DANCING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

Dancing Tips and Etiquette and things to remember when dancing on stage and things to remember for dance competition, things to remember when dancing
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OliverFinch,France,Teacher
Published Date:15-07-2017
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Dancing Tips for Beginners DANCING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS Introduction Couples dancing – they make it look so easy on television – but if you’ve never done it before it can present all kinds of problems. Not only can it feel awkward, but you are expected to remember so many things at once. When you first start, just getting the basic steps right is hard enough; let alone worry about what to do with the rest of your body Learning to dance is like learning to drive: difficult and clumsy when you start, but as you practise you’ll develop a feel for it, and before you know it the movement will become second nature. My suggestions is to not let the little things bug you; and to embrace the idea of looking silly for the first few lessons, instead of giving up, because you WILL eventually get better and if you stick with it you’ll be dancing like a pro. Well maybe not as good as the professionals, but hey; dancing is a GREAT skill to have in life. Girls love guys who can dance and guys love girls who can move – but more importantly dancing is fun I know a lot of people who were pretty nervous and said they had two left feet when they started, but within a few lessons were already looking pretty damn good on the dance floor, and now have the confidence to get up and spin with the best of them. Hi, my name is Andrew, and this is a little guide/document I’ve wanted to write for a while, and I plan on uploading it to both my own website (www.andrewnoske.com) and also the uqdance website (www.uqdance.net). UQDance is social dance club at the University of Queensland which I joined a year ago and has been HEAPS of fun for me. This year (2006) I am treasurer and we have lots of new members (a.k.a. “newbies”), and so I guess that’s what made me finally decide to write this I’d also like to thank some good friends of mine; Michelle Kiob (secretary of uqdance), Nadim Cody (president of uqdance) and Mariah Andersson (friendly blonde Swedish chick); for their suggestions and proof reading. Also I’d like to thank those people who left online feedback for this article here – especially Jon Memmott, the creator of Dance-Card (www.dance-card.com), for uploading it (2008). I wanted this document to outline some of the common mistakes people make and list some important advice. For your first few lessons, you shouldn’t worry about these things too much; but at the same time you DO want to break bad habits as early as possible. It was Michelle’s idea to also add a section about dance etiquette, which we think is important for both girls and guys to understand. So have a read, see if you can take some pointers on board... I hope our advice/encouragement helps, and I hope you enjoy dancing as much as we do. Dancing rules ☺ Page 1 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners Why Learn to Dance 1. Dancing is FUN 2. Dancing is a GREAT skill to have in life 3. Dancing is a GREAT way to make new friends 4. Dancing is a great way to meet members of the opposite sex 5. Dancing relieves stress 6. Dancing builds confidence 7. Dancing is great exercise 8. Dancing is universal 9. Dancing gets progressively easier 10. Dancing is forever In fact these are just a few of numerous reasons to dance, but certainly some of the best ones. 1. Dancing is FUN • If you are the type of person who hears a song and suddenly wants to dance – almost as an involuntary reaction – then you’ll already know what I’m talking about. For some people, dancing is a way of life, and the idea of living without music almost inconceivable. But hey; it’s important to remember that these people were not born with dancing ability; it is something developed over time. The best dancers have been dancing for years – some of them since pre-school • I remember at my high school graduation you could pretty much determine who had a great time (and thought it was ordinary) based on who got up and danced, and who was either too shy or too macho to leave their seats. And hey, we all know how much it sucks to watch other people having fun and not being able to join in • The more you dance, and the better you get, the more you’ll enjoy it. As a young child I used to absolutely love watching Michael Jackson – and I’m sure he would have loved me too… although perhaps for different reasons (obligatory Michael Jackson joke there, I apologise). Although Michael is no longer much of a role model, the fact remains he motivated a lot of people to learn how to dance. I still have fun dancing alone, but now I’m well and truly past the “girl germs” stage of my life I’ve decided that dancing with a partner is definitely more fun. ☺ 2. Dancing is a GREAT skill to have in life • You’d be surprised that as you age, there are more and more opportunities to strut your stuff – not only at weddings, parties, clubs and supermarkets (whoops, did I just say supermarkets) – but there is a whole community of people out there who meet up and dance once a week (or more), and events you can go to if you are “in the know”. • There is no doubt in my mind, girls prefer a guy who can dance (and has enough confidence to dance in the first place) over one who can’t, and vice versa 3. Dancing is a GREAT way to make new friends • For whatever reason almost every person I’ve ever met through learning to dance has been nice Dancing just seems to attract nice people (although yes, you will find exceptions at certain clubs and dance venues). For the most part people who are passionate about dancing and music are some of the best in society – confident, outgoing, considerate and carefree. Better still they come from diverse backgrounds. I’ve made a lot of great friends through dancing. ☺ Page 3 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners 4. Dancing is a great way to meet members of the opposite sex • It can be awkward to admit; but many of us don’t often get the chance to meet and interact with new people; especially those of the opposite sex. In my case (and this is not a normal case mind you) during my ENTIRE undergrad I met almost no girls (I did study I.T. mind you) – I met very few through sport, and even fewer through my (all male) group of friends…… and those that I did meet I was far too shy to approach and talk to properly. • We often don’t talk about it, but an awful lot of us are single these days and we all want the same thing; we want to meet someone nice and find love. • In couples dancing, the whole idea is to relax, have fun, and socialize in a mixed group. When you ask a girl to dance, you are not hitting on her; you just want to dance. Age, marital status, it doesn’t matter, everyone just wants to dance. • Once you’ve mastered talking and dancing at the same time, you can find out a lot about a person during a single song. If you go out a lot you’ll probably meet lots of girls and boys and if you if you feel you are clicking with a person and you think there might be a spark there (maybe you have the same sense of humour), then after you’ve finished dancing it’s a good time to tell a girl you enjoy dancing with her and ask her if she wants to meet up for coffee or another dance event. If you ask her this question while you are still on a high, then if she says “no thanks” you’re more likely to stay smiling. Don’t take it to heart; this isn’t a rejection; she is probably busy, or else she has boyfriend or she already likes someone else. 5. Dancing is great exercise • I use to play touch football, and do salsa lesson on the same day, and found the salsa lesson was just as physically demanding as football We often don’t think of professional dancers as athletes as such, but these people are among the fittest people in the world. Next time you see real dancers on television take notice of their waists, thighs and bum These people not only look great, they are REALLY fit. I’m not suggesting doing social dancing once a week will give you a bum as great as that, but it can definitely help you work up a sweat, lose weight and feel great after your done. The benefits of exercise are tremendous – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and trust me... dancing to a few fast songs is a great work-out • Everyone needs a way to unwind sometimes. If you ask me, people who say they’re too busy for a bit of exercise/relaxation/socializing each week have it all wrong… not only are they missing out on having fun, but also because they don’t realize that a couple of hours of exercise and relaxation every day serves a very important purpose in clearing your head so you can come back refreshed and more productive. By taking enough time to keep healthy you can also become a better student. • NOTE: If you’re not already an exercise buff you’ll find a good list of reasons to exercise here. 6. Dancing relieves stress • Most of you are probably pretty young and perhaps in university or school, when the pressure of study can really get to you And hey; those of you who work (i.e. earn money) can have lots of pressure on you too. In the first semester of my PhD I didn’t even have a viable project, and that weighed down on my mind a LOT. Looking back I’m really lucky I joined uqdance… because after 2 hours of dancing, I felt great... I’d forgotten all my worried and pretty much whistled on my way back home. Page 4 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners 7. Dancing builds confidence • Once you’ve got rhythm, and know all the basics you’re likely to get that wonderful thing we call confidence. This will help you relax, put your chin up (and shoulders back), be a stronger lead for the girl, improvise a little bit, try new moves, and hopefully get over any fear you might have which prevents you from asking someone who’s a got more experience than you for a dance – because hey; they were once beginners too. • The confidence you build in dancing, and looking good when you dance transfers to other aspects of your life. Most significantly, it should give you confidence around members of the opposite sex. Lots of girls and guys still have a strange fear of each other, and find the idea of “touching” intimidating, but couples dancing (whereby you are required to touch and talk to each other) can help break those barriers – soon you’ll realise that members of the opposite sex are not that scary after all, and with any luck you’ll be able to make friends with people of both sexes more easily. 8. Dancing is universal • People dance all over the world, it’s just on of those universal things – a language almost – and I think Australia is pretty slack in that so few of us know how • It’s a horrible attitude many people have in this country, thanks mostly to night-clubs, that if a guy asks a girls to dance he ALMOST certainly has ulterior motives. In countries like South America, people get together in huge masses and dance the night away. A person might dance with over a dozen different people in one night – most of them complete strangers – but even around people they have never seen before they can all interact, have fun and smile together. 9. Dancing gets progressively easier • On thing you’ll notice about dancing is that, although you might forget a particular move, you won’t forget the dance. Better yet, once you are good at one dance, it’s amazing how much fast you will pick up another, and then another. A good idea is to start with something simple like merengue, then get good a popular social dance like salsa, and from there you can try any of the other latin dances: rueda, cha-cha, rumba, jive, or ballroom dances: tango, waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, or social/rhythm dances: bolero, swing... you name it, you will be able to dance it within a few lessons once you understand the fundamentals. ☺ • I’ve met a few girls who told me they had just started learning a dance, but were so good at it I didn’t believed them Turns out they might not have done that particular dance, but they may be really good at something else (say, ballet) and as a result of that experience they were able to pick up the new steps incredibly fast. So yes, it’s difficult at first; you won’t know where to put your feet, hands or eyes, but eventually it will come together, and you WILL improve. So patience young grasshopper 10. Dancing is forever • Just like riding a bike, dancing is something you never forget. • Dancing is something you can and WILL want to teach your children when you are older. • Dancing is forever. ☺ Page 5 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners Ten Things to Remember when Dancing 1. Dancing is about fun; so don’t take yourself too seriously 2. Be confident 3. The man leads 4. Be relaxed, be smooth 5. Eye contact – don’t stare at your feet 6. Communicate 7. Help each other out 8. Experiment 9. Never dismay 10. Practice make perfect These are the top ten dance principles I came up with, ranked in order of importance, and following is an explanation of what each point actually means 1. Dancing is about fun; so don’t take yourself too seriously There is a very good reason I put “don’t take yourself too seriously” as number one on this list. The whole idea of dancing is about having fun, so if you start treating it like a competition or being hard on yourself every time you struggle with a move you have completely missed the point If the guy next to you is a better dancer it is probably because he has been learning/practising much longer than you. Your reason for being here is to learn how to dance, and it isn’t easy, it will probably take longer than you expect, so just take it slowly and set your own pace. I can almost guarantee you WILL get muddled up during your first few lessons and, you will forget moves you have learnt the week before unless you practise them; but that’s all part of the fun. If you make a mistake, fall over, or step on a foot then you can just laugh it off. Don’t take yourself too seriously is perhaps the most important piece of advice you’ll ever get in life (it has been in mine), and it applies doubly so when you are dancing If you have a sense of humour show people This might sound ridiculous but the best move I have on the dance floor is to open my mouth in feigned shock and say something lame like: “I can’t believe you just spun around; why would you DO something like that to me”, “you lifted your arm”, “oh so it’s MY fault”. It wouldn’t matter if I did the basic step to the whole song, if it gets her laughing (and it’s amazing how often it does); I’m already regarded fun to dance with. It’s my secret move and now you know; use this secret weapon carefully… I very nearly didn’t tell you. ☺ 2. Be confident Dancing is all about confidence, so even if you are new to dancing, and a bit unsure of yourself, you should show that you are eager to learn. Don’t be shy to grab a girls hand and put it on your shoulder. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be, and the quicker your dancing will improve. Smile, introduce yourself, and the rest should come naturally. 3. The man leads In couples dancing, it is always the man who leads, NOT the woman. This rule is an artefact of a time not-so-long-ago when husband saw himself as in charge of the wife and Page 6 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners made all the decisions. Attitudes have certainly changed since then – and nowadays we all know women are the ones who wield the real power – but dancing remains unchanged. In dancing, the man is in charge. In case you don’t know, the idea of a lead is as follows. If you are doing a choreographed move, then it’s pretty straight forward; you just follow the instructor, and you both know/remember what steps come when. However, in non-choreographed (i.e. social) couples dancing, the guys and girls know the basic steps and turns, but there is NO predefined order; thus one of the partners has to tell the other what to do and when. The guy does this by making fairly intuitive gestures with his arms and legs, and the girl picks up on these gestures and does what the guy wants. For instance, the guy can tell the girl to do a right (clockwise) turn by lifting her right hand/arm firmly (but gently) around the back of her head. The pressure he applies effectively pushes her and tells her to turn around. For guys this means having enough confidence to say (typically though strong body language not words): “Hey lady; I am in charge here... I know what I’m doing, I say when you turn”. The idea of doing this is pretty scary if you’ve just started and, in fact, you do NOT know what you are doing During your first few lessons it always pays to tell the girl “I should warn you I’m new at this, so you’ll have to help me”, and she’ll help you out. Don’t worry about being the lead straight away – it’s more of a joint effort at the start and most timing/moves you learn are dictated by the instructors – just know that you, as you build up your skill, you should build up your confidence and start calling the shots. Being a good lead is something that develops over time, and the first time a girl tell you “you’re a really good lead”, is a special moment indeed. For girls this means that, even if they know they are the better dancer, they should give the guy a chance to lead; let him know he’s doing fine and talk gently when you give advice/make conversation. The most important thing here is patience Don’t get frustrated with him, take over the show, boss him around or start doing your own thing. It seems antiquated, but guys like to feel they are the ones “looking after” the girl, and if you start telling him what to do, what you are actually doing is threatening his masculinity/manliness. Same rules applies in relationship too – gessh, haven’t any of you read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”? What are they teaching in high schools these days There is a big difference from the bubbly girl who smiles and says “hey; I’ll show you something cool”, and the grouch who says “no you’re definitely doing this wrong”. No guy wants to feel like he is useless – in fact it’s pretty much a guy’s biggest fear in life – so it pays to keep him under the illusion that he’s the one calling the shots. ☺ I’ve danced with at least one girl who held onto me like she was a grizzly bear, and Latin dancing just doesn’t work like that If you are a girl, then you should be gentle/feminine and not exert force on the guy’s arms. At the same time though, don’t do the floppy “spaghetti arms” thing – you have to have enough tension there that he can spin you If you are the guy, then you should remember this: be gentle but FIRM. When I started dancing, I had this misconception that all girls were delicate little flowers, so I was afraid to exert any force, but it turns out a most girls are tougher than you assume and they WANT you to be a strong lead. When you want her to turn to the left or spin into your arm, you can’t use a wimpy little gesture, you have to give her some tension, and bit of a push and DRAW her around in a circle. In some dances, like the TANGO, and even swing, you have to keep a very solid almost statue-like frame, and move the girl around like you are carrying a crate – your arms always have to stay firm. In merengue and swing, the motions are much more fluid, but you still have to use enough force on her when you’re telling her where to go. This can be intimidating at first, but you’ll eventually pick it up…. and if you’re still in doubt there is no reason why you can’t ask Page 7 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners “should I be more firm or less firm?”. Asking for tips is how you become a better dancer. This is already a long section, but I feel I should also add one more thing: it is significantly harder for guys to learn to dance than women. And this is not (only) because girls are better than guys (Michelle wanted me to say that), but also because leading is harder than following. If you are a girl, and you have a good lead, then he’ll know how to guide/swing you around and he can VERY quickly teach you new moves, and the two of you will look great together. If you are a guy, and have an experienced girl, it’s not really much of a help, because she’s relying on you to tell HER what to do As a guy it’s intimidating starting out as a lead, because you’ll often stand there, stumped, thinking: “uh-oh, I don’t know what move to do next”. And so you might be stuck doing about 20 basic steps (I’ve been there), and still not decide what you should do next and when To get around this, you just need practise. Practise the most simple moves (like quarter turns etc) and move around the floor a bit – forget all the complicated spins; it’s better to master and repeat 3 different moves and keep repeating them, than standing there five minutes trying to remember a move you learnt several weeks ago. But most importantly, don’t stress about your lack of variety – your repertoire of movements will build up slowly – don’t rush it or be too jealous of the guy who seems like he was born on the dance floor If you still need to count, don’t be too embarrassed about that either. I use to count, and I still do sometimes (except now it’s in my head). ☺ If you find a partner at about the same level as you (maybe he/she started on the same day), it’s a good idea to stick with them, because the two of you will be understanding of each other’s mistakes, and therefore you’ll be more comfortable making mistakes. That way you can rock up to that person each week and the two of you can help each other remember the move you did the week before. 4. Be relaxed, be smooth The fact is a lot of people dance like stiff squeaky robots. I think there are two main causes for this and the first is that most Australians can’t dance In many countries (especially Asian countries) learning to dance is part of growing up, but I’m guessing very few Australians are taught by their parents how to move on a dance floor. The upside of this is that if you do learn to dance, you’ve got something over 95% of the Auzzie blokes in the room who can’t. The downside is that if you’ve never been taught how to dance and feel rhythm it can feel a bit awkward at first. The second, even bigger, cause of the “robot jitter” is simply that beginners are not relaxed and their muscles are tense. Often they’ll feel like everyone is watching/judging them, and consequently they’ll be nervous and unsure of themselves – worried about screwing up. Ever watched how a drunk person dances? I’m not saying drinking makes people dance well (usually the opposite), but I do think there is a certain smooth gracefulness about the way an inebriated person moves and/or stumbles around. Alcohol numbs the social inhibitions part of the brain and when you no longer care what people think, your muscles relax and you feel compelled to express yourself emotionally. What we aim for in dancing is to aim for that kind of beautiful smoothness, but without the falling over or vomiting on girls. I think it’s pretty sad the way modern society relies on alcohol to socialize. It doesn’t seem like a clever (or cheap) idea to become dependent on alcohol in life, and learning to dance is a good place to start learning to relax around other people, and feel comfortable in contact with the opposite sex WITHOUT resorting to a bottle of vodka and slurry speech. Very few of my dancing friends drink, and none of them are the type who smoke. Page 8 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners Anyhow, my point was: in dancing, most movements – even the fast movements – are supposed to be smooth. And to get that smooth movement going the best place to practise is the comfort of home. Put on a good CD and your best clothes and practise dancing in front of the mirror. If you look a little stiff, try releasing ALL the tension in your arms and legs; shake off the cobwebs and pretend you are the jelly man. Separate your feet a little bit more, allow your hips to rotate around slowly and keep doing the steps in front of the mirror until you can say: “damn I look pretty good”. Try drawing little circles with your hands as you step, add a little style, and experiment. A bedroom mirror is a great place to practise. In Latin dancing (salsa, merengue, lambada etc) being smooth and letting your arms relax is CRITICAL. Even in dances like the Tango and Jive, where movements are jerky, the person doing the movement should have a relaxed, carefree (even arrogant) air about them, so lose the nerves – you are learning to dance for enjoyment; so relax man 5. Eye contact – don’t stare at your feet When you start out dancing with a partner, I can almost guarantee that you’ll start staring at your feet. At the time it feels like a sensible and safe place to look, because (1) you want to make sure you don’t step on your partner’s feet and (2) you’re afraid to look any higher. Lots of you guys might also be afraid to look higher because you are well aware that there are girlie bits (otherwise known a boobies) in the way and you’re generally not allowed to stare at those…. ☺ And gosh heaven forbid you might make EYE CONTACT Arrggh Bad REALLY bad Getting better If you ever see another person doing it you’ll realize that staring at your feet looks pretty silly (see above). Fact is, once you are comfortable with the basic steps, you won’t need to look at your feet; because (1) it’s not as if you don’t know where your own feet are, and (2) your partner can take care of his/her own feet It’s like learning to drive; hard at first, but with practise you’ll develop a feel for it. So now it’s time to lift that chin up young grasshopper If you introduce yourself and talk to the person, it’s immediately easy to look them in the eyes… after all, that’s what people do when they talk. However, even if you know each other you probably don’t feel comfortable staring into their eyes for TOO long, so most the best place to look is over their right shoulder. Page 9 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners I did Tango once, and I actually found that a bit uncomfortable/intense, because the instructor I danced with told me specifically to stare into her eyes the whole song Tango is supposed to be romantic and serious (acting of course), and strong eye contact is part of the dance, but at the time I wasn’t very comfortable with that, and I found looking at her forehead (just above the eyes) was a bit less scary. ☺ As you dance, feel free to look around and check out what the other couples are doing, and when you do this you’ll think: “hey I can do that move; I should do that one soon”. Also, don’t forget you can change from closed hold (with man’s right arm on her lower back, her left arm on his right shoulder) to open hold, where you are further apart and can move around a bit more independently. As you get better, and are able to throw in lots of turns eye contact becomes much less of an issue. I notice some of the really good dancers don’t really look (or focus) anywhere in particular as they turn about – where they look is not something they even think about – they’re eyes may as well be glazed over or closed – they are pretty much operating on autopilot, lost in the music and dancing by feel – they are CERTAINLY not staring down at their shoes 6. Communicate Communication is critical First of all you, if you are going to dance together you should introduce yourself and once the channel is open you can start talking about what you are both doing. The only exception is if you are doing a progression and you find yourself changing partners faster than your dad changes TV channels. If you are learning a new move, and it’s a bit complicated, the two of you should work it out together. The two of you are a team, and you are problem solving And when you do get it figured out you can celebrate your little victory and keep repeating it until you have it down perfectly. In proper dancing, there is no verbal communication; every move is done signalled by gestures, but hey; this is social dance and we are just learners. It makes sense that if a girl has never done a right turn before you can’t just lift your arm and expect her to execute one Instead you can keep doing the basic and say: “Okay, soon I’m going to lift my left hand (on the third beat), and that means you spin to the right under my arm”. If she doesn’t get it in the first few goes (and if she’s new she probably won’t) then you can stop dancing and show her the steps, and then try again. But hey; most girls will pick things up pretty quickly. I’m going to go all out here and claim that communication in dancing is almost as critical as communication in a relationship. If there is something you need, or want your partner to do differently you need to TELL THEM You might think “it’s okay, he’ll figure it out eventually”, but in fact, if you don’t tell a person it will never get fixed…… like in relationships people Geesshh… aren’t you people paying attention? So while you’re dancing don’t feel bad about making suggestions such as: • “Careful there; I’m wearing heels, so you better not swing me so fast or I’ll fall over” • “I think you’re suppose to turn me like this for this move” • “I think your hand is supposed to be a little higher up my back” • “Try relaxing your arms a little bit, and then we can move them around a bit more” • “You don’t need to stare at your feet; you can stare over my shoulder if you want.” • “Could I make a little suggestion? Could you maybe try being a little bit firmer (or less firm) with your arms when you turn me?” • “I’ve noticed something that works well is when the you do this …” So long as you make suggestions in a friendly non-critical kind of way (and don’t overload them with more than two at once) the person should appreciate your feedback Page 10 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners • “Gee, you’re not very good at this ARE you?” • “Don’t be so floppy with your arms, it’s like your wrists are made of jelly.” • “Stop holding me like that; I feel like I’m dancing with a grizzly bear” Are examples of what NOT to say Professional instructors will never hesitate to extend a piece of advice to you, but for the rest of us, we are usually afraid to offend someone; which is crazy, because it means the other person will never correct their mistake I encourage you to occasionally ask your partner: “do you have any tips for me to improve?”; this will open the window and make them feel free to offer suggestions. And of course, when your partner is doing well you should compliment them Contrary to popular belief it is not just girls that are suckers for compliments. 7. Help each other out Dancing is very much a social thing, and as you get better, you should feel free to give tips and show your moves to others. The most obvious person to show a new move is the person you’re dancing with; whether you are the guy or the girl you can say: “I have a move I can teach you” or “have you tried this one”, and then show them how it works. It’s a good boost to your self-esteem if you successfully teach your partner something new… but don’t overload them in the one dance. Practise just a few moves at once and keep the other ones tucked away for another time. However, it’s not just your own partner you can show a move. If you and your partner have just mastered a move, and another couple is struggling, you should approach them – maybe even swap partners briefly – and show them how it goes. Probably the best way to learn, and teach another couple a move is to stand so the two couples are next to each other (with the guys next to each – see below) and then step through the move SLOWLY. And when I say slowly, I mean slowly… start really slow, break it down and then repeat it a few times until you bring it up to normal speed. I’ve taught a couple of my friends (men) a few moves this way and it was heaps of fun. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed already almost ALL guys (over the age of five) are uncomfortable touching each other (especially holding hands) so this is pretty much the only way for one guy to teach another ☺ One couple teaching another a move One person teaching a small group new steps Page 11 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners 8. Never dismay Learning to make mistakes gracefully, and smile/laugh about them is very important. A common mistake for a newbie is to get disheartened when they make mistakes – especially if he/she can’t get new moves even though other people seem to be getting it right away. Mistakes are usually not noticeable in a large group, but it is noticeable when someone suddenly stops dead on the dance floor (meaning their partner has to stop too), frowns and droops their head. People are often their own worst critics, but mistakes ARE an integral part of learning to dance so you should never beat yourself up for making them – it makes you feel bad and it makes you partner feel bad too. When you make a mistake you don’t have to stop and apologise. As you attend more lessons, you should try to recover from mistakes, rather than stopping. Two of your most important lessons in dancing are to keep smiling and to keep moving. If you keep the feet moving (even if you are shuffling on the spot) the follower should soon get back into sync with your step, and you can try the move again. Keeping the beat isn’t too hard 2 3 rest once you know how – in Salsa you can keep counting in your head (I use: “left, , , , 2 3 rest right, , , ”) and you’ll find that no matter where you go you’ll still be in the correct pattern and on the correct foot. Remember that the guy is the lead, and that means that, even if he’s the one who missed a step, it’s the girl’s job to correct her step to match his. Without this basic agreement you would have the problem where you both try to change your steps (to match your partner) at the same time. Apologising once or twice is okay (sweet even), but beyond that it can get annoying. Unless you’ve actually physically hurt your partner – for example: if you’ve accidentally thrown your partner into a wall – you don’t have just cause to keep apologising. ☺ 9. Experiment and improvise When you learn to play a musical instrument, you start off learning simple scales and songs, and then the harder ones… but for many players (not all), there comes a time when they have realize that they understand how music works, and they have a strong enough foundation to improvise – to add their own personal touches and play their own tunes without blindly following the notes on a page. Improvising/mucking around like this is fun If you go to any kind of workshop they’ll probably teach you a new routine each week, and you’ll try your best to remember these, but hey unless you practise them three weeks in a row you’ll forget most of them. However, if you keep practising, you’ll eventually get to the stage when you see reoccurring patterns, and realize that, so long as you keep your feet moving in the right pattern, it doesn’t matter WHERE you place your feet – you can turn her, turn yourself, both turn at the same time, dance to one side, bob down, face away from each other, and all kinds of crazy stuff She’ll quickly catch on, and copy what you are doing, and it is always cool when the two of you invent your very own move. Also try letting go of her hands and dancing around her, or put your left arm (her right hand) over your neck and see what happens, and it doesn’t go anywhere you can just say “okay, that didn’t quite work”, and try something else. You can also watch other dancers, and try to copy some of their moves/techniques. Don’t worry about trying something funny or different in the middle of the song; in social dancing no one deducts points for that kind of thing Your partner will admire that you are taking initiative. Page 12 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners 10. Practise makes perfect Practise, practise, practise. You’ve heard it before, I know, but if you REALLY want to get good at something, you have to put in the time This might mean dancing twice a week (instead of one) or maybe even writing down a few moves and practising the steps in front of reflective glass. Professional lessons are great, because the instructors will come up to you and tell you directly what you are doing wrong, and give you tips like “your posture is slouched, stand up, even if your partner isn’t as tall as you” and “you need to keep your shoulders still, if you move them it makes it harder for the girl to follow”. I have to emphasise that when you start from scratch you shouldn’t cram in too much each session; just do as much as you can remember and then see how far you get the next week. Dancing is muscle memory, and once you’re fairly good at a dance and the steps/patterns come naturally it’s easy to forget how hard it was in the beginning when you had to count aloud to actually get anywhere Wether you are learning to ride a bike, to drive, to swim, to play a musical instrument, or use workshop tools or learning a new dance – it’s all about practise and muscle memory. It will come slowly at first, but if you treat it as a challenge and put the time into any of these it will become second nature to you I must admit, I still forget the occasional move, but I know that I’ll pick it up straight away the next time, just like riding a bike. Unfortunately, in the case of dancing, there is only so much you can practise by yourself; what you really need is a partner If you have a willing girlfriend/boyfriend, or even just a good friend then good for you I’ve often wished I had a girlfriend to practise with, but even without one, the mirror helps, and I found coming along to a workshop each week, making new friends and having a great time was it own reward. Page 13 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners Dancing Tips and Etiquette For this section the rules for girls and guys is a bit different, so I thought it made sense to break the genders into separate sections (with ladies first of course) – but hey – if you are REALLY keen feel free to read both. ☺ For the Girls It’s not really easy for me to write this section – but I’ve already written the guys section, so I’ll give it a shot and then let Michelle fix it up Basic Etiquette When a guy asks you to dance it’s polite to smile and say yes (and take his hand when he offers it). The simple fact is most guys will take it as a hit to their ego if they ask you to dance and you say “no”. Even though it’s just a dance they will see it as a kind of rejection… and that’s something you want to avoid. All too often, when a guy asks a girl to dance, she’ll shut him down… trust me, I’ve seen it many times, and it just looks rude ☺ Often they’ll give this cold reaction because they just assume he has ulterior motives, but hey; for all you know he could be a really nice guy and lots of fun to dance with. Having said that, if you don’t want to dance then that’s okay – just make sure you decline nicely. Some good reason’s why you might not want to dance include: • You’re too tired / worn out. • You’re too shy / self-conscience. • You feel uncomfortable dancing with strangers. • You’re unfamiliar with this style of dance. • You don’t like that type of dance (or maybe you just don’t like the song). • You’re about to leave / get a drink. • You need to go to the ladies room. • You’ve promised someone else a dance. • You’re just not in the mood. • You’re in pain for some reason (maybe your shoes are killing you or your last partner threw you into a wall). ☺ So make sure you do explain your reason to him briefly or he will probably take your refusal to heart. Just make sure you smile and give reassurance that you aren’t turning him down because he isn’t good enough For example you might say: “I’d love to, but I need to rest at the moment, so maybe later”. Or better yet: “I’m not a fan of this kind of dance sorry, but my friend likes to dance, I’ll introduce you to her”. Don’t forget that; instead of dancing with him you might have a friend who wants to dance, or – if you’re shy about dancing – you can sit the song out and talk to him. If you get along well, maybe you’ll be ready to dance for the next song. Page 14 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners What ever you do I’m not a fan of dishonesty. If you lie to him he’ll either know you are lying or… if you tell him “I’m sorry I don’t dance” and he sees you a minute later executing a triple spin he’s going to be pretty offended If you are simply not comfortable dancing with guys/strangers then SAYS: “I’m sorry, you seem very nice, but I’m not comfortable dancing with people I don’t know”. If, on the other hand, your only reason is because you don’t think he is good and/or cute enough for you then you’re missing the point of dancing… that’s an exceedingly bad and superficial reason for turning a guy down. On the other hand, if you do get a gut feeling that the guy asking you to dance is creepy (or you’ve been warned about him), then don’t be afraid to say no. You should have an excuse on hand like: “I’m sorry, I’m waiting for a friend” or “I think we might be leaving soon” and if he keeps persisting or makes you feel uncomfortable then you might try something more assertive like “No, I really am not in the mood for dancing sorry” or “I’m meeting my boyfriend soon, and I don’t think he’d approve”…. (in this case it’s okay to lie a bit). Safety There is no denying it: personal safety is a HUGE issue for women. There are a lot of bad men out there. How safe you are all depends on your environment. If you are attending a dance lesson (or, say, a wedding) then you are probably pretty safe. However, if you are out for a night on the town (i.e. out clubbing or at an open dance venue like Café Denim) it can be a very different story, so ALWAYS go with friends. By yourself you are seen as vulnerable, so don’t separate far and make sure at LEAST one of you stays sober (if not all). I know of at least two girls, both old friends of mine, who have had their drinks spiked and one went to hospital, so always be careful of what you drink and keep your wits about you. I’ve had quite a big chat with Michelle and a few other girls about dance safety, and it’s interesting the stories I’ve told – most girls I know have had at LEAST one major uncomfortable experience. At any public place where there are attractive girls around there are likely to be a few older, sleazy guys around too. Even at dancing venues (like Café Denims for example) there seem to be a small packs of guys that stand around looking for someone new who seems young and naive. Café Denims to use as an example because a lot of Salsa dancing enthusiasts go there and it’s a weekly event. Most of the time it’s a pretty safe and friendly environment – especially if you know a few of the regular dancers there – but it does get crowded, and it IS next to a bar, so there is the occasional small fight bouncers have to break up. But more relevant to you is there is the occasional guy who might ask you for a dance with the objective of getting close to you, groping you or getting you-know-what. Now if you get into a situation where you’re dancing with a guy who’s trying to get too close for comfort Michelle showed us a little trick. In the normal closed position hold your left arm will be on the outside of his arm, with your left hand resting on his right shoulder (see diagram). In this position of course he can easily press himself tight against you and make you feel uncomfortable. If however, you put your a left arm in front of you – on the INSIDE of his arm, with your hand on the front of his shoulder, your elbow and whole arm will suddenly be in his way, and that makes it very difficult for him to pull you close. And by the end of the song he will probably be pretty peeved and so he probably won’t ask you for another dance. So yes, I thought that was a pretty cool trick, and something all girls should know – nice one Michelle. ☺ Page 15 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners Guy can’t get too Guy can easily close thanks to press in your elbow Normal closed position (ladies arm on outside) Protective position (left arm on inside) If that technique does not work for you, a better idea is to just tell him “I feel uncomfortable being this close: could we please use an open hand position” and he’ll probably respond to that. It’s good to give a guy the benefit of the doubt, because there is a good chance he is accustomed to dancing close with girls – in some styles (likelambada and bollero) you are supposed to, and in some countries getting close is just normal. If, however, he does not apologise; if he’s still trying to get fresh then put your foot down In fact, stomp the front of your foot down on his it comes to that Too many girls are too scared to say anything; but hey – I have a lot of admiration for girls with enough self-confidence to get loud when they have to. If he is a sleazy guy who’s trying to touch what he shouldn’t then stop dancing and tell him to back off. Don’t feel powerless, because no matter how strong he is there is probably a much stronger bouncer nearby and many adults/guys/girls/friends ready to rally your cause. If you just tolerate it and don’t do anything he will do the same thing to the next girl. And hey; if you dance with a guy who’s dodgy, make sure you warn other girls and even the guys you trust – that way he’s less likely to claim another victim. Next time the same guy comes around you can stick together like glue and repel him (or your male friends can beat him up). Strength in numbers. ☺ Don’t let me scare you away from leaving the house though If you employ common sense you are pretty safe, and will probably not have any trouble. Provided you are a few other couples dancing (i.e. proper dancing as opposed to dirty dancing), and (most importantly) you have friends nearby… then if a stranger asks you to dance, and he seems both sober and genuine, then I think you are pretty safe, and there is no reason not to give him the benefit of the doubt. Just remember, you can specify that you stay near your friends and it is only one song…… after that song you can thank him and go back to your friends. NOTE: I apologise if any of this stuff is pretty basic, because I’m sure all girls are already very careful, and I certainly don’t want to scare you away from dancing Page 16 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners Things to Remember • Smiling is VERY, VERY IMPORTANT o If you are not smiling, and not happy, its unlikely guys will want to dance with you, so if you look miserable don’t expect to get asked • Practise asking guys to dance whenever you see the opportunity Guys may lead in couples dancing, but this IS the twenty first century Many, MANY guys are nervous about asking girls to dance and so there is no reason the women can’t ask the men Most guys will appreciate that you took the initiative. I always am Don’t be offended if the guy says no – yes there is a good chance that he’s exhausted/shy/gay/afraid/never-danced-before/terrified-of-his-bull-terrior- wife/emotionally-damaged/a-jerk or in-need-of-a-rest, but this just gives you a better appreciation of when men often go through when they ask women to dance If he doesn’t respond well that’s his problem, not yours, and you’ll know not to ask him again… just ask the next guy instead – he’s probably cuter anyway. Having the confidence to “make the first move” like this is a very valuable skill; not only are lots of men impressed by this and if there is a high girl to guy ratio it’s probably only way to get a look in • When a guy asks you to dance. o Smile and take his hand. o If he looks nervous tell him there is no need to be. • If you feel uncomfortable with a guy dancing too close, tell him Tell him you prefer an open hold. • Always go dancing with friends and watch out for each other – you never know when you might need to come to another girl’s rescue. • Never look like you are bored when you are dancing. If your partner is just a beginner and not very good, then it will make things worse if you look impatient or like you’re bored to tears. If he’s really struggling you can opt to talk to him instead (then he won’t be as worried figuring out what moves/steps to execute next) or suggest what he can do. • Never laugh about a guys dancing behind his back. Chances are someone will overhear, and not only might word travel back to him, but people will see you as a mean and/or critical person. Furthermore, guys don’t like the idea that you are comparing them to other guys • Don’t hog the best male dancers – especially if there are more females than men. • If a guy is trying to spin you too fast tell him It’s not worth breaking an ankle just because you were trying to be polite. And for god’s sake: if he’s hurting you through bad technique help him correct his technique. Page 17 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners • If the male to female ratio is low a few girls should assume a guy’s role. The nice thing to do in this situation is take turns and offer to relieve the girls who are being men … and that way every girl gets to dance with a real man… and I hope that wasn’t too confusing. ☺ It’s actually really useful to be the guy sometimes, because you’ll get a feel for what leading is – and if you can follow AND lead then you are set – most dancers only ever experience one. And hey; a couple of the girls in our club have become pretty good leads, and probably better at being a man than I am (coughAnacough). ☺ • Include others. While you’re not dancing you might notice a few of people who look like they’re left out and/or dying to be invited to join in. Why not be the friendly Samaritan – go over to them, have a chat and maybe find them someone to dance with. • Some guys are very shy and even scared when it comes to asking girls to dance; so if you see/know a guy matching this description it’s a great opportunity to offer him encouragement or (if he doesn’t get your subtle hints “Gee, I wish SOMEONE would dance with me”) just ask him outright. Page 18 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners What to Wear • Wow, definitely not my area. Don’t get me wrong; I like wearing skirts as much as the next cross-dresser; I just don’t feel qualified to give advice. ☺ • Clothes. o To get a good idea of what people wear I would firstly suggest look at photos on our uqdance website (www.uqdance.net). o Probably the safest thing to wear is jeans and a nice shirt – casual but smart. o If you wear a dress/skirt, be aware than when you do a fast turn it can blow up (kaboom), so maybe test it before you go dancing. If you’ve watched any professionals dancing on television you’ll know that there are a lot of advanced moves and lifts where knickers will show. If you’re not a professional you’re probably safe, but (just in case) wearing your spice girls undies is probably not the best idea you’ve ever had. o Taking a change of clothes and towel to dance lessons is often a great idea. ☺ • Footwear. o Having comfortable footwear is critical Never mind how good they look; if they are at ALL painful to walk in they are useless for dancing. I hate to break it to you, but very few straight men notice shoes, so it’s not worth the torture. So don’t say you weren’t warned the next time you go home limping with foot blisters o Girls seem to have a strange obsession with high heels, and admittedly most of the professionals on television wear them, but if you ask me, keeping your ankle un-sprained is more important than being an extra two centimetres tall If you do insist on heels, then make sure they fit well and you can dance in them. o Never wear sandals or thongs. (thongs = “flip-flops” for all you Yankees). ☺ o There is nothing wrong with a sturdy pair of runners on a girl Not only can joggers be sexy (yeah, you heard me), but they are the safest way to start learning to dance, and you can work your way to boots and then heels is you must. And yes; dancing on grass in heels is a bad idea… apparently. o PS: If you REALLY want shoe advice or resident expert is Charissa. ☺ • Hair. o A little tip about long hair. Yes, your hair looks beautiful when it’s down, but I’ve danced with a few or girls who’s long hair use to whip me in the face every time they spun. The easy solution to this is a hair tie I believe. Anyhow, just something you should be aware of: if you partner suddenly has hair in his mouth it’s probably yours • Jewellery. o Jewellery isn’t really my thing, but if you are a big fan (i.e. if you have two Y chromosomes) then make sure you don’t wear anything too loose on your neck (beware of flailing necklaces) or anything on your hands that might scratch. As a guy I definitely find it harder to hold hands and dance with a girl who has multiple rings; they are distracting and they get in the way. Earrings are also a problem because they are easy to lose when you are dancing, and big ones can get tangled in your hair. In summary aiming for minimal or none at all is best. • Handbags. o Handbags are a pretty neat concept actually – not only can you store lots of stuff in them but they are a fashion accessory too – no wonder women love them Unfortunately it is REALLY hard for you and your partner to dance if you have a handbag falling off your arm – so find some way to lose it. If you’re out on the city and you have a handbag with you, then try and palm it off to a friend before you follow a guy onto the dance floor. Girls will often leave their bags in a small pile (or a huge pile near the speaker in the case of Café Denim). There is always a small chance of theft, but so long as you use common sense and stay nearby you bags should be fairly safe. Page 19 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners Keeping Everybody Happy This next thing I’m going to tell you is a bit of an unknown secret about men. There are a lot of guys out there with a debilitating fear of girls hating them. I’ve spoken to a few friends about this – ALL of them really genuine guys – and not ONE of them hasn’t at some stage felt like a girl (in my case an ex-housemate) has been extremely cold to him and treated him like he was a jerk without even knowing him. I guess it’s usually a case of a misunderstanding or premature judgement. Guys DO tend to be crude and joke around a lot more, we do lots of stupid things without thinking and say a lot of stupid and sarcastic things like: “hey Gary: you’re a big fat idiot”. The thing is, very few of these things are done with bad intentions therefore we rarely take actions/comments like this to heart. Girls, however, tend to take things more literally. As a result of bad experiences, many guys are paranoid that if we make a single mistake you might suddenly hate us, which, in turn, can lead to the silent treatment, and that can be slow death to a man. No-one wants to dance when they feel untrusted/unliked. It’s a vicious self-intensifying cycle too: if a guy feels/suspects you don’t trust him, he is unable to be happy and be himself when you are around… and when he can’t be himself he’ll wonder who else hates him In other words, by ignoring a guy and never smiling at him, you could be devastating his self esteem without even knowing it. I bet we’ve all probably done this to someone else in our lives and not even realized it. So don’t frown or talk about guys behind their back if you don’t know them. I don’t think its fair for a guy to feel like he is a jerk (unless he is a jerk of course). In keeping with the idea of communication, if you do ever have a problem with a guy OR a girl (if they’ve upset you), just talk to them about it and resolve it Wow... I should be a councillor or something. No more depressing stuff I promise. ☺ There are LOTS of nice guys out there learning to dance, and I can attest to the fact that many (if not MOST) of the nicest ones are single. So if you do meet a guy you like, ask his friends if he is single; there’s a good chance he is. The other good news is that our little club and the dance scene in general is the type of environment where you can tell your friends, and they will talk to his friends… and maybe find out that he likes you too. It all sounds very high school, but hey; a LOT of our members are first years, fresh out of high school, so I guess it’s fitting If you get into a relationship (or are already in one) that’s great – you can go to dancing lessons and practise together. Make sure however you are not the jealous type – the two of you should still dance with other people, not ALWAYS with each other. Also, no relationship is perfect (read “Men are from Mars” and you’ll understand) all the time. It’s likely your relationship will end, so make sure that, if it does end, you can still be friends. A healthy relationship, the best relationships are built on friendship and trust. When the relationship ends, then ideally you can stay friends; be happy for each other and even still dance with each other on occasion. Well, that’s the theory anyhow, and yes, it does happen; it just takes trust and maturity. Not everyone is the hugging kind, but you’ll probably notice in the dance crowd a lot of girls and boys hug each other when they say hello. For a guy, it’s a wonderful thing indeed to have female friends who trust and even hugs him because it means he is trusted. Having friends of both genders is really healthy I think (especially having come from an undergrad of only guys); it helps you better understand the opposite sex and meet new people. Page 20 of 31 Dancing Tips for Beginners For the Boys Before I start on the advice for guys, there is one thing I should clear up. I think a lot of guys will expect to be able to show of their new dance skills at a night club and impress girls. It’s not impossible; but unless you bring along your partner/friend who you’ve practised with, expect to get a few funny stares and/or meet great resistance when you try teaching a girl some moves. A lot of you still might enjoy going out with friends to night clubs, but you’ve probably noticed that dancing in night clubs is something entirely different to dancing at a place where people are just there to dance Almost all night clubs are smoky, dirty, dark, over-crowded, and sleazy and (as I mentioned before) there is usually an assumed ulterior motive when you try to dance with a girl. It would be nice if you could just say hello to a girl, and twirl her and just have fun, but I can count the number of times that’s happened to me on one hand. It would be nice if you could just smile at a girl and offer to teach her, say, salsa; but rather than getting a smile back I think you are far more likely to get a snobby/nasty “what-the-hell-are-you-doing” type stare. I use to like to think it was possible to meet a nice girl in a club, but I’ve kind of given up on that idea. You don’t find nice girls in clubs. Hey; I’m sure they exist, but in an environment where everyone smokes, and drinks, and the music is playing so loud you can’t even make conversation I think you are wasting your time trying; although I guess it depends what you are after. The dancing which typically takes place between couples here is pretty crude; people getting drunk and fumbling each other up; and most clubs seem to play pretty dodgy music (lots of bad R&B) – and that’s why I don’t really like clubs much… because very few of have what I call a friendly atmosphere (except maybe Chalk). If you want to dance in a friendly atmosphere ask the people you dance with about the dance scene – and check out the different places/events. Friday night at Café Denims (at Southbank in Brisbane) is a great place to go with a few friends, and hopefully see a few familiar faces, and eventually build the confidence to ask any girl to dance with you; especially the ones who look like they want to join in, but need someone to coax them out Page 21 of 31