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- Written by Rebecca Brightly
Okay, here’s the truth: I didn’t attend my first social dance until 3 months into my swing dance classes. In college, I took an entire semester of salsa classes and never went dancing.
My excuse? I didn’t have anything to wear.
Yeah, I was nervous. I admit it. I was pretty certain I’d look foolish, say the wrong thing, not get asked to dance, or just be totally out of place.
As a newbie, you’re nervous for a good reason. You want to fit in and do things right. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
But you have to go to a dance sooner or later. Otherwise, why are you learning to dance?
Fortunately, there are a lot of tried-and-true strategies for surviving your first social dance. Whether it’s your first dance ever or your first dance in a new city, use one or more of these for best results:
Strategy #1: Baby Steps
Slowly but surely, ease into the social dance scene.
If you’re insanely nervous, just drive by the venue without going in. Seriously. You may think that’s silly, but lots of people have social anxiety. If you drive by the venue, at least that’s something. You can also figure out the parking situation and where the entrance is, two fewer things to worry about.
The next time, gather up your courage to go in and sit and watch. Stay for at least 30 minutes. The third week, make a deal with yourself to ask three people to dance.
And so on. You can take smaller steps if you need to, or start bigger if you’re not that worried.
Strategy #2: Power in Numbers
Take a friend! Anyone from your class is a good choice. You can even take a non-dancing friend if you’re just planning on watching.
If the class is particularly cohesive, someone might organize a dance outing. Get in on that! Pretend your classmates are your best friends for a night. Who knows? They might be super cool people. And if not, you’ll soon make lots of new friends by going to dances regularly.
Strategy #3: Look Like You Belong
What you wear says something about who you are. On your first night out dancing, you want your clothing to say, “I belong here.”
Find out what people wear to a social dance in your city and genre of dance. Ask your teacher, ask your classmates. Perhaps there are pictures from social dances on a local dance organization’s website. Drive by and have a look in the window if you’re employing Strategy #1.
Seriously, though, don't obsess over the details. The internet doesn't have all the answers.
Get details! The more, the better. Type of shoes? What kind of pants or skirts? Dressed up or down?
Of course you won’t arrive looking like the spitting image of a mega-advanced, internationally esteemed dancer, women falling at your feet.
No, you don’t have to try that hard. So long as you have the basic style down, you’ll feel more comfortable and relaxed.
Strategy #4: Assume Nothing
I’ve heard people say this about their dance scene: “Our community is so welcoming!” Others will say, “People are really cliquish.” Don’t take any of that to heart. Your experience at your first social dances will be unique, and it likely won’t match exactly what others are telling you. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel.
Don’t assume people will ask you to dance. Don’t assume you’ll be left alone if you’re feeling shy. Don’t assume the venue takes credit cards, or that you can bring your own water. Don’t assume the etiquette will be effortless to figue out.
Keep in mind that each venue has a different flavor. Venues even vary from week to week, depending on the music, the mix of people, and the balance of leads and follows.
Seattle is a great example. On lead-heavy nights, a follow can feel like a rock star. On follow-heavy nights, she could feel like chopped liver.
And on crowded nights, I wonder how Seattle can be filled with such klutzy people. Heh. Or is it just me?
Expect to be a little confused. Expect to integrate slowly into this new social circle. Expect to get your feet (and feelings) stepped on a few times as you figure out how things work and how you fit.
Don’t let anyone make you feel stupid for easing into a new social scene. It’s not wrong to be nervous. However, that super-nervous feeling? It only lasts for a few dances at most. In a couple months you’ll be an old pro, gleefully telling your friends how AWEsome dancing is.
And then you can help them go to their first dance!
Pulled from https://rebeccabrightly.com/survive-social-dance/
- Written by Rebecca Brightly
I‘ve been a beginner in a lot of classes over the years. I’ve taken hip hop, ballet, and tap classes that were far above my skill level. It’s frustrating not being able to keep up. And I don’t want to make an ass of myself.As a dance teacher, I can tell you most everyone does fine in their first swing dance class.
But I’ve tried giving the “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” advice, and it doesn’t work. Beginners still worry about looking stupid, so telling you not to worry is pointless.
Instead I’ll tell you what I do when I’m a newbie:
Find out what to wear
One fear we have as beginners is that we’ll look stupid before we even start dancing. (Imagine an adult taking their first ballet class.) This is pretty easy to remedy.
Call or email the studio or instructor. Ask what clothing and shoes most people wear. If you don’t have what they suggest, ask about alternatives or where you can go shopping.
Watch some videos
Don’t take our precious Youtube for granted! Get on it and search “beginner [name of class]“. Watch a few videos the day before your class. It will be a huge relief to recognize some of the moves you saw in the videos. And it could easily give you a leg up.
If you feel like you need the extra help, use it. Then after class, you can go back and watch the beginner videos and say, “I did that!”
Prepare yourself for failure
I know what you’re thinking. “But I want to do well, not look like an idiot!”
Failing is funny! There’s a whole blog about it. The truth is that failures make for good stories. I took this break dancing master class once that was way over my head. I was the only girl, too—I think my stomach spent most of its time in my esophagus.
I decided before the class to just play it cool and do my best. Sure enough, I more or less failed to perform each and every move. Surprisingly, the guys were really encouraging and helpful. My “play it cool, do my best” attitude got me props from the guys.
Now, how boring would that story be if I’d said, “I took this break dancing workshop once. I was perfectly adequate.”?
Wouldn’t in have been even better if I’d knocked out one of the guys by trying a head spin?
All you have to do is prepare yourself for possible failure. After you’ve made peace with the possibility of major suckage, you can play it cool. That will allow you to do your best. Which means you’ll probably not get a pie in your face, or something equally embarrassing. (But wouldn’t that be a great story?)
Give vocabulary words the right kind of attention
In swing dance classes, these’ll be things like step, rock step, and pulse.
These are often familiar words, but here’s the trick. Rather than assigning these terms or ideas the first definition that comes to you, put them in a new category. Label that category “Needs more investigation.”
By refusing to put new ideas into a box, you remain open to learning more about them in later classes.
You may get anxious or overwhelmed when you hear an onslaught of new terms. Think of me in that break dancing class. I was constantly like, “You want me to do what now?” And then, “Screw it. I have no idea what that means, but here goes.”
You’ll get better at just diving in, but there needs to be a first time.
Ask a question after class. Just one question. This isn’t the time to get a mini-private lesson (unless your instructor invites it).
You ask a simple question to connect personally with your teacher. We tend to watch out for you more when you show a real interest in learning to dance. And that’s great for you!
“Where can I get good music to practice to?” (Most teachers have musical recommendations prepared.)
“Do you have any suggestions on how to practice on my own?”
Any question that can be answered in about a minute is good to ask.
Lastly, and most importantly:
Remember to breathe!
It’s so important, I made it bigger.
The first thing you do when you get stressed out is get chunky, irregular breathing. You may find that you hold your breath while trying to do a difficult move.
Obviously, that’s no good.
Get into a habit of reminding yourself to breath. Take a deep inhale and delicious exhale. You’ll find that this practice resets your body and lowers your stress level immediately.
If you need to do it 10 times per class, so be it. I have days like that.
Remember, it could always be worse. Look around. There’s always someone who struggles with something that’s easy for you. Try cracking a joke to ease their anxiety. Then you’ve made a new friend too!
Pulled from https://rebeccabrightly.com/survive-dance-class/
- Written by fbobe
Learning to Teach Swing Dance 101
One story I have frequently encountered in the last year of my swing dance travels is individuals being thrown into the situation of teaching swing dance lessons and having to learn how to teach while teaching. This story mainly has been encountered from individuals coming from college swing dance clubs or smaller and more isolated scenes. This trial by fire experience for some people can be often an intimidating and stressful experience.
With this post I strive to create a list of suggestions and ideas for people who may have recently found out they will be teaching in the near future or those who eventually strive to teach.
1. If Possible Teach At First With An Experienced Partner: This is not always possible, but having a mentor in most fields ranging from musicians, business, to sports have numerous benefits. Their previous experience will help you avoid pitfalls they may have encountered when first teaching and you will not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to teaching methods. In addition your partner will likely be able to fill in gaps for moments you do not expect in a lesson due to inexperience.
2. Take Introductory Classes Again, Except Focus on The Teaching Aspect: The first large benefit of this is it will force you go over your basics so they are clean for demonstration purposes. Second you will learn examples of visual tools such as exaggerating the wrong type of motion and verbal analogies teachers utilize in class to educate students.
3. Learn the Opposite Role: I hold the opinion that if you only know how to lead or follow as an instructor, you are missing half the equation. It is frustrating for a student to hear, Well I don't know what to say, she just follows it/he just leads it. What learning the opposite role allows you to understand what possible things can be going wrong within the lead or following of a partnership. A side benefit of this is if you are decent enough at both roles, you gain the ability to teach by yourself.
4. Practice Being An Effective Speaker: Being a swing dance instructor is not just knowing how to dance. The way you hold yourself when you teach means a world of difference between someone who is perceived as. They know what they are doing. versus This person looks nervous and unsure of themselves. This means when practicing speaking to a class you; project your voice so the whole group can hear, do not have distracting extraneous motion such as fiddling with hair/clothes, and make eye contact with students in your class.
5. Learn the Importance of Word Choice: How your phrase things to students in your class can mean the difference between them feeling encouraged and understanding what you are trying to convey or them feeling lost and frustrated. Often with beginner/introductory level classes I try to phrase everything positively and use social reasons for motivation. I can rattle on all day about the aesthetic and technique reasons why looking down is bad for ones dancing and leads in my class will continue looking down. However if I list the two points that it you don't want your partner to get upset when you collide into objects (social acceptance/safety) and it may be interpreted the wrong way if you are in closed position and the follow has a low cut dress (social acceptance) all the sudden most of the leads in the class don't even fathom the thought of looking down.
6. Get Feedback From Individuals In Your Class/Other Experienced Dancers Or Instructors: Often when teaching classes people make mistakes not intentionally but out of inexperience or situations out of their hand such as a group of students walking in 15 minutes late. While there will always be that chance of unexpected variables, feedback from all sources will help you realize your strengths and weaknesses as an instructor and allow you to fine tune your lessons.
7. Continue to Improve Your Own Dancing: Do not fall into what I refer to as Big fish in a little pond syndrome. Mostly in smaller isolated scenes I notice people start teaching then immediately think they are above learning and their dancing stagnates. I am a firm believer in that students learn dance mostly visually and the better example you are, the easier it is for them to learn and the less chance they will develop bad habits they will have to fix later.
8. Continue to Improve Your Teaching Methods: If you do step seven occasionally you will encounter in your swing dance learning perhaps better teaching models then the one you currently use for a six count basic or swing outs. Perhaps you have discovered a better analogy that gets people to not be as tense while they dance. Constantly being in the mindset of "What can I improve?" is always an effective way to becoming a better instructor.
When I found out about two years ago that after a summer I was probably going to teach classes at my college, I was at first apprehensive but then I did two things that helped me out tremendously. First I took a 4-week series of beginner Lindy Hop as a follow and focused on mainly what analogies instructors used while they taught and how they demonstrated moves and concepts. Second I went up to instructors who I admired their teaching and asked them to give me a brief talk of what advice they would give to a new teacher.
I feel learning from those who had experience versus attempting to figure out how to teach on my own was the most pivotal concept in learning how to teach for myself and it is the message I recommend the most to those who are new to the process. I have two blog posts related to this topic listed here and here. Otherwise if you have any thoughts or suggestions, I encourage you to post them in the comment section below.
Pulled from: http://taintwhatyoudo.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/learning-to-teach-swing-dance-101/
- Written by fbobe
Triple Step is a generic term for dance step patterns that describes three steps done on two main beats of music. Usually they are two quick steps and one slow one, i.e., often they are counted as "quick-quick-slow", "one-and-two", "three-and-four", etc.
Some dances have a pattern known as such: "triple step". In some other dances it is referred to as the shuffle step.
Some triple steps are performed in a chassï¿½-like manner: "side step, together, side step". The "cha-cha chassï¿½" is an example of this kind of a triple step. In some other cases the steps may be done in place.
Some dances such as swing dances have several variants of triple step.
The 3rd part i.e., cued as step usually uses half the time of the whole pattern, e.g. one quarter note The tri-ple part may be danced evenly, e.g., two eighth notes or unevenly (on swung notes), e.g., the first part taking up 2/3s of a beat and the second part 1/3, or the first part taking up 3/4 of the beat and the 2nd part 1/4. The pattern may also be syncopated so that the first step is shorter than the second giving a feeling of Tri-ple-step, instead of Tri-ple-step.
Pulled from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_Step