Friday, December 17, 2010

How do you view beginner dancers?

As someone who's been around dancing for a long time (15 years), I have seen a lot of different people in my time. Of course, a lot of these have been beginners to the world of dance. One thing that many people will agree with is that we always need to bring new people into our sport. We need to keep the studios alive, the dances fun, and we can always use more partners...especially men. Therefore, how we treat our beginners is very, very important.

Most people are very welcoming of beginners and try to help them out as much as they can. As an example, Greg and I recently took up Argentine Tango. The community has been extraordinarily welcoming of us, even though we go to practica after practica with just one (now two, after last night) lesson under our belt. For the most part, the people who have danced with us have been very encouraging and very kind in offering us helpful advice, without being overbearing or rude. This attitude is part of what has gotten us addicted to this very fun and challenging dance!

Other people are not so great. I once had a student who came to a ballroom dance after a couple of classes. He was pretty solid on the few basic steps he knew, but he didn't know anything fancy yet. I encouraged him to ask women to dance, because he needed the practice and most women would rather do basics than sit and not dance. Also, personally (and I know other women who have the same viewpoint), I would rather do basics reasonably well with someone who is pretty comfortable to dance with than advanced stuff crappily with someone who wrenches me around because he didn't learn to lead proerly. Anyway, I digress. So, this very nice man goes to ask a woman to dance. She accepted and stood up, and he said, "By the way, I'm a beginner." She actually said "never mind" and sat down again. I was blown away by her rudeness. can't give 2.5 minutes of your life to dance with a beginner?

I've seen others who will accept the dance, or dance with a beginner in class, but their bad attitude about it shows on their face. How do you think that makes the poor beginner feel?

I should add: not all Tango people are welcoming and helpful, and not all Ballroom dancers are rude. There are both types of people no matter where you go, whether it's Tango, Swing, Ballroom, Country or whatever.

Think of dancing with beginners as an investment. If you are kind and encouraging to them, they are more likely to stick with it. NICELY encourage them to take lessons if they aren't already and explain the benefits so they know how important it is. Eventually, that beginner will get better and better and will grow into a good dancer. They are likely to remember who was kind to them and who wasn't when they can be pickier about their dance partners because they're so in demand. And, because of your encouragement, the dance world will have one more great dancer! Besides, if you take a chance and dance with a beginner, they may not turn out to be as bad as you think.

Sure, it can be a little uncomfortable and maybe even a little boring to dance with someone who only knows the very basic step of the dance. However, if you adjust your attitude about it and find the fun in dancing with someone new who is making an effort, you'll find it much more enjoyable. It's just a couple of minutes, and far better than sitting in a chair and watching everyone else have fun. And don't forget...your investment now may pay great dividends later.

As for my readers who are themselves beginners, I encourage you to get out there! The more practice you get, the better you will become, faster. I can't overstate the importance of taking lessons, either. You really do need to learn to dance properly in order to be the best dancer you can be, even if you never set foot on a competition floor. You can learn a lot just by getting out there with experienced dancers and doing it, but there is a lot to learn. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't start going to dances as soon as possible. The practice and encouragement will help you improve, and you'll meet some great people! Just ignore the rude ones. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Don't forget: Club dances every Friday night at The Dance Corner!

I will be DJing again this friday at the Dance Corner, so come on out! The dance normally starts at 8, but this week we will start at 8:30 due to some Argentine Tango workshops happening today. I will stay late to keep the party going! The Dance Corner is on Fulton near Marconi, across from Town & Country. Just $5 per person or $8 per couple...what a deal!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Foxtrot Class Thursday nights in November! Club Dance 11/5

It's a new month, and that means a new class on Thursday nights, 8:30 at Mission Oaks! This month, the dance is Intermediate Foxtrot. The cost is only $15 for the whole month--where else can you get a deal like this? You can sign up at the front desk.

Also, I will be DJing my club dance at The Dance Corner on Fulton this Friday from 8:00 to 10:30. Please come, and bring all your friends! Although the emphasis is on club music, I also mix in some ballroom and latin.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Are you a bottom-up dancer or a top-down dancer?

Greg and I had a great conversation the other day about learning to dance and adding styling. This applies to, as far as I can tell, every type of dancing there is: if you learn to dance well, and that means learning proper technique, you will look good even without learning fancy styling. In fact, this applies to learning to do lots of other things, as well.

I liken it to a bottom-up or top-down approach. If you start from the bottom, i.e., concentrate on learning fundamentals like good footwork, lead and follow, timing, body flight, being smooth, proper turning and all the other things that make for good, solid, basic dancing, you are going to look good even if you never learn a lick of styling. In fact, if you take the time to learn all of that, you will probably pick up a little styling along the way whether you think about it or not, and then when you are a good technical dancer, it's much easier to pick up more styling and make yourself look even better.

The other approach is to start from the top and work your way down: maybe learn the basic steps, but concentrate more on styling from the very beginning. Those who take this approach do so because they want to interpret the music and be more dancerly right away, rather than dancing like an automaton. I can appreciate this--I can. However, from what I have seen MOST of the time (not always--some people learn this way and end up being good dancers), people who learn this way lack the fundamentals and therefore do not look as good as people who learned the basics first. In fact, and please don't take this as a personal insult, but some of them are laughably bad, because their styling is disconnected and their technique is awful. doesn't do any good to swing your hips or fling your arms around if you're doing it at the wrong time, in the wrong way, you're not leading/following and you're not with the music. I'm sorry. It's harsh, I know, but it's true. I'm telling you this for your own good (unless I'm not talking to you at all).

There are exceptions to every rule. Some people learn to dance the "right" way and never, ever become good dancers. Others learn the "wrong" way and turn out great. It has a lot to do with your natural level of grace and talent. I'm just saying, this is an observation I've made from watching a lot of people dance.

I've had people come to me for lessons who want to learn some styling so they look better. My advice is almost always to improve their technique first, and then worry about style. They usually follow my advice, and it works out great. That is not to say they don't get to learn any styling at all--I'll show them things they can do with their free arms, etc., but they soon learn that good basics are the best way to look like a good dancer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How Ballroom Dancing has shaped my life

My ballroom dancing journey began in the spring of 1995. I was living at home with my mother and one of my brothers, Bill. He had been taking ballroom dance lessons for a year, which I thought was an odd thing at the time, but when he informed me one afternoon that I would be going with him that evening, I decided I didn’t have anything better to do—so I went.
Bill and another brother (I have three) and I had spent several years roller dancing, so in some ways ballroom dancing was a natural progression. I had thought I would take right to it—after all, how hard can it be? That first night I was the very picture of awkwardness. I didn’t know what to do with my feet, I was off balance, and I just didn’t “get” it.

Naturally, I was immediately hooked! Despite my complete incompetence, there was something alluring about ballroom dancing. The music and lead-and-follow nature of the dance was so different from roller dancing, which is usually a set pattern done to boring organ music. I was intrigued and determined to learn more. I insisted on going back the next night, and before I knew it, I was dancing three to five times per week between classes and social dances.

In the 15 years since that first attempt, I have gone from absolute beginner to a competitor, performer and teacher. I have met many wonderful people, some of which have come and gone, and others I have known for years. One of the people Bill and I met through one of our performance opportunities is now his girlfriend, Sharon, and she is a good friend of mine as well.

Most importantly, it was through ballroom dancing that I met my husband, Greg. I was actually dating someone else at the time that we met, but that relationship had been going downhill for some time and I had just not gotten around to leaving yet. Greg was good friends with the DJ and would come in to visit with her, although he only danced West Coast Swing.

One night after surveying the room to see who to ask to dance a swing with, Greg decided that I was the only vaguely competent dancer there (…but actually, I was pretty poor at West Coast Swing then. I just happen to be less poor than the other choices), so he asked. After that, we danced all of the West Coast Swings together.

This went on for several months, and then my relationship finally fell apart for good (unrelated to my dancing with Greg—at ballroom dances, everyone generally dances with several partners during the night). I swore off men for a year to “find myself”, but it turned out to be only a month before I started dating Greg, and we’ve been together ever since. That was the year 2000.

I cannot imagine where I would be now if it were not for dancing. It’s a wonderful way to bond with one person or meet new friends. It’s therapeutic—no matter how bad I’m feeling, physically or emotionally, a night of dancing lifts me up and makes me feel better. It’s great exercise, burning about 300 calories per hour, on average, and working every muscle in your body. Finally, it keeps you young. I once met a 96-year-old woman who looked like she was in her 60s, and she attributed her youthful outlook and appearance to years of dancing.

Ballroom dancing has been a major part of my life for 15 wonderful years, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. I plan to continue for as long as my legs will carry me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ballroom Dance Classes in September near Sacramento

Starting in September, I will be teaching ballroom dance classes on Wednesdays at Roseville Dance and Thursdays at Mission Oaks Community Center in Carmichael. Click the fliers below for more information!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Viennese Waltz Workshop 8/21/10

I will be teaching a beginning Viennese Waltz workshop on Saturday, August 21st. Click the image below for details.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Dance! Night Club Styles at The Dance Corner

The Dance Corner, which is run by Sergey and Eleni Malko of Roseville Dance, started a new dance this last Friday: the Night Club Styles dance, which runs on Fridays from 8-10:30. The dance features West Coast Swing, Hustle, Salsa, Night Club Two Step and more. The DJs will rotate, and I am one of them! I will be playing this Friday, August 6th. I've been spending hours coming up with great music to play for you, so come on down and be sure to ask me to dance.

The Dance Corner is at 2937 Fulton Avenue in Sacramento, near the corner of Fulton and Marconi.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sacramento Ballroom, Tango, Country and Swing Network

The other day I was lamenting how difficult it is to get the word out about dance events in the Sacramento area. There have been so many times people told me after the fact (or have said it myself), "I wish I'd known about it!" I can talk about things here or on facebook, but I can only reach so many people, and I know there are hundreds of dancers in and near Sacramento. So, in a blinding flash of brilliance, I searched on facebook to see if there is a group for all of us to connect easily. To my surprise, there was nothing of the sort, so I created it myself.

You can join the Sacramento Ballroom, Tango, Country and Swing Network by clicking on I want this to be a valuable resource for everyone who participates in these kinds of dances in the Sacramento area. Please join and look through the discussions. There are places to post regularly occurring dances and classes in the discussions tab, and you can post special events on the wall. Invite all of your dancing friends!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bolero Workshop this Saturday, DJing at SBS

Just a reminder that I'm teaching my Bolero workshop this Saturday, the 24th, from 3:00 to 4:30 at the Dance Corner--see flyer below (click on it to see it bigger). That night, I will be DJing at the Sacramento Ballroom Society dance. I don't know how recovered my sprained ankle will will be good enough to teach, but I'll have to take it easy on it still, so I probably won't be dancing much at the dance that night.  I hope to see you Saturday!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Teaching/DJing this Saturday and an apology/clarification

First of all, I will be teaching and DJing this Saturday, the 10th, at Sacramento Ballroom Society. Lesson to be determined and will be posted as soon as that happens...any requests?

Secondly, it was brought to my attention recently that some students in one of my classes were upset with something I said on facebook, supposedly about them. Of course, I got this second-hand, so I'm not privy to all the detail. Since I almost never say anything negative about anyone on there that I wouldn't say to their face, I can only guess they were referring to my blog post here titled "What are you doing when I'm talking?" wherein I ranted about people who talk or practice when I'm trying to teach them something.

None of my blog posts here are directed at any particular person or class. I have been teaching for nine years, and in that time I have encountered some of the same problems over and over again. I also see them in other teachers' classes, too, so they aren't just mine. Sometimes one class or dance will inspire a post, but it's aimed at everyone who does whatever it is I'm talking about. If you felt singled out, I apologize. However, I very specifically did not mention which class I was talking about--it's every class. I admit, by the time I get worked up enough to write a blog post about it, I'm pretty irritated and my tone is blunt (that's putting it nicely--another B word would be more appropriate). I'm sorry if my tone offended you.

It is my hope that my readers will read my posts, determine whether they apply to you, and act accordingly. In grammar school, we had teachers and parents telling us how to behave and learn. As adults, we forget that there is more to learning anything than just showing up to class. By investing yourself in being the best student you can be, you will learn faster and more. If you recognize yourself in my posts, it's OK to laugh sheepishly and move on...we all make mistakes! It's what you do with your mistakes that make all the difference.

If you have a problem with something I've said or done, I invite you to send me an email and let's talk about it. Allow me the opportunity to apologize to you personally or defend myself. I'm actually a really nice person, even if I do lose my patience sometimes. I can admit when I'm bad and can take a licking--feel free to call me out. Sometimes we even have fun in my classes!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dance classes coming up

In July, I will be teaching again on Tuesday nights at the Mission Oaks Community Center in Carmichael. From 6:00 to 7:25, we'll cover beginning East Coast Swing and Cha Cha. From 7:30 to 9:00, I'll be teaching intermediate East Coast Swing and Bolero. Bolero will be a new dance for many in the class, so it will start with the basics but should move quickly.

I will also be teaching a Bolero workshop on July 24th from 3:00 to 4:30 at The Dance Corner in Sacramento. We will review the basics while working on technique, but I recommend that yo have some Bolero experience before coming to this workshop. Feel free to contact me for more information!

See the flyers attached below.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What are you doing when I'm talking??

Here is one of my dance class pet peeves: when I'm standing in front of the class giving a mini lecture and someone is doing anything BUT listening to me--talking to their partner, practicing the move (wrong), whatever. First, it's rude. Second, chances are good that if I'm explaining or re-explaining a concept, it's because you're the one who needs it. It disrupts the whole class, because you're going to ask me a question about what I spent five minutes talking about and I'm going to have to explain it AGAIN. I'm also going to have to come over and correct you when you torture your partner by continually doing the pattern wrong because you weren't listening.

When you talk or practice while I'm talking, not only is it disrespectful to me and self-defeating because you're missing something important, you're also affecting your partner, because you're distracting them so they don't hear what I'm saying, either. Now there are two people in the dark.

Dance class is a two way street. I can only teach you if you are willing to learn. That means listening when I talk and watching when I demonstrate. If I say, "Watch me first. Don't do it, just watch," that means don't follow along with me. Just watch. I don't know how many different ways I can say that. The reason I don't want you to do it with me is because you won't see the whole thing, and it will be harder for you to learn (which makes my job harder). I always have you follow along and do the step with me 5-10 times after that, so you will get plenty of chances to practice.

It's important that you focus in class and try to absorb as many of the concepts as possible and not move up to the next level until you have pretty well mastered those concepts. Yes, there is a lot to learn. Sometimes this means taking a class 2-3 times before you move up. Taking notes and practicing between classes will help. However you do it, you need to invest yourself in the class and try so the teacher can teach you. Otherwise, why are you there?

You are paying for the teacher's expertise--this is not just their expertise in dancing, but also in teaching dancing (although some dancers are not as good at teaching as they are at dancing). Trust that they know what they're doing. Follow their instructions. You'll learn so much faster than going along doing your own thing!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Great website for Sacramento dancers!

A wonderful lady named Alice has compiled a list of all the classes and lessons she could find in the Sacramento area and lists them on her website, Check her out to see where you can trip the light fantastic any night of the week.

Don't forget my Tuesday dance classes at Mission Oaks, starting tonight! Beginning Foxtrot and Tango at 6:00, Intermediate Samba and Waltz at 7:30. Only $20 for the whole month--cheap cheap!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Upcoming Dance Class Dates

Hi all, sorry I haven't been keeping up on this blog! I was distracted from dancing and blogging for a bit, but I am trying to keep in touch a little better. Here are some things I have coming up:

Sacramento Ballroom Society, Friday, April 23rd. I will be teaching American Waltz. This class is always a mix of beginning and intermediate dancers, so we start with something basic and then do something more challenging. My partner and brother, Bill Riley, will be the DJ for the evening, and he always plays a great mix! I'll be hanging out to dance a bit, so feel free to ask me to dance!

I am taking over Ted Colbert's classes at Mission Oaks Community Center at 4701 Gibbons Dr. in Carmichael for the month of May and possibly a bit longer. Starting on Tuesday, May 4th, I will be teaching beginning Waltz and Rumba from 6:00 to 7:30 and intermediate Rumba and Tango from 7:30 to 9:00. Cost is $25 for the month, and you need to sign up with Mission Oaks.

I hope to see you there!