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What, Why, Who, Where, & When

Practice Makes Progress

What

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

 

Why

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.

 

be Joyful

 

Who

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

 

Where

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

 

When

As often as possible.

 

They May Have The Hold Backwards, But They’re Having Fun!

 

… I’ll spend loving you.

 

 

“If we’re going to be awkward, at least we’ll be awkward together” is one of the sweetest things I’ve overheard in a lesson. For better or worse, right? And although they did struggle a bit at first, with patience and practice they had a lovely first dance in the end.

 

The Struggle …

 

… and the Reward.

I can only give you love that lasts forever…

 

 

Every first dance should showcase the personalities of the couple. In this case she’s sassy and he’s suave. That was enough to get us rolling. But when we found out that he is a serious hat aficionado, we knew we could really have some fun. Don’t let how easy they made it look fool you. Working with a prop of any kind is tricky and they did an amazing job.

 

As confidence grows.

 

It all comes together!

 

 

You are the best thing…

… that ever happened to me.

 

 

 

Some couples are just cute, and this one definitely is. Just look at them! And being laid-back and willing to laugh at themselves also made them fun and easy to teach. It was an honor to be there to see it all come together on that beautiful fall evening.

 

The bloopers reel!

 

The big moment!

 

 

Take My Hand…

 

 

 

I wondered for awhile how this couple kept improving as quickly as they did. It was obvious that they were practicing, but I couldn’t imagine how since he was frequently on the road as a long-haul trucker. So, I finally asked, and the answer is just the sweetest thing. He would actually park next to other rigs at truck stops and practice his part in the space between them. Meanwhile, she was here doing her part while balancing two jobs and a toddler. Talk about dedication! And as you’ll see, all that hard work totally paid off with a beautiful (and kinda sexy) first dance.

 

So much work on every little detail!

 

Surprising everyone with a beautiful first dance!

 

Just thinkin’ bout…

 

 

 

This couple is plenty adventurous (They snowboarded into their wedding!), but one of the first things Janelle said to us was, “We both hate dancing in public.” Well I guess we created a monster (two actually), because by the time the wedding rolled around they had learned not only their first dance choreography, but also some push-pull, merengue, and salsa. They were actually looking forward to dancing at the reception!

 

Learning how to not hate dancing!

  

And he still sweeps her off of her feet!

 

I will get a glow just thinking of you …

 

 

 

 

 

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree with this pair. Both mathematically inclined and both lovely to work with. No surprise their father-daughter dance turned out so beautifully.

Some good advice for other father-daughter duos.

 

Elegant and Classic!

 

Help Me Make the Music of the Night

And what a night it was!

I love to dance, create, and even perform (although it still gives me butterflies). But add in a willing partner who’s up for anything and a great cause like The Baddour Center, and it’s pure heaven. This year’s Dancing For Our Stars raised over $58,000! Thank you to everyone who helped with their time, talent, donations, and good wishes.

Star: Terry Reeves
Choreographer: Jesse Munoz
Photographer: Natalie Troutt
Videographer: Justin Jaggers

 

 

 

Dancing is not as scary as skydiving!

 

It has been brought to my attention numerous times that many (most?) people find the idea of dancing to be terrifying. I’ve felt otherwise very confident and accomplished men literally trembling as we danced (I’m pretty sure I’m not that intimidating), and it’s not unusual to hear students sigh some version of “That wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be,” at the end of a first lesson. The sentiment always surprises me, but it shouldn’t, because if I just think back to my first class, I can remember being pretty nervous myself.

So why is dancing so scary? I have a few ideas, but I’d love to hear yours.

First, we don’t often learn completely new skills as an adult. All of the really tough and important ones (walking, talking, making PB&J sandwiches) we learn when we’re young. As adults we may broaden and improve our abilities, but we usually aren’t starting from zero.

When we do take up new hobbies as an adult, they also aren’t usually so public. We can learn to knit, or cook, or play the guitar in private, sharing our accomplishments only when and if we’re good and ready. Dancing by its nature is a social activity and so people are going to see you do it. In general, the more public the activity, the more pressure we feel.

And then there is the social baggage around dancing. Race, gender, religion, age, and a host of other factors play into our feelings about dancing. I’m not going to delve into any of that here, other than to say that most of it doesn’t hold up under closer inspection. Still, we’re all affected (consciously or otherwise) by cultural factors.

Then how can we overcome our perfectly natural feelings of nervousness?

Find your why. This advice is common in situations involving change because it helps you refocus when you start to waiver. Do you want to dance at your child’s wedding? Or feel more at ease at parties? Maybe you need a creative outlet? Chances are your reason for learning is bigger than your fear, so keep it front and center.

Realize that you’re not alone. Almost everyone in a beginner dance class thinks that he or she is the worst student ever. So talk with others. You’ll likely find that they’re having the same doubts that you are. You’ll also build a network of “dance friends” that understand your frustrations and triumphs and can support you on your journey.

Choose a nurturing environment. When you go to classes, lessons, or parties you should feel a culture of mutual support and encouragement. Constructive feedback from your instructor is important, but there should be no judgement. If this isn’t the case, it isn’t you who’s failing, it’s the studio. Go someplace else.

And if you still need a push, list the pros and cons. I think you’ll see that one list far outweighs the other. Here are some ideas to get you started. Happy dancing!

PROS

It’s a cool hobby.

It’ll reduce stress and help me relax.

I’ll enjoy it.

My friends and family will be impressed.

I’ll be able to meet social obligations.

It’ll be great for networking.

The exercise will be fun.

I’ll have a skill most others don’t.

My poise and grace will increase.

I’ll meet interesting new people.

CONS

I’ll feel silly.

I might step on someone.