In my experience, there are three basic types of ballroom lessons.
- Learning Choreography
- Preparing for an Event
- Practice/Polish/Improve (What I’ve called the grind in the past)
Technically, it is true that lessons in the third category also fall into the second category since you are always aiming towards that next event. But I tend to think of the second category as lessons closer to the event when you are not only trying to refine your moves but also get mentally prepared.
Since we aren’t yet adding any Silver VI steps to the basic patterns I’ve got for the nine major dances, my lessons with JoNY are typically falling into the third group. We are still working on two routines for Showcase so those lessons are different. With my yet to be name instructor (I need to get on that), it is all really in the first stage – except that she is also trying to hammer some basic technique points as well.
Last night we just did Rumba and Mambo. Most of the night was spent on the Rumba. I’ve seen studies that suggest ballroom dancing can help improve memory and focus and I can certainly believe that. The process of learning choreography is difficult but even when you’ve got the steps down, you just move to the next level and try to remember all the various points about technique that you’ve been taught.
At its best, ballroom is going to engage basically every part of your body. In the rumba, you’ve got forward poise (weight in the balls of your feet), but still keeping your head up, keeping the frame rounded and not letting your elbows get behind your body. Then you throw in the upper body movement needed to lead things like swivels and you got various parts doing various things. (I haven’t even mentioned the dreaded Cuban motion)
My real challenge is overcoming that inner perfectionist that thinks all things should be perfect. That part of me that beats myself up when I slip back and have to be reminded of something I’ve been told. Learning to ballroom dance is humbling – you have to keep your ego in check. But I was kind of able to keep those parts of me chained up and I just enjoyed the process of refining the steps to make them better and smoother.
We finished with the Mambo and tossed out part of our pattern that now seems unnecessary. We had carried over a back spot turn from our previous pattern because it lead into some other steps that we dropped. So there is no need for it anymore and out it went. The pattern is still long and there might be some additional pruning needed.
I was still trying to channel my inner Mambo like the coach was telling me. This is another piece of the puzzle that I haven’t mastered. You know the phrase “Dance like nobody’s watching”? It is supposed to trigger you to break free of your own limitations and give you the freedom to cut loose. Of course, in ballroom, you are always being watched at an event so there’s the conflict. There are those who have no trouble with this and there are those of us who still have the part inside that’s afraid of looking silly and acts like a damper switch to keep you from going full out.
There was a beginning couple on the floor and another lady who is doing a few routines with OwnerGuy for one of the many charity events that have adopted the “dancing with the stars” theme. At some point, I became aware that they had stopped to watch. So I tried to toss caution to the wind more than I normally would do in practice. Which is probably not a bad thing – I mean you should be using practice to work on everything which includes the showmanship part of ballroom.
It was just a routine lesson but it ended up being more fun than I expected.
Our group class was Tango where we were doing the Gancho to La Puerta. This seems to be the Tango step that gets taught in the majority of group classes. Something about allowing the ladies to do the little kick that appeals to people I guess. Actually, it is probably more about the technique needed to pull it off since the La Puerta is all about upper body movement for the lead. The step finished with a rock turn to promenade so it was all about upper body rotation.
There is a downside to having some skill in leading. And also in trying to keep a very solid frame. There were certain ladies who maybe weren’t as comfortable with their footwork so they kind of just “held on” to let me do most of the work. Lets just say my right shoulder was a little sore going into my lesson with JoNY. She noticed me trying to stretch it out and then warns me about trying to do too much.
Which is the typical dilemma. I mean I’m trying to use the group class to practice technique since I usually know the steps. And it is kind of hard to do my part without dragging the lady along if she is so inclined. On the other hand, I don’t need anymore shoulder issues. So I’ll have to figure something out.