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.