Preparing the First Dance for Your Wedding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy dancing!!! ^_^

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·         El Gato Montes – Banda de Aviación de Madrid

·         Fuego – Bond

·         Malagueña – Edmundo Ros

·         Olé Torero – Empress Orchestra

·         Toreo Fino – The Columbia Ballroom Orchestra

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

·         Metropole – Orchester Felix Gary

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

·         Matador Paso – Andy Fortuna

·         Volare – Gipsy Kings

 

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

·         Roundtable Rival – Lindsey Stirling

·         Time is Running Out – Muse

·         Bad Romance – Lady Gaga

·         SexyBack – Justin Timberlake

·         Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi

·         Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna

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

·         Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

·         Temperature – Sean Paul

·         Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

 

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

Happy dancing!  ^_^

Are You Ready For Competitive Ballroom?

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

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

 

Figure Out Which Competition to Go To

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

 

Get Familiar with the Categories, Levels, and Approved Figures

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

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

 

Plan Your Rehearsal Times

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

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

 

Consider a Coach

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

 

Get Your Costumes Ready

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

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

 

Build Endurance

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

 

Come Prepared and Ready

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

 

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

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

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

 

The Black Swan

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

 

“Dances with Wolves”

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

 

The Sharks and the Jets

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

 

[Fox]trot

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

 

The “Waltzing” Dead

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

 

[Chips and] Salsa

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

 

Lemon “Merengue” Pie

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

 

An Iconic Dancer

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

 

Happy dancing! ^_^

How to Motivate Yourself as a Dancer

Everyone has days (or weeks…or months…) where they feel unmotivated or burnt out.  You can lose motivation whenever you feel like your goals are unattainable or if you feel like you are not moving forward with a certain path.  You can feel burnt out whenever you work too hard and get overwhelmed.  Even dancers have these feelings arise from time to time.  Dancers already have to put in a lot of hard, physical work in order to excel in their craft, so when their motivation runs out, it can be even more difficult for them.  The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to pull yourself out any slump that you find yourself in.  Here are some ways that dancers can reenergize and motivate themselves:               

Watch Dance Videos

One of my favorite things to do to get excited about dance is to watch videos of other dancers performing routines.  YouTube is full of awesome dance videos!  There are even people who make a living from choreographing, producing, and filming videos for others to enjoy on social media.  Not only are these videos entertaining, but they can be motivating as well.  Sometimes just seeing how advanced the dancers are and how well they’re performing can inspire others to improve their own skills.  Watching dance videos can also give you new ideas.  For instance, if you see a cool move in the video, you can try doing it, or make a point to practice so that you’ll be able to execute the move. 

YouTube isn’t your only source for dance videos; you can also watch television shows like So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing with the Stars.  Those shows feature amazing choreographers and highly talented dancers.  Many of the competitors and dancers even have encouraging stories to tell.  Check out these shows to see if they inspire you!

Just Keep Dancing

Sitting and watching other people dance is fun for a while, but you can’t just sit around and watch others forever!  If you want to be a better dancer, you have to keep moving – even if you are not feeling motivated.  It can be hard to keep dancing when you don’t feel like it.  Still, if you know that you are serious about your training, then it’s important to not give up.  In my experience, just getting up and going to class or a lesson is enough to make me feel better.  I find that I always regret when I skip class.  Once you actually get moving, I’m sure you will start feeling better about dance again.  You instructor may even have something planned for that lesson that may end up motivating you!  If you are feeling burnt out or highly frustrated from dance, then it is okay to take it easy on your lesson or even take a break.  Even if you do take a breather from dance, it’s good to keep thinking about your long-term goals so that you can continue moving forward.

Challenge Yourself

Giving yourself a challenge may seem like the last thing you’d want to do if you are feeling unmotivated, but it could actually be a good way to reenergize yourself.  A reason many dancers may suddenly feel unenthusiastic about dance is because they are stagnant or feel like they aren’t making progress.  They might just be sticking to the styles and moves that they are comfortable with.  This is fine if you are working on perfecting something, but you have to recognize when it’s time to move on.  Try challenging yourself to begin learning new moves or tricks so that you have something fresh to work on.  In order to grow, you have to be willing to challenge yourself to do new things. 

If there happens to be a move that has you frustrated and you feel like you’re getting nowhere, try tackling it from a different perspective, or changing how you would normally execute it.  You can ask your instructor or another professional for advice on how to modify or adjust a move so that it works for you.

Dabble in Other Styles

In addition to challenging yourself with other moves, you can also try completely immersing yourself into other dance styles for a while.  For example, if you only ever do Tango, try Cha-Cha.  If you are a Samba dancer, try Waltz.  If you’re a Ballet dancer...try Hip-Hop!  It’s always good to switch up your style every once in a while.  This can be especially helpful if you are feeling burnt out from your go-to style.  In order to get away from your regular routine, try something new that will rejuvenate you.  Even just covering the basics of a new style can be extremely refreshing.  You never know what you’ll really like until you try it!  You may end up wanting to specialize in that new style!

Get Artsy! - Create a Vision Board

A vision board is any sort of board on which you display images that represent whatever you want to have in your life.  You can create a vision board for dance by listing all of the things you want to accomplish in your dance journey and displaying those things on a poster board.  People usually write down their goals in a journal, but vision boards are nice because they give you a visual representation of what you want.  They can help make your goals seem less abstract.  They can be a fun art project!  Once you have your board set up, you can hang up in place where you will see it every day.  If you don’t think you have the time to create a vision board (or if you just don’t like crafts), Pinterest is an awesome website you can use to quickly collect ideas for multiple fields, including dance!

Relax

Earlier I mentioned that you should push yourself to keep practicing, even if you are feeling unmotivated, but if you are experiencing extreme burn-out, then a period of rest is definitely what you need.  “Burn-out” comes from being overworked and mentally exhausted.  Many professionals can get burnt out or frustrated from dance every once in a while.  No matter how much you love to dance, you could still end up doing too much and find yourself overwhelmed.  Everyone needs a break sometimes!  I know there are some dancers who never have an “off-season” like other athletes do, but it’s important to take some time to rest, even if it’s just for a day.  It’s good to be tremendously passionate about dance, but remember that you still need to recuperate at some point.  A short vacation may be exactly what you need to recharge your mind and body.

Use Positive Affirmations and Reframe Thoughts

Using affirmations is common in many fields, including dance.  It may seem weird, at first, to constantly tell yourself encouraging statements…even if you don’t fully believe them.  However, this tactic has been known to positively affect the way people think about themselves and the work they do.  Affirmations are a great way to motivate yourself, especially when you are not feeling too good about your dance progress.  Telling yourself that “you are doing a fantastic job”, or “you will succeed” can lead you to feel and perform better.  As the saying goes – “Fake it ‘till you make it! 

If positive affirmations still aren’t your thing, you can try reframing your negative thoughts.  This is a technique that many psychologists suggest for individuals who constantly let their negative thoughts affect their daily lives and actions.  For example – if you find yourself thinking, “I’m not motivated because I’m a bad dancer,” try reframing that to, “I am having the thought that I’m not motivated because I’m a bad dancer.”  This way, you’ll be less likely to internalize the thought and consider it as true.  Instead you’ll be recognizing that you just had an automatic thought, which isn’t necessarily a true statement about yourself.  All humans experience automatic thoughts – positive and negative – but that doesn’t mean all of your thoughts are facts.  It can take some time to get used to reframing your thoughts, but it can be totally life changing once you get used to it.

Retail Therapy

Okay…so this is particular piece advice is kind of terrible, but sometimes it helps me!  If I am feeling unmotivated or inadequate in dance, I occasionally buy myself a new dance outfit or shoes and think to myself, “I will look so good dancing in this!”  Or, if I am feeling like I need to improve my skills, I might sign up for a new class or workshop from which I can get some inspiration.  Honestly though… spending money may not be the best way to cope with negative feelings, but…it’s just an idea!  If you do choose to buy new shoes or enroll in a new class, don’t go too crazy with your spending spree!

Talk it Out

Sometimes we just need to talk through our problems or frustrations.  Talking about and processing our issues can make us feel so much better.  It may not be that we need a solution to a problem; we may just need to vent.  Lots of frustrations and concerns arise in the world of dance, so it’s common for people to need to talk about them.  If you find yourself feeling upset about your training, unmotivated, or burnt out, you can try talking to a friend or fellow dancer.  You can even talk to your instructor or another professional for inspiration or help.  Lots of people have experienced lows periods in their dance journeys, so they can give you good advice for how to deal with any negativity you might feel.

Happy Dancing! ^_^

Dancing Is For Everyone: 5 Dancers Who Overcame Physical Challenges

If you are a dancer, you already know how much fun it is, but sometimes dancing can put a lot of stress on your body.  Being an able-bodied dancer can be difficult enough, but imagine being a person who has physical limitations or disabilities.  For many people, the loss of a limb or losing your sight or hearing might mean that they can never dance as well as others, if at all.  However, there are dancers all over the world with disabilities who are highly successful in their field.  Many have been dancing for a very long time and some have just begun.  Either way, these dancers are highly determined individuals that find creative ways to make dancing accessible for themselves and others like them.  I’m going to present short biographies of five amazing people who have pushed through their circumstances in order to dance.  Their stories show us that if someone’s passion for dance is great enough, almost nothing can stop them from pursuing their dreams.  These stories also show us that dancing can be for any person, no matter what their status or situation may be!

 

George Exantus

When a massive earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, millions of lives were gravely affected, including that of George Exantus.  George was a Latin/ballroom dancer before the incident, but when the earthquake caused his home to collapse, he was trapped under the rubble for three days.  He was eventually rescued, but part of his leg had to be amputated.  In spite of this, he never stopped dreaming of getting back on the dance floor.  George has stated that, “the will to dance is what kept his spirits up.”  With the help of doctors, he was able to receive a prosthetic leg which enabled him to walk, and he was even able to get back to dancing only eight months after going through operations.  Now he is back to doing his favorite styles, including Salsa!  He also performs all over the world, showing people how nothing can stop his love of dance.  George’s story is not only one of physical perseverance, but emotional, as well.  It is pretty amazing how he finds his happiness through dancing, even after a great disaster. 

 

Kitty Lunn

Kitty Lunn was a principal dancer with The Washington Ballet and was just getting started on Broadway when she had an accident that changed her career forever.  One evening, she slipped on a patch of ice and fell down a flight of stairs which ended up breaking her back, damaging her spinal cord, and rendering her paraplegic.  Her doctors told her she would never be able to walk again, so at that moment she also thought she’d never dance again.  Lunn tried to stop thinking of dancing, but she couldn’t.  Eventually she became inspired enough to start taking classes again, even in a wheelchair.  In an interview, she recalled how the famous dancer, Agnes de Mille, came to her ballet company when she was young and told her, “You have to learn to dance in the body you have.”  These words reminded her that if she wanted to dance, she had to accept her body, even with limited mobility.  She now continues to take lessons, teach other dancers with disabilities, and has even started her own dance company, Infinity Dance Studio.  Her company is for disabled dancers like herself who won’t let their disabilities keep them from doing what they love.  Kitty Lunn states, “The dancer inside you doesn’t care about your cancer, loneliness, or your inability to use your legs; the dancer inside you just wants to keep dancing.”  Kitty’s story also showcases the importance of accessibility in the dance world.  She created a space for dancers with disabilities because she knew there were other dancers like her.  It’s important to be aware of the fact that not all dancers can stand on two feet; but that doesn’t make them any less of a dancer.

 

Jean Sok

Much like George Exantus, Jean Sok does not let the fact that he is an amputee keep him from dancing.  However, he has a bit a different approach to dancing.  He doesn’t use a prosthetic leg, but instead dances with his crutches and sometimes without them by balancing on one leg.  Jean lost his left leg at age 15 and started dancing soon after.  While he prefers not to talk about how he lost his leg, he has admitted that he went through periods where people discouraged him and he lacked inspiration, but ultimately he never doubted that he could be a dancer.  In an interview, he states that “anytime he wants to find a job, he auditions as a normal person because he doesn’t feel like he has any limitations.”  Watching him dance is like watching him live up to his words.  As an acrobatic hip-hop and break dancer, his movements are flawless!  Jean is currently a professional dancer who has performed at the Billboard Music Awards, on So You Think You Can Dance, and in Cirque du Soleil’s show, Michael Jackson: The Immortal Tour.  What’s notable in Jean’s story is his statement about “not having any limitations.”  This is an important point because it reminds us that people with disabilities are able to have the same opportunities and perform at an equal level as other professional dancers.  As the classic saying goes; “you can’t judge a book by its cover!”

 

Shaheem Sanchez

Shaheem Sanchez is another hip hop dancer who refuses to let his circumstances stop him from dancing.  He has been deaf since the age of 4 and started dancing at age 11.  His late father was also a dancer, so he wanted to follow in his footsteps.  With his specialty being hip-hop, he dances by feeling the vibrations of the music and allows his body to respond through movement.  He is not the first deaf dancer to use this technique.  There are many other hearing-impaired dancers like Shaheem all over the world who use the music’s vibrations to dance.  He admits there are some challenges that come with dancing to vibrations, such as outside noises that might distract him, but he is always determined to overcome his struggles. Shaheem, who is 26 years old, currently showcases his moves on his personal YouTube channel for all to see!  His story is one that breaks down a common assumption many people have– that you need to be able to hear music to dance.  Shaheem instead makes the most of his other senses.  He shows that what really matters is a strong will and enthusiasm for dance.

 

Benjamin Yonattan

Benjamin Yonattan started taking ballet classes when he was 5 years-old after his parents saw how active he was.  However, after a visit from the eye doctor in 2013, Benjamin found out that he had Retinal Dystrophy, which meant he would lose his sight.  As of now, he has lost all of his side-vision.  He describes his vision like “looking through a tiny straw”.  At first, it was difficult for him to keep dancing because he was having trouble with balance, leaps, and turns.  Eventually his coach was able to help him learn to feel his body instead of relying on his sight.  Now 15 years-old, he has danced with Young People’s Ballet Theater, the Ohio Conservatory of Ballet, and the Grand Rapids Ballet Junior Company.  In addition to this impressive line of work, he was also a quarterfinalist on season 10 of America’s Got Talent.  His special reminder to others is, “do not let anyone tell you that you’re different or that you can’t do what you want to do.  You can.  Follow your dreams, no matter what.”

 

Happy dancing!  ^_^

How to Make the Most of Private Lessons

If you are a dancer who is taking private lessons, you may have a variety of objectives.  You may be dancing just for fun, taking lessons with a partner, or preparing for a show or competition.  Whatever your reason is, just know that private lessons are one of the best options you can choose when you go to a dance studio.  The primary perk is that the lesson is 100% focused on you (and your partner if you have one).  Group classes can be awesome, but these one-on-one lessons will allow you to work specifically on the dance elements that you love most.  Here are some ways to get the full benefit private lessons:

Have a Game Plan

It helps to walk into your studio already knowing what you want to work on.  If possible, think about your goals for the session.  Are you dancing just for fun?  Are you training for a competition?  Do you just want to work on technique?  Figuring out what you hope to achieve will help your lesson go by smoothly.  If you can’t think up a plan for yourself, ask your instructor for some suggestions!  It will also be very helpful for you to be aware of your own personal needs and limitations.  Not all dancers learn at the same pace and over time you will figure out what kind of learner you are.

Discover Your Style

In addition to coming in with a game plan, you can also discover which styles work best for you.  This is also something you can figure out over an extended period of time.  As you dive into a variety of styles with your instructor, you’ll start finding out which ones you really enjoy, which ones are easy for you, and which ones are difficult.  Some movements that are easy for one person may be hard for another, so take notice of the styles that you are most comfortable with.

Challenge Yourself

Of course it’s important to identify the dances and styles within your comfort zone, but it’s not good to stay in that zone forever.  To challenge yourself, you eventually will have to revisit the figures that you struggle with or work on the dances that you don’t like so much.  You may surprise yourself in the future – something that you once found difficult may soon turn out to be a walk in the park!  Make sure you are challenging yourself adequately, but also be sure not to overexert yourself.  You can always take a break and come back to a difficult step at a later time.

Get Proper Shoes

I discussed this point a bit in the previous blog post, but having functional shoes to dance in will make your lesson more satisfying.  If you don’t have actual ballroom shoes you don’t have to pull out your wallet right now.  Just make sure your shoes fit you well enough that they won’t fall off or trip you up.  If anything, you should bring comfortable shoes that you know will allow you to glide easily on the dance floor.

Ask for Help

I brought up asking questions before, and the same thing applies here: if you have a question about a dance move or any other technique, don’t hesitate to ask about it.  Likewise, if you are struggling with a step, let your instructor know so they can help you out!  Since you are taking a private lesson, you have more freedom to ask as many questions as you want because it is your lesson.  So, take advantage of the opportunity to get some answers!  You can also use your lesson to learn new steps.  If there is a particular figure or dance that you are interested in learning, you should definitely ask your instructor to show it to you.

Take Notes

When I say “take notes” I don’t literally mean that you have to pull out a notebook and jot down every word your instructor says as if you are in a lecture.  You can “take notes” however it suits you.  Most dancers take mental notes of their instructor’s statements.  Others will video record themselves or an instructor so that they can see how they look and see where they can apply corrections.  In some cases dancers will actually write their own notes to look over later, but it really depends on the individual.  As mentioned earlier, all dancers have different ways of learning things, so just figure out what works best for you!  In any case, it’s very important to consider pointers and apply any corrections your instructors give you.

Performance Opportunities

Performing isn’t for everyone, but it may be beneficial to at least think about it.  Performing can really help you develop as a dancer because it makes you more conscious about technique and the overall quality of your dancing.  Even just the process of preparing a routine is a great experience; you’ll get to focus on enhancing certain movements and can even play around with themes and choose interesting music!  Performances are also something that can help you to get out of your comfort zone.  Ultimately, they can be really fulfilling experiences that make you feel good in the end.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

As always, it’s very important to practice the moves that you’ve been learning in your lessons.  Not only does “practice make perfect”, but it also helps you to remember your steps.  If you really want to improve as a dancer you should be going over your steps at home.  Depending on how much space you have, your mobility may vary when you are outside of the studio, but you’ll still be giving yourself a pretty decent review of the figures.  Another great way to practice is to attend practice parties.  This way you will have a proper dance floor and multiple partners to dance with (plus, they’re fun and you’ll get food)!

Be Consistent

Everything you learn in private lessons will stick better if you go to your studio at least once a week.  Most dancers who are looking to improve their skills take weekly lessons.  This type of consistency will also ensure that you remember the dance steps you learn.  If you are really ambitious, you can even start taking classes multiple times a week!

Enjoy Yourself!

Finally, one of the goals of your private lesson should always be to leave the studio feeling good about yourself.  This doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you mastered a dance style or executed a figure perfectly.  Your instructors are there to make you better dancers, but primarily they want to make sure you are having a good time.  Try not to stress about perfection or rack your brain trying to remember steps if it’s just going to make you unhappy by the end of the day.  Above everything else, dancing should make you smile!

Happy dancing! ^_^

How to Make the Most of Group Lessons

If you are currently enrolled in group classes or if you are a newbie who is just getting started, you are already off to a great start!  Group classes can be perfect for individuals or couples who are interested in learning some popular social dances while also interacting with other students.  There are so many wonderful benefits of taking these classes, so here are some tips to ensure that you gain as much as you can from the experience.

 

Don’t Be Late!

The first thing you can do to get the most out of a group class is to be early.  If you arrive a few minutes before it actually begins, you’ll have some extra time to prepare yourself.  It could also be a good time to ask any last-minute questions you may have about the class.  Even if you can’t show up early, just try and make sure that you aren’t late.  The instructor has to use their time productively and teach as much as they can, so they can’t really wait for anyone who is running late (sorry!).  If you are late, you may miss an important step that was shown in the beginning.  The instructor might not have time to review it, so it’s best to try and get to class on time.  If you do end up being late, try and see if you can get the instructor or another student to give you a quick review after class.

 

Bring the Right Shoes

In order to dance around the floor as easily as possible, you will need the right kind of shoes.  If you don’t already have dance shoes, there’s no need to run to the store right now.  All you have to do is make sure your shoes will not stick to the dance floor, slip off your feet, or trip you up.  For instance – flip flops, gym shoes, and shoes that have anything higher than a 4 inch heel will probably make it harder for you to move freely.  When in doubt, just bring comfortable dress/street shoes.

 

Meet Other Students

A nice thing about taking group lessons is that there are multiple people in the class, so you’ll have the opportunity to meet other students.  If you are a person who usually takes private lessons, joining in on a group class every once in a while can allow you to meet students you normally wouldn’t see during your regular lesson.  New students come to group classes often, so you will get the chance to make some new friends as well!

 

Dance with Other People

A standard format in group classes is that students will have to constantly change dance partners throughout the class.  This ensures that the people who come to class without a partner get a chance to dance with someone.  It’s also a great way to develop into a better lead or follow.  Every person moves differently, and adapting to a variety of different partners is one of the best skills you can have.  If you have a partner that you normally dance with, don’t be afraid to switch it up! 

 

Ask Questions

 Asking for help when you need it is probably one of the most important things you can do.  The classes can move at a pretty quick pace, so if there is something you need the instructor to go over, don’t hesitate to ask!  In addition, the instructor will always stop and ask if anyone has questions after they have showed a step, so if you do have a question, make sure to let them know!

 

Focus On Your Own Progress

Many group classes may be multi-level, so you will likely see students ranging from beginner to advanced.  Don’t let this discourage you joining the class.  If you are a beginner and you see someone in your class who appears to be moving effortlessly, don’t worry about them.  It is okay to admire someone else’s dancing, but focusing too much on them isn’t the point of your lesson.  Plus, you never know how much prior training that person may have under their belt.  Try to just have fun with your dancing and concentrate mainly on your own progress. 

 

Practice!

You will end up learning multiple dance steps by the end of class, so it would be sad to forget those steps after a few days.  The best way to make sure you remember everything is to practice.  After class you can go home and work on the steps by yourself or with a partner.  If you have time, you can even stay a few minutes after class to review the steps with other students.

 

Keep Coming Back

In addition to practicing, you can also make sure you retain dance steps by coming to class frequently.  Most dancers show improvement in their dancing when they attend class at least once a week.  If the group class is progressive, the instructor may even teach new steps every day.  It would be best to have as many steps as possible in your repertoire, so try to come to as many classes as you can (also, your instructor and fellow students will miss you!).

 

Be Mindful

Group classes can be a fun way to catch up with some friends or make new ones, but always remember to be considerate of everyone in the class.  While the instructor is teaching a step, try not to talk too loudly over them.  Other students may have a hard time hearing what the instructor is saying, especially in a large ballroom.  It’s also better for you to give your full attention to the dance steps.  You will have plenty of time to chat with friends after class!

 

Happy dancing!  ^_^

What to Expect at Our Practice Parties

What is a practice party?

A practice party is almost exactly what it sounds like; it is a party where you can practice the dance steps that you have been working on.  A lot of students start taking lessons because they want to be better social dancers.  Therefore, a practice party would be perfect for them to attend so they can try out their moves in setting where there will be many people dancing on the floor at once.  Even if you are taking lessons for more than social dancing, or if you have only taken a few lessons, a practice party will definitely be a great experience!

If you’re new and have never been to one of our practice parties, you might not know what to expect.  Each studio will have their own unique way of running their parties.  Here at Celebrity, we like to provide a fun experience for our students while also making sure that they are utilizing their dance skills in the best way.  You don’t even need to be a student of ours to join in on the fun – everyone is welcome!  Here are some neat things you can look forward to at our practice parties:

 

Dancing (Obviously!)

If you go to a dance party, there will surely be lots of dancing!  There will also be a good variety of music to dance to.  In case you don’t know the dance you should be doing for a particular song, no worries!  Our instructors will announce what dance you can do every time a new song comes on.  It’s best to get in as much dancing as you can during the party, but you can definitely sit out whenever you need to.

 

Food and Drink

What is a party without refreshments?  It would be a pretty lame one if you ask me, so it’s a good thing that we provide some fuel for you!  At our parties, we always have food and drinks for our guests.  Some of our students will even bring a dish or some treats to share, but it’s never required.  We’ve got you covered!

 

Meeting New Friends and Catching Up with Old Ones

Our parties are a fantastic way to get to know other students that you haven’t met before.  You can take this opportunity to strike up a conversation with some new faces, make new friends, and also ask them for a dance!  The parties are also a good way to catch up with the friends you already know.  For new students, this is the best way to get you acquainted with the studio’s community and meet other dancers.  Many of our veteran students will introduce themselves and may even ask for a dance, so don’t be shy!

The other great thing about practice parties is that it gives you the opportunity to practice dancing with someone besides your normal partner or instructor.  Dancing with lots of different partners will definitely help you become a better lead or follow, so try and grab as many people as you can!

 

Themed Parties

Every once in a while we host special parties.  These may be randomly themed (ask us about our “Spring Festival”!) or planned for holidays and specific events (like Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, etc.).  For example, you can always expect us to throw an awesome Halloween party each year.  We even go all out with costumes and decorations.  You’ll know when a big party is coming up when we start changing the look of the studio!  At these special parties we may also throw in extra activities like games or raffles.  These are also fantastic opportunities to take photos, especially if is a costume party!  Just ask us when our next themed party will be.  We’re always thinking of new and exciting ideas for our students!

 

Group Classes

We offer group dance lessons at our studio almost daily, but how awesome would it be to attend a party and get a lesson out of it as well?  We sometimes kick off our parties by teaching the basics of a popular dance to everyone in attendance.  The dance we teach may be something you are already familiar with, like Rumba or Hustle, or it may be something completely new to you, like Bachata or Nightclub Two Step!  Regardless of the dance it’s a good opportunity to brush up on your steps, learn some new ones, and practice dancing with new people!

 

Performances

One of my favorite aspects about parties at our studio is that we occasionally have our students put on a show!  Every now and then, we will have performances at our parties (especially if it is a themed/holiday party).  We give our students opportunities to perform routines that they have been working on for a while, or we have them perform dance demos in preparation for any upcoming competitions.  Sometimes our staff will even put together a special number just for all of you! 

 

 Line Dances

Another great perk of coming to our parties is that you may get the chance to learn a line dance, too!  From time to time, we teach a quick little line dances during the party.  If you don’t know, a line dance is a choreographed routine with a repeated sequence of steps in which a group of people dance in unison throughout an entire song (example: “The Electric Slide”).  These are really cool because once you get used to the steps you can start adding your own flair and have some fun with the choreography.

 

Instructors Will Be There Too!

One last thing I’ll mention about our practice parties is that our instructors will always be available in case you need help with a dance.  You can even ask them to dance with you if you’d like!  In addition to being helpful with steps, you can also just chat and get to know some of them a little better.

 

Essentially, our practice parties are a wonderful way to start diving into our dance community.  Not only will you be practicing all of your moves, but you will also be exposed to the social aspects of dancing.  More importantly, you will have a fun time with some great people!  Check our calendar on our website to find out when our next parties are!

Happy dancing!  ^_^

Dance to the Music: Smooth Edition

In my previous blog, I discussed some of the musical qualities for certain dances in American Rhythm.  I also provided some songs you can use for those dances.  This time around I’m going to dive into American Smooth dances and its music.

Foxtrot

A lot of Foxtrot music has a big-band or swing feel to it.  The dance itself has flowing walking steps with a gentle rise and fall.  Think of it as a nice walk in the park – it is somewhat playful.  A traditional Foxtrot playlist will include music from Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, or artists that sound like them.  But if you are looking for modern-sounding songs, here are a few that will work well:

·         Ophelia – Lumineers

·         Lucky – Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat

·         I’m Yours – Jason Mraz

·         Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

·         Mango Tree – Zack Brown Band and Sara Bareilles

Waltz

Waltz differs from other dances mainly because of its time signature.  Most dances are in 4/4 time, but Waltz is danced in 3/4 time, which basically means that you just keep counting to 3 in order to keep time.  American Waltz has a slower tempo than Viennese Waltz which makes it look a lot smoother.  Most Waltz sounds very classical, but you can also find contemporary Waltzes.  As long as the song is in 3/4 time and is slow, you can dance to it!  Here are a few examples:

·         Come Away With Me – Norah Jones

·         At This Moment – Michael Bublé

·         You Light Up My Life – Whitney Houston

·         Make It Rain – Ed Sheeran

·         If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Seal

Tango

Tango is a dramatic dance that has a staccato feel and the music should also sound similar.  Tango music traditionally has a lot of strings with powerful, accented beats.  Admittedly, i t can be hard to find modern-sounding Tango music.  Not a lot of pop stars make Tango-sounding songs, but you may occasionally stumble upon a few modern songs that feel like a Tango.  There are also some artists out there who specifically make contemporary Tango music with a bit of an electronic sound.  You can even find covers of popular songs that have been remixed to give it a Tango vibe:

·         Sweet Dreams – Tanghetto

·         En Orsai – Demarco Electronic Project

·         Telephone – Martynas

·         Hey Sexy Lady – Shaggy

·         Infiltrado – Bajofondo

Viennese Waltz

As mentioned before, the Viennese Waltz moves at a quicker tempo than its American counterpart.  It is defined by its constant turning movements as well.  Music for a Viennese Waltz will also be in 3/4 time, but will be faster.  Luckily, you can find many modern Viennese Waltzes.  Here are a few favorites of mine:

·         Keep Holding On – Avril Lavigne

·         Sandcastles – Beyoncé

·         If I Knew – Bruno Mars

·         Say Something – A Great Big World

·         Love on the Brain – Rihanna

I think finding music for smooth dances can sometimes be more difficult than finding music for other dance categories, but you can always use online resources to look up more Waltz, Foxtrot, and Tango music.  Spotify and YouTube are great tools for discovering playlists and there are so many to choose from!  So take a look at the suggestions I listed above or even search for some other playlists to find the perfect music for you!

Happy dancing!  ^_^

Dance to the Music: Rhythm Edition

Dance to the Music: Rhythm Edition

One great thing about taking dance lessons at a studio is that your instructor will always have good music for you to dance to.  They know which songs work best for Rumba, Swing, Cha Cha, etc., so if you ask them to find a song for you to Rumba to, they will likely pick out a good one.  But, if you are away from your studio you may not know exactly what songs to practice with, especially if you are a new dancer. 

A very frequently asked question with new dance students is, “how will I know what dance to do based on the song that is playing?”  This is a very important question for beginners, because when you’re first learning to dance, it can be hard to identify the style just by listening to a song.  Over time, you will become familiar enough with the music and the rhythm of the dances to know which songs to use.  There are so many styles to go over, but for now I will briefly explain some of the musical qualities of the dances in American Rhythm. I will also provide a few examples of contemporary songs you can use for practice (or even performances)!

 

Rumba

If you've seen or danced the Rumba, you may know that most of its music is smooth and slow.  While you can dance the Rumba to traditional Latin music, you’ll find that much of today’s pop music follows the steady and smooth feeling of the Rumba.  Basically, you can think of it this way: if the song has a fairly slow and steady beat, you can do a Rumba.  This is also why a lot of wedding couples use the Rumba in their first dances – their songs are usually slow!  Here are some good examples of modern-day Rumbas:

·         Lovesong – Adele

·         Stand by Me – Florence and the Machine

·         The Way I Am – Ingrid Michaelson

There are other songs which may seem more upbeat than a typical Rumba, but the underlying beat and tempo still allows it to fit in the Rumba category.  Some examples are:

·         Prayer in C – Lily Wood and the Prick (Robin Schultz remix)

·         Somebody that I Used to Know – Gotye

 

Cha Cha

Cha Cha is one of the faster Latin dances, so the music will reflect that as well.  As with Rumba, there are traditional Latin Cha Cha songs that you can dance to, but you can also find many pop songs that are Cha Chas.  The defining beats in this dance are those three “cha-cha-chas” we do in the middle of a pattern, so you should be able to hear and pick out those three beats in the music as well.  While most Cha Cha music is upbeat, not all are so fast.  If you are just starting out with this dance, here are some classic slow Cha Chas that you can dance to:

·         Smooth – Santana and Rob Thomas

·         Sway – Michael Bublé

Once you’ve gotten used to Cha Cha you can try these songs which are a bit faster:

·         Cake by the Ocean – DNCE

·         My Type – Saint Motel

·         Mr. Saxobeat – Alexandra Stan

 

Swing

When you think of “swing music” the first thoughts that come to mind may be big-band music from the 1930s-40s, or 1950s rock and roll.  These ideas aren’t wrong since early Swing has its roots in those types of music.  The Swing is a fairly quick and upbeat dance, and so is the music.  The East Coast Swing contains triple steps, so most of the music we use for that dance is bouncy and fun.  Here are some good songs for a triple-time Swing:

·         The Beautiful People – Christina Aguilera (from the movie, Burlesque)

·         HandClap – Fitz and the Tantrums

·         Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man

Single-Time Swing is a variation of the East Coast version which removes the triple-steps.  Because of this, our steps are able to move a little faster, and the music can be sped up as well.  Here are some of my favorites:

·         Candyman – Christina Aguilera

·         Call the Law– Outkast (from the movie, Idlewild)

·         Dear Future Husband – Meghan Trainor

Finally, West Coast Swing has a slightly slower tempo and a bit of a smoother beat.  There are a lot of newly released pop songs which work perfectly as West Coast Swings.  Here are some really nice ones:

·         Feels – Calvin Harris

·         It Ain’t Me – Selena Gomez

·         Attention – Charlie Puth

 

Bonus - Salsa

While Salsa is technically a Nightclub dance and not American Rhythm, I recognize its popularity and that many of you may want to practice it.  Salsa is a dance with quick footwork.  Traditional Salsa music will have syncopated backgrounds and strong brass sections.  However, if you’re looking for contemporary music, you’ll find that some music that maintains the Latin beats while incorporating a kind of “hip-hop” feel.  Some examples of the Salsa songs of today are:

·         Maria, Maria – Santana

·         Problem – Ariana Grande

·         Despacito (Salsa Version) – Luis Fonsi

 

Hopefully these song suggestions have given you some insight into how certain music will sound for certain dances.  If you want to find more music you can either ask your instructor or even look online for playlists.  There are tons of resources out there that will help you find some really great songs to dance to.  These were only some suggestions for a few American Rhythm dances, but in my next blog I will go over some song suggestions for American Smooth!

 

Happy dancing!  ^_^

Performance Tips for Dancers

If you’ve been dancing for a while, you may be getting to that point where you feel ready to get a routine together and perform it on stage.  Performing can be an amazing and exciting experience, but the process can be a bit difficult.  Luckily, you can always rely on your instructor or an experienced peer to help you out with some things like choreography and technique, but there are some other aspects that you can work on yourself.  Below, I’ve put together some pointers to help you prepare for your next show!  Whether this is your first performance or your 100th, these tips should benefit you and also relieve any worries you may have about being on stage.

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

The first thing you’re going to want to do before you perform is practice a lot.  This sounds like an obvious point, but I’ve heard so many dancers mention that they wished they had more rehearsal time before a show.  To get the most out of your performance, make sure you start rehearsing well in advance.  Most people start their routines a few months before their show date, and practice at least once a week.  Running your routine as many times as you can is the best thing you can do to make sure you don’t forget it, too.  If you’re feeling nervous about being on stage, then making sure that you’ve gotten plenty of practice time is the remedy.  If you’ve done the routine a billion times, there shouldn’t be much need to worry!

Lots of rehearsal time will also ensure that you smooth out any kinks you encounter along the way.  If you find that a move or transition is causing some trouble you can use your time to work on perfecting or modifying it.  Also, make sure that you practice your routine “full-out” (dancing as if you are already on stage) a few times.  This is important to do so that your body gets used to how you will actually be moving on stage.

Overall, remember to be patient with yourself.  If there is a step that you are not getting, or if you feel like the routine is not working out the way you want it to, take a step back and give yourself time to think and breathe.  Everything will work out eventually!

 

Get a “Mock-Audience”

If you have most of your routine done, you might want to start running it in front of others.  If you’ve never performed before, then this is a good way to see how it feels to have others watching you.  Running your routine in front of others before show time is also a good way to reduce any stage fright you may have. 

 

Get Feedback

In addition to practicing in front of others, you’re going to want to get some general feedback on your routine.  This can be from your instructor, a fellow student, or a random observer.  Either way, any piece of praise or constructive criticism will be very helpful.  Getting feedback will help you figure out what aspects of your dance you need to work on and you’ll also see what others like best about your dance.  It’s always good to get an outsiders perspective of how you’re doing.

If you don’t have anyone immediately available to give you feedback try recording your dance and showing it to someone at a later time.  You can also view that video yourself to see how you look, and take notes on things to fix.

 

Lose the Mirrors

Having a mirror to practice your dancing is great because you can actually see what you look like when you move.  However, it is possible to become too dependent on the mirror (especially if you are in a group dance).  Sometimes when people are so used to dancing in front of a mirror, they can get disorientated when they do their routine without it.  If you are accustomed to dancing in one particular direction for so long, it can really throw you off when you finally face a different direction.  A lot of dancers also rely too much on the mirrors when it comes to figuring out spacing.  Once the mirrors are gone, it becomes harder to figure out how close or far away other dancers are to you.  This is why practicing routines away from a mirror is a very good idea.  The performance space definitely will not have mirrors, so it’s best to practice without them as soon as you can.  And speaking of your performance space…

 

Know Your Stage

If possible, make sure you get familiar with the area that you will be performing in.  You’ll need to know how much space you will actually have on stage so that you can prepare properly.  Getting acquainted with the stage can also help to ease stage fright.  If this is your first time performing, it can be weird dancing outside of your normal practice space, which is why it’s a good idea to get some practice on the actual stage if you are able.  The stage may have a different kind of floor from your studio, so it’s good to get a feel for how you’ll be moving once you’re up there.  If you aren’t able to practice on the stage before your performance, try to obtain as much information about it as you can before show time so that you are as prepared as possible.

 

Think About Costumes

A great costume can make a great performance.  You will want your costume to match the music and tone of your routine, so make sure to keep that in mind.  Once you figure out what you’ll be wearing, make sure you set aside time to practice your routine while wearing your costume.  This way you will know if you have any trouble with the fabric, or if you are able to move freely or not.

 

Smile!

When we watch dancers, we usually watch what their faces are doing.  Performances tend to be more entertaining when the dancers are smiling, so even when you are just rehearsing, remind yourself to smile!

If your routine isn’t happy or upbeat, then obviously you don’t need to worry about smiling.  Still, you will want to make sure that you engage the audience in some way.  Whatever emotion you intend to convey in your dance should be reflected by your facial expressions.  To help you figure out what facial expressions to use for your dance, set aside some time to listen to your music, think about how it makes you feel, and then incorporate that into your dancing.

 

Just Keep Dancing

People rehearse over and over so they can reduce their chances of making mistakes on stage, but the reality is that no matter how hard you practice, there is always the possibility that you may slip-up.  The good thing is that you don’t need to worry too much about messing up in front of an audience; they are seeing it for the first time, so they don’t know how your routine is supposed to look! 

Many dancers make mistakes during their performances, but most observers don’t notice.  The reason these errors go undetected is because the performers don’t show it in their faces or bodies.  They just keep straight faces or keep smiling if they misstep or forget a move.  They keep on dancing as if nothing went wrong.  If you mess up on stage, try to remember not to laugh, make a face, freeze, or curse yourself because everyone will see it.  Just keep going and play it off like you meant to do it!

 

Get Some Sleep

There’s nothing worse than feeling exhausted right when you are supposed to perform.  If you are able, try to get a good night’s sleep the night before show time.  I know there are a lot of people who get so excited or nervous before they perform that they can barely sleep.  If you are one of those people, then I would suggest finding a way to take your mind off the dance before bedtime.  Read a book, watch a movie, or do something relaxing to take your mind off of dance.  When you wake up you’ll have plenty of time to think about your routine.

 

Warm Up

I’ve discussed warming up on this blog before, and it still applies in this context.  Warming up and stretching your body before you dance is important so that you don’t get injured.  This is particularly import if you have a difficult move in your routine, or one that requires a bit of flexibility.  You will also find that a good warm up will reduce some soreness you might end up feeling after your performance.

 

Have fun!

You know me: I love emphasizing how much fun dance is, so of course I want you all to have fun even in the process of preparing for a performance.  Try not to stress out too much over making mistakes or making sure that your costumes are perfect.  Just go out there and do your best.  If you’ve prepared enough for it, then you should be fantastic!

 

Happy dancing!  ^_^

National Dance Day!

Happy National Dance Day!

 

Did you know that this past Saturday, July 29th was National Dance Day in the United States?  It’s a fairly new national holiday that I recently found out about.  It was founded in 2010 by Nigel Lythgoe (yep, the judge and producer of So You Think You Can Dance?), and is a day decided to encouraging all Americans to include more dancing in their lives.  An entire day devoted to dance sounds great to me, so here are some things you can do to celebrate and get the most out of the day!

 

Go To Class

The purpose of National Dance Day is to get more people to add dance into their lives, so if you’re already a dancer then, CONGRATS!  You’re already a step ahead of millions!

 

Recruit a Friend

Do you have a friend who has expressed interest in dance, but hasn’t actually tried it yet?  Then you can definitely use this day as an excuse to get them moving!  If you’re a dancer, you already know how much fun it is, so it shouldn’t be too hard to convince them.  Invite them to a class, take them to a party where you know there will be dancing, or even show them some steps you know!

 

Go Out and Dance

Going out for a night a dancing is another great way to celebrate the day.  If you’re a well-versed social dancer then this weekend would be a good time for you to show off your moves.  Even if you only know a few steps, you should still get out on the dance floor!

 

Learn a Dance

Every year, videos are posted on YouTube by the holiday’s organizers (Dizzy Feet Foundation) from which dancers can learn a choreographed routine.  The routine is usually a fun and high energy hip-hop dance.  If you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can learn the dance here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2j3fyLMQVTc

Since all choreography doesn’t work for everyone (and National Dance Day should be for everyone), the organizers posted an adaptable version of the dance, as well.  The dancer in the video goes through the moves and explains how she makes the choreography work for her.  You can check out that video here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YK6dMz9wPI Some people also like to post videos of themselves doing the choreography or their own variations, so if you’re feeling super ambitious you can also submit yours to YouTube!

Of course, if you’re not feeling like learning this choreography, you can still challenge yourself to learn a new ballroom step (or a something from your favorite style).  Ask your instructor to show you some cool new moves!

 

Party!!!

You could invite a few friends over for a small dance party, or plan a get-together with your fellow dance enthusiasts.  If you don’t feel like organizing your own, you can find a party to go to. 

Don’t know of any parties happening? Well you’re in luck, because Celebrity Dance Studio is hosting a party next Friday, August 11th at 7pm.  There will be music, dancing & food! Check out our website for more information on upcoming parties and events! www.celebritydancestudio.com

 

Have a Happy Dance Day!  ^_^

Dancer Self Care

Whenever someone brought up the term “self-care” I used to think about going to the spa, drinking a cup of tea, or taking a nap.  While I love all of those things and I think those are awesome forms of self-care, I want to emphasize some of the smaller things everyone can do to make sure they are happy and healthy – especially as it pertains to dancers!  Even though these may seem like minor things, they are still just as important.  You may not always have time to nap or go to a spa every day, but you can still make sure you are at least doing something to keep yourself sharp.  Below is a list of some activities and mindsets dancers should keep in mind in order to keep their minds and bodies healthy:

 

Stay Hydrated

First of all, make sure you are drinking water every day.  Not only should you be drinking it during practice, but outside of practice, as well.  If you notice that your muscles start to cramp up or if you are getting slight headaches during or after your lesson, you may not be getting enough water.  If you need to, carry around a water bottle with you as much as you can so that you remember to drink up!

 

Don’t Forget to Eat

Everybody is different, so I can’t tell you exactly what to eat to stay healthy, but I will tell you that you must eat something before you dance.  Of course you don’t want to have a huge meal before practice time, but if you dance on a completely empty stomach, your body will not be happy.  Food is fuel for your body, and you burn quite a bit of fuel when you dance, so you have to make sure you have enough to keep you going.  You can even bring some snacks with you to your class or lesson so you can recharge during your down-time.

Bonus: Snacking on fruits and vegetables is a good way to get energy AND to stay hydrated, too!

 

Take Breaks

As dancers we may have a tendency to want to push ourselves.  This is a good mindset to have, but it becomes a problem when we push ourselves to exhaustion.  Remember to take a minute and breathe when you get tired.  For those of you who spend more than a couple hours a week dancing, this is especially important for you.  When you feel out of breath, are you taking a few minutes to rest?  When your feet start to hurt, do you take the time to sit down for a while?  If your body hurts, do you acknowledge it and step away from the dance floor?  If you work up a sweat, do you make sure you cool down?  If you answered “no” to most of these questions, then you definitely need more breaks. 

Bonus: If you haven’t taken a vacation in a while, consider it.  Even just a few days away from your regular routine, might do you some good!

Extra bonus: If any part of your body becomes extremely painful while dancing, don’t ignore it!  Check in with a doctor or professional.

 

Stay Warm

I don’t know a dancer alive who can perform well if their bodies are cold.  If you go to practice knowing that you are going to be doing some high-intensity movements, you may want to warm up a bit first.  A nice warm-up can prevent injuries.  You know what work best for your own body, so just make sure you are doing whatever you need to do to feel ready to dance, whether it is a few stretches, a quick walk, or a few jumping jacks.  Also, if you end up taking a break during your practice time, try to keep your muscles warm.  Bring along a jacket or sweater in case your studio keeps the AC high (most dance studios like keeping the temperature very cool).

 

Track Your Progress

If you are taking your dancing seriously or are a competitive dancer, it is a really good idea to keep track of your progress.  It’s a great way to look at what you’ve accomplished so far and to review things that you want to improve.  Many dancers keep a journal so they can easily review notes.  Other dancers make a habit of video recording themselves and reviewing it later.  If you don’t like either of those methods, taking mental notes can be good, too.  You can also ask your peers and instructors to give you some personal feedback.  Even if you are just a social dancer, it’s fun to take note of how far you’ve come with your dancing over time!

 

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Even though it’s good to set goals and work hard to achieve them, make sure you aren’t stretching yourself too thin.  Recognize what you can realistically achieve and don’t try to do something just because everyone else is doing it.  One of the worst things you can do is compare yourself to others.  Everyone has a different pace and operates at different levels, so you can’t judge yourself based on what someone else has done.  Set your goals based on what you know will work best for you and your dance journey.  Even if you don’t reach a goal right away or perfect a step on the first try, don’t beat yourself up about it.  You can always keep trying!

 

Remember That You Are Awesome!

Overall, dancing should be fun!  Even if you are the competitive type, it’s important that you are still enjoying yourself.  If you do find yourself thinking negatively or being too hard on yourself, just think about the progress you’ve already made.  Some people may not really be into the idea of “positive affirmations”, but reminding yourself daily of how awesome you are can actually be a great mood booster and can motivate you even further.

Happy dancing!  ^_^

Dancing Shoes 101

In my previous post, I discussed what you needed to know for your first dance lesson.  I mentioned that it wouldn’t be necessary to go out and buy a pair of dance shoes for your first lesson.  But, what if you’ve continued dancing for a while now, decided that you really love it, and are ready to buy a real pair dance shoes?  You may be wondering where to start...  Well, I’m here to tell you to wonder no more because I’ve got some pretty essential tips for you! 

 

Find the perfect fit

            The most important thing is to make sure you feel comfortable in you dance shoes.  They should fit like a glove; nice and snug.  You wouldn’t want your shoe to go flying off in the middle of practice or a performance would you?  (I have…  It’s not fun…) However, you also don’t want your shoe to be so tight that you lose all feeling in your toes.  Dancing might be hard on your feet sometimes, but you don’t need to add any unnecessary pressure. 

Most shoe brands will fit your feet just fine as long as you go with your regular street shoe size, but it may vary across vendors and personal preferences.  Some dancers may even go down a half or full size from their regular shoe size.  The best way to know for sure is to try on a pair before you buy them.  If you can find a store or dance studio to go in and try on some shoes, then please do so!   It’s the best way to find out which size and brand works best for you.  A professional will also be able to help you out in person.  If you are shopping for shoes online, just take special care with the details.  Check the sizing charts that the website provides to see if there are any conversions (some brands run small).

 

Suede is the way to go

            Probably the second most important thing is make sure that your dance shoes have suede soles.  The suede on the bottom of the shoe makes it easier for you to glide across the floor.  Regular shoes may have a tendency to stick to the floor and others may be too slippery, so suede is the solution which will make you move with ease and stability.

 

Dealing with heels

            The heel discussion applies more to ladies, since men’s shoes typically don’t have much of a heel (sorry guys).  Women’s heels typically range from 1 to 3 inches.  If you are not yet comfortable dancing in heels, I would recommend starting with a 1 inch heel.  A beginner will usually start off with no higher than a 2 inch heel, and move up in height as they get more comfortable with their dancing (you can also use arch supports to help with any discomfort).

 

Know your style

            While shopping around you will notice three main types of ballroom shoes – Standard, Latin, and practice. 

Women’s standard shoes look like closed-toe pumps.  These shoes are best for doing smooth/standard dances (Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, etc.).  If you know that you will mostly be doing smooth/standard or if you prefer a closed-toe shoe, then a standard shoe will be good for you.  A men’s standard shoe will look similar to an oxford-style, regular dress shoe.  Men: if you only ever purchase one type of dance shoe, it should be standard!

A women’s Latin shoe will resemble an open-toed sandal.  The heel will vary from 1.5 to 3 inches.  If you know that you will spend most of your time doing Latin/rhythm dances (Rumba, Cha-Cha, etc.) then this is the shoe for you.  Ladies: if you only ever buy one type of dance shoe (and are fine with open-toes), make it Latin!  Men’s Latin shoes have slightly taller heel (called a Cuban heel) than the standard men’s shoes (most men only ever wear their Latin shoes for competitions, so unless you’re preparing for one, stick with a standard shoe).

Finally, practice shoes are a type that you might frequently see while browsing for dance shoes.  A women’s practice shoe looks similar to a men’s standard shoe, but with a slightly higher heel.  These types of shoes are optional to own.  Most dancers only have them to give themselves a break from their high heels or so they don’t wear down their regular dance shoes.

 

Break in your shoes

              It’s important to break in your shoes so that you get used to comfortably moving in them.  As I mentioned before, when you first get your shoes, they should be fairly tight.  They may feel really snug at first, but as you continue to practice with them, the fit should loosen up a bit (which is why it’s best to have a tight fit in the first place).  The best way to break in your shoes is to use them every time you come to practice.  You can also walk around in them for a bit if you’re not in practice.  If you have new shoes that you are going to be using for an upcoming performance, make sure you start breaking those in at least a few days before show time (note: if you have been trying to break in your new shoes for more than a 3-5 days and they still feel extremely uncomfortable, you may need a bigger size).

 

Love your shoes

            Last but not least, you want to make sure that your shoes are properly taken care of.  The best way to keep them clean is to only wear them out on the dance floor.  If you wear them outside, the suede bottoms could get ruined, dirty, and sticky.  If you end up wearing down your soles over time, you will need to brush the bottoms of your shoes with a wire dance shoe brush so that the suede maintains its texture.  If you don’t already own a wire brush, don’t worry because your studio and/or instructor will definitely have one for you to use.

            Also make sure that you air out your shoes every once in a while! J

Coming In For Your First Dance Lesson? Here's What You Need To Know!

So you’ve officially signed up for your first dance lesson…That’s so awesome! You’re going to have a great time, but you probably have a few questions. You may be wondering what to expect or what to bring with you. No worries! Many first-time students ask us questions about their first lesson, so luckily we’ve compiled a list of some of our most common questions and concerns you may have about your first dance lesson!

#1. “I don’t have any dance shoes or ‘dance clothes’. Should I go out and get some?”

Dance shoes are not necessary for your first lesson, so there’s no need to go out and buy some right away. If you decide to start taking lessons regularly, then we encourage buying a good pair of dance shoes. For your very first lesson, you are free to wear almost any type of shoe you’d like! The only kinds of shoes we wouldn’t recommend would be flip-flops, extra high heels, or gyms shoes that stick to the floor a lot. Besides those, any kind of shoe will be perfect to dance in!

As far as “dance clothes” go - you can just come in whatever feels comfortable for you, whether it be jeans or a dress. Each person is different!

#2. “What if I’ve never danced before?”

If you’ve never danced before that’s not a problem! You have to start from somewhere right? It’s also never too late to get started! Your instructor will work with you based on your current skill level, so you don’t need to have any previous dance knowledge before coming in. Whether you’ve got two left feet or three right feet, we’ve got your back. You’ll be dancing smoothly in no time!

#3. “How hard will I be dancing? Should I bring a water bottle?”

The steps you learn will not be too intense. However, depending on how much you are used to moving on your feet, you may feel like you’ve gotten a pretty fair workout by the end of the lesson. Think of how much you might normally dance at a social event; that amount of activity will probably be similar to the lesson!

As a dance studio, we always encourage good hydration for our students, so we do have water available. It’s not required for you to bring your own water bottle, but you can certainly bring one for your convenience!

#4. “I’m pretty nervous about my lesson. Will the other students judge me while I dance?”

Well it’s a good thing you didn’t sign up for a dance audition! A lot of people worry that others will judge them and criticize their dancing. The truth is that most of the other people in the room are too focused on their own dancing to notice what anyone else is up to. Everyone in the studio is there for the same reason – to learn to dance! So, if you’re feeling nervous about dancing in front of others, don’t worry about it because they are here to learn just like you! The dance floor is a 100% judgement-free zone!

If you’re still feeling a bit apprehensive, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to some of the other students and teachers. Everyone is super friendly and will make you feel more comfortable in no time!

#5. “Can I bring a partner to dance with me?”

Of course! If you have someone who you regularly want to dance with, bring them along and you can start your dance journey together!

#6. “What kind of dances will I learn?”

Your instructor will teach you some of the most popular social dances that are done at many weddings, parties, and other social gatherings. They will likely show you figures from Rumba, Hustle, or  

even Swing! If you have a particular dance in mind that you would like to learn, let your instructor know and they can teach you.

#7. “If I really enjoyed my first lesson, how soon can I come back for more?”

Whenever you decide to come back is completely up to you! Most students take classes on a weekly basis, just to keep their skills consistent, but there are no set rules. You can come back as often as you’d like!

I hope this list helped to answer some of the questions you may have been wondering about. Hopefully you’re feeling a little more at ease! And always remember the most important thing for your first lesson: HAVE FUN!

Dancing with the Stars Season 23

Wouldn’t you know it, it’s that time already – Dancing with the Stars returns for season 23!  I always look forward to the Fall season since it’s my favorite time of year.  Few things beat out curling up on the couch with a blanket, some hot apple cider and DWTS!  And the Halloween episode is something I eagerly await each year, with such spooky, fun and creative ideas behind each dance, it holds a special place in my heart!  Though it may be difficult to top last season with the quality of dance towards the end, I’m excited to see how each celebrity does!

The official cast announcement was made this past Tuesday on Good Morning America, with several of our favorite pros pairing up with some big celebrities!  Here are the 13 couples:

16-year-old Olympic Medalist Laurie Hernandez is with Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Award winning actress and author Marilu Henner is with Derek Hough
Vocal activist and talk show host Amber Rose is with Maksim Chmerkovskiy
12 time Olympic Medalist and world record holder Ryan Lochte is with Cheryl Burke
Rap and Pop music icon Robert Van Winkle “Vanilla Ice” is with Witney Carson
Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson Jr. is with Lindsay Arnold
Veteran and former governor of Texas Rick Perry is with Emma Slater
Brady Bunch alum (Marcia) Maureen McCormick is with Artem Chigvintsev
R&B and Pop music star Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds is with Allison Holker
T.V., film and voice actor Jake T. Austin is with Jenna Johnson
IndyCar race driver James Hinchcliffe is with Sharna Burgess
Executive producer and star of ‘Little Women’ TV Series Terra Jolé is with Sasha Farber
Country music artist Jana Kramer is with Gleb Savchenko

Good ol’ Tom Bergeron will be hosting again alongside Erin Andrews.  Also, Carrie Ann, Bruno and Len are back in the saddle at the judges’ table.  Having a great line-up of such wonderful celebrities and pro dancers, I think this season will be another big hit!

With their dedication and physical training, I have a feeling the Olympic athletes will be ones to keep an eye on.  I also have a hunch that Amber, Kenneth and Jana could be harboring some great talent, but you never know!  What are your thoughts on the cast?  And who do you think might take the dance floor by storm?  Don’t forget to tune in for the season premiere, which will air on Monday September 12th at 7pm CT.  Until then, happy dancing!

Proper Positioning: Dance Floor Alignments

Here is an article covering alignments that I have been working on.  Hopefully it answers common questions and gives the basic premise of using alignments in dance!  Let me know what you think, and I hope you enjoy! 

Also, keep an eye out for my next post – Dancing with the Stars is back for Season 23 and I’ll be announcing the full cast list!

Happy Dancing!

 

Proper Positioning:  Dance Floor Alignments

In every dance, there are all sorts of different steps and patterns to do.  For travelling dances in particular, couples move around the floor in a counter-clockwise motion while performing those steps.  This, as you may know, is called Line of Dance, and helps to keep folks from crashing into each other.  However, there is an important item to consider while you dance your figures around the floor – alignment.

Alignment is defined as the positions of both the body and feet in relation to the dance floor.  It is there to make the dance steps easier and help with floorcraft, since you know what direction you should start and end each pattern.  Additionally, there are several terms that help us to pinpoint exactly how a figure should be danced by taking alignment into account.  While a lot of these terms seem like common sense and may happen naturally, knowing your alignments can generate a big difference.

The first two terms we will look at are Facing and Backing.  Just like they sound, they define which way the dancer is looking.  Facing just means that you are looking in the direction you travel while Backing means you are looking in the opposite direction that you are moving.  Now, since we already know Line of Dance, or LOD for short, takes us counterclockwise, we know that we will always have the wall to one side and the center of the dance floor on the other.  Leads will commonly start Facing LOD, which has the wall on the right side and center of the floor on the left.  Follows typically start Backing LOD, putting the wall on their left side with the center of the floor to their right.

The second set of terms that define alignment are Wall, Center and Diagonal.  These three words further describe how we move by giving direction either towards the wall, towards the center or diagonally between them and LOD.  We can move perpendicular to LOD, heading either straight to the wall or straight to the center.  We can also move on a diagonal between the wall and LOD, which we call Diagonal Wall, or DW for short.  Just like DW, we can move diagonally between the center and LOD, called Diagonal Center, aka DC.

The next terms to discuss are Along and Against.  Taking what we now know about alignments, as dancers we execute each step in two main ways in relation to LOD – moving with the flow and travelling Along LOD, or swimming upstream opposing the flow and moving Against LOD.  Along and Against further define our alignments as we can travel in a total of 8 different directions.  We can head directly Along LOD, directly Against LOD, directly to the Wall and directly towards the Center.  We can also travel DW Along LOD, DW Against LOD, DC Along LOD and DC Against LOD.

Again, some of these alignments and terms may seem like common sense, but they can be confusing.  A tool that helped me to remember everything is matching alignments up to a compass.  Just like the cardinal directions of North, South, East and West, we define our movements accordingly.  Heading forward in LOD is North, while moving against LOD is South.  Towards the wall is East and towards the center is West.  North-East would be facing Diagonal Wall, and South-East is facing Diagonal Wall against LOD.  Likewise, facing North-West is Diagonal Center, and South-West is facing Diagonal Wall against LOD.  Keeping the rule of thumb that LOD is always North, it is much easier to find your alignments.

The charts below give a detailed overview on alignments and how to apply them on the dance floor:

The final term we’ll go over is Pointing.  This is a tricky situation where your feet are in a different alignment than your body.  This is most commonly used in all sorts of different figures, but you will typically see it happening in rotating movements, like a Natural or a Reverse Turn.  Pointing generally has your feet prepping for the next alignment while your body is still facing the current alignment you are on.  As an example, you can have your feet Pointing DW while your body is still facing Wall.  With Pointing, you will end up turning to the direction your feet are with your next step, putting you back into a regular alignment.

Now that you know your alignments you can put them to good use!  There are always several choices that you can make on the dance floor for what moves you decide to do next.  Utilizing alignments can help you to make better choices and have smooth transitions between them.  Knowing how one move ends, another begins and in which direction you travel will not only improve the step itself, but will enhance your understanding of floorcraft, since you are able to identify where other dancers may move about the floor in relation to you and your partner.

Keep in mind, focusing on alignments is an advanced way of thinking.  Alignments may not be used right off the bat if you are just learning how to dance.  Of course, there are other important aspects to focus on first, like footwork and timing.  However, as you progress further and further into dance, the significance of alignments will become more and more apparent.  Some moves will begin to make more sense and others will feel easy as you are able to adjust your alignments accordingly.

Dance Styles: American vs. International

As a viewing public, we have gotten used to seeing shows like Dancing with the Stars and have heard of all sorts of different types of dances.  From Waltz to Mambo and Paso Doble to East Coast Swing, we have been graced with a delightful view of the ballroom world.  Seldom do we wonder where the dances come from, why they look the way they do, or what differences (subtle and otherwise) there may be between them.

Because of this, most people think that there is only one way to do each dance – that a Rumba is just a Rumba.  Quite to the contrary, there are two major classifications of traditional ballroom that make up the dancing world – American and International.  There are several notable differences between the styles and what dances they contain, so let’s buckle in and get started.

First up is American Style.  This is the typical style you will see going out for a night of dancing on the town.  American style has two genres of dance within itself – Smooth and Rhythm.  Smooth consists of Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz, while Rhythm has Cha-Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Mambo and Bolero.

The style as a whole derived from International and was developed in the United States (go figure).  American style is more relaxed, letting movements have a great deal of freedom (again, go figure).  This makes the style excellent for social dancing.  The steps are designed to be done in whatever order you choose and with generous leeway in regards to alignments.  Dancers are allowed to break frame in Smooth, making for very grand expressions and arm styling as they move around the floor.  Also, in Rhythm, Cuban motion in the hips is achieved by stepping on a bent leg and flexing the knee.

Being so open to the creativity and individuality of dancers is what has made the American style so popular.  This has also allowed for several variations of the same step to flourish.  Artistic license, attitude and personal style shine through while dancing American.  However, despite all of the freedoms, the following remains constant – each dance is started with the left foot for the lead and the right foot for the follow.

On the other end of the spectrum is International.  Like American, International contains two genres – Standard and Latin.  Standard equates to American’s Smooth, containing Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz.  Standard also brings in the addition of the fast and lively Quickstep.  Latin is similar to American’s Rhythm, with Rumba and Cha-Cha included.  However, International has Jive, Samba and Paso Doble replacing East Coast Swing, Mambo and Bolero.

International style has been around longer than American, and is focused more on discipline.  Dance steps have particular alignments, and there is a set list of moves that you can do both before and after a step.  This way it gives a set of rules and clearly defined boundaries.  The figures in each dance are like pieces of a chain with the stipulation that only certain pieces can connect.  It is up to us as the dancer to learn each figure and know what we can do to chain the movements all together.

One of the most noticeable aspects of Standard is that the dancers are not allowed to break frame.  All of the patterns must be done in hold, forcing couples to rely on foot placement, leg work and partnership to move around the floor.  For Latin, dancers still have hip action, but it is achieved in a different way.  Rather than stepping on a bent leg like American’s Rhythm, Latin maintains a straight leg, causing a sharp and immediate hip movement.  Lastly, International style changes up which foot the leads and follows will start the dance with.  Some dances have the lead start with their left, others start with their right.  The same goes for the follows.

Between American and International, there are a lot of the same movements for each dance.  Though the steps may be called something different and have some minor changes to technique and execution, they still share the basic fundamental principles.  The differences between each style bring a unique perspective and flavorful personality to the ballroom.  I recommend trying out both!

Of course there are other dance styles out there, like Nightclub and Vintage, which contain some of our other favorite dances that were not mentioned above.  American and International are just the two most frequent styles you’ll see, especially at competitions.  I’ll dive into the other styles another day, but hopefully this was informative and helpful in understanding the main differences between the American and International styles.

Happy Dancing!

Steps in Time: A History of Dance!

Time moves along and we keep dancing to the rhythm of life.  Things change every day, and that definitely includes dancing!  It has always fascinated me to look back in history and see how dance has evolved over the centuries.  In order to share this love of dance and history, I have created a new article – Steps in Time!

Each ‘Steps in Time’ post will be a monthly article where I pick a time period and discuss what dancing looked like back then.  I will cover everything from styles of dance, steps and etiquette for each era.  As there is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of information for each time period, I will limit it to a brief overview with general notes on the most common and popular dances.

So, to get the ball rolling, I have decided to start all the way back to the Middle Ages.  This gives us the first real look at organized dancing for competition and entertainment’s sake rather than as part of a ceremony or for religious contexts.  Dancing way back then was quite the topic of morality, and many people (especially religious folks) viewed dancing as heathenistic, inappropriate and lewd.  However, over time, more and more people came to find dancing enjoyable, and by the 12th century, dancing had become quite popular.   Dances became customary for holiday festivities, celebrations, and when royalty or nobility were in town.

Now, the Middle Ages cover a long stretch of time, so suffice to say a few common forms of dance became popular and were danced for several centuries before things began to change in the early Renaissance.  There were three main styles of dancing – circle, line and partner.  In addition to those styles, there were two main types of dance – court and country.  First, we’ll cover the styles of dance.

Circle dances are one of the oldest and most common dances in history.  Just like it suggests, people would form a circle, all facing inward or outward, and move in unison to the beat, all performing the same steps.  The steps were combinations of rudimentary chasses, taps, turns, claps and stomps.  Typically the dancers would sing while they dance, usually to a simple tune and easy lyrics.  As time went on, instruments like a drum and horn were added in place of the singing.  The most popular circle dances were the Carol, Estampie, and Maypole dances.

Much like the line dances of today, medieval line dancing had the dancers set up in rows with everybody facing the same direction and doing the same steps.  It took the same steps of circle dances and just applied it to multiple directions.  Line dances allowed for the steps to not only move side to side, but gave them the freedom to move around forward, backward and diagonally without interfering with the shape of the dance.  Line dances also included kicks, spins, leaps and toe steps to their movements.  Again, dancers would either sing or instruments would be used to keep time.  Favorite line dances were the Prince William, Morris Dance, and La Spagna.

Partner dancing was considered a bit more scandalous in its early stages due to the “intimate” nature of a man and woman touching hands.  However, the style persevered and gained popularity amongst the lower class and eventually made its way into the courts of nobles.  Partner dancing had the dancers form couples, and each couple did the same steps.  Partners were not in dance frame, but would instead use their hands and body positions to dance with, apart from, and around their partner.  Kicks, turns, jumps, chasses, taps and toe steps made up the majority partner dancing.  Common partner dances of the times were the Basse Dance, Black Nag, and Rufty Tufty.

Some dances combined elements of two styles into one, having a circle or line dance with partners like the Estampie and La Spagna respectively.  These changes and combinations continued to keep the dances interesting and fun, eventually solidifying partner dancing as an acceptable and commonplace practice.  Next, it’s on to the types of dances – court and country!

Both court and country types utilize all three styles of dance.  They incorporated circle, line and partner dancing as part of their steps and performance, but it is the purpose and attitude of the dance that differentiates between the two.

Court dances were done to really show off your talent and skill. Like the name implies, these dances were typically performed at court by nobles.  As these types of dancing were meant to impress, they were definitely done when people of power were in the area.  If your dancing caught the attention of somebody with influence, you could very well be invited to dance with them, which was quite the honor!  The higher you could kick, the faster you could spin, the lower you could bend, the more impressed spectators would be.  It was all about confidence, showmanship and proving who the best dancer was.  There were also dances used as processionals – like the Pavan and Black Alman – that were simple, stately, walk-like dances.  They were designed for entering the room elegantly while giving the audience a chance to see who was dancing.

Country dances are on the opposite end of the spectrum, being akin to the folk dancing done today.  Different cultures and music helped to determine the style and steps of the dance, but most were very lively and upbeat with lots of spinning and clapping.  These were the dances that were done mostly by the common folk.  The attitude was casual and fun, not haughty or stuffy like court dancing.  Country dances were done for entertainment and as social functions for the gentry.  They were energetic and allowed for variations, sometimes getting quite wild.  Some even made for silly sport, like the Egg Dance, in which eggs would be spread on the ground and dancers would have to dance between them, trying to crush as few eggs as possible.  Sounds like an egg-celent challenge!

Despite the differences between the styles and types of dance, etiquette remained the same across the board.  It was proper that the men always asked the lady to dance, never the opposite.  When asking, the gentleman would show deference to the lady if she was of higher rank or station.  Otherwise, a small nod would be made to acknowledge the lady.  The lady could not refuse the gentleman if he was of higher rank than she, but if she had the higher title, she could refuse.  The man would offer his hand palm-down to the lady, and if she accepted, she would place her hand on top of his and he would escort her to their place to dance.  As the dance begins, both partners give a small bow or curtsy to the other.  The same happens as the dance comes to an end, and the fellow always escorts the lady back out of the dance area.

As I mentioned, this is just a brief overview of Medieval dance, with VERY brief highlights.  I encourage you to explore the dances I have mentioned above – you’ll find some pretty neat things and you can learn all about the origins of each dance.  Check into your cultural background, too!  You may find some traditional dances passed down through your nationality!  It is really interesting and definitely worthwhile to discover what your ancestors danced to!

What a long way dancing has come from these humble beginnings!  It boggles my mind to see how different dance has become throughout the ages, but it boggles my mind even more to see that there are still so many similar steps!  We use chasses all the time in Cha-Cha; we kick in Jive; we use toe steps for things like rise and fall in Waltz… it is all simply awesome to see the roots of dance still alive today!

Well, that’s it for this first ‘Steps in Time’ post!  Be sure to join in each month as I continue to travel through the ages and trace the evolution of dance!  The time period I’ll cover next month is the Renaissance, so don’t miss out!

Happy Dancing!