The most important thing to remember is to have fun and don't take things too seriously. Dance should be full of movment and joy. No one is perfect since it's impossible to achieve perfection. There are different parts of dance. First there are the steps and foot/leg placements. Next is the coordination between the man (lead) and woman (follow) which requires the man to lead. I have to know my steps before I learn to lead. This is because when I am screwing up my steps, my attention goes onto my feet and not leading the woman. When I know both the dance steps and the lead, I can then concentrate on musicality. You can dance with perfect steps and a perfect lead at the wrong times and it will look and feel horrible! Knowing the music is important. The next phase is dance styling. This involves how you hold yourself, how you position yourselve with the woman, what you do with your hands, variations with your movements and much more. Learning to dance is a process. In alot of cases, it take several days, weeks, months or years before you fully understand all of the nuances of what you are doing.
My entire life, my profession and who I am is based on knowing. Knowing how to dance often comes by developing the skill by doing the dance over and over and over. Rex Jones, a Texas Two Step world champion, expresses it well when he states "Do it over and over a thousand times until you are sick of it." This is how the pros train. At first you don't know that you don't know. As you study and practice, you come to know that you don't know. With time and effort, you begin to consciously know. With time, study, effort and experience, you become a master and subconsciously know. The key is that you must commit to the time, study and effort to gain the experience.
There are several different approaches to teaching and learning ballroom dance. The way that works best for me it to learn the steps and figures first. This provides me with a physical knowledge and muscle memory to do this figure. Because I do not naturally see the movements in my head, as my wife does, I have to do the dance figure over and over again until I can see the movements in my mind.
Learning the steps is only the first thing. I must then next learn how to sense a partner during the movements. My motion is integrated with the woman's motion so I have to intergrate what I learned about the steps with the new information gained dancing with a partner. The knowledge of the lead then develops since I soon become conscious about my duties in guiding the woman. I have said that all mistakes are the result of the man not properly leading and in most cases this is true.
Next, the correct movements, timing, poise and postures are refined to make the finished figure smooth, elegant and beautiful. This last process is the most difficult because the knowledge of your body and dancing develops and changes. I continually relearn figures over and over. A peculiar thing is that I often become "dumb" after implementing a new piece of knowledge to a previous learned figure. Some dance instructors pound the concept of technique, technique, technique and would rather have you learn fewer figures done better. My philosophy is to learn to dance so I can dance and feel the joy of the movement. With time, technique will follow and the interest and desire to improve develops. If you never have the opportunity to experience dancing, you don't often develop the desire to learn more.
My current focus is on perfecting and executing specific figures by myself. This is done by watching videos, reading professional dance books describing these figures, watching my movement in the mirror and then executing and reviewing the figures with a dance instructor.
It is interesting how we grow and learn about ourselves and about dance. Dancing is the reality of dancing. Talking about dancing is not dancing. Reading about dancing is not dancing. Watching videos about dancing is not dancing. Dancing is dancing. When we read or study video, the information must ultimately be applied to the art of actually dancing. If a book says that there must be contrabody movement, then this CBM is ultimately done not to create CBM but rather to allow something to occur in your dancing.
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