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How to Learn to Dance: Are Classes or Private Lessons Better?

14314917503_e9d02df386_kWhether you’re just starting out as a dancer or preparing for your solo debut, a professional instructor is a mandatory ingredient in your recipe for success. But do you know how to learn to dance at a pace that’s right for you? If you’re having trouble deciding between group classes and private lessons, consider some of the ways in which each instruction method can benefit you.

Is Dance Class Your Best Bet?

When students first enter the world of dance, it’s often through enrollment in a group class. This is almost always more affordable than scheduling a private lesson. A group class can help you decide whether a specific style of dance is right for you. It also removes the pressure from each individual student, allowing class members to share in each other’s progress and learn from each other’s mistakes.

  • Learning Through Collaboration

Despite the prevalence of beginner classes, a group dance class isn’t just for newcomers. In fact, some styles of dance are heavily dependent on collaboration and improvisation between dancers, especially at the upper levels. For example, contemporary dance is an art form that constantly evolves to incorporate improvised movements and the dynamics between individual dancers. Supporting each other’s weight and learning synchronized, complementary footwork must always include at least some form of group training.

If you’re a modern dancer, it’s important to learn choreography that plays on the strengths and techniques of every troupe or class member. This isn’t always easy in a large group. Luckily, in a professional studio or conservatory, a group class can be as tiny as three or four people. This intimate environment fosters a stronger sense of collaboration and places a closer emphasis on improvisation, a key element of genres like jazz and modern dance. This allows dancers to anticipate each other’s movements and complement each other’s individual styles.

  • Preparing for Group Performances

When conservatories and colleges prepare their students for performances, they often divide everyone into groups of similar experience levels, styles, and ages. Sometimes dancers must train and audition separately to land a spot in a group. However, it’s crucial that everyone warms up, learns the choreography, and practices as a team afterwards. Your class instructor and choreographer can monitor your collective process closely, adjusting the sequences according to the dynamics between dancers.

When Do You Need One-on-One Attention?

Even the most thoughtful and talented instructor can’t keep track of an entire class simultaneously. Sometimes students need personalized, one-on-one attention in order to continue growing as a dancer.

  • Mastering the Proper Technique

If you want to become a professional dancer or improve your skills enough to land solo roles, you must eventually narrow your focus. Private lessons are the only way to truly master the proper technique, from the exact angles and lines of your limbs to the way you respond to musical cues. And if you’re preparing for a very important solo audition, private instruction is absolutely essential in order to show judges your best possible performance.

A private instructor will work closely with you on a regular basis, often scheduling multiple lessons per week. This one-on-one studio time lets him or her closely monitor your progress, identify specific mistakes, and correct your form. Even the most talented dancers eventually struggle with one particular aspect of a group or solo routine, so you should only regard this as a positive opportunity. For example, ballet dancers often have trouble keeping their torso aligned while their legs and arms carry them through spins and jumps. Professional, private lessons help correct this.

  • Personalizing Your Learning Experience

Dance should ultimately be a fun and fulfilling way express yourself. But years of intensive training can exhaust you, slowing down your progress and diminishing the passion that makes good dancing great. If you’re stuck in a rut, consider personalized private instruction.

Private dance teachers don’t just tailor lessons to your strengths, weaknesses, and individual goals. They can also design warm-up routines and choreography that tap into everything from your musical tastes to your own personal style and character traits. Even if you’re not preparing for a competition or audition that requires a solo performance, choreographing your own individual routine is a fantastic way to stay engaged.

Both group classes and private lessons can transform your dancing abilities. However, if you’re committed to growing as an individual dancer or studying dance on a higher level, private instruction will inevitably become an essential part of your training regimen.

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Learning to Dance: What Should I Look for in an Instructor?

Best Dance TeachersIf you’re interested in learning to dance, don’t let other beginners dictate your pace and progress. Instead of joining a class, schedule a private lesson with a professional dance instructor. You might not find your perfect match instantly, but you’ll be in a unique position to consider the instructor’s background, personality, and teaching style before signing up. But what should you be looking for, exactly?

Previous Stage Experience

After professional dancers retire, they often stick around to become choreographers or instructors. These dance experts have invaluable experiences to draw upon, from learning to dance for the first time to winning spots in professional companies and solos in major productions. It’s a good sign if an instructor once belonged to a professional dancing company, or if they have several years of performing experience. Even if they don’t have many credentials, an instructor who danced professionally for years is very valuable. They won’t just teach you how to dance; they’ll also know firsthand how to navigate the stress and frustrations of training, rehearsing, performing, and competing.

One-on-One Attention

Even when they’re teaching group classes, good instructors will make sure every single student gets individual attention during each practice session. After all, dance is dependent on precision and form, and beginning students must learn the proper techniques under careful guidance. Whether you’re learning to dance for the first time or trying a new style, an attentive instructor is the primary ingredient in your recipe for success.

As you browse local instructors’ profiles and reviews, look for signs that they care about each student and develop lasting relationships with the dancers who train under them. Years of loyalty is a good sign that an instructor will be attentive enough to correct bad habits and perfect your form.

Love for Learning

The best teachers never stop learning; that’s how they develop effective and refreshing teaching methods, and how they keep their dance experience relevant. Look for a dance instructor who will get creative with his or her exercises, adapt warm-up routines just for you, and try new sequences or techniques that recently captured their attention.

However, everyone expresses their passion and joy differently, so don’t assume that a reserved, serious ballet instructor doesn’t adore her job or love the art of dancing. If an instructor has devoted their entire professional career to dance, there’s often a reason they were able and willing to stick around for so long. Learning to dance under a veteran like this is an honor.

Patience and Flexibility

The most significant perk of private dance lessons is the solitude. Because you aren’t learning alongside other students, your own progress can continue in a more organic, productive way. If you have trouble with certain elements, an instructor should be willing to halt the current lesson and address your confusion. Instead of stumbling over certain footwork and determining to learn it later, you can practice again and again until you get it right.

Experience With Auditions

When you need to perfect a solo routine for an audition, it’s best to study with a teacher who already knows your strengths and weaknesses. However, sometimes it’s not possible or you need a fresh perspective. Feel free to be picky when you choose an instructor to coach you through these particular practice sessions. Ideally, he or she should have experience as a professional dancer or choreographer. If you’re auditioning for a specific dance school or company, you might even be able to find an instructor who’s an alum.

Look at your instructor’s previous experience as a dancer, choreographer, or instructor. If they’ve worked in professional productions or placed in competitions, it means they’ve endured the rejections and triumphs of auditions and competition. Examples of paid dancing gigs can also include working in productions at theme parks, coaching competitive dance teams, and even designated back-up roles in music videos. Auditioning and proving your worth against other dancers can be a brutal process if you’re not prepared. Experienced instructors can make it less overwhelming and equip you for success in front of the judging panel!

Finally, don’t be afraid to try multiple instructors in order to find the best fit. If your personalities clash, you don’t feel challenged or understood, or you just want to keep looking, it’s OK to part ways. Dance is a highly collaborative art form, and it can’t be taught from a distance, so it’s important to find an instructor who’s invested in your progress.

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Photo by balletjorgencanada

7 Qualities to Look for in the Perfect Ballroom Dance Partner

Whether you’re a veteran dancer or you’re just beginning to learn ballroom dancing, every dancer needs a partner. If you haven’t already found your perfect partner, keep your eyes peeled for these seven winning characteristics.

1. They’ve Got Smooth Moves

Your perfect partner doesn’t have be Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, but they should know how to ballroom dance well. Ideally, you and your partner should be dancing at about the same skill level. The best dancers tend to be the most sought-after partners, but other factors also come into play. A dancer with great skills but a terrible attitude will soon find himself or herself unpopular on the dance floor.

2. They Put You at Ease

You’re going to be getting close to your ballroom dance partner, so be sure to choose someone you feel comfortable with. The perfect partner knows how to keep it light, even when you feel like you have two left feet. If your partner has the lead, it should feel easy to follow, and not as if you are being led on a military march. If you’re the one doing the leading, your partner should float with you, intuitively following your direction.

3. They Can Teach You a Thing or Two

A ballroom dance partner who can teach you a new step on the fly from time to time is always a joy. Learning new steps will help keep your passion for dance alive. If you can, be sure to return the favor and teach your partner a step or two every now and then.

4. They Are Fun to Talk to

The perfect dance partner should also be a wonderful partner in conversation. Look for someone with a good sense of humor who you truly enjoy talking to. Great conversationalists listen as much or more than they talk because they understand that it’s not all about them. Communicating with your partner should be fun and easy.

5. They Are Not Stinky

You don’t want a partner who smells unpleasant, or whose cologne gives you a headache. Be sure to freshen up yourself before you hit the ballroom. You don’t want to be known as the stinky partner either!

6. They Don’t Put You Down

Dancing with a partner can be intimate and, at times, intimidating. As you learn how to ballroom dance, you will experience moments of insecurity and self-doubt. Your partner should help support you as you learn, and you should do the same for them. Great partners want to help each other succeed. Don’t stick with a partner who bullies you or makes you feel bad about your dancing.

7. They Truly Love to Dance

Your partner loves to dance and it shows! They bring an enthusiasm and sense of fun to each dance. Their passion is contagious, and you find they can get you excited to dance even on your worst days. If you find a perfect ballroom dance partner like this, don’t let them go!

What do you think? As you learn how to ballroom dance, what would your perfect dance partner be like? Tell us all about them in the comments below!

 

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Learn Bollywood Dance Moves From These 5 Movies

Bollywood dance moves are part of a large cultural tradition, in which storytelling is a spectacle and dance is a genuine form of human expression and emotion. In order to master the art of Bollywood dancing, taking lessons with a private instructor who’s familiar with the style is important, but you should also know a little bit about it yourself! The best dancers don’t just master the moves; they appreciate and celebrate the origins of the dance. As you enjoy these five films, you’ll see Bollywood dance moves in action as expert performers weave them into elaborate scenes and tell stories with their bodies. Watch carefully — and be prepared to get inspired! 

1. Don (2006)

Bollywood Dance Moves

Image from http://www.movietalkies.com/movies/moviestills/22841/18760/don

“Don” is a rare remake that some say improved upon the original, but that’s not surprising with two of Bollywood’s hottest stars at the helm. Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra are a hilarious tag team as a fake gangster and his girlfriend, but it gets even better when Khan turns a joke at a party into a full-scale dance number. “Khaike Paan Banaraswala” is part slapstick comedy and part boy band music video, but at its heart it follows in the old Bollywood tradition of perfect timing and absurd storytelling. After all, it’s a man and his friends dancing about the merits of a tobacco leaf.

2. Jewel Thief (1967)

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This Bollywood classic might not have the high-definition and special effects of modern dance movies, but it can’t be forgotten if you want to understand the evolution of Bollywood dance moves — or appreciate a truly stunning solo performance. The film itself is a spy thriller in the vein of James Bond, but it’s a Hindi classic because of a dance sequence that remains one of Bollywood’s most iconic. Vyjayanthimala Bali, an Indian actress, reigned over Bollywood in the 1950s, and this movie proved she was still on top with an eight-minute long performance of “Hothon Pe Aisi Baat“.

When Vyjayanthimala’s character first emerges, it’s not her mesmerizing beauty or flashy colors that draw all eyes her way. It’s her fluid dance moves, which turn her gold bangles into musical instruments and her long skirt into a magic carpet that never stays in one place. There are background dancers, but they’re just splashes of color during the dancer’s frenzied show-stealer. Her choreography is a great example of Bollywood dance moves that make the most of physical space, and she manages to avoid repetition too. It’s no wonder the movie is still recommended by Bollywood dance instructors throughout India and the United States today.

3. Dabangg (2010)

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Image from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm4218009600/tt1620719

If you want to fully appreciate this over-the-top action-comedy, wait until you’ve watched a few classic Bollywood movies first. All the archetypes, from corrupt cops to bumbling suitors, come together in one tongue-in-cheek musical number that uses Bollywood dance moves to bring settings and storylines together. The manic dance number is actually a great instructive tool for dance students, too. “Munni Badnam Hui” is such a visual spectacle that it would be hard not to draw creative inspiration from one of the many dancers who bring it to life. Even better, the choreography has a lighthearted sense of humor that makes the complicated moves look less intimidating.

4. Dil Se.. (1998)

Dil Se..

Image from http://indiatoday.intoday.in/gallery/top-30-landmark-bollywood-films/23/7008.html

There’s no movie quite like this one, and no Bollywood dance sequence that matches its wow factor. The movie’s title means “from the heart,” and the choreography in “Chaiyya Chaiyya” is as sentimental as it gets… but it also takes place on top of a moving train. This in-transit sequence stars Malaika Arora and the legendary Shah Rukh Khan, who make every other Bollywood number look like a piece of cake as they wind through Indian forests and mountains together.

5. Beta (1992)

Beta

Image from http://www.moovyshoovy.com/

Bollywood dancing might be extravagant and over-the-top compared to formal genres like ballet, but if you look closely, the best dancers are very deliberate and controlled throughout their performances. Madhuri Dixit dances with every inch of her body during “Dhak Dhak Karne Laga” in this film, and the cameras get close enough to reveal the slight hip twitches and eyebrow raises that take her dance moves to a new level. Study this movie to get a better grasp on the dynamics of dancing with one partner, or if you want to tweak every detail for a smaller performance venue.

 

If you love watching these movies, think of them as previews of the dancing you could do someday! Watching expert dancers is a practical way to improve your own skills, but you can’t step through the screen to receive feedback about your own Bollywood dance moves. If you’re interested in becoming a better Bollywood dancer, contact a private instructor who knows the style. A pro can guide you toward fancier footwork in the future!

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Intro to Ballroom Dance Steps & Posture | 3 Steps to Know

Learning How To Ballroom DanceLearning how to properly dance ballroom style and perfect the moves requires a good bit of time and practice. However, you may be surprised at just how far you can get by learning a few basic ballroom dance steps. With this guide, you will learn the basic steps of ballroom dancing and find yourself out on the dance floor before you know it!

Ballroom Dance Posture

Before your feet can start learning these ballroom dance steps, it’s important that you first learn the proper posture your body must maintain. This solid frame is what makes ballroom dancing look graceful, effortless, and elegant. To do this, hold your head upright while keeping your chin parallel to the floor. Lengthen your spine by lifting the chest. You should keep a natural curvature to the spine. Be sure not to overcompensate in either direction by tucking your hips in too far or sticking out your rear end. Stand solidly on both feet with your weight placed just forward of center.

Once your posture is perfect, you will want to keep this all in your mind while you hold onto your partner and dance. Lift your arms, making sure the shoulders are high, but not raised. This video demonstrates the proper ballroom dance posture and hold:

Rock Step

Now that your body is ready, it’s time to learn the first of the basic ballroom dance steps. Starting with your feet together, lift one foot and cross it behind the other foot. You want to aim for a 45-degree angle and place the foot about 12 inches behind the other foot. The rhythm for the rock step is “one and two, three and four.” Placing only the ball of your foot down, transfer your weight to your back foot on the count of one, then immediately back to your front foot on the count of “and.” Return your foot to its starting position directly beside your other foot on the beat of two.

For counts three and four, you will follow these same steps, only reversing which foot is in the front and which foot is the one crossing behind. The rock step can also be performed by crossing the foot in front of your leg rather than behind it.

Shifting your weight quickly in the rock step may make you feel off-balance at first, so start slowly and work up your speed as your body grows accustomed to the movement. This is a good tip to apply to any of the ballroom dance steps that you practice!

Triple Step

While the rock step is smooth and balanced, the triple step is performed a bit faster and is characterized by the contrast between quick and slow movements. Although the triple step is also counted “one and two, three and four,” the “one and” and the “three and” are quick, while the “two” and “four” are longer. The triple step can also be counted as “quick quick slow” or “tri-ple step.” The combination of the rhythm and movement makes the triple step feel a bit like skipping.

Starting with your feet together in your ballroom posture, lift your right foot and step forward a short distance on the count of one. Quickly shift your weight back to your left foot on the count of “and,” then immediately shift back forward to the right foot for the count of two. Move your left foot forward on the count of three and repeat the quick rocking motion on “and four.”

The triple step can be used to travel in any direction. Usually the foot moving on the counts of one and three will step in the direction you are traveling. You can also perform the triple step in place, rocking toward the left and right.

Grapevine

Used in both ballroom dancing and aerobic workout videos, the grapevine is one of the ballroom dance steps that you’re probably already familiar with. While one foot continues to step directly out to the side, your other foot crosses over the leg, alternating back and forth.

Examples of Ballroom Dance Steps

You’ll notice these basic ballroom dance steps incorporated into several specific dances, including the foxtrot and swing dancing. Check out the video below to see how the steps are used within the foxtrot:

By layering arm gestures, movements to the musical accents, and slight variations of these ballroom dance steps, you can create a dance that is fun and interesting. And if you’re ready to take your skills up a notch, the best way to improve is to take private lessons with an experienced teacher, who can provide you with feedback and teach you some new steps. Good luck — and have fun!

 

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Tights, Tutus, and Shoes: Is Learning Ballet Expensive?

If your child is interested in taking ballet lessons, one of the things that is likely going through your mind right now is wondering how much it is going to cost. Many people believe that dance classes, and especially ballet classes, are quite expensive to participate in. While it’s true that there are certain supplies your child will need to learn how to dance ballet, purchasing these items does not have to break the bank. Here you will find a rundown of everything your child will need, as well as how much you can expect to pay.

Leotard

The Basics Of Ballet

The leotard is the iconic foundational garment that is worn when practicing and performing ballet. Because the leotard is form-fitting, it allows the instructor to see the student’s body position and alignment. This is important so that they can make the necessary adjustments to the dancer’s form. The most common leotard color is black, but some studios allow students to wear whatever color they wish, and other studios use the leotard color to indicate the student’s level.

The cost of a leotard ranges from $10 to $30, depending on the size, fabric, and sleeve length. You may want to have several leotards for your child, so that you don’t have to do laundry as often. On the other hand, if your child is just starting to learn how to dance ballet or is in the middle of a growth spurt, you may want to purchase just one leotard and wash it more frequently.

Dance Skirt

ballet dance skirt

For a little more coverage, many female ballet students choose to wear a dance skirt. This includes the iconic frilly tutu, as well as simple crepe or satin skirts. Because of the wide variety of styles available, the cost of a dance skirt can be anywhere from $5 to $40. To make the most of your money, pick a skirt in a neutral color that will coordinate with any leotard.

Tights

ballet tights

Your child will be expected to wear tights with their leotard to ballet class. Pink is the most popular color choice, though black, white, and nude are widely used as well. Dance tights are made in a variety of styles – footed, convertible, stirrup, and footless. You may want to have more than one style to give your child a few options to coordinate with different outfits. Dance tights are usually inexpensive and cost around $5 to $15 a pair.

Ballet Shoes

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One of the most important items that your child will need to learn how to dance ballet is the ballet shoe (or slipper). This specially designed shoe supports the dancer’s foot while allowing for a full range of movement. Ballet shoes are typically available in pink, black, white, and nude, with pink being the most popular. Ballet slippers are made from canvas or leather. Many dancers feel that canvas ballet shoes are more comfortable; however, leather shoes are more durable and typically last longer. Ballet shoes come with either a split sole or a full sole. Consult your child’s dance teacher to determine which style of ballet slipper is best suited for your child.

As your child’s skills progress, they may have the opportunity to learn how to dance ballet en pointe. In this style of ballet, the dancers wear special shoes that allow them to dance on the tips of their toes. This requires an incredible amount of ankle strength and stability and is not suited for a novice dancer. The special ballet shoes required to dance en point may cost around $80 or more.

Hair Supplies

ballet hair

Girls are usually required to wear their hair in a tight bun on top of their head, which keeps their hair out of their eyes while they dance. For this hair style, you will need hairspray, elastic hair bands, bobby pins, and a bun roll. If you don’t already have these items around your house, these can be found for just a few dollars at most drugstores.

Dance Bag

Ballet bag

Your child will need a bag to carry his or her belongings back and forth to ballet class. One option is to use a bag that you already own, or you can also purchase a special dance bag for $10 to $30. You may wish to have the bag personalized with your child’s name or initials for easy identification.

 

Although you will need a few items, it doesn’t have to be expensive for your child to learn how to dance ballet. You can ease the burden of these costs by starting with a few basics and periodically adding new items. With these essentials, your child will be ready to dance the day away!

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Photo by tom@hk, Arild Nybo, bronx.zaimoku_woodpile, Bunches and Bits {Karina}, Amy

How to Learn Ballroom Dance Steps When You Have Two Left Feet

Learn How To Ballroom DanceMaybe you’re trying to get ready for your first dance on your wedding day. Or maybe you’re feeling inspired after watching Dancing with the Stars and seeing the celebrities learn to ballroom dance from scratch. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance, but have never had the time, opportunity, or courage to learn. No matter what has drawn your interests to ballroom dancing, it can be a bit intimidating if you feel like you have two left feet! The tips outlined below will get you performing ballroom dance steps in no time.

Select a Style of Dance

Ballroom dancing is comprised of many different styles of dance. In international dance competitions, the recognized styles of standard and Latin ballroom dance are waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, samba, cha cha cha, rumba, paso doble, and jive. However, there are many other popular forms of ballroom dancing, including the Argentine tango, mambo, and swing.

While it’s certainly possible to learn more than one (or even all!) of these styles, you should stick to one at first. Each style has its own character, style, posture, and ballroom dance steps that you will need to focus on and master. If you are learning to ballroom dance for your wedding or a particular event, obviously that will dictate the style of ballroom dancing you should practice. But if you are just learning for fun, take time to learn about each of these styles and pick the one that appeals to you the most.

Familiarize Yourself with the Music

Once you have selected which ballroom dance you want to learn, start listening to music that is commonly used for that style of dance. Try to notice similarities between these songs, such as the tempo (how fast or slow the song is) and rhythmic patterns (a repetitive beat pattern). Internalizing the sound and feel of the music is a great way to prepare yourself to dance to it!

Learn How to Hear and Count the Beat

Every song has a steady beat. It may be slow, fast, or somewhere in between, but this constant beat is what drives the song and will also be what you dance to. Before you move your feet, you must first learn how to count to the beat. Most songs will use either a count of six or eight. If you are having trouble, try clapping to the beat. Using a physical action can help you learn to recognize the beat.

Dance Like No One’s Watching

Now that you’re familiar with the music and the beat, it’s time to start dancing! It isn’t important what steps you take at first — just start moving your feet and body to the beat in whatever way the music speaks to you. Don’t worry about feeling silly, since this is just a warm-up exercise to help you get used to moving to the music. Have fun with it!

Learn the Steps

Now is the time to start learning the proper ballroom dance steps. There are many methods you can use to learn ballroom dance steps, including group classes, private dance lessons, and online videos. Don’t rush and try to learn all of the ballroom dance steps at once. Instead, take your time to ensure that you are properly executing each move with good technique. Take each move individually and practice it over and over again to the music. While this may seem boring at times, repetitive practice helps to ingrain the move into your muscle memory so that you can perform it without much conscious thought. It’s also smart to practice in front of a full-length mirror so you can watch the positioning of your body.

If you are having trouble learning a move, turn off the music and do the move as slowly as possible. Keep practicing slowly until you are very comfortable with the move, then slowly increase the speed until you have mastered it at full speed. If you just can’t seem to get it, don’t get frustrated! Take a break and come back to the move at another time.

Adding Flair to Your Dance

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, you may want to add some flair and pizzazz to your dancing! You can add a lot of personality to your dance simply through a simple glance with your eyes or by changing your facial expressions. Try to really feel all of the emotions behind the music and use your full range of movement to convey these feelings. These subtle nuances make all the difference between a technically good dance and a spectacular dance that dazzles your audience (even if it’s only your cat watching)!

Study the Art

Just like a football player watches videos of old plays to prepare himself for a game, you should take time to watch other ballroom dancers. Thanks to websites like YouTube, this is easier to do than ever before in the comfort of your own home. Whenever you have the opportunity, go watch live ballroom dancing performances and competitions, also. While you watch others dance, study how they move and express themselves.

Perfect Your Dancing

While you can learn some steps at home, if you really want to excel at ballroom dancing, it’s best to sign up for private dance lessons. The one-on-one guidance that you will receive from your instructor will help you improve your dancing tremendously. Don’t worry about having two left feet — your teacher will be excited that you want to learn and will help you achieve your goals!

 

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 Photo by Jeff

How to Sing While Breaking a Sweat: Tips for Triple Threats

Grease

John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones are just a few of the Hollywood celebrities known for being “triple threats”–skilled in singing, dancing, and acting. Here, Corona, CA teacher Milton J. shares his tips for reaching their superstar status…

 

So you’ve decided to take vocal lessons to learn how to sing better, but the buck doesn’t just stop there for your own ambitions. You have your eyes set on the stage and the screen, and you won’t stop until you’re there. You may be doe-eyed and eager to learn, but you’re sure of where you want to end up. Your guide is nigh–just remember The Three P’s: Preparation, Practice, and Performance.

Preparation

That first wonderful step is taking vocal lessons. (And if you haven’t started those yet, what are you waiting for?! Book lessons with me, or find a teacher near you!) Finding a vocal teacher is very important in order for you to understand how to use your entire vocal cavity–not just how to sing. Taking vocal lessons will indeed improve your speaking and recitation voices as well.

Next, taking acting classes and workshops will allow you to put those new speaking and singing tools you’ve acquired into action, all the while improving your cue, marking, beat, and improvisation skills. From there, taking dance classes will start the third leg of your Triple-Threat race. Taking dance lessons will help you continue improving the skills you’ve picked up in your acting classes while adding in rhythm, technique, ensemble and solo routine, and vocal/dance incorporation.

Practice

You’ve heard the old adage time and time again–Practice Makes Perfect. It’s been around so long because it’s true; the best way to improve yourself after you’ve acquired the tools is to cultivate them into skills. After your vocal lessons, it’s important to do your daily vocal warm-ups and exercises to continue building strength in the muscles of your vocal cavity. After your acting classes and workshops, continue to run lines, blocking, and scene rehearsing. Visualization with a virtual stage at home can help to put all phases of your scene together. And after your dance lessons, continue doing your daily stretches and routine practicing in order to polish them up for the next class and, ideally, the eventual performance. P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E!

Performance

After the preparation, and after all of the practicing, the payoff draws near–the Performance. With your vocal lessons, seek out vocal opportunities either solicited from your vocal teacher or elsewhere. Community choral groups are a wonderful place to learn how to sing with others and cultivate your musical score reading skills. As a solo singer, your local coffee shop, bar, or music store may lead open mic nights for you to pop into and sing a few selections you’ve been working on for an audience.

For acting, look into your local community theater companies for audition opportunities. Check the audition dates (usually on their website or the theater box office) and ask your acting instructor for input on audition pieces if you haven’t already.

Lastly, for dancing, dance showcases are the perfect opportunity to strut your stuff. If you’re attending classes at a dance studio, chances are they’ll have a showcase coming up. If not, actively seek out showcases you can audition for–try your city’s Park and Recreation department, or other local dance studios. These organizations are always looking for new undiscovered talent or new dancers to join their ranks.

Preparation is the first step, Practice makes perfect, and the Performance is the goal. Now that you’re set with The Three P’s, you’re on your way to becoming the Triple Threat you know you can be! Break a leg!

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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5 Swing Dance Trivia Tidbits You May Not Have Known

Swing Dancing TipsFor almost a century, swing dancing has attracted enthusiastic, carefree, and highly musical people from all walks of life. If you love its unrestrained movements and nostalgic charm, here are five interesting facts to know before you hit the dance floor.

1. Swing dance goes by many names

Swing belongs to the jazz school of dance, but the term doesn’t apply to one single technique. There are several distinct swing styles, and they each developed alongside shifting musical and cultural trends.

  • Lindy Hop — a reference to Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight in 1927; danced within a designated space but highly social and creative
  • Savoy-style Lindy Hop — distinguished by more upbeat, circular movements
  • Collegiate Shag — chest-to-chest dancing with alternating feet (one foot goes between partner’s feet), to uptempo jazz music
  • St. Louis shag — side-by-side dancing with forward kicks and stomps

2. Swing is dancing’s greatest equalizer

If dances were people, swing would be a civil rights pioneer. When it first emerged in the United States in the 1920s, nothing else brought New Yorkers–of all ethnic traditions–together in quite the same way.

While racial segregation continued to divide and oppress throughout the country, it didn’t apply in Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. That’s where European-style partner dancing began to merge with the unique styles associated with traditional African dances, as well as African-American dances like Juba (also known as hambone) and tap. This combination of formal and celebratory traditions resulted in the wide-legged, synchronized, energetic styles that still characterize modern swing.

Swing also played a part in shattering gender stereotypes, long before the idea of feminism was coined. During World War II, both soldiers and civilians spent their downtime practicing the wildly popular dance, allowing them to socialize and distract themselves in a lighthearted setting. Suddenly, it no longer mattered whether a man was leading a woman through the steps. With so many men overseas, same-sex swing pairs became increasingly common. Women learned to lead, men learned to follow, and there were few reservations about these alternative roles. Today, you’ll find the same open-minded attitude prevails in swing dancing clubs and competitions.

3. Competitions are divided into categories

As you learn to swing dance and begin to master the fundamentals, you might decide to enter a competition. The following categories will determine the rules you’ll need to follow:

  • Strictly — partners remain in contact with each other and the floor
  • Showcase — pairs or groups perform choreographed routines
  • Jack and Jill — individual competitors are randomly paired off
  • West Coast — partners come together and separate in “elastic” motions
  • East Coast — ballroom-style, with stricter-than-usual attention to form

4. Swing dancers don’t always pair off

When most people think of swing, they imagine dancers pairing off to perform synchronized footwork to energetic, old-school music. However, you can also learn to swing dance alone, or with a large group of people. It’s incorporated into many modern and contemporary jazz routines, in which groups of dancers synchronize their swings, bounces, and taps in a wide variety of creative patterns.

Individual routines are also more commonplace than you’d think, and they’ve always been an important part of swing’s evolution. In fact, one example of a solo swing dance–the Charleston–became a fame-making move for Hollywood stars like Dean Collins and Josephine Baker. Whether you learn the Lindy Hop or Swinging Charleston, the basics are the same: an eight-step sequence of fast-kicking, foot-tapping dance moves that take you backwards and forwards in quick succession.

5. Swing is a celebration of life, music, and movement

Do you often hear that you’re “full of life” because your enthusiasm is so unbridled and contagious? Do you find it difficult to contain your joy when you’re having a great day, or keep your feet and hands from moving to the beat when your favorite song comes on? If so, you should definitely learn to swing dance!

To emulate the greats and swing dance on a competitive level, you need happy hands and feet that can keep up with fast-paced, upbeat music. It’s not just about following the right footwork patterns or exaggerating your movements; swing dance is a celebration of life and music. An open mind and passion for music will help you embrace the exciting world of swing.

Of course, an understanding of the fundamentals of swing is important for all beginners to learn. You may be able to pick up some techniques from watching others dance, but working one-on-one with a dance teacher will take you much further. Ready to get started? Find an instructor near you to help you perfect the techniques, make sure your timing is right, and gain the confidence you need to dance with enthusiasm and passion. Good luck, and remember to have fun!

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4 Fundamental Tap Dance Steps for Beginners

Learning Tap Dance Steps Good dancers can make even the most complicated, strenuous techniques look effortless and fluid. If you’ve ever watched an experienced dancer perform a tap routine, you probably watched in disbelief as their feet turned into a blur of movement that seemed to move independently from the rest of their body. Sometimes the sound effects are even more impressive; when done well, tap dance is a musical art form that creates its own rhythm.

Do you want to train your own feet to create this unique mixture of motion and music? The following four tap dance steps are simple but essential elements of all tap choreography.

1. Shuffle


The shuffle is one of the first tap dance steps you should learn. It’s a combination of two moves that are even more basic: the brush and the strike. Start with the brush. Stand on one leg and bend the other, lifting your foot off the ground. Turn both feet out, without letting the raised foot touch the ground.

Now, perform a brush by swinging the foot forward. As it passes your standing foot, point it slightly so the ball quickly brushes against the floor. Don’t let your heel touch the floor at all. Next, follow it with a strike. This is simply the same movement in reverse; swing your foot backwards instead of forwards.

2. Ball change


In tap, there are several different ways to shift your weight from one foot to the other, but the ball change is by far the most common. In order to pull it off perfectly, make sure that only your toe tap–the smallest of your shoe’s metal plates–makes any noise. First, stand with your feet side by side but not touching. Now lift your heels, so that only your the balls of your feet are in contact with the floor. Next, place your right foot behind you, and rock back onto the ball of it. As you do so, your left foot should completely leave the floor for a moment. Now switch feet and do the same thing, rocking your weight from one ball to the next.

3. Step-heel and heel-step


These two steps are the opposite of one another, and when you perform them in a pair of tap shoes, they each produce two very distinct sounds. The first step you should try is the heel-step, because it mimics the natural progression of walking across the floor. The rules are very basic: when you place one foot in front of the other, bring the heel of your foot down first. You’re still learning, so it’s okay to exaggerate the movement and “stomp” your heel into the floor. Next, bring the ball of your foot down too. Repeat with the opposite foot, and continue until you’ve moved forward several feet.

The step-heel is just the reverse, so the ball of your foot should come down before your heel. This will come more naturally if you’re used to wearing high heels. Make sure the ball of each foot makes full contact with the floor before the heel joins it; the more you arch your foot, the more force you’ll need to complete each step.

4. Single buffalo


The pickup is a stylized way to transition between steps. First, step down onto the ball of your right foot. Next, lift your left foot behind you and perform a shuffle, moving it forward and back again. When you return to your original position, hop onto the ball of the foot, placing it behind your right foot, and simultaneously lift your right foot into the air in front of you. Bend your right knee outward, so that your toe falls on the other side of your left foot.

If you enjoy learning and practicing these simple tap dance steps, why not take it a step further and work with a private dance teacher to improve your moves? There’s only so much you can learn through online videos, so if you want to perform or compete as a tap dancer, find a dance instructor who can make sure you’ve mastered the basics. Eventually, you’ll combine them into more advanced tap dance steps and learn how to truly make music with your feet. Enjoy!

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