Coaching Lesson Thoughts

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They say “those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Well I don’t really know anybody who says that. And if they do, they are just full of crap. You have to be able to do something in order to be able to teach someone else.

If you take dance lessons for any period of time, you will likely be offered an opportunity to take a “coaching lesson”. At the Famous Franchise, they actually have people who seem to just travel around from studio to studio giving coaching lessons.

And why would you do this? Lots of reasons. Probably the best reason is that getting another pair of eyes on your dancing can be a good thing. An experienced coach can spot something that maybe you’ve been missing and can help improve your overall dancing.

Lest you think this is a commercial, I’ve had lots of coaching lessons in my dance career. I don’t have an overall impression of good vs bad but they do run the entire spectrum. There is nothing worse than shelling out extra money and walking away with nothing. However there are few things better than when a coach kind of reaches inside and finds something that maybe you didn’t even know you could do.

A lot depends on the whole dynamic between the student, the teacher and the coach. See there tend to be a lot of things in dance that aren’t set in stone and different people have different ideas on how to get things done. I suspect a lot of it is people know what works for them and figure it should work for you as well. But that can also lead to a lot of conflicting information and opinions. The coach can come in and suggest something totally different than what your instructor said. But sometimes you have to try it out and see if it does work for you.

Anyway, for me, the most important thing is what kind of vibe I get from the coach. I’ll be honest, I’m typically a nervous mess when asked to dance in front of someone. Doesn’t matter how well I think I know something – you give me the “show me what you’ve got line” and my nerves kind of go into hyperdrive. Still that residual fear that the coach is going to look at me and silently shake his or her head thinking “what is this fool doing trying to dance”.

This guy yesterday is one of the best personality matches for me. Open, receptive and totally approachable. Friendly and outgoing without being over the top cheerful. Respectful when giving constructive criticism so you never feel like a failure. And able to break down concepts into things that make sense. Plus, he has a light overall tone that keeps things fun. A coaching lesson can be stressful (at least for me) and it is a lot of work trying to process all they are tossing at you. But, at the end of the day, this is something we do for fun and it is important to not lose sight of that. Now some people may actually like to just drill for 45 minutes because different people have different needs. I enjoy a guy who can lighten the mood from time to time.

We were working on the Tango and he watched us do it all the way through and the first thing he tells me is that I need to drive more. This probably shouldn’t have come as a shock since we had him work on our Fox Trot and Viennese Waltz and he said the same thing. What? All smooth dances are supposed to move.

But then he said and demonstrated something that made perfect sense. So much of dance is about momentum and using that to help with the lead/follow. If you as the lead drive on the first step, it kind of forces the follow to move and that builds up momentum so that if you were to stop, she’ll keep moving. So it makes leading certain steps a heck of a lot easier.

This is where there was something in direct contradiction to OwnerGuy because we have these syncopated Vienesse Crosses and OwnerGuy was warning me about taking big steps. But this is where you have different approaches to get to the same end. OwnerGuy likes to use more contra body to kind of twist his way through those and the untwisting helps create the momentum. I found that really driving the first step worked better for me. Also keeping my head back and not rising up to kill the momentum (both of which I did and the coach had to correct me). For me, there is that light bulb moment when you feel something different and on one run, I knew we had lost momentum and the coach was telling me is was because my head came forward. For the rest of the night, I was trying to focus on that and often making adjustments during those crosses which he noticed and offered positive feedback on.

He also said something else that made sense. Too often, we get locked into a routine. Steps A, B and C are used to cover the long wall. And when you think that, you can subconsciously reduce the size of your steps to make things “fit” where they are supposed to fit. He said not to worry about that. The important thing is to drive through every step because once you start taking smaller steps, the judges notice that sort of thing.

Bottom line is by the end of the lesson, we did our pattern again and took up an entire extra short side. That’s how much more I was capable of moving it. And, by doing that, it made some of the leads so much easier. JoNY just kind of naturally ended up where she was supposed to be without me having to do a lot. We even got to a point in the pivot where we had generated enough momentum to get all the rotation we needed so he said we could play a bit with the lock step that comes after it to make the dance look more “Tangoesque”. (I just made that word up, he didn’t say it)

Oh, and even with moving it more, we also moved it in and out of the floor. For the most part, the pattern used to stay on the outside edge but to compensate for moving it more, I started taking certain parts into the center and then back out.

OK, I’ve probably rambled enough. Yes, coaching lessons are a mixed bag. But you get the right guy with the right dance and you’re able to do something you hadn’t done before and the feeling of accomplishment is great. That’s probably another reason to take coaching lessons. Although, in fairness, it is very hard to know before hand whether a coach is going to fit your style or not. This guy fit and the results were there.

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