Happy New Year

Posted January 1st, 2010 by layla

A lot has changed in my life over the past few months since I began dancing Standard at the end of September. I’m no longer single, I’ve been dancing less overall due to my relationship, I’m no longer practicing latin, rythm, or smooth (for now), I had two coaching sessions, I learned all 5 standard dances, I purchased my first standard competition dress, I performed both a Waltz and a Quickstep at my dance studio, I made the finals in my Standard single-dances  in Las Vegas, I had a basically forced 2-weeks off from dance over Christmas break, I had a lesson with a different instructor (Erik is on vacation), and I ordered some ballet shoes online on Christmas day.

In the past few weeks since Vegas, I’ve found myself doing some thinking about how my study of dance has been going, what I can do to enjoy my journey more, and how I can better approach my time dancing each week. Recently, I’ve for the most part been taking private lessons in one style (Standard), with one teacher. I’ve also been practicing on my own; but I have found it much more difficult to practice alone in Standard than say Rhythm. I have absorbed most of my routines into my muscle memory, such that I can, for the most part, dance them solo; however, I don’t feel like I’ve learned enough “verbal technique” to really make a lot of changes for the better on my own. In Rhythm, I was much more sure of what I should be doing; how and where I should be moving in a form. In Standard, while I’m able to dance quite well with Erik (much better than in Rhythm or Latin), I’ve learned the vast majority of what I am able to perform through simply dancing with him, not through being verbally/visibly instructed in technique, in a step-by-step manner. In some ways, I suppose this is a good thing; but, it does make it much more difficult to self-critique, outside of closed dance hold (I can self-critique when we’re dancing together).

Given all of this, I think that I have a few goals for this year.

#1. I want to feel more challenged. This might sound silly, because improving is always a challenge; but, I find repeating the same routine over and over to be more of an incremental challenge, especially when I don’t always have a conscious knowledge of where we are trying to go, or what improvements we are trying to make. It feels somewhat like trying to incrementally refine by rote. Not to say it isn’t fun at all; but, I think that I would like to feel more diversity in the ways we approach learning. I’d like to dance the dances faster than we should, slower than we should, sometimes focus on moving my legs farther (while being smooth), other times leave the routine entirely. I’d like to have him improvise, and also, to have him spend more time teaching me forms in the way that they’re instructed in a group class — basics first, showing me why it has to be done the way it has to be done, so I can gain a deeper understanding, and so I’ll have a better ability to practice alone outside of class. I really want him to push me, I don’t want our lessons to feel like a slow ride through a familiar park.

Update  (Jan 2, 2010): I told Erik the things I wrote above for #1 today at the beginning of our lesson, and he took it seriously. Boy, was it a workout! He pushed me very hard, doing all sorts of new steps (silver+, I think), completely without a routine in Waltz. I just did my best to keep up, and I think I did pretty well! It felt amazing! We went through all the dances but quickstep, and I felt thoroughly exhausted, extremely HAPPY, and a deep sense of accomplishment at the end of the lesson. In other good news, I also did #5 (I stretched before and after the lesson), and that felt great too!

#2. I’d like to periodically take lessons from other instructors. I think my instructor is great, but I think that sometimes somebody else can teach the exact same concept, in a different way, and something that seemed confusing can suddenly make sense. Also, the more different people I become accustomed to dancing with, the better I’ll be, generally, at following (if I dance too much with one person, I have a tendency to start to predict what they’re going to do, instead of truly following).

#3. Take group classes. For the same reasons mentioned above, group classes provide another angle, and another style of learning. They supplement private lessons, provide challenges in the way of new and unpredictable dance partners, and give a different angle of insight into what you’re learning. I don’t see private lessons as being a replacement for other forms of learning, but rather, as all forms being important in their own ways. Very unfortunately, my studio doesn’t offer Standard group classes; but, I have found two other studios in the area which do, so it looks like Monday nights @ 8:15 I can take Standard group classes in Newton, and Tuesday/Wednesday nights @ 8:15, I can take Standard group classes in Woburn. I may need to reschedule my private lessons to accommodate this new group class schedule.

#4. Study other styles. I ordered Ballet shoes, so the first dance style I plan to take up is Ballet. I think that it will be very fun, and also help my flexibility and posture, among many other things. I don’t want to become trapped in only one style, as I have recently drifted towards. Also, I think that diversity is a great way to cross-train, and that each different style will likely have a positive effect on each other style. Eventually, I think I’d like to also study Argentine Tango, Modern, Belly Dance, and to resume my study of Smooth, Latin and Rhythm. I’m not going to try to jump into studying them all at once, but when the time seems right to try something different, I know I’ve got a lot to look forward to! :)

#5. Warm-up and Cool-down. Once upon a time, when I was single, I used to arrive at the dance studio an hour before my lessons, and never leave less than an hour after my lessons. I always had a full warm-up and cool-down, and I feel that it improved my dancing, and my physical fitness (flexibility especially). Lately, I’ve been skipping most of my warm-up and cool-down, and I feel like my body is paying the price. I think I should change this in the new year. Maybe I don’t need to be as extreme as I was when I was single, but I think I should make more time for it than I have recently.

#6. To unlearn my bad habit of looking in the mirror while dancing standard. It doesn’t help!

Getting ready to dance in Las Vegas!

Getting ready to dance in Las Vegas!

Getting ready to dance in Las Vegas!

Getting ready to dance in Las Vegas!

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