If we could take one magical workshop to become advanced social dancers overnight, many of us would do it. Sadly I don’t know anybody who gives such workshops. From what I have seen, becoming a good dancer takes usually at least a couple of years. I have been social dancing for 4 years now, but I feel like I could be on a much better level if I had done a few things differently. Speaking from my own experience and hearing stories of some dancers progressing super fast, I believe there are certain ways to speed up the learning process.
Take Regular Classes From a Good Teacher
You will be exposed to a lot of high level professionals going to festivals once in a while, but as I’ve heard many artists themselves say, it’s not really a substitute for good quality regular classes. If you want to become a good dancer fast, the teacher of your weekly classes needs to be at a very good level internationally. This is something you don’t have much control over, but it’s important if your goals are high.
If your teacher lacks technique or is bad at explaining and teaching, you might be taking classes from them for 6 years and still not level up – they can only teach you what they know. You might even have to do some unlearning later if they teach you anything inaccurate. In case there are no true professionals, but only amateurs giving classes in your city, you could continue taking their classes but take an online course from a professional in addition to that, which fills in the blanks.
A surefire way to succeed fast is to film yourself dancing as often as possible. This way you will see exactly what level you are at, you’ll notice what needs to be improved and be extremely motivated to keep learning. Even if you’re trying to improve in social dance you don’t always need to film with a partner – you can (and should) still train footwork, arm styling and body movement by yourself. Really the only thing you’re training in couples is following and leading, but that’s not all there is to dancing.
Don’t be shy about filming – when you’re doing the full choreography at the end of the class, pop your phone somewhere in the room and record yourself, or ask someone to film you at socials. The first few videos are probably going to be awful, but I promise it gets better!
Take Styling Classes
You cannot be good in partner dance if you’re not good solo. Take ladies or men’s styling classes to become more confident in your body. During a regular partnerwork class it’s difficult to look at yourself in the mirror, but in solo styling classes you can easily compare your movements to the teacher’s to see how you’re doing and what needs to be improved. Styling classes are also the best time to film yourself, since they often include a short choreography. Men’s styling classes have been relatively rare until now, but with the increase of solo online classes during the lockdown there are much more of them available.
Perfect the Basics
The basic moves are called basics for a reason, they are the base of everything else. You will not be able to do advanced moves properly before you master the basics. Just like a house needs to be built on a strong base, your dance needs to be built on top of good basic steps. Of course it’s “boring” for an intermediate to go to the beginners classes, so what I recommend is to take a private class from a professional to let them correct your basics. They can give you more details about basics than they usually give in beginner’s group classes. Keep the information you get in mind and keep practicing those things later at home. A lot of dance schools also encourage higher level students to join lower level classes to help out, sometimes even for free. Take that opportunity!
Condition Your Body
If you want to dance like a professional, you need to train like a professional. Figure skaters have general fitness training in their schedules next to the more specific skating training. Cheerleaders have an additional stretching class to be able to do acrobatics that cheerleading requires. I’m sure most international social dance artists go to the gym. So take general fitness and stretching classes once or twice a week in addition to your dance classes. This ensures good posture, bigger mobility and a fit body that’s good to look at.
Dance With Many Different People
Going to parties and festivals is important too. This is where you’ll learn to lead and follow many different people, meaning you will train your leading to be understood by anyone or learn to understand any leader, no matter what city or country they’re from. The sooner beginners get over their fears and start going to parties, the quicker their initial progress is. If you practice with one partner only, you will become good at dancing with each other but struggle at socials since you might learn to compensate each other’s mistakes.
There’s a temptation to dance more with people on a higher level than you, thinking it will make you progress faster, but it’s really not true. Advanced dancers only give you the feeling of succeeding, but in reality they might be compensating for your mistakes at parties. An advanced leader can lead anyone and an advanced follower can follow anyone!
These were some tips that can help you become an advanced dancer faster. You don’t have much control over who is teaching in your city, but there’s still so much you can do, like analysing videos of yourself dancing and practising at home. Even though we’d all like to progress fast, each of us has our own challenges when it comes to dancing, so let’s also honour our personal timing and not push ourselves too much either!