The following tips address some concepts that are more likely to come into play for someone that has been dancing for a while. However, they are also good for the novice dancer to keep in mind.
What is the key difference between a beginning dancer and an advanced dancer?
The beginning dancer wants to learn more moves.
The advanced dancer wants to improve on the basics.
Why is this? The advanced dancer would rather do 5 figures really well than 10 figures poorly. Of course, skill is also a factor, and of course everyone does want to learn more moves, but until a person transitions from focusing on learning more moves to being a better leader/follower, I would consider them a beginning dancer.
What are “the basics”?
Generally speaking, this refers to the following:
- How to step.
- How to keep from getting off your axis (losing balance).
- How to keep from pushing/pulling your partner off of their axis.
- How to clearly lead your partner.
- How to understand and follow your partner.
- What are the characteristics, besides timing, that differentiates one dance from another?
- How to do all of the above and to look good while doing it.
All of these things are what make up the subject of “technique.” Unless you take a class that is specifically focused on technique (or private lessons) it is extremely unlikely that you can develop more than a superficial understanding of these things.
I can get my partner/myself through the figures, why should I bother with more technique? The ease with which your partner gets through the move will increase if your technique improves. Typically, if something doesn’t go smoothly in lead/follow, a dancer will typically make one of two assumptions:
- It didn’t go well because my partner did not lead/follow well.
- It didn’t go well because I did not lead/follow well.
If your partner thinks it is their fault, this does not mean it is true. Likewise, if your partner thinks it is your fault, this does not make that true either. There is never really a finite end to improvement. If you are not aware of things you are doing that need improvement, no matter how good or advanced you are as a dancer, you're not paying attention.
When is it appropriate in social dancing or in a dance class to correct/teach my partner? If you are not a dance instructor, the most likely answer to this question is never. There are exceptions to this in social dancing: If your partner asks, it is acceptable to answer. If it is clearly their first time dancing, you can assist them to learn the very basic moves, but do NOT try to show off by trying more advanced moves with them.
In a dance class, if your partner is having trouble tell the instructor; that is what they are there for.
I am a leader and I like to improvise new moves. Is this okay? Yes. Not only is this okay, but it is encouraged. However, it becomes even more important for you to hone your skills as a leader. If you are going to try leading your partner through a move you have invented, you are going to have a hard time if your lead is not crystal-clear. This is also a safety issue. Leading your partner in an unexpected step, turn or direction without sufficient skills can result in injury to joints or in pushing/pulling your partner off of their feet.
What is the best way to become a better leader? One great way to improve your skills as a leader is to try following. Learn to follow some basic steps and turns. This will give you an understanding of the other side of the dynamic. It will help clarify when certain things should be led, and what foot your partner needs to be on to go where you want them to go. Until you have danced their steps, you will not really understand what they have to do. This will limit your ability to understand what you have to do.