“I’ll go to the gym tomorrow…” “If I have that really savory meal for dinner, I’ll work out the next day…” We all made those excuses when we try to live a healthy lifestyle, but often do not live up to those expectations. Does the same work for West Coast Swing? “I’ll practice later tomorrow.” “I’ll book a private lesson… BUT IT’S SO EXPENSIVE!” Excuses work but up to a certain point. I knew if I wanted to be a better dancer, changes had to be made. There is not a set system that works for everyone. You may have heard these, but here are my tips that help me advance as a dancer.
Going to a group class? TAKE NOTES afterwards. Have a private? TAKE NOTES. Writing information down will solidify whatever highlighted points you took away from lessons. This kinesthetic learner definitely benefits from notes.
PRACTICE BY YOURSELF!
We all have the common mission in this dance – elevating the community’s dancing. What most dancers do not realize is that practicing by yourself enhances your dancing a lot. Many pros tell me practicing by yourself has extraordinary perks. Analyzing your own movement, and seeing/feeling what works and what does not betters your dancing by miles.
One of my secrets? Dummy dancing. I will drill my basic steps (whips, sugar pushes, side passes). I also blast music and feel out what I play with musically. Dissecting music is a key tool a lot of dancers do not have, because they are worried about technique and perfection. Concerning yourself with technique is good, but OVERthinking tech hinders your dancing. Get to know your movement.
When I record myself, the dancing never looks AMAZING 100% of the time. I cringe at all my published videos. However, they assist me in more ways than one. I pick out what went wrong, so I know not to make that mistake again. I also see what I did right.
Video not only shows your flaws, but displays your strengths too. You can always share the videos with your teachers too and get their advice. Dancing vids also serve as a great video diary of your journey. You remember the baby steps from ages past and you look at how far you have come. I can certainly see the progress I made! Celebrate your dancing, don’t berate it.
TAKE PRIVATE LESSONS!
Yes. They cost lots of MONEYs. BUT. Private lessons are miracle workers. They will not make you a Champion dancer in one night, but consistently getting one-on-one feedback develops your dancing.
I did drills from my private lesson in Dallas every night for several months. Hell, I still do them. Luckily, I took another private since then (see I can’t do them every week/month. I do them when I can). One little nugget of information changes the way you move. Even if it is a small change. Change is change.
If you are serious about your dancing, LESSONS ARE SO WORTH IT.
PS… If you do take privates, DON’T ASK FOR PATTERNS. What are you doing spending $50+/hour for patterns? You can work out kinks in patterns, but if you just want to learn them attend group class. Use that time wisely to work on styling, timing, tech, etc.
Finally… HAVE FUN!
In the words of my comedy hero, Jimmy Fallon, “just have fun! It’ll come through and everyone will see it!” We get SO caught up these days in… “OH, I WANT TO MOVE UP,” or “Oh, I want more people to like dancing with me/ask me to dance.” YES. All dancers want that. However, the key competent in this whole picture is to enjoy West Coast Swing.
“West Coast Swing attracts a certain kind of people…They are all very intelligent, giving, happy joyful people.” – Sarah Vann Drake
No matter where you are in the world, if you are westie you WCS for a reason. IT IS FUN. Don’t ever lose that feeling. Fuel that love and enjoyment of the dance.