Tips and Tricks For New Ballroom Dancers You Should Know

Tips and Tricks For New Ballroom Dancers

JOINING A BALLROOM TEAM

Why joining a ballroom team?

If you always had a dream of being able to dance but for various reasons didn’t make it to a dance studio, or you already have ballroom dancing experience, but are not familiar with Collegiate ballroom dancing, this article is for you.

I come from Eastern Europe where ballroom dancing is very popular but you can only learn it by taking lessons at a studio. There are no college ballroom teams and no Collegiate ballroom competitions.

Ballroom dancing is a very expensive sport, but dancing as a member of a ballroom team makes it very affordable. I don’t think people in the US realize how lucky they are to have this amazing opportunity. Here are the main reasons why you should consider joining a ballroom team:

1.Ballroom dance teams offer lessons for different levels:

If you are a new dancer who’s worried about the lack of experience, it can be really comforting to know that every year there will be a lot of new dancers who, just like you, never did ballroom dancing or any dancing at all. If you already have ballroom dancing experience, you can take lessons at the level you are comfortable with.

2.You set your own dancing goals

started dancing in college and are now dance instructors, even though they had a different major at school. Some students become National Ballroom Dance Champions. You set your own goals for your dancing and it depends on you how far you can go.

When you start dancing, you don’t have to perform or compete right away if you don’t feel ready. New dancers usually take lessons for about two-three months before they have their first performance or competition. In fact, you don’t have to compete or perform at all if you don’t want to. You can just learn some moves at the lessons and attend social dances where you dance just for fun.

3.Ballroom team is a great way to meet new people and make some friends

When you go to college it may take you a while to make some friends. If you join a ballroom team you will meet a lot of nice, interesting people and make the memories of your lifetime. Isn’t that what everybody wants as a part of their college experience?

4.You save a lot of money dancing as a student

Depending on a studio, a group ballroom lesson costs somewhere from $5 to $25 per person. Colleges offer free weekly group ballroom lessons to their students and even pay the registration fee and provide transportation to Collegiate ballroom competitions. You also get a discount to social dances at certain studios.

If you are not a student but would like to take some dance lessons, you can still join a ballroom dance club if you pay student activities fee.

5.Some Professors will have more respect for you

Finally, if you casually mention to your professors that you are a dancer, some of them are going to have the whole another level of respect for you. You might even dance with one of them at the Dancing with Professors event (analogue of Dancing with the Stars).

The difference between a college ballroom club and a studio

College ballroom clubs operate very differently than studios do. In studios, the owners (who are usually dance instructors) make all the decisions and organize showcases and social dances. In a ballroom team, the President of the club and the e-board make all the decisions. The e-board is the government of your club. It’s usually five to six students responsible for different duties.

Typically, e-boards consist of a Secretary who keeps track of paperwork, a Treasurer who manages the team’s finances, a Competition Coordinator who is responsible for registering the team for competitions, and a Web Master who is in charge of the team’s website and YouTube channel.

Every year a team elects a new e-board and a new President. Students who do a good job usually get reelected until they graduate. As a member of the team you can run too. Before you do, however, you have to make sure you have enough time to attend the meetings and run all the errands necessary to prepare for events. You should consider running for e-board position after you have been with a team for at least a year and you know what tasks you will have to perform.

The main activities you are going to be involved in as a member of a ballroom team are lessons, practice sessions, showcases, social dances and ballroom competitions. All of them are a lot of fun! Most of the dancers participate in all the activities, but as I mentioned earlier, you decide for yourself what events you want to attend.

GROUP BALLROOM LESSONS

It takes a lot of courage to make the first step. A lot of people make promises to themselves that the next day they are going to change their life: start a diet, apply for a job, or join a ballroom club, but when “tomorrow” comes they don’t do the what they intended and promise to do it the next day.

For some reason, it takes a lot of afford for people to physically make it to their first ballroom lesson. They are excited to try ballroom dancing, but when the day of their first lesson finally arrives, make lots of excuses not to. Don’t make that mistake! Dancing is really fun, so whatever excuses or doubts you have in your head, find a way to eliminate them.

The majority of ballroom teams offer lessons in both American and International styles. This means you have a chance to learn 19 dances that are danced at ballroom competitions, plus several extras, like Salsa and Hustle, that you can dance at social dances.

We are going to talk more about the styles of ballroom dancing a little bit later. In this article I would like to prepare you for your first group ballroom lesson. You probably have a lot of questions in your head as to what to bring, what to wear, etc. Here are some useful tips for you:

1.Arrive a little bit head of time

your dance lesson about 10 minutes early. This will give you a chance to change (if you have to), warm up and look around.

If you see other new dancers waiting for a lesson, don’t hesitate to have a conversation with them. Ask them what they are going to school for and why they decided to start ballroom dancing. A lot of people are shy when they find themselves in a new environment, but once you start talking to them they will come out of their shell.

2.Wear comfortable and appropriate clothes

Wear something you can be comfortable in during your lesson, something that will let you move freely. Beware that you are going to get hot and sweaty, so wearing clothes like jeans or sweat pants is not a good idea. Depending on the weather, personal preference, or club requirements, gentlemen wear pants and shirts, pants and T-shirts or shorts and T-shirts.

Ladies usually wear leggings and tops, or tops and skirts. Sometimes, shorts or dresses. There are special dance clothes that can be worn both for practice and competitions. They sell them at any dance store and online. I also found some nice dresses and skirts in stores like Macy’s and Target. They weren’t specifically made for dancing, but they looked like dance clothes and worked great.

A lot of dancers wear black clothes for their lessons and rehearsals. Some dancers prefer bold colors. Wear the color that brightens your mood and makes you want to move!

3.Wear comfortable shoes

For your first lesson, wear the most comfortable shoes you have. The majority of new dancers wear flats.

If you are planning on competing at ballroom competitions, performing, or doing social dancing, you should get a pair of dance shoes.

The main difference between a dance and a street shoe is that dance shoes have thin, flexible non-slip suede soles and give you more support in the arch.

4.Bring water and snacks

When you dance you lose a lot of water through perspiration. Because of this, your body can easily become dehydrated. If your lesson is only an hour or two long, you might not need a snack, but you are definitely going to need water! So, bring at least one or two bottles of water with you.

Don’t come to your lesson completely hungry. Four–six hours without food can be too much time. You might start getting dizzy. It is also not a good idea to eat right before dancing. It can be very challenging to dance on a full stomach.

I usually eat about two hours before my lesson, and if I get hungry I eat a small snack. Some people eat about an hour to half an hour before dancing. With time you are going to be able to determine what works best for your body.

5.Be nice to the people around you

During your group ballroom lessons you are likely to dance with multiple people. Your teacher will ask leaders or followers to rotate, so that each leader has a chance to dance with each follower in the group. Lessons are usually divided by levels (Newcomer, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced). This allows dancers to take the most advantage of their time and prevent them from getting intimidated by higher level dancers.

It goes without saying that you should be nice to everybody in the group, even though you might like dancing with some people more than with the others.

Don’t interrupt the teachers when they are explaining the moves. You may ask your teachers questions during your lessons and have small conversations with other dancers, but try not to distract the people around you.

6.Don’t get frustrated if you can’t memorize the moves right away

When I started dancing I had a hard time memorizing the moves. It can be very discouraging, I know it! The truth is that everybody learns at their own speed. Some people learn fast, others learn slower, but once they get the moves they execute them better than anybody else.

If after your first lesson you have mixed feelings about it, ask yourself what is bothering you. Do you feel inferior to other dancers who seem to memorize the moves faster? Is ballroom dancing not what you expected? Is it more challenging physically than you thought?

Whether you enjoyed your first ballroom lesson or not, give yourself some credit for trying something new. Ask yourself how you can make your dance experience better next time. Give yourself a little more time, at least another two– three lessons, before you make the final decision whether you are going to continue dancing or not.

As I mentioned earlier, there are about twenty dances you are going to learn. You might like some of them more than others or get to like them more over time. Instead of focusing on the negative, ask yourself what you did like. Do you feel more energized? Are you in a better mood after your lesson than when you just walked in? Do you feel like you have accomplished something? Have you met some interesting people? Have you learned a move or two that you can dance at a party or a social dance? Own it! That’s great!

If you liked your first group ballroom lesson, the only piece of advice I can give you is to be consistent in your training. Don’t miss your dance lessons without a truly important reason.

If you want to speed up your progress, you should consider taking some private lessons.

PRIVATE COACHING SESSIONS

When you have a group lesson, the pace you are moving with depends on how quickly all the dancers in the group memorize the moves. You could learn ten times more in one hour if all the attention was focused only on you and your dance partner. Private lessons are a great way to learn important dance details that can be a game changer.

During private coaching sessions you can really get into the fundamentals of dancing technique: foot work, body rotation, hip action, connection, arm styling, etc.

Learning the correct technique of a dance is very important. If you don’t know what you need to work on, you are going to repeat same mistakes over and over again until they become a habit, and habits are very hard to break.

While it’s okay to seek other dancers’ assistance in showing you the steps, you should ALWAYS learn the technique of a dance only from your instructors. The reason is that even advanced dancers are not perfect and make a lot of mistakes when dancing. Your instructors will provide you with more accurate and more articulate explanation.

When you have a private lesson, whether it’s an hour or two, time seems to go by very quickly. Over the years I’ve learned how to make the most of my coaching sessions. I would like to share my little tricks with you. Some of the tips may not be applicable just yet, but you can go back to this article in a year or two and read them again.

The tips for making your private lessons more productive are:

1.Come prepared

As you practice more and grow as a dancer, your dancing changes, sometimes without you even noticing. The moves that felt comfortable before may not be any more. Next time something feels uncomfortable during your practice, or you are not sure if you are doing certain moves the right way, make a note and address this issue during a private lesson.

2.Don’t get intimidated

At the beginning of your private lesson, your dance teachers are going to ask you to demonstrate some moves from the dance you want to work on. A lot of new dancers feel intimidated to do that. Remember, your instructors are there to help you, not to judge you!

All instructors have different personalities and teaching styles: some of them are very laid back, some of them are more serious and demanding. One thing they have in common is they get the job done – they make you a better dancer. Don’t take it personally if they ridicule you or scold you a little bit. In fact, you should be happy if they are hard on you, because it means they believe you can do more. Once you get used to your instructor, you won’t be so intimidated any more.

3.Learn the names of dance figures

I highly recommend that you learn the names of dance figures as soon as possible. This will allow you to properly communicate with your partner and your instructors who may not be completely sure what moves you are trying to do.

4.Try different methods of learning

An experienced instructor combines multiple approaches to make you understand the movement – they may lead you, they may demonstrate a move, or they may let you feel how their body moves by placing your hands on their waist or back. Sometimes, they may ask you to do the reversed role, just so you can feel what action you need to perform.

Be open to new methods of learning. Watching somebody show you a move may be a good way to learn a step, but you need to feel the move to really understand the action.

5.Take lessons with different instructors

All instructors teach you the same dance moves and principles, they just use different references to make you understand. If the reference is simple, it will stick and you are going to remember how to do a move years later.

For example, during a private Tango lesson, one of my instructors said that swivels should feel like I am screwing myself into the floor. Since then every time I’m doing the swivels I’m thinking about that reference, and it really helps me get the needed action.

If you get better results with certain instructors, it’s not necessarily because they are better, it’s because the references they use work better for you. Also, it sometimes it takes two or three times to hear the same piece of information before you are able to put it to use.

My partner and I took private lessons with multiple instructors, and after each one of them we saw a lot of improvement. While it can be valuable to get multiple opinions, I believe you can get much more benefit if you continue working with one instructor for a longer period of time. This will make your learning more systematic and effective.

6.Be patient!

After some private lessons you may feel overloaded with information. This is normal. If you have time, practice with your partner right after your lesson. If not, just let it settle in your head. Make sure to meet with your partner within a few days to work on the moves you’ve learned at your lesson.

It takes hours of practice to able to apply new knowledge. It is best to practice the steps slowly without music, and then dance them to a slow music. Only when you are comfortable with the changes made should you try dancing to a full speed music.

Sometimes, you don’t see a lot of progress at your practice, and then you go to a competition, and in the middle of a dance you realize that you are finally doing the moves the right way.

7.Take solo lessons

No matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement. Solo dance lessons are great because you have your instructor’s undivided attention, and you can take them even if you don’t have a dance partner. These lessons can significantly improve your leading and following skills, and make you a better social and competitive dancer.