Recently I had a student pull out of her private lessons because “dance was much harder” than she thought it was going to be. She had the idea that waltz especially was going to be an easy dance. I asked what had made her think that and she did not seem to have much of a response apart from simply repeating that she thought it was going to be easy. She went on to say that she was good at most things she did, and she no longer looked forward to continuing with dance - dance was just not like the other things she did (easy).
On the one hand I wondered if maybe she always avoided difficult things in life, or at least the things that were difficult for her, and dance was just one of many things she had given up on. On the other hand, I was wondering if the syllabus was too hard or if I was too demanding. She told me she was happy with the teaching, but simply did not like feeling like she was not good at something. I also have other students who know full well that there are things they need to work on, and they do indeed work on them, so I am inclined to think that the student in question did indeed simply wish to avoid things that are challenging.
I should point out here that the student pulled out after only 2 lessons! This makes me all the more confident that the issue was primarily about her ability and desire to take on something challenging.
However, this minor drama at the studio did prompt me to think more about dance and if it is indeed hard and if it is meant to be hard.
What would make dance hard?
Dance requires some of the following attributes:
There is actually a missing attribute from the list above: an enjoyment of learning. Some people simply enjoy learning something no matter what it is – knowledge is its own reward. Others enjoy learning dance especially – for dance is fun. And some know that the efforts of learning will be paid back in the future – they love the sense of satisfaction that comes from mastering something. Chances are that it is a mix of these for you.
If you have this enjoyment of learning, no matter the underlying motivator, then efforts to develop your attributes will not make dance seem hard. It might be that the process, as you work toward becoming the dancer you want to be, is, at times, hard. But dance itself will not be hard. If dance does ever become hard, then remind yourself of the following:
The last item on the list has gotten me, and several other dances I know, through some of the more trying times of learning dance.
And that brings me to a final point I want to make: you will always have your ups and downs. I know from personal experience that we will all encounter a number of downs. So does your dance teacher – ask them about it if you want to know about how everyone has downs from time to time. Just don’t let it be the downs that dictate how you feel about yourself or about dance – that’s probably what happened to the student who motivated this blog post. And she is never going to experience the ups that come from dance.
The following post is taken from an ezine article written by Clint.
What I Learned Teaching TV Actors to Dance
Now that the respective season is up, I can now share my experience teaching dance to a collection of actors on the Australian TV series, Wentworth. The reason for me writing this was because I discovered things about actors that other dancers might find useful.
Background - what is Wentworth?
You can learn more about the TV series at the end of the article, but in short, Wentworth is a successful prison based drama made in Australia that is, at the time of writing this, in its 6th season. I was asked to come in and teach some actors how to dance Argentine Tango for a seen that involved that dance. What was interesting was that this was the first time I had to teach people to dance, but not dance too well. Also, it was the first time that the look of the dance, from the perspective of the audience, was more important than the technique. These two things made for an interesting approach to teaching and might colour what comes next.
What I learned
This is probably what you are most interested in. The things that struck me most about teaching these professional actors were:
The second item once again is probably not much of a surprise. Actors would likely love seeing themselves on any kind of screen. The real point I want to make here is the benefit that comes from this. This was the first time ion any class I taught when there were as many phones with recordings of the students dancing as there were students. Each of them automatically offered to record the others when they danced. I can still recall now when one asked another if they wanted to see themselves dancing. I instantly felt that apprehension that I have empathetically picked up from my other students. However, before I even got a chance to fully experience that feeling, the actor that was asked responded in the affirmative and was watching themselves dance. No matter how well they danced (or didn't) they were happy to watch themselves, analyse and then try to improve. This is what we can learn from actors - it is just a recording (one of the past) and a step to becoming better. View recordings of you dancing as just one of many. If you make more in the future, then in the grand scheme of things any one video is minor - apart from the learning opportunity it offers. If you feel uncomfortable with recordings of you dancing, then it simply means you should record more.
Because they were actors, they wanted to know what effect was to be created with the dance. This was to balance a desire to be authentic and the need to give the viewers what they wanted/expected when they thought of what a tango was. The end effect though was some serious thought to who they should move and basically "act" while dancing. I always think of dancing that I do for myself. However, when I saw how quickly these actors improved by asking about the character of a dance, I can now say with confident that some thought to how you will look to others (and "should" look given the nature of the dance) will help you dance better faster. This is an example of how performance dance (dance for the entertainment of others) is something that all dancers might want to think about doing every now and then. It will help you understand dance from another perspective, which will make you a better dancer.
The final thing I noticed was also what one would expect from actors. They work in an industry where it is vital to always come up with something new and you need to make everything as engaging as possible. Experimenting with things and trying out new things can help with that. I also saw how it helps with learning dance. By trying different ways of doing things they quickly found what did not work and also prompted me to share extra insights that I would not have thought to share at that time. It was a little like asking questions, but via experimentation. To quickly learn what you should and should not do to dance well, you can always try some experimentation. If you happen to be working on a performance, then you might also find something new and innovative as well.
Keep each of the above in mind next time you are having troubles improving your dance. There might be something there that really helps you.
An extra insight
When I was asked to teach the actors, I was explicitly told that the dance was to be Argentine Tango. The script cited the 8 step salida specifically. However, it was also noted that the average viewer would likely imagine the international standard tango when they heard the word "tango". For that reason, the styling was changed to that the viewers would see what was expected - and the surprises would be in the story only. If you are doing a performance piece at some time, then think about your specific audience, what they expect and how to manage that. Maybe you simply do what they expect or you take time to explain why what you do is different from what is expected. Regardless, if you think about this, you will deliver a better performance.
If you are not familiar with the TV series, then you can learn more about it here.
I am a social dancer with an interest in learning. I want to make it as easy as possible for you to get to your desired level of whatever partner dancing (Swing, Ballroom, Latin etc.) you do. I have summarized much of what I know in a free e-book you can get here: http://www.dancebetternow.com. I also apply what I know at my dance studio Destine Dance.
Many of us know we need to exercise to lose weight. However, to get right to the point, exercise sucks! We need something that is active, but fun. If you don’t like sport so much or feel that it might be hard on the joints, then you need to look elsewhere.
This leads many of us to consider dance as an avenue to weight loss.
But just how much energy does dancing burn?
The slower types of dance are a lot like walking when it comes to burning energy. The faster dances are a lot like jogging. That means an hour of dancing could be like going for a good walk or a reasonable jog. If you take a couple classes a week and then go out to dance as well, then you have a pretty good weekly work out.
However, that is just the energy burned at the time.
Dance will increase your strength by building muscles and tone. The act of building muscle also burns energy so you will get benefits even when you are not dancing as your body burns energy rebuilding itself.
It is about looking good no?
Most of us want to lose weight so we look better. Dance will improve your posture and your movement. That will mean that as well as losing weight, you will also look better because of the dancers posture you will now have.
But health is important.
Dance, by building muscle, providing cardio exercise and improving posture, will provide health benefits that will augment the benefits that come from losing weight. You can expect grater bone density, grater movement of joints and health from better poise. Dance is thus an ideal part of any weight loss program.
Just feeling better.
Weight loss, buy improving health and appearance, makes us feel better. If you are looking for that general sense of wellness, then dance is again ideal. The social nature of it, it’s opportunity to learn, the endorphins from the activity and its sense of fun, all combine to make dance an ideal hobby for those simply wanting to feel better. When you feel better, weight loss becomes easier too.
Based on the above, dance is indeed going to help with weight loss. Considering how dance is social and fun, it makes it more enticing than many other forms of exercise. So, you are much more likely to stick at dance than you are at the alternatives. However, dance also offers benefits beyond weight loss. Benefits that augment the effects of weight loss.
If you want to consider dance as a way of losing weight, then try a free trial lesson.
When students are looking for a place to learn dance, or perhaps even a new place to learn, they will often want to know that they are being taught the proper way to dance. This raises the question:
What is proper dance?
Different people will use different ideas to determine if the dance being taught is proper. Let's consider some.
If you can find the way the dance was danced in its home country and at the time it was conceived, then surely that must be the proper way to dance it. This is an approach that is often used in the less formalised dances such as swing and street Latin. However, it is often hard to determine the period in history that would be considered the time the dance was proper. Further, even if you go to the originating country, you will find that people there would dance it differently depending upon the part of that country they are from. Even different parts of Buenos Aires exhibit different styles of tango so travelling to Argentina will not allow you to be certain you are dancing proper tango.
Dances such as Waltz, Samba, cha cha, Foxtrot, Jive and quickstep have been codified by international dance organisations. This standardisation and agreement by the respective committees lends some authority to the standardisation. One could consider these to be proper. However, these dances are the standardisation of other dances that had already been developed by other communities. Further, sometimes the standardisation would be performed by people who were unfamiliar with the culture that originated the dance. The end effect was that the dance that came about was a corruption of the original. It is hard to argue that this is proper.
Dance sport dance has much in common with the standardised dances. It is often those standards that are used for judging. However, dance sport does allow for evolution. If you watch videos from dance sport competitions from decades in the past, then you will see a marked difference in the nature of the dance. This continued evolution of better dance in the crucible of competition would produce a better dance that would at least be getting close to something one could call proper. The thing is that dance sport had its origins within the working-class dancers who wanted to be evaluated and compared to each other. The dancers of aristocracy danced for pleasure and to show civility. You could possibly imagine how an aristocrat might respond to the notion of being judged by another on how well they danced and compared to others: not well! These are two competing views of dance and both seem valid (one to dance to the best of precision and be the best there it and the other to dance for the cultural, social and pleasurable benefits that come with it). It is thus hard to argue that we have found an avenue to proper dance.
Each of the above ideas has provided some ideas on what proper dance is. However, flaws can also be found in each. The same would likely be true of any other idea put forward on what makes for proper dance. If none of the above (or other) ideas can provide complete insight into what proper dance is, then what are we to conclude?
It probably means that the question is not well formed. Or, that it assumes that dance is the type of thing that can be described as proper. If we take a moment to compare what dance is, then we can reformulate the question, and students can then find a way to evaluate a dance school or studio.
What do we know about dance? The following is probably hard to argue with:
So when you are looking for a dance studio, ask about how they can help you explore dance so you can get what you want.
When it comes to dance, some of us already know musical theory, some of us can simply intuit the beat, some can express the emotion and some simply have no idea at all.
No matter your level of musicality (or how much you think you have or do not have) you can dance, but there is probably also room for improvement. This blog will talk about the basics of musicality and how you can use it to make you dance better.
Do you need to know how to count music?
This is a common question. There are people who can ‘feel’ the music and have a sense of when to step to stay in time. However, some dances, when they are taken to a higher level (and actually some from the get go) require you to know where you are relative to specific beat to dance well. That means being in time with the beat, while essential, is not enough. You need to know which beat it is. That means you need to start counting. Depending upon the music you might need to count to 8 and you might also need to count the bars (more about that later).
What to do if you seriously have no idea?
Not exactly sure what people mean when they say ‘beat’ or ‘bar’? Can’t work out what people are actually counting when they are counting music? You’re not alone. However, this should also not stop you from dancing. It simply means you need a crash course in music. Fortunately, that is fairly easy to do:
What is musical appreciation and how to use it?
Musical appreciation can be taken to considerable length. However, for dance the following is like what will serve you best:
Then when you are dancing:
Note: do not let your expression interfere with how you lead or follow. Some people get into the music so much that they forget their partner.
Key musical terms for better musicality
There was mention already of beats and bars above. However, it is worth going over these in more detail and noting some other features of music for you to be aware of:
Other things to note
When you become better at musicality, you might find that you simply do not wish to dance some figures to some music; they just won’t fit.
It can at times be hard to identify individual instruments. Watching a band play so that you can start to link the sound to the instrument can help.
If you want to get a link between the audio and the visuals of music, then try Jam Studio. It let’s you make music and shows you’re the beats as they are played. That can help you hear them.
It can be worth finding sheet music to see what the music is meant to be. I know of waltzes that were actually 9 beats to the bar, but everyone thought it was a 3 beats to the bar song. You could still waltz to it, but knowing it was 9 beats to the bar meant that one knew the phrasing would be different.
Many songs you might want to dance to can be found on Chordify, which will play the music and show you the beats in the musical score at the same time. This can also help find the beats in the music
This topic has been covered to an extent on this page; however, it is such an interesting topic that it deserves attention here as well.
There are 4 aspects to dance helping you:
Dance is not the most strenuous of activities. However, it does demand complex movement and good posture. By simply working on moving well as you dance and maintaining good posture, you will increase your mobility and strength of the muscles you use to move. The end effect is a healthier body that moves with ease.
Dance is surprisingly good for your brain. When you dance you need to listen to the music, be aware of your partner, be aware of others on the floor and move your body. These actions all use different parts of your brain. Because these different parts are working in parallel, it is excellent brain exercise. This is why dance is so good at fighting dementia.
Many people make the comment that after a night of dancing they are alert, and need time to wind down before bed. Dance simply makes you feel good. The combination of physical and mental stimulation it offers leaves one feeling much better. Dance will make you a happier person.
We are talking about partner dance here. That means it is at least you and another person. Thus it is social from the get go. However, you often learn in groups, you will likely dance with a number of people in a night and you simply start talking with those around you. Dance will provide you with many social connections, and leave you a happier person for that reason.