars.  Players can control one of several iconic Star Wars characters and have them dance in sync with the dance cues that appear on-screen.  The game’s song selection includes parodies of songs where the titles and lyrics are rewritten to fit the Star Wars theme.  For example – Jason Derulo’s song, “Ridin’ Solo”, is changed to “I’m Han Solo”, and players get to dance as Han Solo.  This game is just as fun as Dance Central but is also good for laugh.

 

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See?  We weren’t kidding…

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Dancing "Game Shows"

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Last week we listed some dance-themed board games to go along with our Spring Festival theme: Games.  This week, the focus is on game shows!  There are many entertaining game shows to watch on television including, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, The Price is Right, and Deal or No Deal.  These game shows are classic and fun, but they’re missing a little something – movement!  Luckily, there has been a recent surge in the amount of dance shows that are on television.  While these shows are not actually “game shows”, they are competitive programs where contestants compete for a specific prize, so they do share some aspects with game shows!  This week I’m going to list some of the best dance shows to watch out for on TV.

 

Dancing with the Stars

This dance competition show has become very popular not only because of the fantastic dance numbers, but because of the star-studded cast.  What makes this show special is that each season invites various celebrities to dance with professional dancers to compete in a variety of ballroom and Latin styles.  Each week, the contestants and their partners are assigned a random dance style and have to perform for the judges.  The three judges will give the couple a score out of 30 and viewers are also able to vote on their favorite pairs.  The judges’ scores are combined with the votes received from the public, and the couples with the lowest scores are revealed on a separate results show.  By the end of the results show, the lowest scoring couple is eliminated.  One couple is eliminated every week until the best and favorite couple wins the competition.

 

Strictly Come Dancing

This British television show is a follow-up from an older British ballroom dancing show called Come DancingStrictly Come Dancing’s format is actually very similar to that of Dancing with the Stars.  Professional dancers are paired with various stars and TV personalities to perform in a ballroom and Latin dance competition.  They are assigned a random style, prepare the dance within the week before the show is recorded, and perform a 90 second dance in front of judges and a studio audience.  The panel of judges gives the dance couples a score out of 40 for each dance they perform and viewers can vote for the couples that they want to stay on the show.  Each week, one couple leaves the show if they don’t receive enough votes.   The only main differences between this show and Dancing with the Stars are that there are four judges on the panel and the show introduced a “dance off” system where the two couples who received the lowest score that week dance for a second chance to stay on the show.  After the dance-off is done, the judges choose who will stay and who is eliminated.   The elimination process continues each week until winners are chosen.

 

So You Think You Can Dance

This competitive dance show was created by American Idol producers, and has even been referred to as the “dance version of American Idol” because of the great professional opportunities it provides to those who compete on the show.  Open auditions are held for the casting of this show, and dancers that are skilled in a variety of styles show up to impress judges for a chance to be on the show.  After a series of additional audition processes, a handful of dancers are chosen to appear on the show as finalists.  Each week, dancers are paired up, assigned a dance style, and given choreography that they must perform.  The judges do not give out scores, but they do offer feedback to the dancers.  Viewers then vote for their favorite dancers to stay on the show.  The audience voting system is similar to that of Dancing with the Stars and Strictly Come Dancing, but the dancers are judged individually even though they are in pairs.  When the results are in, the dancers with the lowest scores “dance for their lives” in their own styles to show the judges that they deserve to stay in the competition.  Eventually, the judges send two dancers home and dancers are assigned to new partners if theirs was eliminated.  Some seasons of the show have a single winner, while other seasons allowed for a male and female winner.  Overall, the show offers a fantastic showcase of a wide variety of dance styles (including ballroom, musical theatre, and even Bollywood and Russian dances) and has helped the careers of many talented dancers.

 

America’s Got Talent

While this show is not exclusively a dance show, it does feature multiple movement-based acts including dancers, gymnasts, acrobats, contortionists, and even pole athletes.  America’s Got Talent is a widely broadcasted talent show where singers, magicians, comedians, dancers, etc. compete for a monetary prize (usually 1 million dollars) and the chance to headline a show in Las Vegas.  Contestants always perform in front of celebrity judges who provide critiques after each act.  During their acts, the judges may express their disapproval of an act by pressing a red buzzer on their table which will make an “X” appear above the stage.  Anyone who receives X’s from all judges must stop their act and be immediately eliminated from the show.  After a number of contestants are chosen to continue, multiple rounds are run until a winner is ultimately chosen.  The show has given opportunities to many talented and little-known performers and is broadcasted in over 58 countries including the UK, Sweden, Germany, India, and Brazil.

 

World of Dance

This show is based on the “World of Dance” brand which encompasses many platforms including World of Dance competitions in over 25 countries, a live tour, a fashion line, and now this competitive dance show.  The television program first premiered in 2017 with Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough, and Ne-Yo as the judges.  The contestants of the show are picked from qualifying events around the nation and through online submissions.  They are divided into several different divisions based on their ages and number of dancers within a group.  Each episode, the dancers showcase their skills for the judges and are scored according to the World of Dance scoring criteria which examine performance, technique, choreography, creativity, and presentation.  The show is also divided into a series of rounds including Qualifiers, Duels, Cuts, and Finals.  In the Finals, the last three acts that are remaining compete to win the million dollar prize.  While this show just only premiered last year, it received great ratings and will return for a second season this summer!  Like So You Think You Can Dance, it features dancers in a wide variety of styles, but also gives duets and group acts the chance to perform and compete together.  The show is also unique because of its scoring system.  Instead of the judges giving one general number to score dancers, they judge them based on specific elements, giving the selection process more depth.

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Dance/Movement Board Games

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Celebrity Dance Studio is starting our annual Spring Festival this week, and this year’s theme is all about games!  During this first week we are going to focus on all things board game-related (and we will even have a Murder Mystery party during our final week).  Everyone can appreciate a good game like Monopoly, Clue, Checkers, or even Candy Land!  When you have a night in with friends or family, pulling out a fun board game can be a great way to spend the night.  There are so many titles and types of games to choose from, but many of those games will probably have you sitting down for hours.  If you’re someone who prefers more movement in their life, then I have some cool games for you to try out!  So because this is a dance blog, I will provide you with a few game options that allow you to get up and moving!

 

Dance Charades

A regular game of charades can be great, but there is a really cool version of this game that makes it even better.  It is called Dance Charades and it lets you dance out certain moves while everyone else tries to guess which moves you are performing.  A bunch of dance cards are laid out on a table, describing certain dance moves.  Players get a 40 second song clip during their turn to dance out as many items on the cards as they can.  One point is awarded for each item someone guesses correctly, but what makes this game unique is that you can get extra points if others think your dance moves are awesome!  Other players can reward you with bonus points or special tokens if your dance moves were spectacular.  This extra element keeps people dancing and putting effort into their movement and not just “charading”.

 

Crazy Dancing

In this game, three teams of 2-8 players compete to be the best dancing team.  Each team takes a turn at being the judges of the dance contest while the other teams perform a dance that they have to create themselves.  Cards are dealt to the performing teams to specify seven moves that they must incorporate in their routines.  They also must add in their own original moves, so this game allows a bit of creativity, too!  While this game may be difficult to find online or in stores, you can recreate it with a group of friends pretty easily.  All you need to do is think of a bunch of random dance moves, write them down, and have teams draw a few moves out of a hat so they can put them together to create short routines.

 

Top Dance

Top Dance is a board game that is based on the popular dancing video game series, Just Dance.  This game is very similar to the concept of Dance Charades.  The only difference is that the moves on the dance cards are actual depictions of moves from Just Dance.  On each card there are also pictures of the game’s characters doing the move, and the player has to imitate what they are doing.  The game is interesting because players have to look at a picture on a dance card and interpret it in their own way, but also attempt to make the other players correctly guess what they are doing.  It’s a fun game to play if you really enjoy Just Dance, but don’t have a game console on-hand.

 

Twister

This is probably one of the most popular and well known movement-based games.  You are required to move your entire body in order to play Twister.  If you aren’t familiar already, the game “board” is a large vinyl mat with randomly colored dots all over it.  The concept of this game involves players spinning a spinner which will give them a random color and random limb which they must place on the mat.  Each player must put the relevant body part on the relevant color spot, and no players are allowed to share spots.  If any player falls, or if their knees or elbows touch the ground, they are eliminated.  The game ends when one person is left standing.  Not only will this game get you up and moving, but it will also give you a chance to test your flexibility. (Be careful though!)

 

Quelf

Quelf is a…unique game that is not technically considered a movement or dance game, but it has plenty of elements woven into it that will definitely get you moving.  It is an unpredictable party game where the goal is to get to the end of the game board.  That goal seems easy enough, but the twist is that players have to perform ridiculous tasks, answer absurd trivia, and follow silly rules to win.   The game has different decks of cards that represent different categories, and two of those categories are “Stuntz” and “Showbiz”.  The “Stuntz” cards have you performing a variety of silly actions and the “Showbiz” cards require you to sing, dance, mime, or even write poetry!  Because the game is so random, you could end up doing anything from doing the chicken dance, giving an impression of Donald Duck, or writing a song for your friends and performing it in front of everyone.  When playing this game, don’t plan on sitting in one place for too long!

 

Happy Dancing!  ^_^

Essential Items to Remember For Competition

A while ago, I posted about dance competitions and gave some tips for those who might be considering signing up.  Well, another competition is just around the corner for us at Celebrity Dance Studio and since competing is on our minds, I’ve decided to make another post that will hopefully help out those who will be participating in the upcoming competition or any events in the near future.

Making sure your dance skills are competition-ready is a main part of Dancesport events, but that’s only part of the process.  There are many components you’ll want to make sure are covered before you head to the venue.  Many people arrive on competition day and are later kicking themselves because they forgot to bring important items with them.  While friends or kind strangers may have some stuff you can borrow, it’s always nice to have a “tool kit” of your own so that you’ll be comfortable and ready for the big day or weekend.  I am going to list some things that you definitely won’t want to forget when you attend your next competition.

 

Costume Repair Kit

If you have your competition outfits all set and ready to go then you’re on the right track.  However, it’s always good to have back-up plans in case you have any costume mishaps.  There’s always the chance that you could tear or spill something on your outfit, and if that happens, you’ll want to make sure that you are prepared.  Bring along a sewing kit so you can fix any rips or tears.  If you don’t know how to sew, you can ask a friend or bring along someone who knows how!  You can also use fashion tape for a quick fix, so make sure to bring that along, too.  Lint brushes will also keep you neat, and applying clear nail polish to torn tights can prevent a hole from getting bigger.  It’s also a good idea to have something in your bag that can easily get rid of stains in case you accidently spill something on your outfit.

 

Makeup and Mirrors

Even if you do your makeup before you arrive at the competition, it’s still nice to have extra tools in your bag in case you need to do a quick touch up or two.  Depending on how much you are moving around throughout the day, your makeup could come off or get messed up.  Some items that will most likely need to be reapplied during the day and are good to have in your makeup bag are powder, mascara, eyeliner, blush, and lipstick.  Also, make sure to bring a small handheld mirror.  Sure, there will be mirrors in the washrooms and changing areas of the venue, but getting ready is a little easier when you have your own personal mirror.

 

Hair Accessories

No one in the world has perfect hair.  If you style your hair a certain way in the morning, chances are it won’t look the same by the evening.  Because they move around so much, dancers have to take extra precautions to make sure their hair stays neat and in place.  When you’re on your way to the ballroom, make sure to bring everything you need to make sure your hair looks the way you want it to.  It’s best to prepare a small bag with a brush, hair ties, bobby pins, clips, hair spray, and everything else you need to stay fabulous!   

 

Snacks

If the competition you’re attending is inside of a hotel or a venue that will have food vendors, you might not have to worry too much about starving.  However, if you will constantly be needed out on the floor, you may not have time to step away to grab a meal.  In that case, you’ll want to make sure you have some light snacks handy to keep you energized.  Some good food items to bring with you are granola bars, crackers, nuts, fruit snacks, or anything that is small and easy to eat.  Foods that won’t make you messy or get all over your clothing are a plus!  Most venues will also have free water available, but having a refillable water bottle with you can be more convenient.

 

Pain Medication

Going through all your checklists and making sure you are prepared can sometimes cause quite a headache, so you might as well prepare for that pain, too!  Besides that, dancing all day can be strenuous and if you unfortunately end up hurting yourself while dancing, it’s good to know that you can at least treat any pain you have with some medication.  Bandages and other aids will also be useful if you get blisters or other minor injuries, but remember – don’t be a hero!  If you are in serious pain, don’t try to push through.  Take a break and see a medical professional.

 

Camera

Definitely make sure you bring a camera with you or have the camera ready on your phone so that you can capture tons of memorable moments.  Different competitions have different rules and regulations regarding recording videos and taking pictures, but if you are allowed to capture some moments, you should definitely take advantage of that opportunity.  Even if you don’t get the chance to snap dancers that are out on the floor, you should still take some pictures on the side with friends and fellow dancers.  You’re all dressed up, so you might as well take as many photos as possible!

 

Dance Shoes…

I know – It seems obvious that you should bring your dance shoes to a dance competition, but shoes have still been forgotten!  Honestly, your shoes can be easy to forget if you keep them in a place is that is separate from the rest of your dance items.  Rushing to get ready at the last minute is another way that your shoes can be overlooked.  To make sure you don’t forget them, make sure you plan ahead and pack them the night before.  You can also attach them to your suitcase or the bag that holds your competition outfits so that all your items are lumped together.  Vendors always sell dance shoes at competitions, but you can avoid spending money on new ones just because you forgot to bring your own.

 

Happy Dancing - and GOOD LUCK to our students competing in Wisconsin next weekend!  ^_^

Is Dance a Sport? (Yes…And Here’s Why!)

Dance is obviously a form of art which is both beautiful and entertaining for all who observe and participate in it.  However, the question always arises as to whether dance is a sport or not.  I believe that some of the reasons people have for not classifying dance as a sport are because of its graceful nature.  It’s true that a lot of dance is focused on the artistic aspect.  Many artists create choreography so they can have dancers perform pieces in front of audiences.  Most of the time, choreographers want their pieces to look beautiful and appealing.  Their work can even be interpreted differently depending on the viewer.  All of these are elements that make dance an art form. 

Dance is most often recognized as an art, but can also be considered a sport; it is even a sport that requires rigorous training.  Hear are some reasons why dance can be can be so much more than art and why dancers are dedicated athletes:

 

It’s Competitive

Dance doesn’t always have to be competitive, but there are competitions that take place all over the world!  Dancers compete everywhere and anywhere in a variety of different styles, including ballroom.  In fact, Dancesport is another name for competitive ballroom dancing.  Dancesport events are regulated by national and international organizations such as the World Dancesport Federation (WDSF) and The National Dance Council of America (NDCA).  Much like gymnastics or figure skating, dancers who compete are scored on multiple elements such as technique and execution.  Ballroom dancers are even given a set of approved figures that they can do in their competition routines.  There are also penalties, meaning dancers can risk losing points for doing moves that are not approved.  And of course, no sport would be complete without fans and a cheering section!  You will always find supporters and fans of dancers excitedly rooting for their favorites at competitions.  Shouting and rooting for dancers may not be something you would do at a ballet, but it is highly encouraged at these competitions!

 

It’s Athletic and Requires Practice

Soccer players have to train before games to be able to run on the field for long periods of time.  Swimmers have to be prepared to do multiple laps without getting too winded.  Similarly, dancers have to condition themselves to dance for long periods of time.  The best way for them to do this is by training and conditioning consistently.  There are certain exercises dancers can do to prepare themselves for times when they will be dancing non-stop (like performances or competitions), but the best way is through constant practice and rehearsal.  Many dancers will be in the studio 5 or 7 hours per day, working on routines and certain techniques.  Some may even spend more time practicing if they are highly competitive or working on important performances.

An athlete is a person trained or gifted in contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength.  Dancers are athletes according to this definition because they meet all of the criteria.  A professional or competitive dancer must have some amount of agility and strength in order to excel in their craft.  While in rehearsal, dancers end up working out many different muscle groups which helps build their overall strength and stamina.  In fact, dance can be considered a full-body workout since dancers are constantly on their feet, moving around all different parts of their bodies.  All the conditioning and practicing that dancers do ultimately helps prepare them to perform their best when they are on stage. 

 

It Involves Technique

 ­­There are certain ways to effectively shoot a free-throw in basketball.  There is a certain way you should hold a hockey stick in order to ensure you make a goal.  Likewise, dance has multiple techniques you need to use in order to execute certain steps correctly.  You may have observed some dancers performing intense movements such as turns, leaps, or kicks (maybe even the occasional split, too).  Not every person can go out and try these moves without a foundation or proper instruction first.  This is why it’s important for most dancers to have a trained professional show them how to execute certain figures.  Dance instructors are like coaches that train you and fix your technique so that you look your best and dance as smoothly as possible.  These techniques are also important if you want to avoid getting hurt.  And speaking of such…

 

You Have to Stretch and Be Cautious of Injuries

 If you get injured while playing a sport, it can be a big inconvenience.  Players who hurt themselves could be out for weeks or even months.  Dance can have similar repercussions when it comes to injuries.  If a dancer gets hurt, they could risk not being able to dance for a while, which can stop their progress or even halt their careers.  They could end up not competing or performing in important events.  In order to prevent injuries that stop you from participating in your sport, you have to make sure you’re stretching out the appropriate muscles that you use while you are engaged in that activity.  Hamstring, quad, and other types of leg injuries are common in the dance community, so dancers will often do leg stretches to warm up before doing high-intensity work.  In addition to stretching, dancers can also do conditioning or strength exercises that can reduce the chance of injury.  For instance – ankle-strengthening exercises are good for dancers since they generally need strong or stable ankles in order to do certain movements.

If an athlete does end up getting hurt, they have to carefully treat their injuries so that they can heal as quickly as possible.  Most have a trainer or physical therapist to help with their recovery.  Dancers also have to take special care when they get injured and some even have to seek out physical therapy.  As with any sport, they have to gradually ease themselves back into their normal routines and schedules.  Jumping right back into rehearsal too soon after an injury can completely reverse the healing that a dancer as gone thorough.

 

Overall, a sport is defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”  Based on the points provided earlier, dance certainly can be categorized as a sport, but it is also so much more than that.  Many other sports have social aspects to them.  People join sports groups just to have fun and make friends without prioritizing the competitive or athletic aspect.  There is definitely a large community of dancers that enjoy dancing socially and just for fun.  This aspect of dance is just as important as the competitive.

Dance is also unique from other sports because at the end of the day, it can still be a beautiful art form.  Even at a competition, you can still observe the artistry of dancers.  By now, there is no doubt that it requires a great amount of physical exertion, but it’s also capable of tapping into an audience’s emotions to make them feel a specific way.  There is also some amount of creativity that has to go into the creation of a dance, and choreographers usually focus on movements and visuals that are aesthetically pleasing.  All in all, when thinking about dance, it’s best to consider that it is special.  It is both an art and a sport.

Happy Dancing! ^_^

How Dance Can Improve Your Self-Confidence

There are many great benefits of dancing, but one of the best ones is the self-confidence that is built when dancers take lessons and perform for others.  Even if you think of yourself as fairly self-assured already, dancing can help to improve your self-esteem even further!  Here are some ways that dancing can boost your self-esteem or self-confidence.

 

Feel Good about Learning New Steps

When you start taking dance lessons, there will be many new moves for you to learn.  Once you learn them and start doing them naturally, you will begin to feel a sense of achievement.  Learning completely new steps and choreography is not easy.  Knowing that you have the capacity to learn new dance skills and retain new steps gives you an awesome feeling.  You can also consider this: now you know much more than others who don’t dance.  It’s like being one step ahead of everyone else!

 

Communication Skills Will Improve

When you start taking lessons, you may get the chance to dance with multiple partners (especially if you join group classes or attend parties).  Since you might have the opportunity to interact with many different partners, you should eventually be comfortable with communicating with almost anyone.  You will get used to how different people move when you dance with them, so any worries you may have about dancing with an unfamiliar partner should eventually fade away, too.  Attending a lot of social dancing events is also a good way to meet, dance, and have conversations with new people which will definitely help your general communication skills.

 

Reduce Shyness and Increase Assertiveness

When you join a dance class or take lessons, you may eventually decide to perform in front of audiences.  Performances can push you out of any awkwardness or shyness you may have.  The exposure can also help get rid of stage fright.  Even if you don’t perform, you will still be dancing and practicing in front of someone, whether it is your instructor or other students.  Dancing around others is a frequent activity that you will have to get used to, and if you do it enough, it eventually will make you feel less shy.

Dancing and performing can also sometimes require you to be sharp and clear with your movements.  That definition of movement requires some amount of assertiveness which will develop over time.  Once you begin to move confidently and assertively on the dance floor, those qualities might also start appearing in your daily life, as well!

 

Better Self-Image

Dancing has the potential of improving your self-image for a few reasons.  First, it is good for your physical health, so it can make you feel healthier.  Additionally, dancing gives you the opportunity to create beautiful lines and poses which will certainly make you feel good about what your body is capable of.  Over time, your comfort and familiarity with yourself will grow and you’ll be able to look at yourself in a more positive light.

You will also have the possibility of being praised for your dancing.  Your instructor, other students, or observers may notice your improvements and give you compliments.  In turn, this can make you feel better about your development and more accomplished as a dancer.

 

You Can Express Yourself

One of the greatest things about dance is that it’s a fantastic form of art that lets you express yourself.  If you are a person who has some trouble conveying your emotions through speaking or writing, then dance can be a good outlet for you, or a tool that you can use to explore your emotions. 

If you take enough dance lessons, you may also eventually start to discover your own personal dance style.  There are many dancers that focus on movements and learning steps without really making the movements “their own”.  Exploring and discovering your own style can make you more confident because you won’t be worried about looking like other dancers.  You will just be focused on looking like you, and once you are sure that you are dancing authentically, you will start to feel confident as a whole.

 

“Fake it ‘till you make it”

If you put on performances, you will have many opportunities to appear confident.  You may even see a lot of dancers who seem over-the-top when they dance.  Most of the time, they don’t act that way in their daily lives, but when they go on stage they put on a completely different persona.  A lot of people think they need to have general self-confidence before they step out on the floor or stage.  However, confidence isn’t really a prerequisite for dance.  In fact a lot of people who lack confidence or self-esteem gain it through dancing.  For instance – when you perform or get ready for a performance, you might have to appear as a self-assured and cool person.  This may not be your natural personality, but acting that way can help you to gradually become more confident.  Eventually the coolness that you practice on the floor may end up transcending to everyday life.

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Warm Ups and Exercises for Ballroom Dancers

As with any physical activity or sport, dance requires us to take special care with our bodies.  Athletes need to warm up their bodies and make sure their muscles are properly cared for after their workouts; dancers are no different.  Dancing can actually cause quite of bit of strain since a lot of the movements push our bodies out of normal alignment.  However, we can effectively prevent or reduce the chance of certain injuries by warming up and stretching before we dance.  There are also things we can do after dance sessions to treat our muscles.  We can also do certain stretches and exercises when we’re not dancing.  I will list some exercises and activities you can do to make sure you’re in the best condition you can be to dance!

Walking

When you dance, you’re going to be on your feet for a long time, so you might as well prepare for that by walking around!  Before you start your class or lesson, you can warm up by walking around the dance floor a few times.  You can even run a place a little.  Not only will this warm up your feet, but it will start up your heart rate a bit.  Walking will also help to warm up your knees and ankles.  Walking is also a great activity to keep you active and conditioned while you’re not on the dance floor (and if you feel ready you could even upgrade to running!).

Ankle Rolls

Another great way to warm up your ankles is to roll them.  While sitting, roll each ankle around in a circular motion for a few seconds and switch directions.  Another thing you can do is pretend you are writing out every letter of the alphabet with your big toe.  If you do this consistently for both ankles, you should be good to go!  A good ankle warm up is great because it reduces the chance of you seriously injuring yourself in case you slip or something – your ankles will be stronger!

Conditioning Muscles

Speaking of building strength, it’s always a good idea to strengthen the muscles that you use the most while you dance.  You don’t have to go into full “bodybuilder” mode while you are conditioning your muscles, but you may notice some improvement with your dancing if you focus on certain muscle groups like your core, arms, hamstrings, calves, etc.  Just even just the smallest bit of exercise could make a difference, and could also reduce some strain on your body because you will be stronger and able to engage in more movements.  Your instructors can also help you with conditioning exercises and give you some ideas.  For example: calf raises are good for strengthening your calf muscles which you definitely use a lot when you dance.

Shoulder Rolls

Going along with conditioning muscles, our shoulders are a very important body part to work on, especially if you are a ballroom dancer.  Ballroom dancers spend a lot of time in dance frame, which means they need to have stable arms and shoulders (especially leads).  If there are aches or pains in our shoulder/back area, it can make the rest of our dance experience very uncomfortable.  Therefore, rolling and stretching your shoulders and arms before and after a dance session can be beneficial by reducing some minor injuries.  It doesn’t take too much time to do!

Working on Flexibility

Stretching to improve your flexibility can help improve your range of motion.  For example, if you do stretches for your hip flexors you will be able to put more movement into your hips, especially when focusing on Cuban motion.  If you also stretch out your arms and shoulders, you will be able to elongate certain movements, making them look bigger and stronger.  It’s also a good idea to stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads, or other muscles on your lower body if you are going to do any dance that requires you to lunge or kick.  The same thing also goes for your back – stretch it out if you plan on doing any back bends!  Good flexibility has perks other than just making you look good on the dance floor; it’s also another way to prevent injuries!  For instance, let’s say you bend your back a little too far during practice.  If you have good flexibility in your back, chances are you won’t be hurt so badly, whereas an inflexible back would suffer more.

Cross Training

Cross training is when you engage in another type of activity in order to improve fitness or performance in your main sport/activity.  In this case where your main sport would be dance, cross training could be a variety of different activities.  Some things that are good for dancers are yoga, Pilates, or taking classes in a completely different dance style.  Even the walking and running that I mentioned earlier could be considered as cross training if you do it regularly.  Another perk of cross training is that you may discover an additional hobby or sport that you really like!  As always, remember to take care with your cross training activities and never push yourself too hard.

Don’t Forget to Cool Down

As with any good workout, it’s always best to cool down when you are done.  After exercise, a cool-down session brings your heart rate back down to normal.  It’s good to bring your heart rate down before doing normal activities otherwise you could get dizzy.  There are many ways you can cool down; it just involves doing some low-intensity activity.  Usually, the best way to cool down after a dance lesson is to do a few light stretches or walk around.

 

Hopefully reading this has given you some ideas for warming up and stretching before and after dancing.  As with any physical activity, always remember that you don’t have to overdo it.  Overstretching and overexerting sore muscles and joints can be counterproductive and make things even worse.  Finally, make sure you see a doctor physical therapist for any injures or problems you have.  Even minor discomfort can lead to bigger issues.  Always take care of yourself!

Happy Dancing!  ^_^

The Most Romantic Dances

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(Valentine’s Day is over, but February is basically “the month of love”, so why not keep up with the theme?)

Here’s a familiar scenario that you’ve probably seen played out in romantic movies or shows: while a couple is dancing together at a ball or party, they both realize that they were made for each other.  And there you have it – they instantly fall in love thanks to the power of dance!  While these scenarios may not ideally work in real life, certain dances definitely can be romantic.  There are even some dances that are considered more romantic than others.  So, keeping in theme with the month, here are some of the best dances to use for a lovely and romantic evening.

 

Rumba

Rumba is probably one of the best slow Latin dances to learn if you are a beginner.  It’s a versatile, rhythmic, Latin dance that can replace the standard “swaying-side-to-side” movements that most couples do to slow music.  Many of the songs for Rumba are usually relaxed and slow.  In fact, the most common dance that wedding couples learn is Rumba!  Because of its slow and rhythmic nature, this dance also has a sensual element to it, adding to the romantic aspect.

 

Waltz

Another popular dance that you may see couples do at weddings is the Waltz.  This can be considered a “classic romantic dance” because of its slow and dreamy look.  It has a lighthearted quality and dancers can almost appear as if they are floating because of the slight rising and falling action that happens throughout the dance.  Many songs that are waltzes are romantic, too.  In fact, that familiar film scenario that I mentioned earlier usually involves a couple falling in love while waltzing (think about the classic ballroom scene in Cinderella).  If you keep this in mind, Waltz is almost like the perfect fairytale dance!

 

Tango/Argentine Tango

When people think of “dances of love” the Tango is most likely on their lists.  It certainly has an alluring quality to it because of the intensity and fervor between dancers.  It is a smooth but sharp dance, making it seem like the dancers are infatuated with each other.  There are many different styles of this dance, but Argentine Tango is probably the most romantic one.  This also might be the dance that most people think of when they hear the words “romance” and “tango”.  This style is highly improvisational and requires dancers to dance very close together, which is required for good leading, but makes the dance look even more passionate.

 

Bolero

Finally, Bolero is the most romantic dance of all.  In fact, it is often referred to as the “Dance of Love”.  Its timing and Latin origin is similar to Rumba, except it is much slower and incorporates some rising and falling actions, which gives it a lovely and dreamy feel (almost like Waltz!).  Bolero is slow and sensual which can make it another great choice for wedding couples to perform.  It also may be a good one to use if you want to dance to songs that are too slow for Rumba.  The dancers should look as if they are literally falling in love when they perform a Bolero.  All of these elements are what make Bolero the ultimate romantic dance.

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Date Night Ideas for Dancer Couples

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It’s Valentine’s Day!  If you have a date or significant other you probably have already made plans for date night…or not!  Well, if you are reading this blog, there is a good chance that you are already a dancer.  Perhaps your partner dances, as well!  If so, then we have put together some fun and creative ways that dancer couples can spend their Valentine’s Day.  These activities are good for regular date nights too, so you can always refer back to this list anytime you need something new for you and your partner to do.

 

Social Dancing (Obviously)

If both of you dance, then the most reasonable activity would be a night of social dancing!  You two already know how to move, so why not go out and show your skills?  Check around town or with friends to see if there is a Valentine’s-themed dance party you can attend, or go to your favorite bar or club so you can spend the evening dancing with your favorite person.

 

Take a Class in a New Style

Another great idea for date night is to take a dance class in a style that you and your partner have never done before.  This is a great activity because you and your partner will share the experience of trying something completely new.  After the class is done, you may find that you really like the new style and continue to take lessons!  Go out and find some interesting new classes to try.  The options are limitless!

 

Get Massages

If the two of you dance a lot, you both may get sore muscles from time to time.  In that case, it would be awesome to surprise your partner with a massage or spa package.  You both can spend the day relaxing and giving your bodies a well-deserved rest.  It will also leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready for future dance rehearsals.  Your partner will surely love this date idea!

 

See a Dance Show

The best way to have a great dance-themed date night (without actually dancing) is to go see a show.  Whether it’s a musical, ballet, or general dance showcase, it’s always nice to sit back and enjoy some fantastic dancing.  Check and see if there are any shows near you that you and your date might be interested in.

 

Watch YouTube Videos or a Dance Movie

If you can’t find a show to see at a theatre, don’t worry because the Internet still has your back!  If you are more of a laidback couple, you can spend the night indoors with each other.  You can make it a pleasant and relaxing evening; the two of you can prepare a nice dinner and then you can sit back and watch your favorite dance videos on YouTube.  It will kind of be like having a tailor-made dance show in the comfort of your own home (and you also save some money)!  Everyone wins!  You can also watch your favorite dance movie.  Most films about dance have romantic elements in their stories, so they are perfect date night movies.

 

Happy Dancing Happy AND Valentine’s Day! ^_^

Waltz Disney: Which Styles of Dance each Character would Choose

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Have you ever imagined which styles of dance certain fictional characters would fit best with?  No?  Okay…I may be the only one…but it’s something interesting to toy with!  So, just to have fun this week, I’m going to list out some Disney characters and place them with the dance styles that I think would suit them best.  I will also pick a song from that character’s movie that they would likely dance to (and some songs might also give you dances ideas, as well)!

 

Tango: Mulan

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In her movie, Mulan is a girl who defies societal norms by going to war in her father’s place disguised as a man.  While she is training with the other soldiers, she learns fierce and agile fighting techniques.  She ends up being one of the best warriors in her army and ultimately saving China.  Mulan would perform just as brilliantly with Tango, which is also a strong yet elegant dance.  Tango is a smooth dance that also has sharp and striking moments, so it would fit right in with Mulan’s collection of skills.

Best Tango song for Mulan: “Be A Man”

 

Waltz: Cinderella

 

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The Cinderella in Disney movies has an airy and graceful personality, much like the essence of Waltz.  Waltz is a slow dance that has a romantic quality to it.  The movements are beautiful, flowy, and almost appear effortless.  This means it is the perfect dance for Cinderella, since she is a romantic type who dreams about finding true love.  Cinderella also wears a beautiful gown when she goes to the Prince’s ball.  That gown would be perfect for a Waltz performance!

Best Waltz song for Cinderella: “So this is Love”

 

Viennese Waltz: Aurora

 

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Princess Aurora (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty) is much like Cinderella; they both possess a lighthearted and graceful attitude, but Aurora is a bit spunkier than Cinderella (even though she is asleep for a good portion of her movie).  She spends a great deal of her time singing and dancing with her animal friends in the forest.  Therefore, the dance that would work best for this princess is Viennese Waltz since it is still beautiful and smooth, but also quick and full of life.

Best Viennese Waltz song for Aurora: “Once Upon a Dream”

 

Argentine Tango: Esmeralda

 

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Esmeralda is not a Disney Princess, but she actually is quite the elegant dancer.  When she is first seen in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, she is performing an exciting dance.  She executes many kicks and turns (and even dances around a pole at some point!).  She moves with fierceness and sensuality, much like that of Argentine Tango.  Traditional Argentine Tango is often done in the streets or in nightclubs and is mostly improvisational.  There are a lot of leg sweeps and flicks, and the dancers stay very close to each other, which gives it an intimate quality.  This would be a great dance for Esmeralda to take up.

Best Argentine Tango song for Esmeralda: “Rhythm of the Tambourine”

 

Quickstep: Aladdin

 

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Aladdin is a character who is fun, clever, and lively.  He’s also a quick thinker and mover (since he has a reputation as a thief).  His personality mostly matches that of Quickstep which is dance that requires you to be quick on your feet, but also has a little bounce to it.  Aladdin can also be a charming guy, and Quickstep has a smooth and captivating quality about it.

Best Quickstep song for Aladdin: “One Jump Ahead”

 

Foxtrot: The Genie

 

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Another high-spirited character in the movie Aladdin is the Genie.  He is a very random and silly character, but he can be classy when he wants to.  Foxtrot would be the perfect dance for him since the dance is lighthearted, a little bouncy, fun, but also sophisticated.  Even further, dancers who perform the Foxtrot can sometimes seem like they are in a magical or dreamy state.  Since Genie is quite literally a magical creature, he can add even more magic to his performances!

Best Foxtrot song for Genie: “Friend Like Me”

 

Samba: Ariel

 

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Most of the dances that we discussed so far have been smooth or standard ones.  There’s no doubt that Ariel from The Little Mermaid would dance beautifully in a smooth style, but given her fun and tropical nature, a Latin or Rhythm style would fit her best.  Samba would be best for Ariel because it is bouncy, spirited and playful with a lot of hip movements. Samba also has its roots in Brazil, which is as tropical as it gets!  Even though she is a former mermaid who is getting used to her new legs, she probably would be happy dancing with Samba if given some time.

Best Samba song for Ariel: “Under the Sea”

 

Salsa: Kuzco

 

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In the movie, The Emperor’s New Groove, Kuzco is the emperor of a city in Peru.  He is a flashy and confident character (and very arrogant) who bosses everyone around.  Salsa would be a good fit for Kuzco since it is an upbeat Latin dance with a lot of energy and flair.  Many Salsa dancers have to embody the confidence and flamboyancy that Kuzco already has, so this style would certainly feel like home to him.

Best Salsa song for Kuzco: “Perfect World”

 

East Coast Swing: Tiana

 

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The Princess and the Frog is a movie set in New Orleans in the 1920s.  East Coast Swing is a dance that came from the Lindy Hop which was born during this era, and the jazz music from that time was definitely a popular genre to dance to.  In the movie, Tiana is a girl who has big dreams and is always on the move while staying optimistic (well…before she gets turned into a frog).  East Coast Swing is a dance that is upbeat, quick, and has a jazzy element.  Tiana’s personality would definitely fit best with the spirit of this particular dance.

Best Swing song for Tiana: “Almost There”

 

*Extra* - Aerial Silks: Rapunzel

 

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As a bonus, I will add Rapunzel from Tangled on this list.  While I didn’t assign her to a specific ballroom dance, I do think that she would do a fantastic job as an aerial dancer, specifically in aerial silks.  In this style, dancers use fabric (also called “silks”) to climb on and craftily wrap themselves into beautiful poses. Rapunzel has hair that is at least 70 feet long.  It is so long that she frequently uses it as a rope or swing in the movie.  This means that she should have little to no trouble climbing silks and executing beautiful poses in the air.

Best song for Rapunzel: “I See the Light”

 

Happy Dancing ^_^

6 Weird habits of dancers

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For many people who love to dance, the activity is something that eventually becomes an innate part of their life that is hard to shake off.  Because of this, many dancers end up unconsciously adopting certain habits that are attributed to dance.  A lot of these behaviors are healthy and normal ones for dancers to have, but some of these also start to transcend into daily life once they step out of the studio.  To a regular observer, these behaviors may seem strange or random (or pretty cool!), but to dancers, they are just as normal and familiar as anything else in their lives.  Here are some seemingly “weird” dancer habits that most “normal” people don’t have.  If you are a dancer, you might read this and discover some unconscious behaviors that you’re already doing!

Dancing or Stretching While Waiting in Line

Even if they aren’t in rehearsal or performing, you may find dancers stretching out their legs while waiting for the bus, tap dancing in line at the store, or doing a Rumba box while talking on the phone.  Most of the time, the best thing for a dancer to do while they are idle in class is to stretch out or move around so they can keep their bodies warm.  This habit may find its way into a public setting while a dancer is waiting around with no other activity to do.  It’s a pretty good behavior to keep up with, too.  Everyone could use a good stretch or warm up when they get the chance!

Remembering Random Choreography (and Dancing it Out)

Within a dancer’s lifetime, they have probably had the opportunity to learn or create choreography for many routines, and a lot of these routines are still in their memories.  In addition to remembering old choreography, dancers might also end up doing the actual movements from those routines if they hear songs associated with them.  Sometimes it’s like a light switch that turns on; they hear the music and they just start dancing!  If they are out with a group of friends who all know the same choreography, they all might start doing it together (which is an interesting scene for observers who aren’t aware of the eccentric world of dance).

Hearing Music and Thinking “I Could Dance to This!”

If they enjoy creating routines, some dancers will constantly be on the lookout for new music to dance to.  Whenever they do hear a song that interests them, they might start thinking of choreography to do.  They might even start doing small movements with their hands and feet to demonstrate the type of choreography they plan on doing.  If they are ballroom dancers they might even listen to a song and try to determine what style of dance would best fit that song.  Listening to music on the radio and saying, “ooh, this is a good Rumba,” or “this would make a great Tango,” is a familiar experience for many dancers.

Cracking Body Parts

A lot of people crack their knuckles or necks from time to time, but dancers are a strange group of people who end up cracking a variety of different body parts and then move along like it was no big deal.  Bystanders might freak out a bit when they hear their dancer friends casually pop their hip or shoulder, but it’s nothing to be too worried about.  Some dancers’ joints will crack (often loudly) just because of the years of intense and flexibility-based movements they do.  If you do happen to hear loud cracking noises coming from your friends when they stretch or move their joints, don’t be alarmed unless they yell out in pain.

Counting in Eights

Dancers typically break down steps in counts of eight, so if they are used to their peers and instructors counting like this all day, they are likely to move this habit into their daily lives as well.  Not all dancers do this, but the most common place a dancer might start counting in eights is if they are in an exercise setting.  While working out, dancers may use counts of eight to sum up their reps.  Instead of doing a set of ten push-ups, they might have to do eight or sixteen in order to make themselves feel even (especially if they are exercising with music).

Changing Clothes/Doing Hair and Makeup Really Fast

Many of us can probably get dressed and ready fairly quickly if we tried, but dancers who have been in shows requiring them to change into multiple costumes know a different kind of pressure when it comes to getting ready.  Quick changes are an unpredictable experience – it can depend on how much time a performer has between numbers, how complex their outfits are, and where they can go to change.  Although these can be stressful experiences, dancers endure them, and some even carry their skills over to everyday life.  Dancers who have had plenty of practice with struggling to get into costumes, fixing their hair, and applying makeup in less than five minutes will probably have no problem getting ready for a normal night out.  They can be set and ready to go in less than an hour!  Friends may wonder how they are able to fix their hair into perfect buns so quickly.  The answer is “experience!”

Happy Dancing! ^_^

How Dancing Benefits Society

Have you ever really thought about how dance can be beneficial to a whole community?    By now, we all know the personal benefits of dance, but it’s also good to consider how it helps the public, as well.  It is an amazing art form that promotes creativity, critical thinking, and healthy minds and bodies.  Dancing can help to develop these certain elements for individuals, but they can also spread to a community.  If dance has the potential to foster happy and healthy students, then it can definitely lead to a happy and healthy society.

It Can Be Inspiring

Dance is a form of art, and just like all forms of art, it can convey a message.  Many of the messages that are expressed can be inspiring.  Inspirational messages can uplift a community or society as a whole.  For example – a choreographer can create a dance about overcoming an illness which can resonate with and be encouraging for an observer who is going through similar troubles.

Dance can also be inspirational because it can showcase people of various abilities and circumstances.  In a previous blog, I highlighted some dancers who overcame physical disabilities.  Their stories are inspiring because they show how they became successful dancers without letting their situations hold them back.  These dancers can also motivate general audiences to overcome any obstacles they may have.  If they see dancers pushing through their own difficulties, they will get the sense that they can, too.  These types of positive messages can really help to uplift an entire community

Dance Studios Can Be a Safe Space

For a lot of us, the dance studio is a place where we can go to escape some of life’s everyday problems.  Things such as work, school, or family issues can really stress us out, so participating at a studio can take our minds off of those things for a couple of hours during the week.  Studios welcome all types people to come and dance because the main objective of that space is to have fun and enjoy dancing.  Most of life’s stressors are left at the door.  The positive impact can help to boost the overall emotional and mental health of those communities, as well. 

Dance is also a great way for children to use their time and develop skills when they are not in school.  It is one of the best after-school activities for children to get into and can keep them from destructive behaviors.  Not only will they be keeping active, but they will also be exploring their creative sides, too!

Dance Unites People

Forms of dance may vary across cultures, but dance as a whole is universal because most human movement is universal.  Even if two people don’t speak the same language, it is likely that they will be able to understand each other through non-verbal communication.  It can unite people who normally would not have the opportunity to verbally communicate. 

Another way that dance unites people is through the interactions that happen in partner dances.  In these types of dances, the dancers (usually the leads) have to use non-verbal signals in order to tell their partner what moves to do.  Getting people to move in unison without talking to each other can be difficult, but once they get the hang of it, it can be a wonderful way of communicating and working together without using words.  All in all, the process of dancing gives people the opportunity to move in unison and have shared moments which unite them.

Dance is Entertainment

Dance also benefits society because it is a form of entertainment.  Just as movies and television shows entertain audiences, dance can also serve the same purpose.  Certain choreographed pieces can have themes that are comical, dramatic, romantic, or even action-packed.  It gives us an alternate form of art to view that usually isn’t in front of a screen.  It can be a nice treat to have a night out and see a ballet or other type of dance show at a theater.  Some dance companies will even put on performances that are free or low-cost, providing entertainment for their local communities.  Television shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars have even helped to popularize certain dance styles across the world and have made dance accessible to viewers who normally would not make trips to competitions or theaters.

Dance is Educational

When you become a student of dance you may eventually learn various techniques, styles, and maybe even some dance history.  Aside from that, dance can also teach us about ourselves.  If a dance requires us to move our bodies in a way that we never have before, we could discover something new about how our bodies function.  By doing partner dances, people can also learn how well they work with others. 

Dance can also show us certain things about civilization.  Different cultures around the world have different styles of dance and each of those dances can tell us a little something about those cultures.  There are certain traditional dances that are used to tell stories or celebrate certain events.  For instance, The Paso Doble is a Spanish dance (although it originated in France) which represents bullfighting.  It was also used in the Spanish infantry to set the pace of marching.  Additionally, the Jarabe Tapatío (commonly known as the “Mexican Hat Dance”) is a Mexican dance which represents courtship, but since the dance was banned during Spain’s occupation of Mexico, it is often seen as a symbol of Mexican independence.  When you look into the history of certain dances, you can find interesting information about the values and traditions of some cultures.

Dance is Good for Everyone’s Health

There are obvious health benefits of dance that are widely known.  It can be a great form of exercise which gets your body moving a lot, but is also very fun.  There are even exercise programs or classes, such as Zumba, that incorporate dance movements.  In order to encourage more people to add dance into their lives and stay healthy, National Dance Day was created in the US.  The fairly new holiday (introduced in 2010 by Nigel Lythgoe) is celebrated on July 29th and its purpose is to inspire the community to use dance as a fun form of exercise. 

Not only is dance good for your body, but it’s also great for your mind.  There was a study done by neuroscientists that showed how dancing was the most effective exercise for slowing down the aging process.  You can read more about the study here: https://curiousmindmagazine.com/neuroscientists-finally-revealed-number-one-exercise-slowing-aging-process/
Other studies have also shown how dance can help support problem solving and curiosity. 

Even if you aren’t physically able to dance, watching other people dance can be a cathartic experience.  It can also help you to connect emotionally to the dancers who are performing, which is a process that helps to support empathy.  Overall, watching dancers can simply make you feel happier!  If the performers have a cheerful presence then their joy can be contagious to an audience.  Think about dancers at sporting events, ballerinas, or even the Radio City Rockettes.  The people who watch these dancers usually leave the performances in high spirits, and these positive attitudes are nothing but beneficial to the world.

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Christmas Music for All Dance Styles

Christmas time is here!  This means you’ve probably been hearing holiday music on almost every radio station and in many department stores since Thanksgiving!  If you are a dancer, you might also be hearing Christmas music being played frequently at your dance studio (It honestly feels like we have been playing holiday tunes since September!).  Even if your instructor hasn’t been playing festive tunes, you can still get into the holiday spirit by dancing to some classic and contemporary Christmas songs.  There is a jolly song for almost every dance style.  Below is a list of songs to dance to when you want to get yourself in the holiday mood.  Enjoy!

·         Rumba“Frosty The Snowman” – The Jackson 5

·         Cha Cha“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Cha Cha” – Tony Evans & His Orchestra

·         East Coast Swing“Little Saint Nick” – The Beach Boys

·         West Coast Swing“This Christmas” – Donny Hathaway

·         Bolero“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Sam Smith

·         Foxtrot“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – Michael Bublé

·         Tango – “Never Do a Tango With an Eskimo” – Alma Cogan

·         Waltz“Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day” – Céline Dion

·         Viennese Waltz – “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” – John Lennon

·         Samba - “8 Days of Christmas” – Destiny’s Child

·         Quickstep“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” – Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan

·         Jive (or Single-Time Swing)“All I Want for Christmas is You” – Mariah Carey

·         Mambo – “Winter Wonder Land” – CubaCuba

·         Salsa“Jingle Bells” – Tropical Fantasia

·         Merengue - Feliz Navidad” – José Feliciano

·         Paso Doble (or Tango) “Little Drummer Boy (Tango)” – Ballroom Orchestra and Singers

 

Happy Dancing, and have a VERY HAPPY HOLIDAY!  ^_^

Etiquette for Social Dancing

Social dancing is great because unlike big performances or competitions, you really don’t have to worry about rules or looking perfect.  However, there are certain details about social dancing that are beneficial for people to pay attention to.  Most of these details aren’t absolutely essential for a night of dancing, but they can help smooth out your dancing.  These additional bits of dance knowledge will be very impressive to your dance partners, as well!  So, here are some tips about dance etiquette that you may find very useful!

Ask Someone to Dance

This point may seem obvious to some, but simply asking for a person to dance with you can make you seem like so much more of a gentleman or lady.  If you prefer to be asked instead of asking, then there’s nothing wrong with that!  Then again, don’t be afraid to take initiative every once and a while and muster up some courage to ask first.  Don’t feel bad if someone turns you down; they just may not feel like dancing, so don’t take it personally.  You can always ask someone else!

Most importantly, always remember to verbally ask someone to dance if you do not know them well enough.  It can be rude to just start dancing with a person if they haven’t given you permission to dance with them.  A few good manners can go a long way!

Use Proper Dance Frame

Another thing that can be very impressive to your partner is if you use proper dance frame.  If you don’t already know, proper frame involves the leads using their left hand to guide their partners through movements.  For most dances that aren’t done in a two-hand hold, the lead will always hold his partner’s right hand with his left hand.  The follower’s left hand will be on top of the lead’s shoulder and his right hand should be placed on her shoulder blade.  If you do use proper frame, it will make the process of leading and following so much easier.  Your dancing will look nicer, too!

Dance through Entire Song

This point may seem apparent as well, but I’ve seen many people start dancing with someone and then just leave them on the floor only after a minute or so.  You always want to make sure that you dance through a whole song with your partner before you leave them.  Even if you only know a few steps of a dance, it’s nicer to continue until the song is over.  For instance, if the only steps in the Rumba you know are the box and underarm turn, that’s completely fine!  You can keep doing boxes and underarm turns throughout the song.  Don’t ever think that the steps that you have aren’t enough.  People will be happy just to dance with you.  Also, doing a limited number of steps can be a more relaxing experience.  This way, you might be able to squeeze in some conversation! 

Follow the Line of Dance

If you end up doing a dance that involves travelling around the floor (typically Smooth/Standard dances), then it’s good to remember to follow the line of dance.  In ballroom, the “line of dance” refers to the direction in which dancers are supposed to travel.  All dancers need to travel counter-clockwise on the floor in order to avoid collisions.  It’s kind of like a traffic pattern for dancing!  Smooth and Standard dances like Foxtrot, Waltz, and Tango will always progress in a counter-clockwise direction, but other dances like Merengue may move in that direction as well.

Another good thing you should know about the dance floor is where to place yourself.  If you are doing a progressive dance and you are a slow-moving dancer, try to stay near the inner part of the dance floor.  On the other hand, if you know you are quick on your feet, stay near the outside of the floor.  Try to imagine that the dance floor is one big circle that you need to rotate around.

Be Polite and Thank Your Dance Partner

This element also kind of goes without saying, but you should always thank your partner after you dance with them.  It’s just a kind and courteous thing to do, especially if you have never danced with them before.  You want to make sure that they know you appreciate dancing with them.

One last general point to keep in mind is to always be polite to your partner.  Even if you have more experience than your dance partner, don’t make them feel bad for not knowing certain moves.  The point of social dancing is to have fun with old and new friends, not to judge or criticize.

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Misconceptions about Dance

There are a lot of people out there who are considering taking dance lessons but are letting a few preconceived notions hold them back.  It’s true that there are many physical obstacles that can keep a person from dancing, but sometimes people hold some beliefs about dance and dancers that aren’t always 100% true.  From the outside, there are elements of dance that may make it seem inaccessible to the average observer.  However, once you get involved and start taking dance lessons you may start to realize that some of the thoughts you once had about the dance world are pretty far off.  Some people may assume that certain skills or traits are needed to be a dancer.  I am going to list some of these common judgements about dance and explain why you may be mistaken if you believe some of them.

 

“You Need Previous Dance Experience”

You have to start from somewhere don’t you?  Many times, I have heard people say that they could never start taking dance lessons because they have never danced before.  This doesn’t make much sense.  Why would you need previous dance experience in order to learn how to dance?  How would you feel if you went to a beginner surfing course and the instructor told you, “Sorry, you must have previous surfing experience before taking this class.”  That would be ridiculous!  Of course most people who walk into a dance studio for the first time have never danced before.  The purpose of dance lessons is to teach you how to dance.  The instructors are there to teach you what to do and get your body accustomed to particular movements.  At first, the motions may seem foreign to your body, but you will eventually adjust if you stick with it.  Previous dance knowledge or experience is never a requirement for a first lesson.  The only thing you need is a willingness to try!

 

“You Need Natural Rhythm”

Another common concern I’ve heard from potential dancers is that they think they are incapable of learning how to dance because they have “no rhythm.”  When people use this phrase, they usually mean that they are not good at dancing along with the music or they have a hard time finding the beat.  Being a dancer does not mean that you automatically have to know how music works.  Part of the process of dancing is repeating steps over and over again.  Your instructor will have you practice your steps to music, so as you repeat them, you will get used to the timing and rhythm sooner or later.  The longer you dance, the more you will be able to recognize how you should move in time with various types of music.

 

“You Have To Be Graceful”

When people say they have “two left feet”, they mean that they are clumsy or trip over themselves a lot.  People also use this as an excuse to avoid dancing.  The truth is that there are a lot of dancers (even professionals) that aren’t very graceful outside of the dance studio.  Though they might fall all over the place at home or on the street, they make up for their clumsiness by practicing their dance skills consistently enough so that they don’t stumble while they dance.  As I mentioned before, dancers will use a lot of repetition to make sure they get their timing down.  The same technique is used to combat any clumsiness.  Practicing moves again and again will help your feet and body recognize the movements enough so that you’ll reduce your chance of slipping up.  When you first start dancing, don’t be discouraged if you make some mistakes or step on your partner’s foot – we’ve all been there before.  All you need is to do is keep practicing and you should feel less awkward in no time!

 

“You Need a Good Memory”

If you are thinking about dancing, but are concerned that your memory might not be good enough to retain steps and choreography, there’s no need to worry.  Even the best dancers can have some trouble remembering steps.  You really don’t need an amazing memory to be able to take dance lessons.  To be honest, it can be very difficult to remember certain dance patterns and routines, especially the ones that have a lot of steps in them, but they become easier to retain once you practice them a bunch.  This is another case in which repetition is a fantastic tool!  Once your instructor shows you a step, they should have you repeat it multiple times.  Repetition is something that will definitely help your memory.  Not only will this help your brain, but your body will automatically start to remember certain movements as well.  This is called “muscle memory” and it happens when you repeat a move so many times to the point where your body automatically “remembers” what to do without your brain thinking about it.  It’s kind of like how you eventually learn to ride a bike or drive a car without having to think about every single step that’s involved.

 

“You Have To Be Young”

This may sound cliché, but you can never really be too old to start anything.  If you watch some television shows or movies that feature dancers, you may see a lot of young people in their teens and 20s doing complex and flexible movements.  It can seem really intimidating at first, but the truth is that there are dancers of all different ages out there.  Not all of them started dancing when they were young, either!  I know many dancers who started taking lessons after retiring or after their children grew up because they found they had extra time to start a new hobby.  It’s also important to remember that when you first start taking lessons, your instructors won’t have you jumping around and doing backflips like you might see some dancers on TV do.  You will have to start off slow and learn some simple steps first (and then maybe you’ll learn to do backflips in a few years!).  Just because you see professionals doing complex movements, you don’t have to distance yourself from the possibility of dancing.  Everyone has to work themselves up to a certain level of intricacy and the same goes for you.  You never know how far you could go in dance if you keep working at it!

 

“You Have To Look Flawless”

The purpose of dance shouldn’t be about whether or not other people think you look good, but if you feel good about yourself.  Many people will see dancers on television and on stage and think they look perfect.  For some people, this thought discourages them from dancing if they start thinking about how they could never reach the level that some professionals are on.  While it’s nice to have spectators praise you and tell you that you look incredible, it’s definitely not necessary.  You really don’t even have to perform for audiences in order to be a dancer.  Performing is a nice perk, but a lot of dancers just love dancing socially.  They don’t worry so much about looking perfect; they just like how dance makes them feel and that’s how they have fun!  If you are just starting out with dance, try not to worry too much about being judged and try not to judge yourself, as well.  You haven’t signed up for a Dancesport competition yet, so you can relax for now!  When you go to your dance lessons your primary goal is enjoy your time while learning a cool new skill.  It is okay if you catch your mind comparing yourself to other dancers every once and a while (we all do it sometimes), but try not to fixate on those thoughts.  Focus on your own progress and you will do just fine!

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Preparing the First Dance for Your Wedding

Traditionally, “wedding season” tends to happen during the spring and summer months.  This is mostly because of the warm and sunny weather which produces lovely pictures and happy guests (autumn is becoming a popular time for weddings, too!).  In fact, if you or someone you know is planning on popping the question anytime soon, now is the perfect time because it’s almost whole year before wedding season!  That means you have plenty of preparation time!  (Well…it all depends on how extravagant of a wedding you’re planning…)  Apart from the size and level of luxury of the wedding, a full year definitely gives couples enough time to plan at least one thing – the first dance!  So, if you and your significant other have an upcoming wedding date set, make sure you think about a few details concerning your dance: the song, the feel of the dance, and how much practice you’ll need.

The first dance for newlyweds can either be a stressful or lighthearted event, but it all depends on your perception of it.  Couples who have no problem dancing for an audience or who are confident with their dance skills may feel little to no pressure when it comes to their dance.  However, if the couple is a novice duo who is worried about how they will look to everyone else, it could be a nerve-racking experience.  Even professional dancers can become distressed if they are perfectionists.  Most of your planning may also depend on how elaborate you want your dance to be.  The more intricate it is, the more taxing the creation process might be, and you might need to start preparing early.  Whatever your circumstances and feelings are, it’s always a good idea to put some thought into your first dance.

The main thing you’ll want to do is choose music to dance to.  It should be a song that the both of you really love.  It doesn’t need to be just one song either.  If you have two or more in mind, you can chose those and find a way to edit them together!  Choosing good music may take a while, but once you find the perfect song(s) you can start working on creating a beautiful and memorable dance.  Most wedding songs tend to be slow-paced and romantic-sounding, but you can really choose any music genre you’d like.  For instance, if the two of you have a special love for a techno song, don’t let the genre stop you from choosing that!

Before you even think about putting steps together, try to imagine how you want your dance to look and feel.  Most couples prefer their dances to look smooth and effortless.  They also want to feel as relaxed as possible while dancing.  On the other hand, if you want your dance to be full of energy, you can go down that route, too.  Most of the time, this will depend on how fast your song is, but the tempo of the music won’t always be an indicator of intensity level.  Even if your song sounds slow, you could end up making it look intense, if that’s what you prefer.  Essentially, it is best to go with whatever feels right for you and your partner.

As soon as you get a basic idea of how you want your dance to feel and look, it’s time to start practicing!  The best thing to do if you think you need some help with dance steps is to go to a studio and take lessons from a trained professional.  An instructor can help you put together steps to make up a nice wedding routine.  This can be especially helpful if you have a song picked out but don’t really know how you should move to the music.  Your instructor can either give you a set of moves to work with over the course of the song, or they can choreograph an entire routine for you.  It’s all up to you!

Regardless of what kind of routine you chose to do, you should make sure you get enough practice.  This is why it’s important to start working on your dance early, especially if you have never really danced before.  You’ll also want to think about how busy your schedule is.  Wedding planning takes up enough time, so adding in rehearsal time can be hard.  If you plan on creating a complex routine, then you will probably need more prep time than usual.  If you need to go to a studio to see an instructor to help with your dance, think about how often you’ll be able to get to the studio.  Even if you can’t make it to your studio very often, it would be wise for the both of you to practice your steps at home.  Practicing will not only make your dance look better, but it will also put you and your partner at ease if you are having any anxiety about performing.  If you go over the dance many times, you should have nothing to worry about!

Finally, remember that you don’t have to go the traditional route when it comes to your first dance.  As mentioned before, you don’t have to choose a standard slow song to dance to.  You can choose whatever will match the personality of you and your fiancé.  Most first dances end up being danced as a Rumba or Waltz, but the two of you can step outside of the box and choose something like a Swing, Foxtrot, or even Hustle!   You can also choose to get creative with the format of your first dance.  If you want to be a little silly you can add in some fun and goofy movements to make everyone laugh.  You don’t even have to stay in dance frame the entire time.  Adding in side-by-side moves can give your dance a unique look.

Most importantly, just make sure the both of you are having fun and that you enjoy the result!  At lot of people tend to worry too much about what their guests will think about their dance.  Of course you want to make sure your guests are happy and entertained, but if you spend too much time stressing about others’ thoughts, you’ll never be able to think clearly.  Just remember that this special day is mainly about the both of you.  Don’t worry about whether or not the guests think you look good.  Just focus on how awesome it is to dance with your new spouse (and hopefully the two of you will continue to dance together)! 

Happy dancing!!! ^_^

Must We Always Use the “The Spanish Gypsy Dance”?

If you’ve ever watched or participated in multiple ballroom events you probably know exactly what to expect when the Paso Doble is announced – big dramatic dancing!

The Paso Doble is a dance which is placed under the “International Latin” category at Dancesport competitions.  It is a stirring and powerful dance based on Spanish bullfighting.  Despite its Spanish name (which actually means “two-step”), the dance actually originated in France during the 16th century, but gained popularity in Spain and Portugal because it became based on the movement and drama of bullfighting.  Featuring beautiful body shapes and sharp, flamenco-like footwork, the lead in the dance represents a matador while the follower symbolizes the matador’s cape. 

The Paso Doble could be considered one of the most dramatic Latin dances.  Using progressive movements, dancers take strong steps and incorporate artistic hand movements.  Everything in this dance is fierce, proud, quick, and has an air of dignity and confidence.  It is definitely very entertaining to watch and an exciting one to perform. 

The music used for the Paso Doble is dramatic, as well.  If you have seen couples perform the dance at competitions, then you will probably recognize the music that is most often used for Paso Doble rounds.  Even if you have never seen dancers perform a Paso Doble, I’m almost certain you will recognize this tune:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrbkcUdDSyQ

It’s that familiar, galloping, and catchy beat at almost every competition.  The song is called “España Cañi” or “The Spanish Gypsy Dance” in English, and it’s the most popular and recognizable Paso Doble song.  It was composed by Pascual Marquina Narro in 1923 and first recorded around 1926.  Not only is it the most recognized Paso Doble song, but it is probably the most known piece of Spanish music ever!  Over time, many arrangements of this song have been made, and various versions of it are played at ballroom competitions.  It is played so often that dancers sometimes refer to it as “the Paso Doble song.”  Dancers almost always choreograph routines that match up with the phrasing and accents of this piece of music, so this is why the same song is typically played at competitions (in the U.S., the dance is very rarely done in social settings or without a previously learned routine).

It’s easy to see why the song is used so often – it works perfectly for the dance!  Paso Doble music usually has 120 – 124 beats per minute, a strong 1-2-1-2 marching rhythm, and very few tempo changes.  A lot of the music contains breaks or highlights where the music is emphasized.  When these breaks happen, dancers hold dramatic poses or do tricks to go with the music.  Using this song almost every time at competitions makes it easier for dancers because they will know what to expect.  Not to mention, it gives off that perfect “bullfighting” feeling!  However, if you are preparing a Paso Doble performance and don’t necessarily feel like using “España Cañi”, just know that there definitely are other options.  As long as your song choice has a strong, dynamic beat, a 1-2-1-2 marching rhythm, and the right tempo it will work perfectly!

If you are looking for a song that still has the classical, orchestral, and Spanish feel, here are a few good ones:

·         El Gato Montes – Banda de Aviación de Madrid

·         Fuego – Bond

·         Malagueña – Edmundo Ros

·         Olé Torero – Empress Orchestra

·         Toreo Fino – The Columbia Ballroom Orchestra

·         Ghost Riders in the Sky (Paso Doble) – Tanz Orchester Klaus Hallen

·         Metropole – Orchester Felix Gary

·         Amparito Roca (Pasodoble Torero) – Unidad de Musica de la Guardia Real

·         Matador Paso – Andy Fortuna

·         Volare – Gipsy Kings

 

Spanish or Latin-style music will give your Paso Doble more of a traditional look and feel, but if you’re looking for something different you can use contemporary or popular music.  Many modern songs have a strong and steady beat that you can dance to.  Here are some fun ones:

·         Roundtable Rival – Lindsey Stirling

·         Time is Running Out – Muse

·         Bad Romance – Lady Gaga

·         SexyBack – Justin Timberlake

·         Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi

·         Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna

·         The Final Countdown (Paso Doble version) – Tanz Orchester Klaus Hallen

·         Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

·         Temperature – Sean Paul

·         Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

 

No other song could really replace the classic “Spanish Gypsy Dance”, but in case you are feeling like doing something out of the ordinary, then some of these song choices may be good for you to try out.  A quick Internet search will yield even more music and playlists.  As always, YouTube can be a great source and quick way to find and sample new ballroom music, should you need it.  So, try dancing to a few of these selections just to see how you enjoy them. 

Happy dancing!  ^_^

Are You Ready For Competitive Ballroom?

Earlier this month some of our students competed at Chicago Harvest Moon Ball Dancesport Championships, which is a dance competition that took place in Oak Brook, IL.  All of our students who attended did a fantastic job and many of them also received “Top Student” awards!  Celebrity Dance Studio even took home the “Top Studio” award!

Competitions can be a fun challenge for students or professionals who want to test their skills against their peers.  Dancers also can participate in competitions just to see how judges will score them.  Either way, becoming involved in a competition is a great way to make you grow as a dancer.  Even just being a spectator at some of the events can be inspiring!  If you are thinking about competing, the first thing you should do is watch some events at a ballroom competition.  If you are amazed by it all and wish to get yourself out on the dance floor, that’s great!  The first step is making the decision to sign up, but you may be wondering what you can do next to help you prepare.  Luckily, I have some tips that will get you ready!

 

Figure Out Which Competition to Go To

To find out which competition to attend you can search online or go to your dance studio for details.  Going to your studio for answers is probably the best thing to do because they will always be up to date on all competitions happening nearby.  Your studio can also help you organize registration and fees so you won’t have to deal with the organizers directly.  Each competition is set up differently so it really just depends on what you would like your experience to be and how far you are willing to travel.  There are various events to choose from throughout the year, so you’ll always get the opportunity to participate if you want to.  Make sure you decide on a competition that is happening later down the road so that you’ll have plenty of time to practice.

 

Get Familiar with the Categories, Levels, and Approved Figures

As mentioned before, every competition is set up differently.  Some may have different ways of establishing levels and categories.  Each category is a separate event where competitors have to perform a certain number of dances from a certain dance style.  The dance styles will usually be Rhythm, Latin, Smooth, or Standard (and sometimes Nightclub).  The levels within those styles will likely be Bronze, Silver, and Gold.  Competitors will have to execute the approved dance figures from each of the dances based on what level they are in.   For instance – a competitor in the “Pre-Bronze American Rhythm” category would probably have to know the first four Bronze figures from American Rumba, Cha Cha, and East Coast Swing.  Also, keep in mind that if the competition is sanctioned by the National Dance Council of America (NDCA), you can only use NDCA-approved dance figures out on the floor.  Make sure you cross-check your own studio’s syllabus against the NDCA’s list so that you are aware of any restrictions or differences.

Most competitors will sign up for categories that they are already well-versed in.  If you have only ever danced American-style, then you’ll want to sign up for categories involving American-style dances.  It’s also a good idea to confirm your level.  If there are only a few figures you know in a dance, then it may be best to stick to Bronze-level categories.  Your instructor can also help you figure which level to enter.  If you decide that you want to challenge yourself and sign up for a category you are less familiar with, just make sure you study and practice all of the appropriate figures for the dances you are going to do.

 

Plan Your Rehearsal Times

In order to feel successful in a competition, you will need to spend a lot of time practicing.  If you aren’t already doing so, you should start planning on taking lessons at your studio at least twice a week.  You can even set up back-to-back private lessons with your instructor.  It is best to ask your instructor to give you a solid game plan.  If they have been working with you for a while, they will know exactly what you need.  As mentioned before, make sure you give yourself enough time to physically and mentally prepare for the big day.  Most dancers will start training at least a few months before the start of the competition, but it all depends on your skill level.  If you are beginner, earlier training is better!

 Choreographing mini-routines for each dance is great way to prepare for your events, as well.  This way you’ll already have a set routine in your head and won’t have to worry about you or your partner making up one on the spot.  It’s also a good way to ensure you get all the necessary dance figures in during your time on the floor.  Again, your instructor can help create the routines for you.

 

Consider a Coach

You may be thinking, “Isn’t my instructor my coach?”  This is true.  Your instructor is totally able to give you everything you need in preparation for your next competition, but you could also get some extra help from another professional who has years of competition experience.  Coaches are individuals who have been working in the industry for a long time and are specifically trained to have an eye for all the fine details of ballroom dance.  A lot of them have even been judges at dance competitions or have trained pros themselves, so they know exactly what to look for.  They can help make your routines look their sharpest, or can even give you suggestions on jazzing up certain elements of your dancing.  Many studios will occasionally have professional coaches come in to train their students and instructors (Celebrity does!).  Check with your studio to see which coaches will be around next!

 

Get Your Costumes Ready

Dancers with flashy outfits are usually the first to catch the judges’ eyes.  Taking this into consideration, you’ll want to plan out your competition outfits so that you look your sharpest.  The look you should aim for is stylish but also extravagant.  Ladies can create eye-catching looks by wearing elegant ballroom gowns and dresses with a lot of sequins and sparkles.  Gentlemen can wear their best suits and some may even add a little sparkle, too!  Makeup must be bold and hair can also be dramatic, as well.  If you’ve never worn a pair of false eyelashes, now might be the time to try them out!

You’ll also want to make sure you have the appropriate attire for whatever events you are competing in.  Smooth/Standard outfits have a distinct and different style from the Rhythm/Latin outfits, so shop around, see what your needs are, and find some outfits that work best for you!  You’ll also want to make sure that you dance around in your chosen outfits before competition day.  To avoid costume malfunctions on the dance floor, make sure that your dress or suit fits correctly, is comfortable to dance in, and won’t get caught on any jewelry or shoes.

 

Build Endurance

If you know that you’re going to be competing in many multi-dance events, then you should be prepared to be constantly dancing with limited breaks.  Since there are so many competitors and events to run through, competitions typically have to move quickly.  To make sure you’re ready for this fast-paced experience, practice dancing in your studio as if it is competition day!  For example – if you are going to be competing in American Rhythm, practice dancing straight through all rounds of Cha Cha, Rumba, Mambo, Bolero, and Swing (or whatever dances that certain category will require).  You should expect to dance for about 30 seconds to 1 minute for each dance, so prepare to dance through them back-to-back.  The categories will have three or more dances that you will have to go through, so just make sure you are ready for whatever you signed up for.  Also, you’ll definitely want to get a copy of your schedule (also called a “heat list”), so you know the time and order you’ll be dancing in.

 

Come Prepared and Ready

The final thing you’ll want to do for competition day is make sure you have everything you need.  The day before, make a checklist of the items you need to bring and any tasks you need to complete before you arrive.  You should plan on making a “competition bag” to put all of your essentials in.  Some of the things to put in your bag are makeup, jewelry, hair-care products, or hair accessories.  You’ll also want to make sure you bring some snacks and water if you plan on having a long day (or if you’re going to be there all weekend).  Make sure you bring a jacket or sweater, too!  A lot of venues like to crank up the AC in the ballrooms, so it can get pretty chilly while you’re not dancing.  Finally, bring some extra cash if you can.  There are always vendors at the competitions who sell cool items like clothes, shoes, or jewelry.  You could even buy some official branded merchandise from the competition to keep as souvenirs.

 

Happy dancing!  And CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who competed at Harvest Moon!  ^_^

8 Dance-Themed Halloween Costumes (and 5 Terrible Dance Puns)

Halloween is coming up in a few short weeks and I know what the scenario might be for most of you…  The night before your Halloween party, you’ll probably be tearing through your closet, looking for clothes and accessories to throw together for a last-minute costume.  Well if you’re reading this now, you have no excuse for a lazy costume because I’m going to provide you with some ideas for dance-themed Halloween costumes!  Most of these costumes are easy to put together and they will also set you apart from everyone else at your party (or at the very least, you’ll get a chuckle from the other guests).

 

The Black Swan

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The movie, Black Swan, is a psychological thriller about a principal dancer who is paranoid that another dancer will replace her when she is cast as the lead in a production of “Swan Lake”.  The movie is creepy, but the main character’s costume and makeup as the Black Swan is quite fantastic.  All you would need for this costume is black and white face make up, a tiara, a black top or leotard, and a black tutu.  Ballet shoes aren’t necessary, but they would definitely help to complete the prima-ballerina look!

 

“Dances with Wolves”

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I’ve never actually seen the movie, Dances with Wolves…  I think Kevin Costner may or may have not been in it…  Anyway, I just saw the movie title and thought of a Halloween costume idea!  This would be the perfect opportunity for you to get a group of friends together, have them dress up as wolves and you as a regular dancer, and bust out in a group dance number at your next Halloween party!  This way you’d be literally “dancing with wolves!”  If you wanted to, you could even have your friends dress as werewolves, so that you’d be “dancing with werewolves”…

 

The Sharks and the Jets

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The musical, West Side Story is about a boy and a girl from two rival gangs who end up falling in love (and I actually have seen this one).  The gangs are called the “Sharks” and the “Jets” and the musical features brilliant dance numbers between them.  This is another great chance for you to get a group of friends together on Halloween to dress up as the Sharks and Jets.  You could even have a dance-battle at the party to show your “rivalry!”

 

[Fox]trot

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Funny story: When I first heard of the Foxtrot, I thought the dance had something to do with actual foxes…  When I found out that it has nothing to do with them, I was slightly disappointed…but I can still have fun with it!  To make this costume, all you need a standard/ballroom/competition dress or suit.  If you don’t already own competition dresses or suits, you can wear an evening gown or something similar.  From there, all you would need to do is make up your face so that it looks like a fox’s.  You can even get some fox ears to wear on your head!  If you can find a fake fox tail to wear, that would take your costume up to the next level, too!

 

The “Waltzing” Dead

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The Walking Dead is a popular television series (and comic) set during a zombie apocalypse.  Zombies are a common Halloween costume, but you can add a little creativity to the concept by joining it with the Waltz (waltzing…walking…get it???)!  You would just need a ballroom gown or suit and lots of gory makeup to make you look like you are the living dead.  If you want to take it to the next level, bring a partner with you, have them dress as a “dead Waltzer” as well, and you both can bust out your best spooky Waltz at the party!

 

[Chips and] Salsa

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If you’re not into Smooth dances and evening gowns, you can go the Latin route.  You could dress up as a Salsa dancer, but why just stop there?  You could add some amusement to it and dress up as chips and Salsa.  All you would need is a dress (preferably a red one) and a bag of tortilla chips to carry around with you.  If you don’t want to carry around a bag of chips, you can find a way to attach an empty tortilla chip bag to your dress so everyone will see it.  You could even take a label from a jar of salsa and attach it to your dress.  There’s also the opportunity to turn this one into a partner costume.  You can dress as “salsa” and your partner can be “the chips”.

 

Lemon “Merengue” Pie

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Going along with the Latin theme, you could also dress as a Merengue dancer…but also as a lemon meringue pie…making you a lemon “Merengue” pie…  This is a bit strange, but you can find a Halloween costume of a literal pie, wear that, and do the Merengue all night at your party.  If don’t want to buy a pie costume, you could make your own by wearing a flared yellow dress and a fluffy white hat (to signify the meringue).  If all else fails, you could just bring a lemon “merengue” pie for everyone to eat.  This way, you’ll still be able to get your joke in without worrying about the costume details. 

 

An Iconic Dancer

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If nothing else works for you (or if you absolutely hate these puns), you could just dress up as a famous dancer or performer this Halloween.  There are so many options!  You could choose anyone – from Beyoncé to Michael Jackson – or you could dress as iconic classical dancers – such as Martha Graham or Bob Fosse.  You could even turn it into a cool couple’s costume by dressing as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers or John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (from the movie, Grease).  The possibilities are endless on this one.  Just go for whatever will make your night the most memorable and fun!

 

Happy dancing! ^_^