What, Why, Who, Where, & When
Practice Makes Progress
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines practice as to do or perform often, customarily, or habitually or to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient. The upshot is repetition and habit. Trying to remember some steps 5 minutes before your lesson is not practice – it’s review.
Have Fun Practicing With Friends
Notice that part of the second definition above is to become proficient. That is one of the main reasons for practice. Presumably you’re taking dance lessons with the goal of becoming a good dancer, and practice is the key to success. You’ll also enjoy your lessons more because you’ll progress faster and feel a greater sense of achievement. And if your goal is specific and short term (e.g. a first dance at a wedding), you’ll save money because you’ll need fewer lessons to reach your objective.
Another important (and often underappreciated) reason for practicing is simply that it’s fun. If it’s not, then you’re taking it too seriously or you need to find another hobby.
Alone. I often hear people say they can’t practice because they don’t have a partner. I’m going to call bull on that. Sure, dancing with someone else is part of the fun and is necessary to improve your ability to lead or follow. But rhythm, timing, technique, quality of movement, body lines, and pattern recall can all be practiced on your own. That’s a lot of stuff! Take responsibility for improving your own dancing and not only will you feel pride in your accomplishments, but you’ll be a far more attractive to potential dance partners when they’re available.
With a Partner. If you do have a partner that is willing and available, then by all means take advantage of it. Now is the time to sharpen your leading or following skills. Just make sure it’s fun, because be it a friend, spouse, sibling, or whatever, a partner that has fun and feels appreciated is far more likely to want to repeat the experience.
In Your Own Head. Don’t underestimate the power of power of visualization Many elite athletes use it regularly and so can you. Fully engage your senses. Hear the music. Picture your lines. Sense your partner. Feel your muscles contract and lengthen. Done correctly visualization can be highly productive. It can also be deeply engrossing, so though you can do it anywhere (at the airport, in the grocery line, at a red light), use some common sense about when to practice in it.
Hear It, See It, Feel It
At Home. Practicing in your home is the easiest (and lowest pressure) option and probably the one you will use the most. Push back the chairs, pour a glass of wine (or not), put on some music, and have some fun.
At a Studio. Most studios have a weekly practice party, and many also organize outings for their students. There are several advantages to attending these on a regular basis. You will get the chance to practice with others that are interested in and learning the same things you are, instructors will be on hand to help if you get stuck, and the music will be varied and appropriate.
Gyms, Churches, Country Clubs, and Community Centers. Many organizations have rooms set aside for group exercise and social gatherings that are available to members when not in use. Be sure to find out what the policy is to access them, and if there are any restrictions (such as available times or types of footwear allowed), but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. More than once I’ve heard of people practicing in unused racquetball courts or park pavilions.
At Work. No, I’m not suggesting that you start slacking at work or engaging your coworkers in flash mobs. This one is best explained with a few examples from actual students that have found creative ways to fit practice into their workdays.
- A couple that work in the same office use the conference room to practice during lunch. Note that people may look at you funny when you both come out rumpled and breathing hard.
- A man improves his Latin motion while walking up the parking garage ramp. He says the attendants love it.
- A middle school football coach practices choreography with his fiancée in the gym after school.
- A blacksmith dances hustle while at the forge. I still can’t quite picture how this works, but he’s a great dancer, so it must.
On the Town. For some this is the most intimidating possibility, but if you go to a nightclub, class reunion, or wedding reception and have the opportunity to dance, then take it. Don’t worry if you don’t know much or no one else is dancing. Chances are they know even less than you do, and they’ll be impressed and curious about what you’re doing.
Make The Most Of Your Workday
As often as possible.
They May Have The Hold Backwards, But They’re Having Fun!