Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why do you take dance lessons?

Different people have widely varying reasons for taking dance lessons. Some want to compete, others want to be able to social dance, others just want to have fun and get some exercise. Some students want to learn a lot of patterns, while others want to learn technique.

There is no one right reason to learn to dance, except yours. However, I do have to wonder at something: the people who take group classes all week rarely go to the social dances, and we rarely see people who social dance in group classes. What are the former doing with their knowledge, and where are the latter learning to dance?

Learning any skill without practicing it is, in my opinion, kind of pointless. By going to class every week without practicing in between, you are cheating yourself because you will not learn as well or as quickly. Your body needs repetition, not only for muscle memory, but for building up the strength to do the movements properly. Plus, you are missing out on the whole reason for learning to dance--dancing!

As for the Saturday night only dancers, many of them have had a few lessons here and there, probably primarily the lessons before the dances. They know a few steps, but their lead and follow is weak, they have no style and their technique is poor.

Why learn technique? Having good technique is not about being a competition dancer or even a "serious" dancer. Good technique allows you to do dance more easily and comfortably with your partner and allows you to move around the floor more gracefully. It does not have to be hard and you do not have to spend hours doing change step after change step until they are perfect (although it wouldn't hurt). Just taking some lessons and learning some basics, proper footwork, dance frame and lead/follow will make a huge difference in your dancing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

February happenings

Wow, I have not been keeping up on this blog!! OK, you can find me this month by coming to my workshop tomorrow, February 21st from 2:30 to 4:00 at The Ballroom of Sacramento. I'll be teaching Cuban motion in Rumba...this class is for everyone, whether you know Rumba or not!

I am also DJing at Sacramento Ballroom Society next Friday, the 27th. Ask me to dance...I don't bite, I promise! Hm, maybe this is a good subject for a blog post...

If you see a teacher at a social dance, and they're standing or sitting around instead of hiding or clinging to their date, chances are they're there to dance. When I go social dancing, I do actually want to dance. Don't be afraid to ask us! Don't be nervous or feel like you have to impress us. Just dance as well as you know how (as you always do, right?) and have fun. You don't even have to apologize for your perceived lack of skills.

However, please do not take this as an opportunity to get a free dance lesson. Just because I'm at the dance doesn't mean I'm there to teach. If you have a quick question about something I taught in class (that night or a previous occasion), that's not a problem at all. However, asking me to critique you, teach you new steps or how to do Cuban motion is a bit much. If I were a doctor, would you ask me for a diagnosis? I would hope not. Would you ask a mechanic to fix your car for free?

You might say the good will could bring me in lessons some day. Well, not likely. Most people who ask for free advice rarely bother spending money on lessons. I'm sorry if that sounds rude, but that has been my experience. If you want to see how I am as a teacher, I have references and teach group classes about every other month that you can try out.

Whew, that's a whole lot of negative right there. It's sort of a sore spot with me! Let me just reiterate that I do enjoy social dancing and want to just relax and enjoy myself--no matter who I'm dancing with. Next time you see me, come on up and ask me! Just don't ask me for Viennese or Quickstep, because I prefer not to do those socially.

Hope to see you out on the floor!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jennifer's Dancing Antics in January

I'll be out and about and teaching a bit this month, so I hope you'll join me! Tomorrow night, Friday the 9th, I'll be social dancing at Sac Ballroom Society. Chad & Marie Burson will be teaching Foxtrot and Charles Bridges will DJ

On Friday the 23rd, I'll be teaching Bolero at Sac Ballroom Society, and Bill Riley will be DJing.

The next day, the 24th, I'll be teaching a Picture Lines in Bolero workshop at The Ballroom of Sacramento from 2:30 to 4:00. You should at least know some basics in Bolero.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Funny Dance Experience

I had a funny dance experience recently I thought I'd share. There's a lesson at the end, so stay with me.

I gave Bill and Sharon a lesson one Saturday afternoon at The Ballroom. We finished at 7:00 and saw that Deborah, the dance director, was giving a lesson in Bolero that night, our favorite. We decided to hop into the lesson and see if she taught something we'd like to add to our repertoire.

Things were going swimmingly, and I was rotating from partner to partner. There was the usual collection of non-leaders and bad leaders and leaders who thought they were great dancers and leaders who knew they weren't but were trying hard. I came to one gentleman, who immediately started telling me about how Bolero is all about control, etc. etc.

I raised an eyebrow, but tried to keep my face composed. After all, I've never seen this man before, and he has never seen me. I rarely go on Saturday nights anymore, so a lot of people don't know me, and if he's from out of town or something, of course he wouldn't know who I am. I smiled and nodded.

Deb finished talking and told us to try again, so Mr. Bolero proceeds to over-lead me almost to the point of inflicting pain and throwing me off balance, counting for me and telling me what to do next. Had he been paying attention when we first started dancing together, he should have been able to tell the difference in my frame from a non-educated dancer and perhaps held off on the "help" until he could see whether I needed it (I didn't, thank you very much). Most leaders, when they get me in class and don't know who I am, immediately say something like, "oh!" Not to toot my own horn or say I'm a great dancer, but I am an educated one and there's definitely a difference from your typical beginner at dance class.

Anyway, we changed partners again and I moved on. When the dance started and Linda played a Bolero, Mr. Bolero saw me standing by the side of the floor and asked me to dance. I obliged, trying to rein in the smirk. He proceeded to over-lead and count for me for three or four moves before he said, "Oh. You dance Bolero!"

I smiled graciously and said, "Yes, I do. Thank you." I didn't mention I was a teacher. I usually don't at these things, because people invariably want free lessons on the floor.

He asked who my teacher was. I said, "Oh, I've studied under different people over the years."

He said, "Oh."

We finished the dance, he said we should do another some time and I graciously agreed, although I managed to avoid such an event for the rest of the night and haven't seen him since.

The lesson here is not that I am some sort of dancing goddess who should be revered (perhaps I should be, but really, that's not the point!). The point is...this man was so self absorbed that he had no idea what sort of dancer he was dancing with. Had he been CONNECTED to his partner, he would have noticed right away, not after five minutes together in class and several moves into the social dance.

I've posted about this before: connection is everything! In closed position, you can't necessarily look at your partner and are often told specifically not to...but that doesn't mean you are not fully aware of where your partner is, what their frame is like, and what they are doing. You can feel it all through your body contact and dance frame.

When you dance Rhythm/Latin/Swing, you are encouraged to look at your partner, especially in open position (open positions in American Smooth, too). You have much less contact with your partner, so having that visual not only helps with your connection, but with your three-minute dance relationship. Otherwise, you might as well be dancing with a mop.