I recently spent a week at a swing dancing camp and it was the most fun. Workshops all day, socials all night, meeting new people, and ALL THE DANCING! I was stretched in my swing dancing, both physically and mentally. I loved all the learning – yes, even as a teacher and advanced dancer, I know I still have a lot to work on and a lot to learn! There is a saying that when you know more, you realise that you actually don’t know that much at all – I can tell you it definitely applies to swing dancing! So as a beginner swing dancer or intermediate swing dancer, then, when there is so much to learn, what are some of the ways you can improve your swing dancing? Well, there are a few good options for you!
Take dance classes Once you’ve done a beginners’ swing dancing lesson, does that mean that you know how to dance? What about if you’ve done a complete beginners’ swing dancing course? What about if you’ve started taking intermediate level swing dancing classes? As an advanced dancer, my response is “can anyone ever fully know how to dance?” One of the best things I find for helping me work on my fundamental dance technique, is to go to beginners’ classes. Because there is less of a focus on fancy moves, there is more time to learn or re-learn basics, and focus on the technique involved in these most important moves of swing dancing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn the flashy moves, but if there are any moves you should know above all, and know back-to-front, inside-out, and upside-down, they are the basics! Dance at social dances Yes, I know this is scary for new dancers (on a side note, that’s why our studio parties are a great stepping stone for our students to dip their toe into social dance before diving into the wider social scene), but I urge you to do it! Social dances are a great place for you to really work on leading and following, because those concepts form the essence of social dancing and swing dancing. Leads are leading moves in the moment and follows don’t know what’s coming next. There should be no pre-empting, there should be no back-leading. If something goes wrong, leaders and followers both should think about what they did and why the move went wrong. Are you moving correctly? Were you connected to your partner? Leaders, was your lead clear enough? Followers, did you listen for the lead? Leaders, did you give your follow the space they needed? Followers, did you take the space you were given? Did I mention it’s also a heap of fun?
Invest in private lessons Private lessons are without a doubt the fastest way to improve your dancing. Swing dancing is a different experience for everyone, and while you can learn general tips and tricks in class, it is difficult for teachers to address the specific needs of every student in the dance class. Ironing out these individualised wrinkles is easy in private lessons. If you have a move you would like to learn but just can’t figure out on your own, chances are, some one-on-one dance lessons can help with that. Getting to ask a dance teacher the burning questions about things you want to work on, things you want to improve in your dance, things you want to change, concepts, technique, body movements, dance moves, and basically anything related to your own personal dancing, can all get the special attention you need in a private lesson. The biggest difference between classes and private lessons, is this: when you come to dance class, you follow the teachers’ agenda. They have moves they have set, things they have decided to teach everyone. When you come to a private lesson, though, the teacher follows your agenda. In a private lesson, the teachers will teach you whatever you want to learn (provided it’s within their capabilities – if you come in and ask me to teach you about welding, be aware that I’ve never even held a welding torch in my life, so it’s probably not going to happen. I might teach you a swing out instead.). Private lessons are specifically tailored to you. They are taught at your level, at your pace, and they address the specific strengths you are looking to build in your own swing dancing. The main aim of a private lesson is to improve your dancing as an individual, in the ways you want it to be improved. I have found that for some students, even 15 minutes of a private lesson can be enough to make that one change that drastically improves the way they are swing dancing. Why not book in a private lesson today and see the benefits for yourself? Learn independently How can you learn to partner dance alone? I may be biased, but I would suggest listening to music you would dance to is the best way to do this. Listening and get a better feel for its groove and structure will help you think about how you might move to it. Another option is to watch dance videos. (NB: it is near impossible to learn how to dance simply by watching instructional dance videos. However, it is easy to watch videos of people dancing and find things you like, and figure out how to do them, or what they do differently. Similarly, you can find things you don’t like and figure out what exactly you don’t like and think about what you would change to make it better.) Of course, independent learning doesn’t just mean dancing alone. Meet up with other students, ask them for help, practice with them, talk about dance (it’s no secret: dance is one of my personal favourite topics of conversation), and the list goes on! How far you can progress and how quickly you can progress in your swing dancing all depends on you. Whether you choose independent learning, private lessons, or another avenue to improve your swing dancing, the formula is simple: the more time and energy you are willing to put into your swing dancing, the better you will become. So, what are you waiting for? Get your groove on and work it!
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