Have you noticed that some of your social dance classmates seem to develop really fast and after two years they are already teaching, but you’re still at intermediate level, even though you both started at the same time? How is this possible, you may wonder. Is it talent? Luck? Good looks? Let’s talk about it.
Social dancing skills can be divided into two parts – partnerwork and individual technique. Partnerwork is what you learn in regular social dance classes. You learn how to lead or follow your partner and dance together. Individual technique is your posture and physical fitness, how you step, facial expressions, what styling you use – everything to do with your own body.
In order to become an advanced dancer, you need to put in as much time in individual technique, as you do into partnerwork. However in a regular social dance class (eg bachata, zouk, salsa), the teachers don’t have enough time to work on individual technique, because their focus is teaching partnerwork.
Now, the people who advance really fast, have usually already had previous individual technique training. They may have had years of solo dance classes like ballet, jazz, contemporary, urban or cheerleading, where individual technique is being perfected. They may have done competitive sports or martial arts that gave them excellent control over their body. They may have a background in competitive ballroom dance where individual technique gets much more attention than in social dance.
People with previous experience like that only need to learn partnerwork and specifics of the style because the individual technique basics are already there. That’s why they get to an advanced level in social dance relatively quickly.
Social dancers who get stuck in the intermediate level are often those who only take partnerwork classes, have no previous experience and don’t do any additional training – therefore lack in the individual technique area. Dancers can get stuck at this “intermediate plateau” for years, before they understand that something is off, since not many social dance teachers talk about it.
If you just discovered that you are stuck in your social dance progress, but don’t want to be, how do you change that?
The quick first-aid I would recommend is to find a styling class in your preferred style. For example if you dance zouk, then find a “zouk ladies styling”,“zouk men’s styling” or just “zouk solo” class and start there. This is already going to make a big difference because you will be learning that exact dance style, but practicing your individual technique in it without a partner.
Depending on where you are in your dance journey you may need to additionally go to a personal trainer or start going to the gym, do stretching to increase mobility, explore other dance styles, take choreography classes, learn general dance technique basics or more. (Yes, getting good at dance requires effort!)
To understand what needs to be improved in your technique and to get a personalised action plan, I have something for you. I would like to announce that I started offering mentoring for intermediate level zouk and bachata dancers, where we can identify gaps in your dance skills and develop a customised plan for you to reach your goals. Read more about it here!
Developing into an advanced level social dancer requires more than just taking social dance classes – you need to work on both partnerwork and your individual dance technique. People who progess faster than their peers practice individual technique a lot or already have previous training in that. If you have high goals in social dance, I’d recommend start working on your individual technique or have a chat with me if you don’t know where to begin!