How to be a better dancer

How to be a better dancer? Its a question all of us have at some point. The day before I wrote this blog post, I offhandedly mentioned to one of my long term students that she should write a blog post for my website. Less than 22 hours later I had this in my inbox.

Lynn is a school teacher, a great dancer and has been a student of mine for over 9 years. I thought it would be great for her to write from anout how to be a better dancer from a students perspective. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! -Brian B

How to Be a Better Dancer – (A student perspective)

Everyone who dances wants to be good at it. In order to accomplish this, you want to make the most out of every lesson. Schedules and budgets can be tight, so let’s look at how to get the most out of each and every minute.

1. Do what your dance teacher tells you.

This one may seem obvious, but sometimes doing what your teacher says to do with your own body may seem counterintuitive. It’s your body and your movements, right? You know what you are feeling more than the teacher, so he or she must be wrong! If this happens, have someone record you dancing then compare this video to that of someone whose dancing you wish to emulate. Do they look the same? No? This is because what feels good often doesn’t look good. What comes naturally isn’t necessarily good technique. Your teacher is a professional with years of studying correct technique. This is why you are paying him/her. Listen to your teacher! It will feel awkward at first but with practice it will start to feel natural and automatic. Which brings me to my second point

2. Practice, practice, practice!

Dancing is a skill like learning to play an instrument or learning to play a sport. If the only time you dance is during your hourly lesson, you won’t get very good very fast. Ask your teacher for drills that you can practice at home. Practice your routines whenever you can. If you don’t have room at your home, go to the studio, the gym, or even your back yard! If you cannot physically practice your routine for whatever reason, watch videos of your dancing to see where you can improve and visualize yourself doing your routines perfectly.

3. Prepare your body for dancing.

This includes eating right, exercising, and taking care of injuries. Eating right doesn’t mean starving yourself or dieting yourself down to a size zero. Dancing is a strenuous physical activity, and your body needs energy. Fuel it with high quality, nutrient dense food. Would you put cheap, low quality gasoline in a BMW? Of course not! A dancer’s body is more valuable to him or her than a luxury car could ever be. Don’t fuel it with Cheetos and Pop-Tarts. Likewise, you don’t have to be a gym rat to stay in shape. Get enough physical activity so that you can easily get through a couple of dances or run throughs of a routine without having to stop and rest. (Unless it’s polka. Polka will always make you feel like an out of shape, chain smoking couch potato.) Wanna get in shape fast. This is a great article to help you. View it here.  And if you become injured, take care of the injury while it is minor. Don’t wait until you are in agony before seeking treatment. Listen to your body. A minor injury takes much less time to heal than one that ends up requiring surgery.

4. Set goals but have realistic expectations.

Sure everyone wants to dance like Baryshnikov or the professionals on Dancing with the Stars, but this may not be a realistic goal for you. To paraphrase Baryshnikov, you don’t want to dance better than anyone else, you should only want to dance better than yourself. Strive to be a better dancer today than you were yesterday. The best way to become the greatest version of yourself is to set goals that are both measurable and time bound. What does this mean and how does it look in practice? Let’s say you want to win your next dance competition. Maybe your first goal is to have your choreography memorized by your next practice session. This is both measurable (Did I have to refer to my video during practice? Did I remember all the steps?) and time bound (you know the exact time and date of your next practice.) Or maybe you want to break a bad habit. Tell yourself that you are going to do it X number of times in a row correctly by a certain date. Crushing your small goals will not only lead you to realize your larger goals, but it will also give you the confidence to keep going.

Of course the competition or the showcase is sometimes the pinnacle on how to be a better dancer. It’s when you want to look your best, but the real work takes place when no one is watching. You have to put in the time and effort when no one cares but you. I will leave you with one of my dance teacher’s favorite quotes: “If you care at all you will get some results, if you care enough you’ll get incredible results.” –Jim Rohn

Disclaimer: The author of this article does not necessarily take all of her own advice (especially in regard to injuries.)

Want more cool insights?

Looking for help with West Coast Swing specifically. Check out our video page. Want to hear a coaches perspective on how to be a better dancer? Read “overcoming frustration in dancing” or “10 things good west coast swing dancers do differently” This website is a great resource for all things related to not only west coast swing but the learning process. We have devoted an entire section in our blog to Faster Learning! Please check it out.

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