Have you been dancing for a while and found that you’re still learning, have issues or maybe even feel that you have more issues with your dancing than you used to? You might even be searching the internet for dance step tutorials so that you can find something that you’re missing, and then master your dance. Well you’re certainly not alone. Many of us are trying to find something that will make us feel that we are improving faster or at a rate that fits with our expectations of ourselves. We do this because sometimes we’re unlearning what we thought was good dancing. We also do it because dance has started to become a challenge when once it was more fun, and we want that fun back
Why does dance progress in such an odd way?
The reason for these issues is that dancing is actually taught wrong. At the beginning you’re taught basic steps with little attention to proper styling of subtle requirements. Or you might focus on easier danmces such as mernegue, which often gives a quick sense of achievement.
When this happens you have a lower standard to reach. You go along happily picking these new steps thinking all is fine. However, it is not. You dance teacher is actually allowing you to develop a lot of bad habits. Because they do not control what you do, you will start moving your body in whatever way feels good, comfortable or normal to you. The chances of this movement being the same as what is expected at a higher level are very low.
This means that you will spend some time (maybe years) training your body to dance a way it’s not meant to. That’s how you end up with bad habits that need to be unlearnt, that’s how you end up finding dance less fun and more challenging and that’s why you end up searching the internet for dance step tutorials and hoping you’ll find that secret to dancing better.
So what is the most effective way to learn dance?
The question of the best way to learn is not unique to dance. It is actually something that has been considered in many other areas. Let’s consider three different areas: martial arts, engineering and public speaking. That’s a pretty diverse group of activities.
Many of us remember the ‘wax on, wax off’ of the first karate kid movie. Poor Ralph Macchio had to do that for hours (plus many other chores) before he could get into any ‘real’ training.
What about engineering? Would you feel safe if an engineer’s first lesson was desiging a bridge that you were about to drive over? Probably not. You’d want them to have learnt how to calculate stress in the bridge and ensure that the stress will not be greater than the bridge material can handle. That’s why engineers need to complete a degree first.
So now what about public speaking? Have you seen The King’s Speech? King Georg VI of Britain needs to overcome a speech problem so that he can speak in public. A lot of his training has little to do with public speaking before he actually tries it.
The common theme you have seen here is that it is more efficient to take time building the attributes that allow us to do something as opposed to simply doing that something. The same is true of dance (pretty much anything really). We should start by developing our musicality, our body’s dexterity and grace, and our ability to feel another body so that we may lead and follow.
However, we know that dance isn’t taught like that. This is why you now probably have problems and why you are looking for dance step tutorials on the internet. You’re dealing with all this baggage that comes from being taught how to dance the wrong way.
Why do we learn like this? That’s a very good question and the easiest way to answer it is to think back to when you started to dance. It was fun wasn’t it? It was also social – unlike martial arts, engineering and public speaking. And it was important that you could do something worthwhile at the start, otherwise why would you go to class. It really is vital to have some small wins at the start. We learn dance this way so that we enjoy it. It is the wrong way to learn, but it is the best way.
What should you do?
Now that you know you are learning the wrong way, but it is the best way, you need to take action. The fact that you have come to this page is a good sign – it shows that you have already realised this and you’ve decided to be proactive. They best thing to do now is look at building attributes. Focus on the following as you see fit:
- Increasing musicality – there are a lot of resources that focus on musicality specifically, and you can find them with an internet search
- Improving body movement – there are a lot of resources to help with this too, and they can also be found with an internet search
- Accepting that you will need to unlearn dance habits (which might look like a drop in dance ability) and learn new (and better) dance habits