What are you taught mostly when you learn dance? Do you learn routines or do you only learn freestyle? In either case have you ever worried that you’re not learning enough or one or wondered which is the best to learn? Chances are you have not given it too much thought, but it’s worth being aware of the relationship between the two so that you can better manage your progression as a student of partner dancing.
In this blog I will go over the nature of freestyle and routine and talk about how you can use them both most effectively.
Differences between the sexes
There are a few areas where what men need to deal with is a bit different from what women need to deal with. Finding that balance between the use of freestyle and routine is one of them.
If you’re a woman, then chances are you’re learning everything in a freestyle manner. Even if you’re learning a routine your instructor might tell you to focus more on simply following, and to forget about the routine. This will help improve your ability to follow whomever you’re dancing with so that you can basically do any routine. The paradox for women is that by learning freestyle only they are better able to dance any routine. If you feel that you are expected to remember routines too much instead of following, then you might want to talk to your instructor about what and how you’re learning.
Men on the other hand need to learn routine. This is especially so when going for medals or gradings and such. However, when you dance socially you will need to avoid other dancers (depending upon the nature of the dance the level of other dancers), you will need to dance at a level equal to or lower than that of your partner, and you might just want to do something different for the pleasure of it and the enjoyment of your partner (who might have been put through that routine a number of times before). This means that as a man you need to manage these two aspects of your dance learning.
The problem with routine
The biggest problem with routine is that you can find that it is all you can do. You’re robbed of your ability to freestyle, and you suffer from all the problems that come form that: not knowing what to do when there’s an obstacle, only knowing how to perform a step when it follows another certain step, getting bored with dance, or feeling that you’re just not really a good dancer.
The advantage with routine
There are some advantages though. A well designed routine will show you how one step can lead into another. It will ensure that you quickly learn a larger number of steps and it provides an easy way to know that you’ve covered each of the key steps for some level. Finally, it can be useful to be able to draw on a routine so that you can put a number of steps together in a manner that feels very natural to you and your partner.
Dealing with the problems and keeping the advantages
Clearly there are a few reasons for learning a routine. So you should never give up on learning them. However, you still need to ensure that you can freestyle. There are three things that you can do to improve this:
- Obviously, you should make sure that you get a chance to do so. You might already do this if you go to a school that runs a lot of social functions that you attend or of you just happen to go to a lot of social dancing.
- When you are dancing freestyle, think ahead. Plan a mini routine in your head of say three steps and then execute them. Depending upon your level, this might be quite tricky, but with practice you will get better at it. You can always pull sections form the routines that you know too. Simply doing them in a different order can be enough to break the bad effects of routine.
- Reflect on how your freestyle goes. If you try something and it didn’t work, then ask yourself why it didn’t work. I often find that it is because I did not think clearly about how I should get into the mini routine in my head – sometimes I realise that I never thought about how I would get out of it. And then at other times I realise that I did not think properly about how each step leads into the other. The routines you know can also be used to provide a good point of comparison. As you contemplate your own routine, you will find that your understanding of dance, and how/why the routines work, increases greatly.