4 MORE Ways Practicing the Basics Help You Master a Dance
We’re back, with 4 more ways you can practice your first steps to dance like a pro! As you work on these techniques and the ones we discussed earlier, it helps to remember that ultimately, learning the steps is the easy part. It might not seem that way right now, but the more steps you learn, the more quickly your body will be able to pick up new ones! Sounds awesome right?
The annoying part is needing to go back over all your steps again because of a bad habit you picked up in step one. So do yourself a favour, and get them right the first time.
Timing means stepping on the emphasis or ‘downbeat’ in the music with the appropriate quicks and slows (ex. rumba would be danced slow-quick-quick). It sets the stage for more musical movement later on.
Try this: Listen to the music for any dance you are currently working on, and see if you can ‘hit’ the downbeats with any part of your body – nodding the head, tapping the foot, etc. Try dancing your basic step to the music, paying attention to what you hear as you take each step. What instruments are used during the downbeat? What happens to the volume, complexity, or ‘energy’ of the music? Be sure to try it with multiple songs.
6. Pressure (partner needed)
Frame is only the first half of connecting with our partner – we also need pressure. Pressure is given through compression– pressing forward into your partner’s frame, and catch or leverage – moving away to create a ‘pulling sensation’ on your partner’s frame. I’ve written more about maintaining pressure here, but the exercise below will cover the basics.
Try this: Take your frame with a partner, and create about 5 lbs. of compression by inclining your body gently towards them. They should resist this compression by the same amount. Do not push or pull with your arms. Maintaining this compression, dance your basic step together. Just keep focusing on keeping the pressure even, without moving your frame. If you know a move that uses leverage – like an open break or a cross body lead – try it, allowing your frame to gently ‘pull’ your partner as you move away.
7. Smoothness and Continuity
Most students tell me at some point they want to look smoother and more relaxed on the dance floor. They feel like their steps are awkward and jerky, more like spastic walking than dancing. Well good news, you can start improving from day one!
Try this: Dance your basic step. As you move, become aware of the muscles you need to shift your weight, and stay balanced and on time. Now, relax all your other muscles. Use the absolute minimum energy required to maintain your technique. Check in with yourself regularly to make sure you stay relaxed. As your body starts losing it’s tension, focus on smooth weight transfers. Try to ‘fill the music’, by flowing through each step, instead of a start-stop motion.
8. Correct foot leads
It might seem trivial, but practicing how our foot connects to the floor will allow your balance, smoothness, and floor connection to increase dramatically. Just try walking without lifting your toes to see how different it feels.
Try this: Practice using correct foot leads during your basic steps. In smooth/standard dances, walk forward by rolling from heel to toe, and vice versa as you ‘release’ your foot to step backwards. Side steps are taken onto the toe or ball of the foot. For rhythm/Latin dances, take each step by sliding on the ball of your foot. You can also place a tissue under your foot to make sure you aren’t picking it up.
There’s even more techniques you can try that are specific to various dances, but the bottom line is that there’s no substitute for technique if you want the kind of dancing that turns heads. Start practicing!
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.