The Newsletter is sent out to interested dancers once a month as well as reminders if we have an event coming up soon. If you are interested in getting the lowdown on dances that are occurring in our program, you are welcome to sign up. The Newsletter is geared for those new to partner dancing as well as those who have been with me for a few years and want to be updated on what is going on in the Treasure Valley.
"We Want to Compete One Day."
Success without the self sabotage.
I often hear this from couples. I am certain that most are imagining the process goes something like this:
1). Join a group class.
2). Move into intermediate class.
3). Take a few private lessons.
4). Spend months (or years) to get really good.
5). Dance a few more years. Maybe join an advanced group class.
6). Maybe showcase a few times and continue dancing.
7). Learn to do lifts and tricks to empress the judges.
8). Enroll in a competition, (Eventually, when we feel we are good enough).
This is what most imagine the process is. What I am about to tell you is going to literally shatter this incorrect ideology. That is simply this: You start competing within the first six months of your dance training. Yes, you read that right. You start off with the goal of entering a competition within the first six months. You don't become a great dancer and then compete; you BECOME a great dancer by setting
dance goals from the beginning. Start off with a competition or showcase date. Push yourself from the beginning. Do it, and do it right away!
Most of us have seen the dance shows where you watch upper level dancing. It’s thrilling and exciting. Most of all, it brings in the ratings. The little known secret is that competitors start with what is called the “newcomer level”. The newcomer level is for those that have danced one year or less. It isn’t at all flashy or awe inspiring as what you are seeing on television or YouTube, but it is the most logistical way to start. Competitors who start at the newcomer level and work their way up the ladder into better and better dancing. It’s a process that you can’t do well by skipping the first or second rung in that ladder. That first rung may not sell big television ratings, but it will get you on a faster track to eventually great dancing. Slow and steady will make you ready.
Starting off as a newcomer is a lot less intimidating that you may think. Judges look for connection and simply watch to see if you are enjoying yourself. If you can do this and stay on time with the music, you can pull a high mark in newcomer level. The judges want you to have an enjoyable experience, so why not have one? Once you go and participate a time or two, it no longer feels as scary. After you participate four or five times, it starts to become for lack of a better word, routine.
Here is a correct way to start a competitive future:
Join a group class and move into private lessons fairly early.
Work on connection and timing, not fancy patterns. Fancy patterns do not impress the judges. Believe me, they have already seen it all!
Enroll as a newcomer in a competition within the first six months of your training.
Lifts & tricks are not allowable in group competitive events. They do not impress the judges.
Remember K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, silly. Judges are looking for a simpler and clean footwork, not embellishments or tricks.
It's more important to keep your dancing clean. A good posture will take you farther than you think.
Listen to your instructor to get the correct assessment. You get to better dancing by continually pushing yourself outside
your comfort zone. Not overthinking your process and starting off the correct way is the road to higher achievement.
When will I finally feel confident with my dancing?
The difference between feeling confident and looking confident.
Because dance is a visual art as well as a physical one, it's hard to tell when you should start feeling confident. The truth is it isn't always how we emotionally feel. More often it's how we look on the floor.
I am often asked "when will I feel confident on the dance floor"? The truth is sometimes we never do. Being that we are humans who usually are facing our own inner struggles, we are usually too quick to sell ourselves short. When we see other good dancers on the floor we often assume that they must feel confident. If you were to ask my better dancers, they will tell you that they might not feel as confident as you think. They just have put more time and effort into their dancing than most so they ONLY LOOK confident to you. Many have taken private lessons so a lot of the bumps and hiccups have been smoothed out...See the difference? Smoother dancing gives the illusion that you feel confident.
Everyone will tell themselves that they look bad. "Why can't I get this?" or " I can't remember what we did last week!" What separates the mediocre dancers from the better dancers is a willingness to continue and grow in your own way. If you are not sure how to do this, here are a few ideas:
1. Be willing to push yourself past the negative self talk. Good dancers know the importance to keep going, despite the negative self talk.
2. Do not be afraid to take a private lesson to help you get past rough spots in your dancing. Sometimes a little "tweaking" can make it more comfortable for you. Remember that private lessons are much different than a group class. In private lessons I can smooth out those things that only pertain to YOU.
3. Do not be afraid to practice. Practice will help you retain what you have learned and keep you focused.
4. Learn to occasionally push past your comfort zone. If you have been timid about attending a practice party, attend one. If you have been shy about a particular dance, stick with it as you can learn little tidbits that can help you in other dances that you like more. Think about doing a showcase.
5. Be sure to support other dancers that are trying something new or what might be potentially scary if you were to do it. If you don't want to showcase a dance, be sure to attend the performance of another couple. Cheer on those that do. It will help you build the cohesiveness with other dancers. They may someday choose to be there to support you in your future endeavors, large or small.
6. Smile! Are you having fun? Then show it! Showing your enjoyment helps invite others to do the same.
7. Dance shoes. If you haven't purchased them yet, get them. They go a long way giving you the traction you need when you need it and slide when you need to slide. They provide a better weight placement over your toes, allowing you to feel the floor and control your actions better.
Before long you will find that other new dancers will start swooning over what you have accomplished on your own. You don't have to tell them how nervous you still might be about your own dancing. Looking confident and feeling confident are two different things. Keep working on those things that make you look confident and no one will be the wiser.
Are dance shoes really that important?
How to step out in style.
I am often asked about how important dance shoes are to your dancing. They are very important. It could actually save you money in the long run. Here is how.
Let's face it. Dance shoes can be an investment. Prices can range from $50 - $170 for a pair, depending on the brand that you purchase. So why invest in them? Dance shoes do several things for you. Firstly, they usually have a steel shank to help you stay poised more easily over the balls of your feet. This helps you change weight more quickly. Most shoes are made of calves leather which provides superior flexibility through the foot so your toes can grip the floor. The brushed suede bottoms allow the perfect traction and allow you to stick when you need to stick and slide when you need to slide. These three things alone will provide you a lot of stability to your dancing. With these things in mind, I would like to share with you the following story that took place a little over four years ago.
I was commissioned to put together a showcase for a young couple a few years ago. This couple had a new marriage and wanted something that would help them represent their feelings during a local dance showcase. They chose a beautiful, but rather fast song. As the weeks progressed, this young man was eager to get a pair of dance shoes to practice in. The shoes noticeably helped his posture and provided the stability that he needed to perform the lifts that we had chosen to put into their routine. His wife, however did not get her dance shoes at the same time. As time went on, I found myself correcting her technique over and over again. I just could not get it to look right and struggled with getting the performance to come out clean. As time went on, I began to worry that it would not be polished enough to show as I had to keep correcting the same issues over and over again.
About two weeks before the performance, her shoes finally arrived. In ONE lesson all those issues that I had to correct over and over again were miraculously cleared up. Suddenly, the whole thing came together and looked beautiful! The only difference being were the shoes. It has often made me wonder just how much more I would have been able to polish and how much time could have been saved if she had only had her shoes!
To work on any dance routine or simply to social dance well will often require private lessons. Proper shoes could cut down how long it will take to get your individual dancing nailed out. Since private lessons come at a premium, neglecting this seemingly small detail could add more private lesson time to your package. Even if you are taking group classes, proper shoes can cut down on the time it takes you as a couple to get the job done.
Don't try to skimp.
I often have new students come to me and ask if they can simply glue suede to the bottom of their street shoe and pass it off as a dance shoe. It won't work as that will still be a street shoe with suede and hardly a proper dance shoe. Dance shoes provide a function whereas a street shoe cannot. It isn't enough to look like a dance shoe, it has to perform like one. Unfortunately, we don't have a ballroom shoe vendor here in the Treasure Valley, so all of us need to purchase online. The good news is because of this, you have a wider range of what will better fit your budget.
Beginners to Advanced.
I do not require dance shoes for beginning students, but I do highly suggest them. Those beginners that choose to purchase them can feel the difference and you can see the difference in the way their weight is placed and body is carried. Once you move into a higher level class, you will need to purchase a dance shoe as the material becomes more complicated. To execute these patterns well, you will need the stability your dance shoe will provide.
Do I have to remember it all?
How to better relax and enjoy the process
Sometimes beginners get stuck when they feel that they can't remember everything that has been taught to them in a beginner class. I have many Social Success students sit on the fence when it comes to moving forward into an intermediate class because they feel they have not yet memorized everything in their beginner class.
I guess the bigger question is are you suppose to memorize all the material? The answer is NO! This is a limit dancers will sometimes place on themselves. If you were to ask any intermediate or advanced dancer if they have memorized everything, they will tell that they haven't. Frankly, there is no reason why you should. It is more important that you learn how to change weight when your feet close, apply a proper connection with your partner and understand the difference between closed, open, promenade or shadow positions.
Everything else is something that you tackle as you go. To be brutally honest, I have been teaching for over thirty years and I still don't know everything that there is to know and that is what makes it so appealing to me. I can never get bored. There is always more to move into.
Dancing is something to be enjoyed, so enjoy it! We work on things and when we get that under our belt, we move up a little bit. The trouble is when we feel we can't move up because we can't remember what we did last week. Welcome to the group! I often say that when you go home and can retain 30% of what you were taught that night, call it a good day! There will always be time to review. So relax. Put on your dance shoes and enjoy knowing that you are right on board with everyone else in your group.
Why Beginners Quit.
Planning Your Strategy for Success.
It has been said that out of 1,000 dancers that think that they may start dancing, 50 will actually do it. The numbers actually start to drop even more dramatically from there. In the 2016-2017 season, I personally welcomed twenty-two new couples on our group dance floors. Out of those twenty-two new couples, only six completed the beginning course. Out of those six couples, only two actually made it to the intermediate level class and stayed with a fair amount of consistency. Out of our six intermediate couples total (From 2017, 2016 & 2015), only three took an advanced series this year. Why such a high turnover? These numbers are not just here, but are documented and are shown manifest all over the country. In every studio, in every city across the whole U.S. What is it that makes it so hard to become more highly successful? Let’s look at some of the reasons that couples seem to give up before they really ever get started.
Adults don’t want to feel uncomfortable or feel like they look stupid. When we imagine dancing, we imagine it being effortless. The truth is everyone in a beginning level class is starting at square one. That means where your left foot is located. All other life mantles fall away. All of a sudden, your years of triathlons, years of karate, your BA, MBA and PHD don’t make any difference. You are among the other new dancers trying to figure this new adventure. The playing field is now equal among the other dancers in the room. It is in reality an unavoidable part of your dance education. Nobody is exempt and nobody likes to feel uncomfortable. But if you are smart and stick to your guns, you will be able to provide encouragement and sagely advice to those new dancers when you get a little further down your road.
Fear of Rejection
Fear of rejection from intermediate or an advanced dancer can be intimidating. At my events and classes, dancers are not required to switch partners, so that has helped relive some of the feelings of rejection. Oddly enough, beginners still find it scary and will often times actively avoid social dance functions. Most will avoid dance events even when given a complementary ticket! The stigma of rejection is so strong that dance events will still often become avoided, even by well established couples. Dance events are paramount to your learning. You can't very well have the space needed in your living room to dance a full waltz and you won't learn how to move around other couples. Rejecting dance events and socials are in effect the same as rejecting your chance at progress.
Sometimes new dancers can let other things take their focus away. A new job, a move to a new home, even warmer weather can distract new dancers. This is the primary reason our beginning course closes in the late spring. Too many become distracted with yards, gardens, weddings, vacations and graduations. It is sometimes hard to have consistency with your classes. It takes a lot of proper planning to make progress. Baby sitters need to be set up, planning to attend more social dances outside of your group class takes forethought. Some newbies are always having to play “catch up” or waiting for a new dance to start after having missed the previous one. This can make a newbie feeling like they can’t keep up the pace of a group class. Remember that if you missed one class, we usually always review the following week. Bad planning will lead to “stop and start” which I will cover further.
Failure to Practice
Each week when I start a class, I play one song from the dance we covered the previous week so you can warm up and practice. Sadly, most newbies stand around and look at the floor with their hands in their pockets. What this tells me is that you were not practicing at all over the week and can’t remember what was covered. You will need to practice to remember the material. Studies have proved that you won’t retain new material unless you are diligently in practice mode. I suggest that you practice as soon as you get home while it is still fresh. Practice once or twice more that week to keep that momentum going. That way when the music comes on in your next class, you will be dancing and not be that couple who is looking at the floor. YOU will be the ENVY of those who are virtually standing still.
Stop and Start.
This is by far the most devastating of bad practices for new dancers. I am always so impressed with those who actually finish the beginning course. I know that they have worked hard at maintaining enough consistency to complete what I know to them is a monumental task. But for some reason a big percentage of those who actually do finish the beginning course find some sort of distraction to prevent them from moving into an intermediate class. In the 2016-2017 dance year, I had exactly six couples complete the beginning course and were going to move into an intermediate class. In reality, I had four couples get distracted and I had exactly two new couples out of the six join the intermediate class this year. This is a result of stop and start. I know that their intentions were good, they just got distracted and never re started.
If you are a beginner and serious about dancing, don’t stop your momentum. Don’t stop dancing. If you miss a class or event, practice at home or on your vacation. Those that stop momentum will have a very hard time regaining it. I have had some dancers with me for a very long time. They can sometimes float in and out of classes, but because they may have lost the momentum that they had as beginners, they can sometimes feel that they have lost it forever. Sometimes it takes some creativity to find a way to dance every day.
Fighting with your partner.
Fighting with your partner is counter productive whether it is on the floor or on the ride home. You won't make progress and I can't make progress with you if you are at odds with each other. It also must be known that bringing in a reluctant partner into a lesson with you can also be potentially explosive. Remember to keep things in perspective. Keep it light. It's only dance!
Trying to teach or correct your partner.
This is something that is best left to your instructor to handle.Don't be afraid to ask for help! Trying to teach your partner can easily put your partner on the defensive and put the end to your dancing very quickly. Trying to teach your partner runs the risk of teaching it incorrectly and add a lot of unnecessary grief, trying to correct a potential habit later down the road. If you have questions, ask your teacher. It will go a long way in helping you both to have better unspoken communication in your dancing.
Where will you be in five years?
If it is true that only two new couples out of 1,000 will be dancing a year from their first class, you will have some pretty high bragging rights. If you are a beginner, stay with it. If you are an intermediate, don’t be afraid to push yourself further into an advanced level or exhibition dancing. You will enter a world where you did not give up when you felt that new dancer anxiety hit, you will be among those that beat the odds and danced their way to success!
How well you dance depends on your strategy.
How to make the perfect plan for your personal dance goals.
A great many people come into our program for a lot of different reasons. Some are looking for a fun date night. Others have a specific dance in mind that they would like to learn or are fans of the network dance shows. Whatever your personal dance goal is, it is really important that you pin a goal down so you can gauge your training to best suit what you are wanting to accomplish.
Group classes are a good place to start. They will give you the understanding of lead and follow, dance patterns and simple dance terms. If you are wanting a simple and fun date night, this is your place! What group classes can not give you is detailed instruction or a choreographed routine. Remember to keep it light. Judge yourself only by your previous dancing and not the people dancing next to you.
If you are a dance show fan, you might feel a little let down after a while that your are not burning up the floor with a spectacular routine in your group class. Don't feel let down. You are still on the right course. Everyone has to start at the beginning and learn the concepts of lead and follow and dance terms. Learning this is much less expensive in a group class than if you tried to tackle it in private lessons. If your dance goal is leaning more toward exhibition or competitive dance, it is still suggested that you start in a group class and transfer to private lessons at a later date to save money.
Short term fun. Social dancing is the term used when you are following a lead/follow format. What this means is that the man initiates the lead and the lady, not knowing what the man is going to lead, responds. It is kind of like an unspoken language. We follow dance etiquette and dance socially on a floor with other people. Social dancing is not learned well in just a class alone. You will need to be using your new skill. So if social dancing is your goal, you will need to add dance parties and dance events to your list of responsibilities to keep your skills up to date. Group class alone is not going to get you to that goal. Those that neglect regular practice and or dance events will soon find that they won't be able to remember what they have learned and frustration will set in quickly. Dance events are to be served as your chance to review and solidify what you have been taught. Don't forget to apply consistency to your group class. Without it, you are only shooting yourself in your left foot. Making the effort to be at each class will keep you on the right track to building your skills and increase your chances of success.
Adding more challenge. If after taking group class for a while, you start craving more structure, it's time to incorporate occasional private lessons along with your group class. Private lessons can offer you more detailed instruction that pertain only to your dancing. If you have a particular dance that you really want to learn well, there is no better way to do that than to use private lessons. Private lessons will give your instructor the chance to clean up the issues that only pertain to you as a couple so you can dance your favorite dance more comfortably. Group classes can get you started, private lessons can make it glide.
Shining on the dance floor. If you are a dance show fan or want to gain the greatest understanding of the dance or dances you love the most, why not pick out a favorite song to have choreographed and set a exhibition date? Setting a larger dance goal like this offers a lot of hidden benefits to your dancing enjoyment. You will learn to dance so much more cleanly. You will gain a greater understanding and a greater love with what you are doing. You will practice more often to promote your dance memory. You will feel a greater sense of accomplishment. You can impress your family and friends. You can choose to use your choreographed piece for either regional competition or a much more affordable local showcase.
It is important to remember that great dancers don't compete or showcase because they are great dancers. They become great dancers through the process and preparation for one. A trophy is nothing more than a formality ; we don't dance for a trophies. We work toward the end goal of better dancing. It's the better dancing that becomes your prize.
I can provide the training, and you provide the dedication as the vehicle to get you there. Whatever your personal dance goal may be, it is necessary to set one, no matter how simple it may be. My goal is to always get you dancing at your personal best with the tools you allow me to use. Finding a goal and charting your course will always provide you with success.
A couple' success can depend on the lady’s patience.
The importance of keeping it light.
It’s a beautiful thing to see how much women want to dance. It seems to be part of how we were created. Many ladies danced as girls in ballet or tap classes as a child. This experience will give you a slight head start. But to dance in any couple dance, it takes two people, so it necessitates the use of a dance partner.
Men on the other hand can come onto the dance floor very wary. Most have not had a lot of previous experience in this area like many of the ladies may have had. It can take a lot of courage for most to even consider trying. I have found that most men learn to love it just as much or more as the ladies do once they can fully understand the beginning concepts of lead, and simple dance mechanics. I emphasize the word mechanics as there is a lot of physics behind learning this skill. I try very hard to focus on the men learning the mechanics in both group classes private lessons. This is the way that men need to be instructed. It is the way that that comes natural for them to learn most things that are new to them. In this respect, I ask you to be more patient with me in the beginning as I am helping your partner better process this for you.
But there is another factor that is necessary when it comes to a couple’s success. It relies in the patience of the woman. Ladies, if you are patient with your partner you will have much more success than if you are pointing out or blaming him for mistakes that he is or might be making. Because this is probably his first time trying, he probably has a pretty big learning curve to meet up to and he probably feels like he is falling short. He doesn’t want to disappoint you. He only wants to make you happy and is overcoming a lot of self-doubt to take you to a dance lesson. Please don’t try to correct him. He is busy processing information in his own way. He desperately wants it to be perfect for you!
Sometimes his pace might not meet up with your expectations as this new concept will take time for him to learn. When in doubt, it is always a better idea to enlist the aid of your instructor instead of trying to do this yourself. Your instructor is an impartial factor in your dance experience and wants you to succeed. But if you are quick to blame, start arguments on the dance floor or on the ride home, try to offer “helpful” suggestions or making it unpleasant for him in any way, you will only be adding to his stress and your time on the dance floor is going to be undoubtedly very short. Often, too many quit before they even have a chance to get off the ground.
Be pleasant and feel free to laugh it all off....after all it's only dance, not the Spanish inquisition! You have the power to make this a successful endeavor. Use your power to applaud his efforts and celebrate his successes. If you are careful and use your patience it won't be long until both of you will be enjoying your dance experience much more fully.
The beginning of your dance education is the most critical. Once you have moved past the beginning level, things do and will smooth out. He will have more than likely caught up to your previous skill level. Both of you will gradually start to feel more natural and comfortable. Concepts will become more natural to both of you and you won’t even need to think through it nearly as much. If you want to start dancing well, remember it is in the “how” you start will determine your success as a couple. Success primarily lays in the hands of a level-headed woman. Use your power wisely.
Why I want you to learn Foxtrot.
The importance of starting off slowly.
I know! You come into your first dance lesson and you want to Salsa or Swing because it sounds like so much fun. And you are right, they are a lot of fun….and fast too!
They are fast. Most new dancers who choose to start off with one of the faster dances get discouraged well, faster. Why would you get so discouraged when they are supposed to be so much fun? The simple truth is because the faster dances translates into unnecessarily forcing you to change your weight faster, lead faster, follow faster and execute faster. It ultimately means that you will also saturate and frustrate faster. Many couples who don't start with something slower will often give up, rather than stay the whole course to completion.
When I first meet a new couple I always suggest Foxtrot first because it is slower (as well as is the easiest dance to learn). You can take the time to learn lead, follow, footwork, weight placement and patterns at a more relaxed pace. This translates into a more relaxed way to start off your dance experience. Once you try a few slower dances and get the hang of changing your weight along with simple lead and following skills under your belt; it can make for a much smoother transition into a faster dance like swing and salsa. Slower transitions are better indicators of better dancing as a whole.
Rhythm dances like Salsa and all Swings (Especially West Coast Swing) requires a very strong partner connection to be executed well. This doesn’t happen right away. It will sometimes take months to be able to feel a strong enough connection to the upper part of your body and to your partner's frame to dance Salsa or Swing effortlessly. Foxtrot and waltz teaches simple weight changing, along with how to read your partner's lead or communicate simple leading skills. Slower Foxtrots and Waltzes can feel more like a simple stroll in the park; comparatively it will give you a greater edge in the long run then those who choose to jump into a fast and furious dance right away.
Learning to dance is a skill much like learning to play the piano. You won’t be able to play a concerto in your first month, you will need to start with something more simply. Can you say, Chopsticks? Being patient enough to take the time to do it correctly will more easily provide you with the success that you desire, not to mention a stronger feeling of accomplishment. And who wouldn't want that?
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