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Dance Inspiration

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How can I feel less intimidated on the social dance floor?

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Last night, a student asked "What is the best thing to do to overcome intimidation when social dancing?"

If you've asked yourself that before, you are not alone.

When you're first getting started, social dancing is scary as h***. 

Dozens of people spin around looking totally effortless, on a dark, crowded, loud dance floor. 

You can barely hear yourself talk, let alone think. 

You may or may not know other people there and it seems too hectic to try to introduce yourself to strangers, let alone dance with them. 

Does this sound familiar? 

Let me tell you a story.

When I first started dancing, I was a freshman at College of Charleston and would beg my friends to go to Southend Brewery or Toucan Reef with me for the Latin nights.

I did not have any friends in the Latin dance scene, and I would hug the edges of the dance floor, silently hoping someone would ask me to dance but too nervous to ask someone myself. I knew the basic step and that was about it. I thought my ballet background would get me through, but besides keeping my balance during turns, it hindered more than helped me because I carried myself stiffly and was NOT used to having to follow. 

But I was hooked, and went as often as I could and occasionally someone would take pity on me and I would stumble through a merengue or Salsa, totally lost and totally thrilled and totally frustrated at myself but determined to "get it." 

Eventually, I made a friend in the Salsa scene. And then she introduced me to the ever fabulous and welcoming Yaenette Dixon, who took me under her wing and introduced me to more and more dancers. 

I started taking classes and training with a performance team, Estilo Seis, and practicing with other dancers. Then I went to my first Salsa congress.

I spent the weekend taking classes and social dancing and, like magic (or it seemed like it), things started to make more sense. Like the counting. The pause on 4 and 8. That you always went back to the basic. The nuances of footwork during turns and different steps. Body motion. How to step. 

A whole new world opened up to me.

The Salsa congress, plus learning, practicing and making Salsa friends transformed my dancing.

Social dancing stopped being so scary and frustrating. I knew people in the scene who I could dance with and, more importantly, I understood more about the dance itself. 

There were people I still felt too intimidated to dance with, but my confidence grew the more I learned and the more I practiced. 

There's a point with social dancing where you have to just Nike it and DO IT. Like jumping into cold water, you have to just brace yourself and dive in and eventually you'll get used to it and warm up. 

But the amount of time it takes to "get used to it," decreases the more you prepare, practice and learn outside of social dancing. The more you can take classes, work on your moves, and meet other dancers, the easier the transition will be onto the dance floor. 

So , based on my experience, I advise this:

-Learn and practice outside of social dancing.
-Introduce yourself to other dancers. It may feel like an awkward networking event at first, but don't be afraid to take the first step. [Bonus from taking classes: you'll meet other people in the same boat.] 
-Push yourself to just do it-- go out social dancing, ask someone to dance, and be ok with your dance not being perfect.


It's not necessarily easy, but the pay off is worth it. You will grow as a dancer and as a person.

I still get intimidated when I go to big events and feel too shy and nervous to dance with certain people.

But the more I learn, the more I practice, the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

It feels awkward to whip out your phone and ask to add someone on Facebook, but it helps to know you'll see a familiar face next time you go out. 

Dance, like life, is a work in progress, and always will be.

 I hope this helps you get out on the dance floor. If you're not a member of the Holy City Salsa Dance Fam on Facebook yet, join our group and use it to connect with other dancers and stay informed about what's going on in the community.

As always, happy dancing!

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Mastering the Elusive Body Roll

Ahhhh body rolls... if you've seen any Sensual Bachata or Kizomba videos lately, you know that body rolls are kind of a big deal. Whether you're trying to become the next big Bachetero or just feel a little less weird and awkward doing body rolls, check out this video for some step-by-step tips and tricks.

Important things to remember:

-Core, core, core. And more core. Any body isolations come from core strength and control, so make sure that you're really squeezing that stomach when you're working on these. 

-These take time to master. You will not get body rolls in one day. And that is ok. Be patient with yourself and take a few minutes every day to practice. It really pays off!

-Have fun! You'll feel kind of silly doing this, especially if your'e practicing by yourself. But crank up some of your favorite songs (I love this Lounge-Soft House Mix on Spotify for isolation practice) and go for it!

Did this help? How do you practice your body rolls? What other steps and moves are you struggling with? Let me know!

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Practice Time: The Key to the Next Level

You know those dancers when you see them.

Every movement is flawless. Graceful. Smooth. Confident. 

They seem to glide across the floor, like butter melting in a hot pan.

Guess what? They're no different from you. They weren't born that way. They didn't wake up one day, magically able to dance.

They put in the time. The work. The sweat. The effort.

They practiced.

And...they continue to practice. 

Practice is the ONLY way to take your dancing to the next level... from where you are, to where you want to be. Practicing will maximize your enjoyment of dancing, because steps you once struggled with will become second nature. You'll be able to play with the music more. Experiment with expressing your personality and stop focusing merely on staying on beat. 

Common excuses people make about practicing:

I don't have anyone to practice with.

Use your connections! Put it out there on Facebook that you're looking for a practice partner. Ask your dance instructor to put you in touch with someone. Holy City Salsa dancers, use the Dance Fam group on Facebook to find a partner. If you're out dancing and you are dancing with someone you connect with, ask them if they'd like to get together and practice. You might feel awkward, like your'e asking someone on a date, but try this simple script.

"Hey, I really like dancing with you, and I want to take my dancing to the next level. Would you like to get together sometime and practice? Let's exchange info and pick out a time and date to practice."

I don't have time to practice.

Ever heard that quote that Einstein, Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Beyoncé, Lin-Manuel Miranda, [Insert your favorite accomplished person here] all had the same number of hours in a day as you? Does that excuse really hold up? If you want to do something, you'll make time for it. No questions asked. Block out your practice time the way you block out time for anything else, whether it's going to the gym, working, socializing, or catching up on Narcos. 

When you have a practice partner holding you accountable, you're more likely to practice as well, so find someone to work with you, and help you schedule your practices.

I don't have anywhere to practice.

Kitchens and living rooms usually have ample space for practicing, but if you are looking for a larger spot, consider seeing if your gym has a group fitness room you can use when classes aren't being held. Try renting out a dance studio, or asking a community space (a church, university, recreation center, park, etc), if you can rent or borrow space. I've practiced in gyms, on basketball courts, in living rooms, empty classrooms, hotel hallways, parking lots...use your imagination. An open floor usually equals a dance floor, IMO. 

If you're here in Charleston with us, come to an Open Practice Time at Holy City Salsa. Think of it as shared studio rental. You can use the floor, the mirrors, the sound system, and ask an instructor-on-duty questions. Be polite though!  Don't hog the instructor (s). If you want a private lesson, hire an instructor for a private lesson. Connect with your friends and fellow students through the Dance Fam Group on Facebook, and make a "practice date." Try it out for a month and see how much you improve through regular practice!

No matter who you are or what your level, you have to practice to maintain and improve. Challenge yourself to practicing today, even if it's just five minutes of walking through your moves while you're cooking dinner or practicing counting the music while your'e driving. Every little bit helps!

 

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Learn to Dance: Trust the Process

Fred Astaire said, “Some people seem to think that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I have known are taught or trained.”

            Nobody comes out of the womb dancing. Or if they do, they’re not dancing like professionals. Learning to dance is a process, and sometimes, it’s not a comfortable one.

            People have a perception that since dance is fun, it should be easy. That because it’s something that people do for entertainment, there isn’t any work involved. They think dancing is like being able to roll your tongue—you can either do it, or you can’t.

           This perception holds so many people back from stepping onto the dance floor or into a studio to learn to dance. They never even give themselves the opportunity to try, or if they do try, they are constantly second-guessing themselves and holding themselves back from really learning.        

            Dancing is like learning another language. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes some method of instruction.  It takes all of these elements working together to succeed. Like learning another language, there are awkward phases. There are lots of mistakes. There are potential times to inadvertently offend another person. But like learning another language, learning to dance gives you the ability to connect with more people. To connect with more cultures. To express yourself more fully.

            You just have to trust the process. You have to trust that some days, it will feel like two steps forward and one step back. That some days, your body and brain will rebel. That some days, you’ll feel like a pubescent teenager, all elbows and angles.

          Yes, you’re aiming to come out on the other side as a better dancer, but the whole fun of learning to dance is the process. Along the way, you learn so much about yourself and other people.

           You learn that even if you don’t master something at once, with time and practice, it becomes fluid. You learn that every mistake is a chance to improve. You learn that every single time you dance, you get better. There is no going back. There is no regression. Once you learn something, you’ve learned it. It’s like riding a bicycle— you’ll never forget. Sure, you may get a little bit rusty, but if you stick with it, you will never become a worse dancer.

          So beginner dancers and would-be beginner dancers—trust the process. Overcome your fears and take the first step to learn to dance. Experienced dancers…remember that there is never really a stopping point. There is always something to learn. Always something to master. Always a new way to look at the same step. Wherever you are, keep dancing, and keep enjoying the process along the way.

What do you think? How have you trusted the dance process? How have you not? What limitation do you need to overcome to get to the next level? 

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