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Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by Michael-Francis
9/19/2014  7:13:00 AM
Hi All,

We are Michael and Francis.
We live just outside Charlotte, NC.

Yes we are very new to Ballroom Dance, so now is the time for a couple of the many questions we will have on our journey to learning the basics of social dance. We are not interested in competition dancing, only to enjoy dancing in a social environment.

It has taken a while for our schedules to mesh enough to start some classes, but now it seems to be happening.

The first question I have is in regards to confidence. We had signed up for some dance lessons from a local dance studio, and the first class is next Thursday. Last night we were just looking through a few videos, and something that I had never heard from her before. "I'm not going to be able to do that." What we were watching was a video on West coast swing basics. So now after hearing her repeat those words several times, I realized that she lacks some confidence. My my question is this: What are the tips that you as instructors give your students when they show a lack of confidence. She seems to feel that she doesn't have enough rhythm to "count and Step" at the same time. We are both in fairly good shape, she weighs about 105 wet, and is in good physical condition so that should be an issue.
I know she wants to do this, but feels reluctant to proceed.

The next question is about Rhythm and keeping time. How can I convey to her about recognizing the rhythms and how they translate to the footwork. I know this will be the job of the instructor, but he may need a little help.

Thanks in advance for your input.
Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by ladydance
9/19/2014  7:35:00 AM
Honestly, youtube has been the scourge of ballroom dance. Everyone looks at videos and based on what they see decide it is either too hard for them or too easy and they won't need more than a lesson or two to be proficient. No one does this for golf or any other sport that I can think of. Fear of being the only one that can't learn the steps is the huge. As a studio manager and part-time instructor, I see this all the time. Instructors who teach beginners have several tricks to encourage new dancers and explain the steps. After the first class, you wife will realize that everyone is in the same boat and that everyone is so busy learning that they have no time to look around at what others are doing. Beginner classes are just that, for beginners. Dance is not intuitive, it takes practice and a certain amount of dedication. Timing and rhythm are all very important but first you have to learn the steps and get the muscle memory. Do not 'help' the instructor. You probably won't have the opportunity as you have a lot to learn. First of all as the lead, timing is your concern, make sure you can hear the beat before correcting your wife. Learn to lead without pushing and pulling or talking- not as easy as most men think.
Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by Michael-Francis
9/19/2014  8:00:00 AM
Thanks so much for the input. I do understand what you mean about the videos. They are intimidating to say the least. Perhaps that is where my efforts to help the situation has failed.

I will refrain from the videos, and concentrate on what is taught in the class.
I do suspect that she has a slight issue with rhythm, from past dancing experience with her. I was a musician in years past so my rhythm is pretty good.

She is a wonderful person, and for us to be able to socially dance will be something that she will enjoy forever. She wants to do it but is "scared".

Just got to get her over her "fear of flying"

Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by ladydance
9/21/2014  3:29:00 PM
Whenever someone says they would like to learn how to dance but are 'too scared', I ask what is the worse that can happen? If you don't get it (in the beginning) so what? If you work on it, you will. My husband and I have been dancing over 10 years, we still take lessons and we still take hours to get to the point where we can comfortably add a new step seamlessly to our routine. Dancing is supposed to be fun, it is not easy but that is part of the fun. There is a real sense of accomplishment when you master something new.
Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by terence2
10/22/2014  3:57:00 AM

Caution.. being a "musician " is very often a hindrance when making assumptions that will not translate, necessarily, to what you are taught.
You will find anomalies in some of the construction in certain dance figures. Don't let it bother you, it will ( I hope ) make sense eventually .

PS.. I have taught many musicians over the years, even from world class Orq. who could not always reconcile some of the areas that you may question.
Looking fwd to your comments on WCS
Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by nloftofan1
9/19/2014  8:44:00 AM
Videos are very helpful. You can watch good dancers dance a particular figure correctly a hundred times in a row if you want to. But they don't replace an instructor (a video can't watch you dance and say "No, you should be doing ... rather than ...").

My wife and I are also social dancers, not competitors. Sometimes people look at us and say "Oh, you look so good." But we also remember our favorite instructor saying "Yes, those are the steps, but it's not how I would do them." I hope that somehow this will help you with your confidence. Remember, one of the reasons your instructor looks so good is that he (or she) has done that figure 10,000 times. As ladydance points out, it takes practice. (To some extent dancing is intuitive. If what you are doing is hard to do, you're probably doing it wrong.)

Another instructor we know starts beginner lessons by having the students simply listen to the music. Doing that without worrying about "Which foot do I move next and where do I put it?" helps students get the "feel" of the rhythm.
Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by O.K..
10/17/2014  6:00:00 PM
Nioftofan. Never was a truer word spoken when you mentioned listen to the music. Its amazing how many people who have had lessons have not been told that the Samba has a timing of 3/4. 1/4. 1. We must show the 1. Or that the Chasse in the Cha Cha is 1/2. 1/2. 1. Again we must show a clear 1. Or the Jive is 3/4 . 1/4. 1. Maybe some of the teachers are are still with the original I.S.T.D. Technique Book which failed to draw attention to the beat values. Which is a pity that they instead of getting Walter Laird's book, which does in no uncertain manner instruct us to the correct step values. They didn't. Hers is a test. Put a Disk on. It doesn't matter if its a Cha Cha or a Waltz. Have a pencil and paper ready. After the Four Bar introduction put a tick for every bar of music counted right to the end of the disk. Record it. Then count again. If you come up with the same number you've done very well.
Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by davecarty
10/13/2014  7:58:00 PM
I've been a dancer for many years, first with West Coast Swing, which I continue to love to this day, and now with international ballroom. But I remember well how it felt to be a newcomer in a room full of social dancers that I thought were "experts." I was terrified to get on the floor with them.

It helped me a lot when I realized that people were only watching the good dancers, not the bad dancers like me. And second, after I became a good dancer myself (not great, perhaps, but good), I began to realize that most of the people I had considered "experts" were really only a figure or two and a couple lessons ahead of me.

My final realization, however, was the most important, and that was this: dancing is supposed to be fun, but it's NOT supposed to be easy. And it simply is not. It is hard to learn because it IS hard to learn -- or at least it is if you want to progress beyond a very basic level. You learn incrementally, and over time, you improve. That's the way it works for everyone, no exceptions -- even those guys on the youtube videos that we all watch.

Competition dancing is a whole different animal. But If you have a good instructor and you can find the time to practice once or twice a week, you'll be much better than 90% of the people on a social dance floor in just a year or two.

And you can take that to the bank.
Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by TundraDancingGal
1/12/2015  7:24:00 AM
My husband and I have been taking ballroom dance lessons for about 18 months and I just joined this group a few minutes ago. This is the first post I read and it really hit home! A few months ago without thinking I said those same words out loud during our lesson. My very sweet teacher just looked at me puzzled and said, "why?". I said again, "because I CAN'T". She was very concerned that I had a physical reason such as an injury or health condition that prevented it. When I denied that, she quickly realized I was just scared and lacked confidence. She smiled and said, "sure you can!" and then broke down the steps again so I could see that it wasn't nearly as complicated as my frozen, terrified brain made it. Yes, after two tries, I had it.

I never knew something you could love so much could be so hard and scary at the same time! Thanks for offering this website and these forums.
Re: Another Newbie With Questions
Posted by newdancer
1/15/2015  1:55:00 PM
Hi Michael, WCS is one of my favorite dances because the sylabus allows for improv. The very basic rhythm for newbies should start with practicing double rhythm and triple rhythm (step,step) ( step, step, step) to some music (4/4)with an accentuated down beat so she hears the Boom-Tic. Once your comfortable with steping in place, start your basic left side passes so she gets the walk, walk step three times, step three times into memory and that will help with her fear.
There is an awesome instructor in Knoxville, his name is P.J Turner if you are ever in the area.
Best of luck.
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