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For New Dancers

Taking the First Step...

You’ve decided to take dance lessons, and have managed to talk your partner into joining you… NOW WHAT??? Learning to dance for the first time can be an intimidating venture… or, it can be the catalyst for creating a confidant socialite…. It all depends on your attitude!!  Let our fun, friendly, and patient instructors help you create years of dancing enjoyment.
Some helpful hints as you embark on your dance journey…
For dancers without partners, possibly one of the most difficult decisions can be to take dance lessons. It can be discouraging to be an “extra” in a class, and may make you feel self conscious. We understand how just signing up for a class can be stressful, and we’d like to let you know, you are absolutely NOT ALONE!! Many of our students come to class without a partner, and believe it or not, this can be to your advantage! During a class situation, many times you will dance with the instructor, which will elevate your dancing.  Also, because we usually have at least half of our participants as singles, we do encourage rotation of dancers. This gives you the extra benefit of learning how to lead/follow different partners, and also gives you a chance to meet other dancers. We do endeavour to have equal numbers of leads and follows, so if those needing a partner register ahead of time, we will do our best to have even numbers of leads and follows when the classes begin. 
Lead is all about communication and it becomes a conversation of the physical between two dancers.
Good lead is an art form that requires the leader to pay attention. A good leader is sensitive to the partner's level of dance. As a leader you must make your intentions clear by committing to the movement and following through to the end. There is no room for mixed messages, which may be confusing to the follower and lead to awkward moves. A clear understanding of the movement is necessary so that it can be communicated easily and on time to the follower.
The follower has an equally important role, which is to follow. This, in essence, means that the follower has to be sensitive, aware and respond using good tone in the arms (no spaghetti arms). The follower should not anticipate the movement but wait to be lead. Staying connected to your partner at all times is critical in order to obtain good lead and follow.
In almost every class situation, there will be uneven numbers of men and women. In order to ensure everyone gets to dance, we encourage the rotation of partners. Dancing with different people helps you learn faster because you get to feel what it's like to work with different body shapes, connection, and styles. Staying with the same partner causes you to learn to adapt to their bad habits which in turn makes you develop bad habits. Do yourself a favour and rotate. You’ll be so happy you did when you find yourself able to dance with anyone who asks!
In all forms of dance, rhythm is 'key', whether it is Latin, Ballroom, Country, or Swing. Rhythm distinguishes the dances and gives them their unique personalities. Staying 'on the beat' or on rhythm allows for better partnering and the ability to progress to more interesting and intricate movements. If you or your partner feel like you can’t hear the beat, ask your instructor for help on developing this skill.
One of the biggest mistakes dancers make when they begin is thinking that they are ready for an Intermediate level after having taken a Beginner lesson. We at Danceworx know how eager you are to start executing those fancy moves out on the floor. We also know through years of experience how quickly a dance relationship can fall apart without a good foundation. Our rule of thumb: If you can complete a dance through an entire song with a partner just doing basics, but carrying on a pleasant conversation, that generally means you are ready to move on to Intermediate. For a lead, trying to master lead techniques while still trying to count your rhythm is a very difficult task… paramount to rubbing your stomach while patting your head and reciting tongue twisters… Your brain simply cannot multi-task to that degree. So, slow down, enjoy the process, and know that once you have your foundation solidly built, your dance level will increase quickly.
Private lessons are a very effective and efficient way to improve your dancing. They are not just for upper level dancers! They are a good idea for every level of dancer, and are a good value for your dollar. You can learn more in a private lesson than you would in weeks of group classes. During a private, the instructor can give you the feedback you need to make the moves you learned in a workshop actually work. A private lesson is tailored to your needs, and is a great place to ask those questions that you feel hesitant to ask in a group lesson.
Do you ever watch the dancers on the floor, and spot a few that seem particularly skilled? THOSE are the dancers you will want to occasionally dance with. You will improve faster by dancing with dancers at a higher skill level than yourself (whether you are a lead or a follow). This can seem intimidating at first, but remember, they were once at your level… And most dancers are happy (and even flattered) to be asked to dance. The more you ask, the easier it becomes!
TIMELESS TIDBITS (some great advice from a wise instructor)
All You Ever Need to Know About Relationships Can be Learned in a Salsa Class - By Skippy Blair © 3/95, 8/98
  • Lead her Gently and she'll follow you anywhere. For every ACTION there is an equal and opposite REACTION.
  • Never CRITICIZE a Partner. The only person you can FIX is YOU. (The person who is responsible for making an ADJUSTMENT is the one who knows that an adjustment needs to be made).
  • A Lead is an INDICATION of direction (a suggestion - not a DEMAND).
  • A modern-day PARTNERSHIP is 50/50. BOTH partners are equally responsible for the outcome of the partnership.
  • If either of us insists on deciding who is right and who is wrong, we BOTH lose.
  • The FIRST Rule in learning something new is: Don't Hurt Anybody.
  • Be sensitive to your partner. Never Blame or Ridicule. You can make it right (don't adjust the partner - adjust YOU).
  • Always concentrate on WHAT is right rather than WHO is right.
  • TEAMWORK gets the most points. YOU are judged by how good you make your partner look.  Trying to “out-dance” your partner is a no-win situation.
  • A good partnership requires patience, understanding and an awareness of the needs of the partner. Stay focused.
  • The way to help a partner improve is to do YOUR part so well that you know that you are not part of the PROBLEM.
  • Life is a JOY when we're both in step to the same beat.
  • Praise works wonders. Applaud little accomplishments and bigger accomplishments will follow.
  • Every dance is a "Three-Minute Relationship." If someone can't complete one whole dance without criticism, it is highly probable that when the music stops the criticism won't. RUN!

A successful "Partnership" maintains the separate uniqueness of each individual, without disrupting the connection of the partnership.

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