As a professional dancer i have picked up quite a few little tricks over the years. Usually because i made a whole handful of mistakes and endeavor not to repeat them. Here are 10 quick tips to help dancers whether beginning students, experienced dancers or professionals (probably you have your own).
Build body memory. For each simplified basic movement of the dance or movement activity you wish to improve in. In the end a good teacher can simplify anything you need to understand, but you can’t fudge the repetition needed to make a movement become learned.
Increase body awareness. With body awareness its a much quicker process to learn any movement based activity. Without it you can spend years trying to make changes that either will take longer to happen or your body simply won’t understand on an intrinsic level.
Find your learning style. Become aware of the ways you learn best e.g. visual, kinesthetic, audio etc. Use the ones you are strongest in while translating to others you are less good in. The translation process makes the learning more profound. For example, i learn visually and kinesthetically but when i first started to teach i had to structure things in a verbal way for my students. Especially with questions but also to relate to the many students who aren’t able to learn from a simply visual perspective. I found by making this translation of dance into words i learned a great deal myself too and continue to enjoy this new found learning style.
Give yourself time to find the learning space. Many students arrive at the start time of the class. Totally understandable with the busyness of most of our lives. But it often results in feeling rushed, not something that promotes learning. With a bit of careful planning you can give yourself 5 minutes to acclimatize before the class starts by arriving a bit earlier. This 5 minutes is great for letting your brain become ready to learn.
Warm up before classes and social dancing. Sometimes it feels silly but warming up the body is really important. The more the activity asks from you, and this is personal, the more you should prepare yourself for it. When you are warm you also most better and more fluidly. The chances of one of those dances you will remember is much higher.
Learning is forgetting. Keep in mind that to learn something and take it in at a deeper level we often need to see it several times. Similar to body memory but for the brain. Let yourself forget things as part of the learning process.
Make sure your clothes don’t hold you back. Depending on the type of activity you do, make sure your clothing allows for the movements you want to do as well as keeping you sufficiently covered. There is nothing worse than trying to do something and finding you either can’t do it or don’t want to as it leaves you exposed.
Take time for your own translation. Particularly for partner dancers but also for students who take a lot of classes. Its useful to take 5 minutes by yourself to put all the things you have learned into your own words and understanding. You can take a step deeper to try and link other things you do as part of your activity into this and check it with a trusted teacher or more experienced dancer. I always invite my students to check ideas with me and also tell them when its possible but not my personal approach or maybe i don’t have the answer due to it being outside my expertise or comes down to a choice for the student i can’t answer for them. After all i am not a guru but a dancer.
The first time you learn something sticks with you forever, or until you do a lot of hard work to change it. The first time we properly learn something we take it into our memory in a more profound way than the second and third times. Its good to make sure that you understand it correctly this first time and that you are getting quality information. This way you will avoid many bad habits that form due to misinformation. Secondly the amount of work it takes to change this first memory once made.
Ask your teachers why. If your activity is anything like Argentine tango then the question why is a good one. In tango everyone and anyone can teach, with a huge range in abilities to dance and abilities to teach. There are good dancers and terrible teachers, good teachers and terrible dancers and everything in between. The question why tends to cut through the crap. If they can give you a solid and clear reason why, then they probably know what they are talking about. If not then you can think on this. Just be a little aware of the difference between question about a step or subject being taught and questioning the teacher themselves. The second one is unpleasant on the receiving end and feels as though you are being asked for you credentials as a teacher. This is likely to close up most teachers making this a moot point. Active learning is essential to efficient learning and becoming more proficient. Its also rewarding and personally i find it gives a lot of enjoyment.
I hope these were useful. Try them out and if you want more information post a comment below. It would be great if you can spread the word about our new blog using some of the buttons below.We will regularly be posting information about dance, health and a little on Argentine tango.