September 21st, 2012Learn “Gangnam Style” Dancing

2 months after it’s release this highly entertaining video is taking over the world. One of the reasons for it’s success is that this dude (PSY) can really dance well. It’s a combination of simple steps combined with the energy PSY puts into the dance.

All you have to do is “dress classy and dance cheesy”, apparently. Although it doesn’t look cheesy to me. It looks brilliant. It’s produced by choreographer and professionally performed. Learn “Gangham Style” yourself:

May 14th, 2012Ballroom dancing for guys I

In recent months I’ve gotten so much feedback from people I’ve talk to that I’ve decided to write a short series of articles explaining why ballroom dancing is good for guys.

It’s a perfect answer to “What do you do?”. Have you ever been at social gatherings where you talk to someone you don’t know and they ask you the dreaded “what do you do?” question? It’s the question that no matter how exciting and exotic profession you have it just doesn’t impress people. Another question that I usually ask people (or they ask me) is “what do you do for fun?”. Very few have interesting answer. But my answer is always “I dance ballroom”. And the reaction is always “Wow!”. And then as conversation develops and I tell them I know all 5 Ballroom dances (Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz) and 5 Latin dances (Rumba, Cha Cha, Jive, Samba and Paso Doble). The reaction I usually get from that is almost always “Amazing” and “I’m really impressed”. Tell that to anyone and the conversation becomes so much more interesting and exciting.

It’s a perfect thing to do on a first date. If you’re like most men, you have to plan something exciting for you and the lady whether it’s a first date, anniversary or even the “date” when you’ve been married for a while.  You think to yourself – do I take her to some boring dinner where we sit across from each other and talk all night, or we grab a quick drink and you take her for something “a little more exciting”. Like Salsa dancing. Salsa basic step is pretty easy to learn, plus if you can ad a spin or two, the lady will be in awe on “how good you are”. You can even read it from smiles on their faces. One hour of dancing usually does more to impress her than anything else you would be doing. Dancing for a date never gets old or boring because there’s so much you can do – choose different dances, switch locations etc.

There’s always a shortage of men who can dance. Many ladies would be dancing but they can’t find a partner. Some of them used to dance, but had to quit because they couldn’t find the right partner. Others would like to learn how to dance but they’re not sure if there will be a partner for them. Others still are so passionate about dance, they’re paying for private lessons where they dance with an instructor. Then they go to a ballroom dance club where they sit alone for entire evening until someone asks them to dance. You come over, you dance with her and she thanks you for dancing with her and tells you she was sitting there entire evening until you came along.

Guys who can dance have an amazing body posture. Just look at this guy:

Ever wondered how these dancers move? Your body changes. You develop muscles and you become fit. Its good cardio workout especially if you can do fast dances such as Cha Cha, Jive or Viennese Waltz.

In ballroom dancing guys get to be … guys. As in guy leads, lady follows. Guy decides what dance figure the couple is going to do. The stronger lead he is the better. Strong lead means you get to gently push her around where she needs to go. Sounds bizarre but ladies like it – they don’t have to guess what to do or where to go – its easier for them.

So go ahead – try dancing. You might even decide you like it and want to learn more and more, enter competitions or even teach it to other people.

 

 

April 7th, 2012Body action and dynamics

What an amazing lecture on technique by Slavik Kryklyvyy on importance of both body action and dynamics! Hopefully you can understand either Russian or Japanese or catch some English. The point he is explaining is that actions are created inside the body. These actions create body movements. Main body actions are stretching, bending, pushing, pulling, jumping, twisting, compression, contraction, balance and loss of it,  turns, freezing, gestures etc. They’re created in various parts of the body. These body actions are used in all dances.

 

 

You have to create a speed in your body instead of simply creating a mechanical motion. Here he demonstrates the importance of various body actions in Rumba to create speed inside body that later transfers into motion. He discusses dance speed and how it influences your body actions. Heavier action happens with slower dances, and lighter actions with faster dances.

 

 

Technique is very important to your dance. It’s best to practice it slowly to allow body to build muscle memory. (“Slavik Kryklyvyy & Karina Smirnoff Training”)

March 16th, 2012Toreros, Mistresses and Capes…

2 weeks ago I learned a new dance – Paso Doble, or “Paso” for short. This one is a rare dance meaning that not many people know this dance nor is it played in clubs as often as Slow Waltz or Tango for example.

Paso , as all other dances has a rich history. It is inspired by passionate Spanish culture and modelled after the sound, the drama and movement of bull fight.  It has a different posture – hips forward, chest back. It has a slower beat – about  The reason for this is that Spanish Torero, when attacked by the bull, can twist or arch his body to the side and hold a red cape on the side which the bull runs into. This pose is held at all times and all the different dance figures. Torero can also have his mistress in the stands who blows him kisses, and he does crazy and dangerous stunts to impress her…

During this dance, the lady (follower) can either be Torero’s mistress a competing Torero,  or a red cape. It all changes with the dance figures. One figure she might be where she is a competing Torero, another one she can be his mistress and then his cape and so on. How is that possible, you might think? It’s expressed in body movements. If both partner moves to the side mirroring each other’s movements, this is where they’re both

March 12th, 2012Steps or Technique?

“Beginning dancers prefer to take
“intermediate” level classes.
Intermediate dancers prefer to take
“advanced” level classes.
Advanced dancers take private lessons
to work on their basics.”

Beginner dancers are often overwhelmed with all the many things they need to learn. The steps, the direction (line of dance) angles etc. All this seems so complicated at first. But then you practice the steps and learn them. So far so good. It is then you realize that something just doesn’t seem right. One indication is that you have difficulty executing the steps to the music, it feels awkward. Another might be that somehow dancing seems so mechanical. Whats’s wrong, you think.

After a few months I realized that majority of instructors concentrate on teaching the steps and neglecting the proper technique. One of the reasons is that they themselves don’t know it. Some of them became instructors after completing some 18 month dance teacher course. And now they’re trying to teach you. And you as a beginner have no idea that this is what’s happening. It is only when you find an instructor that will work with you on technique side. It is then you pick up what you were missing and suddenly everything clicks.

And then you realize, wow, I don’t even need to learn those figures being only a beginner. I can learn the basic step and practice it in proper technique and that’s enough. Just look at some dance instruction videos. Even as pros show the most basic steps, they look amazing! So smooth and elegant. Wouldn’t you rather learn to dance like that first? A Jive basic step, Rumba walk, Cha Cha chasses…

So my advice to you – as a beginner, look for instructor that will teach you proper technique and not just the steps. If you learn the steps then you will learn to execute them with incorrect technique and then later on you will have to un-learn incorrect technique and learn the correct one. That will take time and it’s hard because your body is used to incorrect movements.

So concentrate on your basics first and go forward slowly. Get some quality instruction videos or even a few private lessons. Choose an instructor who was a competitor. Learn to execute the technique properly. When I am in class, I often record instructor’s demonstration on my handheld Blackberry and later watch it and study it. This way I pick up some pizzaz to spice up my own style.

March 5th, 2012Practice. Is it important?

“You forget 90% of what you learned in the first 24 hours”. That’s what my first instructor told me. He also told me – if you think you don’t have time – you can practice 5 minutes a day during a commercial break. I’ll always remember that. And I’ve practiced – at home in my basement, walking home on the sidewalk (quickstep), at church (salsa), downtown underground concourse area (with a partner) and a few other places. It’s so much fun! Of course you get the looks from people… wishing they too would know how to dance. It made my life interesting.

Dancing engages your brain, muscles and memory.  I knew you’d like my scientific explanation here (smirk). But it’s true. There is a lot of learning in dancing –  the steps, the angles, the posture and even advanced topics such as body connection, contra-body movements, sway etc.  All of that needs to be practised soon after the lesson, otherwise it’s gone from your memory. The most interesting part is that although complicated and difficult things you’re trying to learn at first become easy as you discover that your body acquires the new techniques gradually and it builds so called “muscle memory”. Once you’ve learned the proper technique you’re amazed how natural it feels when you’re dancing. Even if it’s a fast dance.

Practice is great, but… you also discover that you need 3 things for a successful practice – a space, partner’s availability, and time. The latter one must be arranged when both partners are available. Needless to say practice doesn’t always happen because one partner wants to practice, another one can’t find the time or thinks practice is not that important. Even more interesting – many times I hear from female dancers that they just can’t find the partner. It’s so hard, because men don’t dance etc. So I’m here to tell you that dancing is not just about getting dressed and looking good. It’s about hard work and putting in the time that brings results. And that is practice. Countless times (especially in January!) I’ve showed up to practice (without a partner) and found out there were 5 extra men that also had no dance partner. So female instructor would rotate us giving instructions. Ahh the good old times…

Guys being guys – if  we have a problem, we solve it… by acquiring options, so to speak. If you really want to dance, you stick to it, you persevere and you get to know a few dance partners to choose from. If one is not available, perhaps another one is and so on. You create a mailing list (or texting list), so that when you want to dance you contact them and find who is available … or just find a partner who is just as serious and passionate as you are and is always ready to go dancing. How do you do that? Perhaps the most efficient technique is going on the internet database and searching for a partner based on geographical location, height, style of dance etc.  at DancingPartnerList.com .  Another, less efficient but more adventurous method is to scan for dance events, meetup groups, clubs and show up all by myself – puts me out of my comfort zone. When I do that I usually meet many passionate dancers and it’s just so exciting to meet and dance with a stranger who is a good dancer. Dancing with strangers who aren’t that good also has it’s benefits – you get to practice your teaching skills and they think you’re awesome.

February 4th, 2012Ballroom dance club

So I’ve taken a couple of lessons, practised a bit here and there and now it’s time for the first “outing” to a real ballroom dance club…

Experience is somewhat scary at first – you show up, hopefully not wearing jeans, see a crowd of people all dressed up classy in evening dresses and suits. Everyone seems to be a better dancer than you. The music is diverse, changes frequently from Foxtrot to Cha cha to Tango and quickstep, with occasional Viennese Waltz or even Polka. Everyone seems to know what dance it is and how to dance it leaving you wondering “how do they know?”. Couples look very gracious as they go around the room avoiding collisions with other couples. Energy on the dance floor is vibrant. Dances are fast and you can’t stop in the middle of dance floor because then you’d block other dancers. You quickly realize that American style Foxtrot or Slow Waltz box step is a bit counter productive as you can’t go back against the traffic – the only direction is “line of dance”. Just like the instructor taught you.

Very interesting experience mainly because you’re there the first time. You somewhat know those few steps and can go around the room. Yet you realize there is still long way to go to become a real dancer. Still very exciting evening at Westway club. Find a place to dance at http://dance-locations.com

January 19th, 2012Why Ballroom Dancing?

Why would a macho guy pick ballroom dancing?

And why did I get into it? Good question – growing up I was listening to a lot of hard rock, disco, house music and I felt like dancing. So I’d turn off the lights in my room and try to improvise the dance moves of McHammer, Technotronic and some others. Now I realize I had a passion for dancing and just had to go and take lessons. But somehow it remained a distant dream. There were studies and there was a sport I was doing at the time (rowing), then there was the army, then there were more studies, then family, career…

So one day, when my soul was aching, I was anxious to try some new things and thought to myself – I’ve always wanted to do it, so why not now! I Googled “dance lessons toronto” and … went to the first site on the list and discovered a new class has begun two days ago. Hmm… I thought, maybe I can still get in. I’m a hot guy. Some lucky lady must be looking for dance partner, I thought. I telephoned the owner of dance school and arranged a first class at the end of the week.

First lesson was … well more than overwhelming. I showed up downtown on laid back Sunday afternoon, found a studio, joined my first class and … learned two dances!  Now I know what you’re thinking – no way Jose! Not in one hour! But it’s true – it was an American Foxtrot and a Cha Cha. Sure it was only a basic step, done in a beginner’s fashion, skipping the intricacies of proper technique, but the music was turned on and we were dancing. There was a partner for me, somewhat similar in height, who has, just like me decided to join a class and try ballroom dancing. It felt great!

If you’ve never tried to dance with the partner before, I can tell you there is this pleasant and exciting feeling of moving with the music and actually knowing that you’re doing it somewhat in an organized fashion instead of  just shaking your behind. I mean there is nothing wrong with shaking it, but it much more classy and sophisticated … like ballroom dancing.  Now I’m really getting in touch with my emotions here…