How to Improve Your Timing

Many new dance students get this idea suck in their heads – “I can’t dance because I don’t have good rhythm.”  However, it is a common myth that people need to have “rhythm” before learning to dance.  Rhythm is something that people can develop as they continue to dance, but one thing beginners can focus on is the idea of timing. 

Rhythm is defined as “a strong, regular repeated pattern of movement or sound”.  In dance, it refers to how well a person is able to consistently time their own dance steps, regardless of whether or not music is present.  However, timing refers to how well a dancer can move along with the beat of music.  It’s best for new dancers to focus on the concept of timing rather than rhythm because it’s easier to dance when given a steady beat provided by a certain instrument or song.

Good timing may not come naturally, but we are going to give you a few tips that will help you develop it.  Over time you’ll start feeling more in-tune with the music whenever you dance!

 

Listen to the Music

Before you try to dance along with music, a good exercise is listening to a song and trying to pay attention to the tempo and beat of it.  If it’s hard for you to find the beat, pay special attention to instruments in the music such as drums or guitars.  First, try finding music with little or no lyrics so that it will be a bit easier to identify the primary instruments.  These instruments typically indicate the song’s beat, and if you can follow along to them, you should have a handle on timing.  Once you get comfortable with identifying steady beats in instrumental music, see if you can find the beat in songs with lyrics.  Keep in mind that the melody of singers will not always match the actual tempo and beat of the song, so it’s best to stick to the strategy of identifying the strong, primary instruments.

 

Watch Other People Dance

Sometimes the best way to learn is by watching someone else.  If you are struggling to stay on time, watch other dancers and see if you can keep up with their timing. Students will eventually match their instructor’s timing if they are in frame and dancing together, but instructors will also dance alongside their couples to help them out. Trying to keep up with your instructor’s timing when learning how to dance is a good idea since they should be on point most of the time.

 

Count Out Loud

Once you are certain that you can accurately identify the beats in music, the next step is counting along with it.  Once you find a good song to listen to, count out loud with it, seeing if you can match your counts with the beat of the song.  Most dancers count music in eights, so once you get to “eight” you can just go back to “one” and repeat yourself throughout the entire track.  Counting out loud will help you learn timing fairly quickly, especially if you are practicing this on a regular basis. 

 

Start Dancing to the Beat

Finally, once you are able to identify the beats in music and also confidently count along, it’s time to start dancing.  Start slow by just tapping your foot or clapping along to the music.  You can also count out loud as you do this; it will help you to catch the timing easier.  Again, listen out for prominent instruments like drums that you can tap or clap along to.  Once you feel confident enough with those small movements, see if you can do a few dance steps in time with the music.  Don’t worry if you are offbeat for a few measures.  Practice makes perfect, and your timing should improve if you keep working at it!

 

Timing is something you can practice even if you don’t have music.  You can find anything that has a steady beat such as a metronome, the ticking of a clock, or your pulse and count, tap, or dance along to that.  You also don’t need to be in a dance setting to work on it.  As long as you have music or a steady beat, you should be able to work on improving your timing.  So next time you’re stuck in traffic, turn on some music and tap away!

Happy Dancing! ^_^

6 Ways Dancers can Improve Endurance

Many rigorous sports require intense physical activity where athletes need to be active for long periods of time.  Therefore, building up endurance in preparation for events like games or competitions is crucial. Dance is just as much a sport as anything else, especially when it comes to competitive dancing.  During these events dancers will often dance for several minutes, nonstop.  That time is extended if they dance in more than one round or category. Because of this, it is essential for dancers to work on their endurance to make sure that they don’t get too exhausted throughout the day.  Here are some ways you can increase your endurance and ensure your energy stays at an optimal level for your next dance event.

 

Eat!

If you want to feel more energized, make sure you’re eating foods that will give you a boost.  Anything containing a good amount of vitamins B6 and B12, potassium, fatty acids, protein, and carbohydrates should give you the nutrition needed to make it through a full day of dancing. If you enjoy coffee or tea, drinking a cup before you dance can also give you a temporary burst of energy.  If you aren’t a fan of caffeine, there are various supplements you can take to manage your energy level. Try to avoid skipping meals, as well.  A lot of people avoid eating before they dance for reasons such as nervousness or fear of getting sick, but it’s important to have a small snack on hand if you know you haven’t eaten in a while.  Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast hours before you go on stage and that will be the best way to ensure that your body has the nutrients it needs to keep going.  Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will also keep your energy up.

 

Dance More Often

A runner can’t finish a marathon if they haven’t been training by running long distances.  Similarly, dancers should prepare for long dance days by dancing as much as they can. Dancing at least once a week is good if you want to raise your endurance for a short performance or a party, but if you are preparing for a competition, practicing twice or more a week is ideal.  While rehearsing, it’s best to practice your routines as if it is actually competition day.  Dance your routines full-out and practice transitioning from dance to dance without stopping so that you get an accurate feel for how your rounds will be.

 

Go on Walks

Much of your dancing ability relies on your feet and legs, so it’s healthy to move around those parts of your body outside of the dance studio.  The easiest way to keep your legs active is to go on walks.  It’s one of the simplest exercises you can do and you can set your distance and pace to whatever you prefer.  If you feel like you can handle more of a challenge, you can upgrade to jogging or running, but all these exercises are great because they get blood circulating through your body and condition you to stay on your feet for extended amounts of time.  If you can walk or run a mile or two, you can definitely dance for hours!

 

Work on Arms and Posture

Feet and legs aren’t the only body parts that get fatigued while dancing.  If you’ve tried to keep your back straight or arms steady in one position for a long time, then you might know how tiring it can be.  If dancers aren’t used holding a dance frame for more than a minute or so, they may find their arms and backs aching fairly quickly. Building strength in your arms, shoulders, and back is a good way to make sure your arms don’t tire out on the dance floor. You don’t even need to head to the gym and pump iron; you can do arm and shoulder strengthening exercises without weights or practice holding your arms in certain positions for as long as you can.  Constantly working on good posture will also help strengthen your back and shoulders so that you can dance longer without getting tired.

 

Take Care of Your Body

Many people get tired because of soreness or aches in their legs or feet.  As a dancer, the best thing you can do is to take care of your body and treat any injuries you may have.  If you feel constant pain, make sure you see a doctor or physical trainer.  The most common ballroom injuries are in the hips, knees, shins, ankles, and Achilles tendons.  To prevent injuries you should always warm up and stretch before dancing, cool down after you rehearse, and do strength and conditioning exercises to build up resistance to injuries.  It’s also a good idea to wear gear such as ankle and knee braces if you know you are recovering from a previous injury or if you feel weak in any of those areas. 

 

Get Enough Rest

You wouldn’t try to drive a car if you knew it was out of gas, so you should treat your body the same way.  If you are having trouble with endurance, you may just need to rest up and come back at a later time.  Rehearsal and practice time are very important, but you also need to remember to give yourself time to recuperate from the hard work that you put in. This doesn’t just mean stopping to sit and drink water for a few seconds (which is still very important).  You should also make sure that you are getting enough sleep each night, especially leading up to a major dance event.  You may not realize it at first, but too much sleep deprivation can affect you physically and mentally, making you feel more tired on the dance floor. If you notice that you are a person that never seems to get enough sleep the night before a big performance or competition, try getting as much preparation for the event out of the way as soon as possible.  If you do this, you’ll have more time for sleep!

 

Happy Dancing ^_^

 

Common Mistakes in Ballroom Dancing

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Everyone makes mistakes, but they can turn into teachable moments when people acknowledge their mistakes and change their behavior.  In dance, many errors and misconceptions are made, but with continuous training and learning, dancers become aware of certain slip-ups and learn how they can improve their skills.

Physical mistakes aren’t the only thing dancers have to worry about.  They also may find themselves wound up in certain habits or mindsets that are not conducive to their growth as dancers. Below, we will go over some common mistakes that dancers make and some misconceptions they may also have.  New students usually end up falling into a few of these habits, but dancers of all levels have surely found themselves relating to these situations at least once or twice.

 

Only Dancing One Style

Focusing on one style of dance is fine if you are learning for a specific event or if your goal is to learn one particular dance, but if you aim to be a well-rounded dancer, learning multiple styles will be a great help for your development.  Good dancers know that it’s beneficial to study multiple styles because it gets them outside of their comfort zones.  This also makes them better dance partners at social events because they are able to dance with more people and participate in more dances.  Learning a new style can also be a good source of motivation, and it could reignite a passion for dance if you feel like you have plateaued with one style.  All in all, studying new things can just be a refreshing experience!

 

Not Practicing

It is very important to practice your dance steps.  This should go without saying, but many people still do not get enough practice in.  Learning and rehearsing steps while you are in the studio is great, but in order to retain the information from your instructor, you must practice outside of the studio.  Practicing at home will only help by allowing you to eventually get through your steps with ease.  It also saves you time within a lesson because the instructor will spend less time reviewing and more time teaching new steps and techniques.  You will get the most out of your lesson because you’ll have plenty of time for growth and development! 

 

Learning from a Video

Videos can be useful references if you are trying to review steps from dances you are already comfortable with.  However, if you are trying to learn a completely new dance step from a video, it could end up being more of a challenge than a helpful resource.  There are details that dancers can’t get from a video that a physical dance lesson with a teacher can provide.  In a lesson, instructors offer correction, real-time guidance, and feedback.  They can also demonstrate moves from multiple angles so their students get a clear view of the steps.  Trying to learn from a video can possibly add more confusion to your learning processes.  Instead of wracking your brain while trying to figure out which foot goes where and constantly pausing and rewinding videos, rely on your dance instructor and we promise you’ll learn new steps in half the time.

 

Improper Leading

Dancing as a lead can be quite difficult.  They have to think of steps ahead of time and utilize proper technique while also being mindful of their partners.   Common mistakes leads will make are initiating certain patterns improperly and using incorrect holds while spinning or guiding their partners.  For example, leads should always refrain from aggressively pulling or pushing their partners into certain patterns.  Strong leading is important, but if a dancer has to literally drag their partner across the floor, then too much force is being used for a follower who may not be at the same level as the lead.  Many leads also fall into the bad habit of verbal leading.  Leaders should be able to gently, clearly, and non-verbally direct their partners.  If they just tell them what moves to do, it sort of contradicts the follower’s purpose reacting to the leads movements. If you are just starting out, you may not even notice that you are verbally cueing your partner (especially if you dance with them frequently), but this is a good habit to break as early as you can.

 

Following without Footwork

A common misconception is that a follower’s role is easy.  A follower’s job is react to their partner’s leading, but many make the mistake of not learning or paying attention to their own footwork.  Some believe that as long as their partner leads them efficiently, they will be able to get through a dance.  In some ways, a follower can probably skim through a dance without actually knowing specific steps, but this mindset unfairly lays all of the responsibility on the leads. Ballroom dancing requires partnership and part of what makes it special is the fact that two people work together to create a dance.  If the lead does all the work, they might as well dance alone.  If the lead does end up stumbling or leads ambiguously, the follow would likely be able to continue the movement if they know their part.  It’s also important for followers to learn their proper footwork when it comes to things like spins and turns.  The average spectator tends place more attention on followers (hence the flashy dresses), so to make sure they look their best, it’s important for them to be comfortable with their steps.

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

5 Inspiring Dance Movies

If you want to have someone take a look into the world of dance, dance movies offer a dramatized but fun perspective of the community.  They serve the purpose of getting dancers and non-dancers excited about the art.  A dance film usually features many memorable dance scenes, but another aspect that it should have is a good story.  There are many dance movies that tell pretty great stories and have strong characters that may serve as a source of inspiration, as well.  We are going to list some dance movies that you may find encouraging and motivating.  These films don’t just feature dance scenes, but they also show some of the highs and lows of being a new dance student or professional.   You may find that some of these stories relate to your own dance experiences!

 

Take the Lead

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This movie is partially based on the life and work of Pierre Dulaine, a dance instructor who founded Dancing Classrooms, a social and emotional development program for fifth-grade children that uses ballroom dance as a vehicle to change their lives.  In the film, Pierre’s character offers to teach dance to a group of troubled high schoolers in detention.  The children are reluctant to learn from him at first, but they eventually take an interest in dance and even end up entering a local competition.

Take the Lead is inspiring for both dancers and non-dancers because it shows how dance can positively impact people’s lives.  The film also serves the purpose of informing people of Dancing Classrooms’ mission which is to help develop essential life skills of children through art and social dance.

 

Shall We Dance?

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This romantic comedy is actually a remake of a 1996 Japanese film of the same name.  It is about a lawyer who seemingly has a perfect life, but still feels like something is missing.  After spotting a beautiful woman through the window of a dance studio, he impulsively signs up for lessons hoping to meet her.  After dancing for a while, he actually ends up falling in love with dance, and even enters a competition.  By teaching the lawyer, the dance teacher also ends up reigniting her passion for dance, as well.  Even though his lessons bring him joy, he ends up hiding his newfound passion from his family and coworkers.  Most of the movie involves him trying to keep his secret while his wife grows more suspicious, believing that he is secretly having an affair.

This movie parallels the lives of many people who start dancing in order to add something “new and exciting” to their lives.  While many dancers don’t necessarily go to such comical lengths to hide it from their friends and family, there is sometimes an initial worry that others may think negatively about dancers (especially when they are male).  Overtime, people grow to overcome certain insecurities and negative beliefs about dance and become confident enough to share their interest with others around them.

 

Strictly Ballroom

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This is an entertaining drama about a professional ballroom dancer who comes from a family of dancers.  He struggles to establish his own personal style while also preparing for a big championship.  He ends up losing a competition because his flashy moves aren’t considered “strictly ballroom”, and his dance partner leaves him.  His overbearing parents attempt to find him a new partner before the championships, but he ends up partnering with an overlooked “beginner” at his family’s studio.  The rest of the movie involves him and his new partner trying to work together despite the disapproval from the main character’s parents and the dance committee that doesn’t approve of the couple’s unique style. 

This movie is inspiring for any dancers who may be struggling to find their own special style or identity within dance.  Like the main character and his partner, they may initially be looked down on by others, but they eventually find what makes them happy, even if it isn’t the “standard” or “norm” in the dance world.  Overall, the film encourages individuality and creativity in all dancers.

 

Center Stage

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Let’s take a step back from the world of ballroom to focus on ballet!  Center Stage is a movie about young ballet students and their journey after being accepted to a ballet academy.  During their residency, they experience a lot of physical and mental stress while fighting for a coveted spot in a prestigious dance company.  Each character struggles with their own individual problems, including having the “wrong body type”, getting along with the instructors, and being pressured by family expectations.  Over the course of the film, they work through their struggles and learn that they can still achieve their goals and be happy while also staying true to themselves and rising above the harsh critiques of the academy.

Even though this movie doesn’t focus on ballroom, it does a pretty good job of showing how stressful the life of a dancer can be, especially if they are working towards becoming a professional.  What ultimately matters is dancers’ health and happiness.  The characters in the film all decide to take a step back from their regular routines in the ballet academy and they eventually gain new perspectives about their personalities, styles, and careers.  Like these characters, many dancers just need to change up their regular routines or environments in order to find their full potential in dance.

 

Mad Hot Ballroom

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This is actually a documentary about the lives of fifth-graders from various schools in New York City and their journey as they prepare for a local competition.  The movie follows them as they develop from reluctant novices, to focused competitive dancers.  Their dance lessons build up to a competition to find the school with the best dancers.  Over time, their dance skills grow, but they also end up discovering new things about themselves as individuals. (Fun fact: Pierre Dulaine also makes an appearance in this documentary, too!)

This film is inspirational to dancers because it may remind them of their own dance journeys.  After dancing for a while, many people come to realize that dancing does more for them than just helping them physically.  Dance can help improve other aspects of their lives such as social interactions, mental and emotional health, and overall confidence.  Many dancers will say that dance helped improve the quality of their lives in some way, similar to how the children in the documentary have their lives changed for the better.

 

Happy Dancing ^_^

 

How to Improve Your Facial Expressions

When you get more comfortable with dancing in front of an audience, you may come to realize that your technique and dance steps aren’t the only important elements of a performance.  Other parts of your body require just as much attention as your feet.  For instance, things like arm styling and head placement matter a lot when it comes to performances.  Another big detail that matters as a dancer is facial expression.  What is on a dancer’s face can sometimes make or break their entire performance.  For example, a blank face would not compliment a dance very well if it was meant to be emotional.  Similarly, smiling rigidly for your entire piece can come off as inauthentic and forced.  If you have little or no performance experience, the idea of using facial expressions and dancing may seem like a lot to take in, but it’s really not as bad as you think!  Here are some tips to help you shine and add an extra bit of personality on the dance floor.

 

Pay Attention to the Music

If you have a song prepared for an upcoming performance, it’s a good idea to set aside some time to carefully listen to it.  Pay attention to the lyrics, the tone, and how it makes you feel.  Use those observations when you dance to help you with facial expressions.  Perhaps, the song lyrics make you feel joyful.  Therefore, your facial expressions should reflect that joy with smiles and smirks.  If the music is funny or silly, aim for as many comical expressions as you can, or even a laugh!

 

Practice in Front of a Mirror

When you use a mirror to practice dance steps, you can also practice your facial expressions.  This technique can be helpful if you have trouble figuring out what your expressions should be or if you worry about how you will look.  Put on your song and don’t worry about dancing; just play around with expressions that you can use during certain parts of the music.  Using a mirror to test out your expressions can be very helpful because you’ll be able to clearly see how your face looks, and you can fix any expressions you don’t like.  You can also record yourself when you dance, and take note of the conscious and unconscious faces you make.  You might like some of your expressions and make a mental note to keep doing them, or dislike some expressions and remind yourself to avoid them.

 

Let Them Come Naturally

You may find that it’s hard to force facial expressions like big smiles, or angry faces.  In that case, it’s better to allow your facial expressions to come naturally.  Think back to our first point about listening to the music and thinking about how it makes you feel.  However the music affects your mood can be naturally reflected in your face.  It’s also good to pay attention to how you feel when you are actually dancing and let your face reflect those feelings.  For example, most people feel happy when they dance, so allow yourself to smile when you are on stage.  Allowing your facial expressions to come through naturally can add a lot of authenticity and sincerity to your dance performance.

 

Treat it Like a Conversation

When people are speaking to each other, they usually show each other that they are fully engaged in the conversation by making eye contact and using expressions.  The same should apply when you are dancing for an audience.  If you have an expressionless face the entire time, it can really dull your performance, even if the steps are executed perfectly.  One of the goals of a performance is to show the audience that you are fully committed and interested in what you are doing, and facial expressions are usually the clearest way to indicate that.  Even if you aren’t sure of a particular emotion to portray at the moment, try to keep your eyes and eyebrows raised during most of your performance so that the audience can connect with you in some way.

 

Give your Face Choreography

Another thing you can do that will push you into the habit of using engaging facial expressions is to choreograph them into your routines.  What this means is having a planned set of expressions that will correlate with your dance steps and music.  This may be extra work for you and your instructor, but if you struggle with facial expressions, this is a good approach to use.  The choreographed expressions don’t have to be anything too complicated; they can be as simple as “remember to smile during this explosion line”, or “wink as you shake your hips”.

 

Avoid the “Oops Face”

Even though we really want dancers to use facial expressions, there is still one face that we want you to avoid – the “oops face”.  The “oops face” is any expression that indicates that a dancer messed up a step or transition.  Many will show confusion, frustration, embarrassment, or just laugh when they make a mistake during a dance.  Some will make strange faces if they are just feeling uncomfortable.  This is a common and mostly unconscious reflex that happens to many dancers, and even professionals will let their “oops faces” pop up every once in a while.  If you are person who knows that you constantly make “oops faces” while you perform, or if your instructor always calls you out on making those faces, it’s not a bad idea to work on breaking the habit.  During rehearsals, practice smiling through your errors and that will train you to stay in character even when you misstep.  Additionally, keeping a straight or smiling face will make it less obvious to the audience that you’ve made a mistake.  No one will know, but you!

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Best Dances for a Wedding Reception

Summer is here, and that also means wedding season is already upon us!  If you are just learning to dance specifically for a wedding, you may be wondering which kinds of dances you would need to know.  All dances can be useful for certain social situations and outings, but there some that are absolutely essential when it comes to being confident during a wedding reception.  If you expect to be pulled out on the dance floor during your friend or family member’s wedding (or your own), here’s a list of dances you will most definitely need to know and why you need to know them.  After reading this list, make sure you ask your dance instructor to get you up to speed on these dances, or sign up for a lesson if you haven’t started yet!

 

Rumba

The most essential dance you should learn is the Rumba.  This one is easy to lean and is usually the first thing new students taught when they are just starting out.  The Rumba is a slow Latin dance that works well with most mid-tempo and slow songs that are typically played at weddings.  Since many love songs are typically this tempo, and because it’s not too hard for most people to pick up, you can see why Rumba would be the perfect dance for weddings.

 

Hustle

While the Rumba works best for most slow songs, the Hustle is the go-to dance for most of the fast music at weddings.  Wedding DJs typically play a ton of popular Top 40 music, and Hustle is a dance that fits perfectly with that genre.  Like Rumba, it is easy to learn, lead, and follow along to.  There are also a good amount of underarm turns you can do in this dance which adds extra fun to it (just be careful and don’t make your partner dizzy)!

 

Waltz

Some popular love songs are written with a ¾ time signature, meaning that the rhythm is counted in threes.  In that case, it’s best to dance a Waltz.  Unlike the other previously mentioned dances, this one is a progressive dance, meaning that it can travel around the dance floor.  Even though it is progressive, Waltz is still a slow dance where you can take your time while gliding across the floor.

 

Foxtrot and Swing

Sometimes wedding DJs will play big band classics from artists like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  In this case, it would be good to know a dance like Foxtrot.  Foxtrot is also a progressive dance, so you and your partner will be able to add a little flair to the dance floor.  Additionally, East Coast Swing is another good dance that will work well with this genre of music.  Swing is bouncier and moves a bit faster than Foxtrot but is equally entertaining.  There are also other genres of music that work well with Swing, including rock and pop.

 

Bonus Dances:

Nightclub Two Step

This dance is another good one for mid-tempo songs, but if you’re dancing to a song that seems just a bit too fast for Rumba, Nightclub Two Step would be the best fit.  This dance is typically done to popular love ballads, and since that genre of music will certainly be played at weddings, this is a great dance to know.  It incorporates small rocking steps and gliding movements that will almost make you feel like you’re floating across the floor.

 

Bolero

Bolero is a beautiful dance you can learn if you plan on dancing to very slow romantic songs.  Most slow music works well with a Rumba, however if a song feels way too slow for Rumba steps, this is where Bolero comes in.  Bolero, which is also a Latin dance, has drawn-out, sweeping motions and a slight rise and fall, similar to Waltz, which also gives it a nice, airy feeling.  If you have already learned Rumba and are feeling successful with it, you can try tackling Bolero!

 

Merengue

This final dance is another great one to have in your back pocket.  If you are comfortable with Hustle, then you’ll likely have no problem picking up this dance, as it is fairly easy to do.  The Merengue is danced mainly in Dominican communities and Caribbean cruises or resorts, but it can also work with a lot of fast-paced pop music (It may also come in handy for a tropical destination wedding!).  The basic step of this dance is a quick 8-count marching step, so it’s not too difficult to lead or follow.  There are also various underarm turns in this dance that leads can easily initiate and follows complete with no trouble.

 

Happy Dancing!  ^_^

How to Improve Musicality

If you watch dancers or listen to commentary about dancers, you may have heard the term “musicality” thrown around a few times.  Instructors or coaches may say that certain dancers have good musicality or that it’s something they need to work on, but what exactly is musicality?

Musicality is defined as “sensitivity to, knowledge of, or talent for music”.  In the context of dancing, it means that a dancer is aware of the music and the unique elements within that music.  If they have good musicality, their movements will match the quality and elements of the music.  Some might even say that musicality is “the ability of a dancer to become one with the music”.  This description sounds poetic, but good musicality often adds a nice layer of beauty to dancers’ movements.

If a person is already musically inclined, it might be easier for them develop good musicality, but it might be harder for the rest of us without prior music knowledge or experience.  Luckily, musicality isn’t a magical ability that people are born with; it certainly can be taught and learned.  With these tips, you’ll be able to “become one with the music” in no time!   

 

Listen to Music

The best way to start working on musicality is to get familiar with music and start listening to a bunch of it.  If you are preparing for a performance, take a moment to repeatedly listen to the song that you’re dancing to.  Pay attention to specific accents and major hits in the music.  If you already have choreography, think of ways you can enhance your movement during certain musical accents.  For instance, if there is a dramatic pause in the music, freezing dramatically or slowing down your movement will complement the music nicely.  You should also pay attention to the tone and speed of the music.  Is it sad or happy?  Does it make you feel excited or sluggish?  These elements are important in figuring out how your movement should look.  If you aren’t working on a performance and just want to work on general musicality, you can still practice these techniques with various pieces of music.

 

Work on Timing

Timing is defined as “the judgement or control of when something should be done”.  Therefore, in dance, timing is how well you are able to have your steps match a certain rhythm.  For instance, if your instructor is counting out or clapping a certain rhythm for you to follow and your steps match that rhythm, you have pretty good timing.  If you find that you typically dance faster or slower than a given rhythm, then timing is something that would be beneficial for you to practice.

To work on timing, practice tapping your foot or clapping along with the beat of a song.  Drums or other prominent instruments will usually indicate the rhythm of the song, so see if you can keep up with that.  If you can’t practice with music, try tapping along to something that has a steady rhythm such as a metronome, your heartbeat, or even the turn signal in your car.

 

Watch Other People Dance

Another great way you can learn is by watching others.  If you are still unsure about your musicality, you can observe other dancers and take note of how they move to music.  If you’re working on a performance piece and find videos of other people dancing to the same music as you, it may help to pay attention to how they move during certain hits in the music.  Another thing you can do is ask your instructor to demonstrate how they would move to a certain piece of music.  After their demonstration, you can try matching them, but the goal isn’t to make your movement identical to theirs.  What you should be looking out for is examples of flair and accented moves that you can incorporate into your natural movement.  Your instructor can also coach you on how to achieve this, which brings us to our next point…

 

Ask for Help

When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a professional for tips when it comes to musicality.  If you are prepping for a performance, your instructor will certainly give you choreography that compliments your music, which is a great way to naturally work on musicality.  While you are training, you can also ask your instructor to help you and give you tips and exercises that will improve your musicality.  Good musicality is what often distinguishes a dancer who is just going through the steps from a dancer who is really in sync with their music, so it’s certainly a valuable skill to develop!

 

Happy Dancing!  ^_^

More Etiquette for Social Dancers

In a previous post, we went over etiquette in social dancing and some of the unspoken rules of the social ballroom world.  We discussed how you should ask a person to dance, use proper dance frame, dance through an entire song, follow the line of dance, and generally be polite.  In addition to these, there are some extra pointers we would like to share that will enhance your social dancing experience for you and everyone else around you!

 

Don’t Teach, Correct, or Critique

Some events, such as practice parties, are good opportunities for dancers to review their steps, but unless they specifically ask you, don’t correct or instruct someone else on how to execute certain moves.  You don’t want to make them feel bad or inferior by telling them they are doing something wrong.  If you notice your partner doing a certain move differently than you, it’s better to adapt to them and continue to dance.  Their instructor may have taught them differently than your own, and it’s a topic you can discuss politely while you are off the dance floor.  It’s also important not to critique your dance partner or blame them for being a poor follower or leader.  It’s not polite to do so, and it does nothing but lower their confidence as a dancer.

 

Don’t Squeeze Your Partner’s Hand

Your first few times dancing with others may be nerve-wracking, but no matter how nervous you get, try not to squeeze the life out of your partner’s hand.  Loosing circulation is very uncomfortable, especially when you are dancing, so it’s good to be mindful of the amount of pressure you’re putting on your partner.   Sometimes people unconsciously cling on to their partners without even realizing, but if you are aware of how strong your grip is, it will make the experience much more pleasant for the both of you.

 

Be Gentle With Your Partner

A strong lead is important, but you should never go overboard.  When leading, try not to use movements that are overly forceful or will jolt your partner too much.  By pushing and pulling follows, you only make them feel uncomfortable.  To avoid this, pay attention to your partner’s skill level and only lead what is appropriate for them.  Ask your dance instructor to help you find ways to be a strong lead without pushing your partner around too much.  As a follow, be mindful of how you are holding on and clinging to your partner.  A follower’s job is to go along with the leader, but make sure you are still holding yourself up so you don’t put too much unnecessary pressure on them.  Also, be sure to let your partner know if you are injured or if you are in pain while you are dancing.

 

Don’t Show Off

If you are in a setting such as a party or wedding, there is a great chance you will be dancing with people who may not be on the same skill level as you, so it’s important to refrain from showing off.  For instance, if you are an advanced dancer that is partnered up with a beginner, do not try and lead them through difficult steps that you know they haven’t learned yet.  This goes back to our first point of not teaching other dancers unless you are asked to.  You can showcase your skills by cleanly executing beginner/intermediate steps or by dancing with another advanced dancer, but showing off to a beginner can be seen as rude or arrogant.

 

Avoid Collisions

When there are many couples on the dance floor at a time, it can very hard to avoid bumping into a few people, but as a dancer, you should be aware of your space and try to avoid running into other couples as much as possible.  To avoid collisions, walk around the edge of the dance floor when you are not dancing or when you are walking to the other side of the room.  Additionally, you should be following the line of dance when doing a progressive dance, and the general dance rule of staying near the center of the floor if you are moving slowly or doing a non-progressive dance.  Of course, if you do bump into another couple, you should apologize and be mindful of future encounters.

 

No Crazy Moves

Fancy tricks are fun during performances, but on a social dance floor they could be risky.  Obviously, you shouldn’t be trying tricks and lifts with beginners or people you’ve just met, but if there is a lift or something that you and your partner want to do, save it for a performance or a time where you have the entire floor to yourself.  If there is a lot of traffic on the dance floor, there is a very high chance your lift won’t go smoothly.

 

Dance Responsibility

It’s fine to have few drinks while you are at a party or dancing event, but it’s wise to be mindful of how balanced you are once you’re on the dance floor.  Dancing when you’ve had a bit too much to drink can be risky not only for you, but for your partner and other dancers on the floor.  You could misstep, get sick, or fall, injuring yourself or others.  So, be a responsible dancer, and take it easy if you do plan on showing your moves on the dance floor.

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Overcoming Stage Fright

Everyone gets a little nervous before a performance.  Even professionals get a little anxious before they take the stage at competitions or shows.  If you have never performed in front of others before and are feeling apprehensive, here are some things to keep in mind to help you overcome those feelings.  If you are someone who has performed before, but still experiences intense stage fright or nervousness, these tips are also for you!

 

Practice!

The more you practice, the better you should feel about your routine.  If you feel like you know your piece very well, that might eliminate some anxieties about going on stage.  For instance, if you are nervous about making mistakes or forgetting steps, a lot of rehearsal should alleviate that fear.  Try listening to your performance music multiple times because it will help you become even more familiar and comfortable with your routine.  If the thought of being in front of a large crowd is what’s giving you anxiety, start off by showing your routine to a small number of people and then gradually increasing the size of your mock audience.  If you are able to have access to your performance area beforehand, it would also be wise to practice a few of your steps on that stage for extra preparation.

 

Listen to Feedback

Assuming you have practiced your routine in front of others, they will probably give you some praise and advice on how to make your piece even better.  When listening to others’ critiques and advice, think of them as notes that will help to improve your performance.  Listen especially to the pointers that your instructors, coaches, and other professionals give to you.  When people praise your performance, take that to heart.  Sometimes dancers shy away from receiving praise, but it’s important to believe others when they tell you that you did a good job!

 

Talk With Someone

One of the best things you can do if you are having performance anxiety is to just talk it out and discuss your worries with a friend, your instructor, or a peer who as performed before.  Talking about your stage fright might help you get to the root of your fear and help you figure out exactly what about performing makes you nervous.  If you are worried about crowds, you can find ways to cope with dancing in front of large audiences.  If the fear of making a mistake on stage is making you anxious, then plan on scheduling multiple rehearsal times throughout the week.  If you are still feeling anxious after planning ahead, don’t let your fear stop you.  Nervousness is common for most dancers before they perform, so continue to talk to trusted friends and advisors, and we’re sure they will be able to help you.

 

Realizing What You Can Control

On stage, there are many things you can’t control like the condition of the dancefloor, the size of the venue, the lighting, and other dancers’ movements.  If these things outside of your control are giving you anxiety, know that this is a normal feeling, but instead of putting all your focus on those things, focus on what you can control.  For instance, you do have control over how much you rehearse, the costume you’re wearing, your song choice, and your overall attitude towards your piece.  Having all those controllable factors in order will ensure that you feel prepared, and that preparation should lessen some of your anxiety.  We can’t always control outside factors, but if we realize what we can control and formulate an appropriate plan it will make some of our worries seem less drastic.

 

Meditate

Meditation can be a good exercise to calm your nerves and prepare you for a performance.  You can use meditation to clear your mind, examine your thoughts, or to visualize your performance.  Sometimes mentally visualizing how you want your performance to pan out can help you feel more comfortable with being on stage.  Visualization will allow you to imagine how the performance will “feel”.  While you are meditating, you can also take deep breaths to help you relax.

 

Find Ways to Calm Yourself

Since a lot of dancers get the pre-performance jitters, many have techniques they use to help them calm down.   You can choose one of the methods we just described, whether it is deep breathing or meditating.  You can also go over the routine in your head, do stretches, count, jump around, drink water, or do any activity that you know will calm your nerves.  Think about something you normally would do to cope with nervousness and apply that to your pre-performance ritual.

 

Feed Off Audience Energy

One of the great things about the ballroom dance community is that they love cheering on all dancers.  The audience will always give off positive feedback in the form of applause and cheers, so you can use that energy to motivate yourself during your performance.  This is extra special if you have friends, family, and teammates in the audience because they will be the ones cheering you on the most!

 

Pick a Focal Point

If the thought of an audience full of people staring back at you is causing stage fright, just remember that you don’t have to make direct eye contact with the audience because you can chose a focal point.  A focal point is just a far off location in the room that you can choose to focus on, instead of having to look at others’ faces.  For example, you can look just above the audience’s heads instead of directly in their eyes.  You could also choose to focus on intimate objects like a sign or an empty chair.  If you have a friend or family member in the audience, you can even find out where they are seated and focus on them if that makes you more comfortable.  Depending on the venue and lighting, you may not even be able to see your audience.  In that case, you could choose any focal point you’d like!  As you progress in dance, you will need to work on connecting to the audience by using strong facial expressions and eye contact, but if you are just starting out, focusing on something other than a face will help your stage fright.

 

Enjoy the Moment

The best thing you can do once you are on stage is enjoy yourself.  Live in the present and realize that once you’re up there, there’s nothing you can change.  If you have efficiently prepared for your performance, you should be ready, so trust yourself and your dance partner.  Before taking the stage, it may seem like performing will be a drawn-out, harrowing event, but once you start dancing, you’ll see that it all goes by so quickly.  A performance is a fleeting moment, so use your time on stage to enjoy it!  By the end, you’ll see that you had very little to worry about!

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Why We Think Dance is the Best Stress Reliever

Many people start taking dance lessons as a hobby, and over time, they may also find that it makes them happier.  Having an activity that you participate in regularly can ultimately be good for your health and wellbeing because it can end up being a stress reducer.  There are many activities people do to reduce and prevent stress, but of course we think dance is one of the best methods!  In this post, we will explain how dance can be a fantastic way to alleviate some of the stress in your life.

 

Places You in a Different Environment

Being in your workplace or home can sometimes be stressful if you have to deal with multiple responsibilities.  When you go to the dance studio, you get a small break from some problems you may be having in everyday life.  You may often hear people say that it’s good to go outside for a walk when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.  This is because it’s good to get away from any stressful environments, even if it’s only for a few minutes.  The dance studio is one of the best places to go to de-stress because it’s a fun and welcoming place where everyone has a shared mindset - they just want to dance!

 

The Best Kind of Exercise

You have probably heard that exercise is a great stress reliever because it boosts endorphins.  Engaging in physical activity can also help you think more clearly, lower your blood pressure, and improve your overall self-image.  Not only is dance stress-relieving, but it also has many other health benefits such as improving memory, balance, flexibility, and easing depression.  It’s also a fun, social activity, which brings us to our next points…

 

It’s Fun!

Engaging in activities that you love can be a definite stress reducer.  When people are having fun, there will most likely be laughter.  In addition to making you happy, laughter also decreases stress, reduces artery inflammation, and increases HDL, which is good cholesterol.  Many dancers work hard to perfect the steps they are learning, but all agree that the overall process of dancing is a lot of fun.  We’re also certain many dancers can recall multiple moments in the dance studio that made them laugh!

 

You Hang Out With Friends

Studies find that visiting friends during stressful times can decrease levels of cortisol.  If you have made friends at your dance studio, being with them can boost your mood and lower your stress levels.  If you are new to a studio and haven’t made friends yet, that’s okay because face-to-face socialization has also been proven to reduce stress, and you’ll definitely get a lot of that with your instructor and other students who want to meet you!

 

It’s Repetitive

Repetitive behaviors and activities have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress.  Actions such as knitting, jewelry making, and other crafty activities have been shown to soothe anxiety and be an overall source of relaxation for many individuals.  Dance is definitely a repetitive activity, since you have to repeat steps multiple times in order to feel comfortable with them.  Your instructor will have you going over certain moves multiple times which will eventually end up releasing some of the stress you may have.

 

Puts You in a Flow State

Dance can put you in a meditative flow state which is actually a relaxing experience.  A flow state is a state of operation in which a person is fully immersed in a certain activity.  To be in a flow state, a person usually has to engage in an activity that they enjoy and are at least somewhat familiar with.  Think of how time seems to fly when you are doing something fun; this is what being in a flow state is like.  Dancers enter a flow state whenever they are practicing steps, dancing socially, or dancing through a routine.  Since they are fully immersed in their dance steps, their performance, or having fun with their dance partner, they can’t focus on other issues, thus relieving their stress.

 

Reminds You to Breathe

Slow breathing techniques and taking deep breaths generally helps people to stay calm and de-stress.  As you dance, you will obviously need to breathe, so dance is an activity that will remind you to do so.  Your instructor may also remind you to breathe as you are dancing (some dancers have a tendency to hold their breath if they are executing difficult moves).  When you’re done dancing, you will also need to take slow and deep breaths in order to get back to a resting heart rate.  After your lesson, you’ll find yourself feeling extremely refreshed, as well. 

 

Allows You to Unplug

As mentioned before, you have to fully immerse yourself into a dance lesson in order to really enjoy it, so that also means you have to disconnect from stressors on your phone.  Work calls, text messages, and certain kinds of online content can gradually become irritating.  Because of this, it’s healthy to disconnect from these annoyances every once in a while.  Being fully involved in a dance lesson is nice because you can distract yourself from your phone and other devices for a few minutes or hours.

 

Happy Dancing ^_^

Coaching 101: Why Coaching is Valuable

In a previous blog post, we briefly discussed dance coaches and explained that dancers may use the help of coaches to prepare for competitions or performances.  Now you may be wondering more about who the coaches are and the work they do.  If you already know a bit about coaches, then you may be wondering if you could use a coaching session and what you can get out of one.  In this post we will hope to answer these questions!

 

Who are the Coaches?

Dance coaches are people in the industry that have unique perspective and years of experience as past champions, judges, or Pro/Am dancers.  Many of them have even trained professional dancers themselves, so they have great knowledge of dance techniques, styles, and etiquette.  Many of them travel around the country, offering their services to other studios and training students.  Since they have a keen eye for all of the fine details in dance, they are great help when it comes to competition prep.  Besides competition training, dancers also enlist help of coaches for performances and general dance technique. 

 

What is a Dance Coaching?

If you take private dance lessons there is no doubt that you are getting the benefit of expert dance training.  Having a private instructor is great, but having a different perspective from time-to-time can also be very useful.  This is where coaches come in!

Coaches are able to give you an outsider’s perspective while dancing with your instructor or partner.  Coaches are able to see technical elements that your instructor may not always be able to see.  They also will give pointers on how to enhance your performances.  For instance; slight adjustments such as foot placement, the way your head is turned, or the angle of your body can make a world of difference when it comes to dance quality.  During one of these sessions, you would show the coach something you are working on and throughout the lesson they will work with you to improve it or help you understand certain dance concepts.  You can also think of a session as taking your car to be polished!  A dance coach helps you to fine-tune your dance skills. 

 

Why Do You Need Coaching?

If you are preparing for a competition or performance, it is 100% recommended that you sign up for a coaching session.  As mentioned before, coaches know exactly what judges and audiences will be looking for during competitions and showcases, so their help would clearly be beneficial.  Imagine that you are going to submit artwork that will be reviewed by hundreds of professionals and critics.  You would want to make sure that your work is top notch, so you might enlist extra help by having others review it.  It’s almost like Meryl Streep giving you an acting lesson; you’d be getting help from one of the elites of the field!

However, you don’t need to be preparing for a special event in order to be coached.  A session with a coach can only help you become a better dancer.  They will be able to push your dance skills to the next level, and you’ll be able to use what you learned for future endeavors.  If there is a certain dance or move that you have been struggling with, a dance coach just may be able to help and give you some advice or techniques that will make something “click” for you.

 

Can You Take Coaching?

Every dancer could use a coach’s help.  Many people get intimidated at the idea of a coaching session and believe they are only for advanced dancers, but they truly are for everyone.  Some people think they may not be ready for a session with a coach, but if you have been dancing for a while (especially if you have been doing performances) you should definitely consider the help of a coach.  You don’t have to be a competitive dancer to have a coach – they can help you with a performance or they can just help you with technique.  Any dancer can take away a valuable lesson from a coach and their training will only make you a better dancer.

 

When Can You Take Coaching?

Most people think you can only take coaching when you have a competition or show coming up, but you can actually take them all the time!  Whenever you get the chance or whenever a coach comes to your studio, you should be taking advantage of the opportunity to train with a coach.  Many dancers will sign up for masterclasses from professionals, not because they are preparing for something, but because they know that the professional will give them a treasured dance experience.  No matter what, you will always be able to learn something new.  Your dance journey is never finished and there will always be more things for you to work on.  Check in with our studio to see which coaches are coming in!

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

How to Ease Back into Dance After a Long Break

Many dancers hope to have a consistent dance schedule that allows them to practice at least once a week.  However, random life events can get in the way and cause them to take unplanned breaks.  Depending on how long they are, these breaks can set dancers back in a various amount of ways.  Once they finally do decide to come back to dance, they may initially feel lost.  This is a normal feeling, as anything that takes people away from their normal schedule can shake them up a bit.  The good news is that it’s definitely possible for dancers to get back up to speed, even after a hiatus.  We have a few pieces of advice for dancers that are thinking about getting back on the dance floor.  These tips will surely be useful if you or a friend have just started back up and are feeling a bit discouraged. 

 

Forget Courage, Just Do It!

Many people may hesitate to go back to their studios because they have the same fears that a lot of new dancers have – they are worried about looking a certain way, or feel as though they won’t be able to do certain moves.  Since people get caught up in these mindsets, their confidence is weakened and they end up avoiding dance lessons.  It’s reasonable to have these thoughts at first, but you have to remember why you started dancing in the first place and why you kept coming back.  It is okay to be nervous, and you might not be able to dance like before, but over time you will forget your worries and your courage will come back naturally.  The first step is to ignore your self-doubt and just dance!

 

Start Slow

When you come back to dance, you may not be at the same level as before and you may not be able to do certain movements as easily. You could jump right back into moves you were previously working on, but there is a chance you could hurt yourself if you are trying to do something difficult.  To avoid injury, it’s best to start slow and work yourself up to where you left off.  For example; if you were working on advanced silver steps and lifts before, it’s best to work on some bronze steps and avoid doing lifts until you feel comfortable and limber enough to do them again.  Conditioning exercises are another good way to get back into old moves, especially if they involve a lot of flexibility or strength.  It may take a while for your body to adjust, but if you keep practicing you will get back on track in no time.

 

Trust Muscle Memory

Dance can be repetitive at times, but this is good because repetition helps build muscle memory.  Muscle memory makes it easier to get back into the groove of certain dance moves that you previously learned.  People will often find that they automatically start doing steps from a certain dance or routine, even if they haven’t practiced them in a while.  As you go through some of your old movements, try not to overthink it at first.  Trust your muscle memory, allow you instructor to lightly guide you through the movement, and see what your body remembers.  You may surprise yourself!  After you’ve tried this, then you can do a concrete review of the steps. 

 

Try Something New

Our bodies change over time and sometimes that makes it difficult to dance in ways that we used to.  When this is the case, it may be a good idea to try new ways of moving or learning.  This doesn’t mean you have to completely give up on your old dance habits; it just means you are adapting and growing.  For you, this may mean executing a move in a different way or picking up a completely new dance style.  Dancers have a wide variety of styles to try out, so it’s good to test the waters every once in a while to see what else you can do.  You may even find that you are better at a new style or technique than another!  For instance; if you primarily danced Latin, trying a few smooth and standard dances may end up being a refreshing experience.  You might also discover a new favorite dance!

 

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

We state this many times, but everyone grows at different rates, so you can’t compare yours progress to someone else’s.  You already know that you can’t expect yourself to be at the exact same level as you were before you stopped dancing.  So similarly, you can’t expect yourself to be the same level as other dancers around you. You may have friends who are at a higher level, but you can’t let that discourage you.  They may have been able to put in more practice hours, but that doesn’t make you any less of a dancer.  It’s not wise to judge yourself based on how far along other people are.  Take your time and don’t try and rush your progress to try to catch up to someone else.  Eventually you will start to get back to the level that you were at before.  If you aren’t progressing as quickly as you’d like, you shouldn’t stress out because the most important thing about dance is to...

 

Have Fun!

Remember why you started to dance in the first place.  You should never beat yourself up about getting back to your previous level.  You will eventually get to where you need to be, but in the meantime, enjoy the journey along the way!  If training begins to stress you out, find ways to make dance fun again by attending a party, watching a show or competition, or even preparing for your own performance.

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Valentine’s Day Music for All (or Most) Dance Styles

Since it is Valentine’s Day, it’s likely that you have love or romance on your mind.  If you are also a dancer, you might be thinking of some romantic songs to dance to.  Luckily, most of the music that’s out there tends to be love songs, so it’s not very hard to find something for Valentine’s Day.  What can be difficult, however, is finding certain music for specific styles of dance.  The most common love songs are mostly Rumbas, Bolero’s, or Waltzes, so what do we do about the other styles?  The good news is that we’ve put together a list of love songs you can use and the specific dance they go along with.  Enjoy!

 

·         Rumba“Just The Way You Are” – Bruno Mars

·         Cha-Cha“September” – Earth, Wind, and Fire

·         East Coast Swing“Love You Like A Love Song” – Selena Gomez & The Scene

·         West Coast Swing “No One” – Alicia Keys

·         Bolero“Truly, Madly, Deeply” – Savage Garden

·         Hustle“Shut Up and Dance” – Walk The Moon

·         Salsa “Lost Without U” – Robin Thicke

·         Jive (or Single-Time Swing)“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen

·         Waltz“Open Arms” – Journey

·         Foxtrot “Ho Hey” – The Lumineers

·         Tango “Sweet Dreams” - Beyoncé

·         Merengue“Addicted To You” - Shakira

·         Viennese Waltz“Kiss from a Rose” – Seal

·         Samba“Lean On” – Major Lazer, MØ, & DJ Snake

·         Quickstep“You’re the One That I Want” – Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta

If you’re looking for even more music to dance to you can always come in and ask our instructors for suggestions, too!

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Best Dances to Learn for a Great Night

New dance students will often ask their instructors which dances they think are best to learn.  Honestly, we believe that all dances are fun and worth learning, but many wish to find out which ones will be used the most.  Many social dancers are interested in learning dances that they will actually be able to use when they go out to parties and clubs.  Dances like Waltz and Tango may be done from time to time at certain events, but you might find yourself doing something like Hustle or Salsa most of the time.  Here are some social dances you should be familiar with if you decide to go out:

 

Rumba

Rumba is probably one of the most essential dances to know if you want to dance socially.  This slower Latin style is characterized by Cuban motion, or rhythmic swaying of the hips caused by bending and straightening of the knees.  This dance is a great one to use for slower music that is in 4/4 time.  If you are at a wedding or an event where a lot of slow and romantic music is played, the Rumba will definitely be useful. 

 

Merengue

Merengue is a dance from the Dominican Republic that is popular among those who are from or travel to Latin America.  If you’ve ever been on a Caribbean cruise, you have probably seen people do this dance.  Not only is it a good one to learn because of its popularity, but it’s also easy to catch on to.  The basic step of this dance is an eight-count marching step where partners can either move sideways or circle each other.  Dancers also bend their knees slightly left and right, making their hips move, as well.  Many of the figures are also fairly easy to do.  While the music for Merengue is usually fast and upbeat, it’s a very free moving dance that makes it perfect for social settings. 

 

Salsa

Salsa music is a popular genre in many nightclubs, so it’s clear that learning some Salsa will be beneficial.  This is a fast-moving dance that requires quick footwork and hip movements.  There are many hip hop songs that are influenced by Salsa music, so you’ll find that you won’t always be dancing to traditional Latin music.  Many people are also familiar with some basic steps of Salsa, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a dance partner when you go out!

 

Hustle

Hustle is another quick-moving nightclub dance that can be useful at almost any event.  Developed in the 1970s, it was mostly danced to disco music.  Since then it has evolved and can actually be danced to a wide variety of dance music that is out today.  At most parties or events, DJs will play Top-40 pop music more often than other genres, and the best thing to do with a dance partner is the Hustle.  It is also another fun dance that is easy to learn.  Partners rotate around each other and there are also many variations of underarm turns that can be done.

 

Bonus: Nightclub Two-Step

This particular dance may not be taught as frequently as the core dances, but it is still a good one to know.  “Nightclub” is in the name, so it is clearly a dance that you would use when you go out!  Nightclub Two-Step is typically danced to mid-tempo pop-ballads that are in 4/4 time.  Since these songs are usually a bit too fast for Rumba, Nightclub Two-Step is a perfect replacement.  The footwork consists of long sweeping movements and tiny rock steps that make it a relaxed, playful, and easy dance.

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Things To Keep In Mind When Setting Dance Goals

Since we are almost a full month into the New Year, let’s talk about resolutions and goal-setting!  Many people make goals at the beginning of the year, but they often don’t stick to them.  They set them to the side, abandon them, or tell themselves that the goals are out of reach.  As dancers, we are constantly training, and we will most likely be setting many new goals this year.  Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing and setting your dance goals.  Hopefully these points will make it a bit easier to stay on track!

 

Make them Visible

In the beginning of the year you may have written some goals on a piece of paper, but by the time it’s May 20th, you may be wondering where that piece of a paper went!  You know you set some goals, but now you can’t think of exactly what you wrote.  To prevent a scenario like this, it’s always best to keep your goals in a place where you will always see them.  Many times, people will write down their goals in a notebook or some other piece of paper and put it away for the rest of the year.  It’s okay to write in a personal notebook or something, but make sure that the notebook is in a place where you’ll see it often.  You can also post your goals on a wall in your room or make a note in your phone so they are readily available to you.  Making them visible will constantly remind you of what you set out to achieve.  You may think that you will be able to remember them, but when life gets hectic your goals can slip out of mind.

 

Write in a Positive Language

For the most part, we make dance goals so that we can improve some aspect of our dancing or enhance our dance experience.  However, you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t being too harsh on yourself when you set certain goals.  When you write them, make sure the language is positive; don’t put yourself down, guilt yourself into certain behaviors, or make goals based on what you think other people want.  For instance; writing “I want to be as good as [famous dancer]” is not too great of a start to goal-making.  Comparing yourself to others can be harmful to your psyche and that particular goal is written in a way that assumes you aren’t good enough. Individual goals should be something we set to better ourselves, not to make us equivalent to someone else (which can never truly be possible).  Instead of setting goals with others’ expectations and standards in mind, set goals based on what you want and how you want to feel.  Instead of writing “I want my competition routine to look better so the judges will like me”, write “I want to feel good doing my competition routine so that I can confidently feel like I did my best”.  Imagine that someone else is writing goals for you.  You would want this person to treat you kindly, right?  So do the same with yourself!

 

Be Specific and Realistic

It’s easy to write vague goals.  Examples are phrases such as, “be a better dancer” or “learn more steps”.  These may very well be certain things that you want to achieve, but they are not very specific.  What do you mean by “better”?  How many more steps do you want to learn?  If you want to specify your goals, imagine that a magical genie was granting you a wish.  You would need to be very clear about your wish so that the genie wouldn’t grant you something different.  It may be true that you want to be a better dancer, but start by thinking about certain aspects of your dancing that you want to improve.  Do you want better technique?  Are you working on a particular dance?  Do you want to develop your leading/following abilities?  Take time to really think about specific details of your dancing that you want to work on.  Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to set a deadline for some of your goals.  Aiming to set a goal by a certain date pushes a lot of people to really work hard.  It’s also good to make your goals realistic.  Making a goal to compete at twenty events a year is great, but most professional dancers can’t even reach that goal.  If you aren’t sure you have the endurance, time, or money to compete that much, then it might be best to lower your target for now.  In general, it’s best to be aware of your own situation before setting a goal rather than realizing that you put too much on your plate.  The journey towards your goals should be more exciting than stressful!

 

Measure Progress

Once you make your goals specific, it becomes easier to keep track of your progress.  As you work towards your goals, keep track of all accomplishments so that you can reflect on your growth.  It’s really satisfying to keep a record of your dance development so you can look back and see how you’ve grown.  For instance, if you set a goal to work on arm styling, you should take videos of yourself when you dance.  With the videos, you will be able to clearly see your movement and how you can improve.  You will also be able to see if you are getting better with each video.  You can also keep a journal to document your journey towards your goals.  If you want, you can even note any setbacks or errors you may have made.  Sometimes our mistakes can teach us valuable lessons so that we can do better next time!

 

Keep Going

The final thing to do is avoid staying at a plateau for too long.  If you have achieved all of your goals you should definitely celebrate, but remember that you shouldn’t just stop there.  To start off, you should make a point to retain your goals; try not to forget everything you’ve learned or lose all the progress you’ve made.  You should continue to practice any skills or technique you were working on.  After that, see if you can make new goals.  There is always more to do in dance, so your possibilities are endless!

 

And if you haven’t set any goals for the year yet, just know that you can set them at any time of the year!  So if there’s something in the back of your mind that you want to accomplish, now is a great time to work towards it!

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Apps Every Dancer Should Use

By now, most adults own a smart phone.  Besides calling and texting, smart phones allow us to connect to the Internet, listen to music, play games, and do other fun and productive activities.  There are millions of applications available to download to your phone, and you can even use a few of them to help you with dance.  Unfortunately, there isn’t an app that will magically improve your dancing on its own, but there are many available that will definitely help you with your progress.  Here are some apps that you should keep handy during your dance journey!  (And if you actually don’t own a smart phone, don’t worry!  Most of these applications are available on tablets or laptop computers.)

 

Camera

If you have a smart phone, you probably already have a camera installed.  This feature enables you to take photos and videos of yourself and other dancers.  After a good class you can record yourself and the instructor doing a routine, or you can just record yourself so that you don’t forget choreography.  It’s also good to take videos of yourself just to see if you are executing certain moves correctly.  If you are the type of person that likes to take a bunch of videos, make sure you have enough storage space on your phone!  Aside from dance videos, you can also take pictures in your environment of random things that inspire you.  There are also features on the camera app that let you slow down your video, change the picture quality, and other features that will vary based on the type of phone you have.  Once you have all those nice photos and videos, you can keep them for yourself or share them on other social media platforms, such as…

 

Instagram

Instagram is a social media site where you can post your own videos and pictures so that your friends and followers can comment on them and “like” them.  You can also follow your friends or famous influencers that are important to you so you can view their content.  Having Instagram as an application on your phone makes it easy to view and post content on a daily basis.  Many dancers use this app to view videos of other popular dancers’ work.  Many dancers also use this platform to showcase their own skills and choreography for others to see.  The best thing about Instagram is that it makes it easy to search for and view videos that you will enjoy.  Most of the videos on this app are short (only about 1 minute), but there are other sites where you can watch longer videos.  This app is a great resource if you are looking for new dance inspiration.

 

YouTube

YouTube is the best website to browse if you need to find videos on the Internet.  As an application, it makes it quick and easy to find a wide range of videos with your phone.  If you’re out and about and need to find a certain dance video, YouTube allows you to quickly search for it and view it on your phone.  Like Instagram, there are many dancers who have channels on YouTube to showcase their work.  You can also upload your own videos on YouTube, as well.  YouTube is another great resource with endless dance videos that will motivate and inspire you.

 

Notes App

Most phones should have an application where you can jot down quick notes.  These apps are already great for making grocery lists, logging random thoughts, and other things, so you might as well use them for dance, too!  When you have ideas come to mind, it’s nice to have this app on your phone so you can quickly type them out.  You can even take “speech-to-text” notes if your phone has the capability (this is great for when you’re driving or temporarily can’t use your).  You can make to-do lists for dance, write down your goals, type up choreography, or take down notes from your class.

 

Shazam

Have you ever been on a lesson, in class, or at a show and hear a new song that you really like?  If you forget to ask someone else the name of the song or if no one else knows it, you may have a hard time finding it again.  However, Shazam is an app that makes finding music easy.  If you install this on your phone, the app will be able to detect the name of whatever song is playing nearby so that you can buy it or stream it later.  It even has an “auto” mode, which means that the app will be able to continuously identify songs for you without you having to pull out your phone to prompt it each time.  This definitely comes in handy when you are at a show or competition; if you have “auto-Shazam” enabled, you won’t need to keep taking out your phone.  You can just relax and enjoy the show!

 

Anything that Streams Music

Finally, all dancers should have an app that lets you stream music.  You can find a lot of music on YouTube, but if you are looking for better quality, apps like Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora are good for finding most of the music you need.  When you are practicing at home, you can use your music app to dance to your favorite songs.  With apps like Spotify and Apple Music, you can even save specific songs to your own personal library or create playlists for specific moods or styles.  You can also use these apps to find fresh, new music to choreograph to.

 

Happy Dancing ^_^

How to Make Time for Dance When You’re Feeling Busy

It can be hard to find time to dance when you have a hectic life.  Other plans and responsibilities can make it difficult to fit a few dance classes into your schedule.  There are many people who want to dance but have trouble setting aside some time for it.  Likewise, there are people who are used to dancing for many hours and are now frustrated that they can’t dance as much.  The good news is that there are some ways that you can stay involved in dance even when your availability is sparse.

Here are some ideas and concepts to keep in mind so you can continue to dance or keep dance on your mind, even when you have a busy schedule!

 

Make Time Where You Can

When you think you don’t have time to dance, try to think about what you do in your free time.  People who spend a lot of time working or volunteering like to use their free time for relaxing activities such as reading, watching movies/television shows, or playing games.  These activities are all great, but if you think you can replace one of these with dance, you’ll find that you actually do have some time for it. Start by sparing 30-60 mins a week for dance, and see if you can gradually increase that over time.  If you’re up for the challenge, you could also sacrifice an everyday activity, such as watching television, and replace it with learning a new dance or brushing up on some techniques.  Keep in mind that you don’t have to be in a studio to dance either!  If you are absolutely new to dance, then its best if you come to a studio to learn proper techniques, but if you are a veteran who knows many steps, you can find space in your home to practice.

 

Dancing Less is Okay

If you are a person who used to dance multiple hours a week, but you now find that you can barely make time for one lesson, don’t let that worry you too much.  Let go of past expectations and standards; if you aren’t able to dance as much as you used to that’s okay!  Events will happen in your life that will change your schedule, but if you find just a little bit of time for dance or a dance-related activity that is good enough.  The important thing is that you are making the effort to dance.

 

Set New Goals

Setting goals will motivate you to dance when you’re busy, tired, or discouraged.  If you haven’t danced for a while and are thinking about restarting, new goals can be the first step to getting your feet back on the dance floor.  Create a piece of choreography, focus on learning a new dance, or plan to work on a performance piece.  Thinking about certain goals and planning them out will also help define what dance means to you so that you can come into your studio with a fresh perspective.

 

Stay Involved in a Dance Community

If you do find that you have little to no time for dance but you still want to stay connected to it, you can engage in the dance community.  If your studio hosts events, try to make an effort to attend a few of those.  If you can’t make it out to events, then social media is your best source.  Sites like Facebook and Instagram make it easy to see what your favorite dancers are up to, and you can even check out the cool things that other dancers are creating.  You can also stay in touch with your dance friends even when you are not in the studio.

 

Happy Dancing ^_^

How to Get Better at Retaining Choreography

It’s hard enough to remember certain patterns in ballroom dances, but when you start putting choreography together, things can get even more complicated.  Because many different dance pieces can have varying levels of difficulty, everyone can have trouble picking up steps at some point.  The good news is that there are some techniques you can use to improve your ability to retain choreography.  So if you’re having some trouble remembering certain sections of your dance, or if you can’t do the steps without your instructor, these eight tips might help you!

 

Revisit your Learning Style

The first step to getting better at a skill is figuring out how you learn best.  In a previous post, we discussed seven different learning styles and how to determine what’s best for you.  To review, the learning styles are auditory, visual, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary.  If you’re having a hard time remembering steps, take some time to figure out which learning style is most effective for you and apply it when learning choreography.  For instance, if you are a visual learner, make sure you can clearly see the steps when your instructor does them.  Once you figure out the learning techniques that work best for you, it’s possible that you’ll see improvement in your retention.

 

Observe First

It’s pretty common to want to dance along with your instructor as they are showing you the steps, but sometimes it’s best to just stand back and watch their movements closely if you are having trouble picking up the steps.  There is a possibility that you could miss something if you are also moving along with the instructor (especially if there are turns or spins in the choreography).  After you’ve carefully observed enough times, you can then try doing the moves yourself.  By observing multiple times, you may catch some details that you might have missed before.

 

Look in the Mirror

Many dancers don’t spend enough time watching themselves when they dance.  They are often focused on the instructor or other dancers in their class.  Besides the choreography and steps, your body should be the main thing to focus on during rehearsals.  Of course you will need to watch your instructor to learn choreography, but you shouldn’t get too accustomed to them being in front of you.  When you spend all your time focusing on the instructor or another dancer, you might find that you have trouble recalling the steps when they go away.  This is because you’re mimicking their movements as they do them and aren’t actively remembering the steps.  As you are learning, watch yourself in the mirror and pay attention to how you are moving.  When you recognize how the movement feels in your own body, you will get more acquainted with the steps and you’ll have an easier time remembering them.

 

…But Don’t Become Dependent on the Mirror

Watching yourself in the mirror is important, but don’t watch yourself too much.  If you become dependent on the mirror, things can become difficult when you try to perform without it.  This is especially true in group dances; dancers will often figure out spacing by looking through the mirror, but once the mirror is gone they might have a harder time with spacing.  At first, you may not even notice that you are mirror-dependent, but you can try dancing away from the mirror from time to time to see if you can do well without it.  

 

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Obviously, you will need to practice a lot if you want to get better at any skill.  Muscle memory happens when you repeat a certain task to the point where your body can do the action without conscious effort.  The only way to achieve muscle memory is through lots of repetition, so you must practice often.  Your instructor will likely go over a step multiple times, so you should use those moments to fully go through the steps.  If you aren’t retaining in class, it’s also important that you practice as much as possible while you are at home.

 

Take Videos

Recording videos of yourself or your instructor dancing can greatly help when you are trying to recall steps after your lesson has ended.  If you record and watch yourself you can see exactly how you are moving and fix any spots that are giving you trouble.  If you record your instructor, you also might be able to catch small details in their movement that you didn’t see before.

 

Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes

Even if you mess up while dancing in class, follow through and continue your movement.  It’s not good to get into the habit of stopping every time you make a mistake.  Even if you forget or miss a step while going through choreography, continue with the movement and come back to the section that you forgot at a later time.

 

Ask Questions

If all else fails and you have tried all of the previous tips, just ask for help.  If there is something you do just not understand, ask your teacher or another peer and they just might be able to help you out!

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Preparing for a Long Rehearsal

Holiday showcase time is approaching quickly for many dance studios (we’ve been preparing for our annual Holiday Showcase here at Celebrity Dance Studio since September!).  A big performance usually means more time being put into rehearsing dances.  Long rehearsal hours can be exciting as they are leading up to the big event, but they can also be stressful.  However, if you plan ahead and take the time to ensure that you’re prepared for it, you might find that the day will go by smoothly.  Here are some tips you can use to make things less hectic.

 

Gather Items in Advance

It can be very frustrating to arrive at rehearsal and realize that you left an essential item at home.  This can throw your whole day off, especially if you’re having an important dress rehearsal.  To reduce the chance of forgetting items, you can try packing everything you need the night before.  Make a list of all your items, including costumes, makeup, water, etc. and make sure you put them in a bag or set them aside so you won’t forget them the next day.  This method isn’t completely fool-proof, but it can be a tremendous help to those who tend to forget their belongings.

 

Hydrate before Rehearsal

It’s obviously important for you to bring plenty of water with you to rehearsal, but if you aren’t already hydrated before stepping on the dance floor, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.  Drinking some water before dancing will ensure that you are ready to go and energized.  This will greatly reduce your chances of cramping up or getting dehydrated during practice because your body will already have the water it needs to function.  Try drinking at least one glass of water before you head out and continue to do so whenever you have a break.

 

Keep Warm

When you are dancing long hours, it’s always best to keep your body warm so you can prevent any injuries (especially now during these cold months!).  You should be using your breaks to rest, but you need to keep moving a little so that you don’t stiffen up too much.  Be careful when you stretch, as well.  Too much static stretching or stretching when your body isn’t warm can tear your muscles instead of properly lengthening them.  When in doubt, just do a few jumping jacks or run in place!

 

Wear Layers

Temperatures can vary in a dance studio or theatre.  When dancers are active, it can feel like a billion degrees, but when they stop moving for a while they can get chilly.  This is why it’s important to think about having multiple layers of clothing in case you need to add or remove clothing throughout the day.  As mentioned before, keeping your body warm can prevent injuries, so be prepared to bring along sweaters, jackets, sweatpants, and other items to warm you up.  You can also consider bringing a change of clothes.  You never know if you will get too sweaty or if your outfit will get ruined.  In that case, it’s best to have dry clothes available to change into.

 

Eat before, during, and after

Hydration and food go hand in hand, so we shouldn’t have to tell you much about the importance of eating before a long rehearsal, but it’s also good to bring snacks to eat during your breaks.  If you are allowed to have food in your rehearsal space, bring small treats like fruit, nuts, or smoothies.  You should also eat a full meal when you are done with practice to replenish your nutrients.

 

Caffeinate!

If you know it’s going to be an extra-long day, think about bringing some coffee or tea to keep your energy level up.  If you are not a coffee or tea drinker, you can substitute another kind of snack or drink to give you a boost.  Just bring something that will keep you awake and alert the entire time.

 

Stay Focused and Grounded

Since you will be having a long dance day, it’s likely that you will gradually tire out, and your focus might waver.  This will naturally happen to everyone, but you can remind yourself to concentrate and stay present.  There are a few things you can do to ground yourself: keep moving around, go over choreography, and drink water, coffee, or tea between breaks.  This way, you will stay on top of your game even though you are putting in long hours.

 

Bring Pain Meds (Just in Case)

Even if you do everything correctly, there is still the chance that you will hurt yourself a little or develop minor aches and pains.  When this happens, it’s always good to have some medicine on hand so you can make it through the day.  Of course you should never try to dance when you have a major injury or acute pain, but if you have a small headache or soreness in your muscles, Tylenol or Advil should make you feel normal again so you can focus on dancing.

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Gifts for Dancers

It’s already October, so that means holiday season is approaching quickly!  If you know a dancer, you might be thinking of a few gifts that you could get them - you may be thinking of items like shoes, competition outfits, dance classes, or tickets to a show or dance convention.  All of those ideas are great, but they can end up being a bit pricey.  However, there are some options that dancers will still appreciate, and you won’t even have to spend too much money!

 

Jewelry and Accessories

With any costume that a dancer has, it’s likely that they will always need some accessories to go along with it.  There are a variety of different items you can get for dancers: hair pieces, gloves, ties, hats, scarves…sunglasses?   The possibilities are endless!  Dancers may even enjoy small key chains so that they can attach them to their dance bags. (And speaking of bags…)

 

Dance Bag

Dancers always need a place to store their important items like shoes, snacks, and water.  A lot of them do not have a designated dance bag; many carry their items in purses or backpacks, which can cause confusion if they are used elsewhere.  To prevent items from being misplaced, most dancers should designate a separate bag where they can keep their dance-items.  The bags don’t have to be anything elaborate - small backpacks or totes will do just fine.  You can even find bags with cool designs on them!

 

Refillable Water Bottles

Hydration is a priority, especially for active dancers.  The best way to ensure that they are getting enough water is to constantly keep a water bottle on hand.  Refillable bottles can be a useful tool because they remind you to get your daily intake of water, and it’s a good way to keep track of how much water you have consumed.  They also save dancers money so that they won’t have to continuously buy tons of plastic water bottles (this is better for the environment, too).

 

Sewing Kit/Costume Repair Kit

Because of the many performances dancers are often a part of, they end up having a ton of costumes.  Therefore, they also end up having a lot of costume malfunctions and mishaps.  Rips, tears, stains, and broken zippers are inevitable, so it’s always good to have a backup plan.  You can get them a “toolbox” with many different items like sewing needles and string, super glue, safety pins, costume tape, bobby pins, stain remover, and more.  Your dancer friend will surely be thanking you later when they need to do a quick fix on their outfits!

 

Socks…

This one may sound like a strange idea, but if you give a dancer a new pair of socks, they will totally appreciate it!  Since they are constantly moving, they like keeping their feet warm.  In fact, dancers appreciate a variety of warm-ups - legwarmers, sweatpants, and sweatshirts are also items that are useful to any dancer.  Not only do they help to keep dancers warm, but they are also cozy and help to protect their feet on those rare occasions when they don’t use dance shoes.

 

Food…

Dancers are constantly on the move so they obviously get hungry often.  Therefore gifting a dancer with food or snacks is a fantastic idea!  You could get them a gift card to their favorite restaurant or food store.  You can also supply them with snacks such as nuts, crackers, pretzels, and other small, quick items they can stuff in their bags and eat on the go.  Every once and a while, dancers love to have treats like chocolate bars and candy, so don’t hesitate to get them junk food, too!  Since they also need to stay energized during the day, coffee, tea, and energy bars are also fantastic gift ideas.

 

Massages

Finally, dancers will certainly love any type of massage package you gift to them.  After a long day of dancing, a massage is the perfect thing to help them wind down, reset, and ease tension in their bodies.  Getting a dancer a gift card to a massage parlor would one of the best things to do for them.  You could even get them portable massagers or foam rollers so they can roll out their muscles on the go!

 

Happy Dancing! ^_^