In our continued journey to become a better dancer, we have all experienced feedback on some level. Whether that feedback of from an instructor, judge, fellow student or dance partner, it’s important to realize the importance of feedback and also how to accept it AND deliver it well so that everyone benefits.
Many of us have witnessed the confident people at dance events; dancing freely to the music all alone. Maybe you envy them or they scare you a bit but I bet some part of you wants to do what they are doing.
Why solo dancing?
I have realized that many folks, on various parts of their dance journey, aren’t comfortable with solo dancing. When I say solo dancing, I mean dancing without a partner connected to you. I think the majority of people think that social dancing needs to always require a partner. After all, it’s partner dancing. But this isn’t always the case. It’s encouraged and a great way for you to be a better dance partner! Yes, I said that; if you work on your own movement skills, you will be a better partner to your current and future dance partners. Focusing on how your own body moves and interprets music without another body connected to you is very useful in figuring out what parts you need to work on. With a partner always connected to you – sometimes your weaknesses can be masked.
How do I work on solo movement?
You can start out by simply dancing around alone in your house. This is especially useful if you are somewhat nervous about busting out solo dancing in public. Pick any type of music you like to get down to and bust a move. Start slowly, even one song a day can help you feel increasingly more comfortable. Once you’re feeling good about dancing alone you can start to work on what you’re doing. Pay attention to how the music makes you want to move your body. Are there certain types of movements that are your ‘go-tos’? Do you always move certain parts of your body (arms, hips) and not others? If you want to work on your quality of movement you can start to vary up what you’re doing based on these observations. As always, you can find youtube videos of solo dancing if you need more moves inspiration.
What if I’m too scared to try this out in public?
Now that you’ve started to practice on your own and are feeling good about dancing solo…it’s time to bring it out in public. If you’re still feeling a bit nervous about this next step..ask your friends to do a solo movement jam circle to a song you all like. This keeps everyone inspired and removes the element of stage fright. You can see what others are doing and undoubtedly you will interpret the music differently and learn new movements from each other. And most people can agree that solo dancing in a group for the first few times will go a long way to increase your confidence, readying you for that time when you will bust out on your own.
Give it a go! Working on your own movements will help you understand how your body works and therefore how it works in relation to a partner.
Sometimes it seems I’m out here on my own – coordinating workshops/lessons, creating and maintaing the website and being the go to person for MadCity Blues. But then I have an inspiring moment and realize it’s all worth it.
On a nice night in July, I was out with some of the MadCity Blues members to hear and dance to live music. It turned out to be great weather for dancing outside. The rain had subsided and the temps were cooler. Sprecher’s outdoor patio was packed; the Cash Box Kings were amazing as usual. Our group of dancers found a nice spot near the front/off to the side of the band to stash our personal belongings and our beverages. We alternated dancing together, socializing and listening to the band. During the first band break, a woman I had never met came up to me and introduced herself. It turns out that she and her husband (also there that night) had just relocated to Madison and had been told by folks in their home dance scene that I was the person to talk to about Blues dancing in Madison. How flattering! I knew the person who had directed them to me and it was nice to know that person has high opinion of me and what I’m doing for Blues dancing here. The woman and I talked for almost the whole band break. I enjoy hearing people’s history of how they started dancing and their experiences in the dance world. The most rewarding part was her telling me that she and her husband had found our website and Facebook group (the power of social media!). It was GREAT to realize that all of these things I work hard on to promote and connect the group are paying off! People actually use the calendar on the website and the Facebook group posts to know what is going on and participate. WIN!
Although it sometimes feels a thankless job, when I have an encounter like last night or an MCB member takes the time to tell me they appreciate the opportunities I’ve organized I realize how much I love helping this Blues scene find it’s footing.
Dance scenes/clubs, little pockets of people who want to learn a certain genre of dance, pop up fairly frequently. Unfortunately, they also expire just as frequently.
In my fourteen years of experience as a dancer in Madison Wisconsin’s many dance scenes I have witnessed what works, what doesn’t and what is essential. The short list, in no particular order:
- Strong leadership/organizers
- Regular lessons/instruction
- Frequent practice opportunities
- Social connections within the community
Dance scenes need at least one if not multiple people willing to step up and organize/run events. These people are the keepers of the info. They make calls, reserve spaces and help wrangle details that other dancers will want to know. Members like to have a point person for questions and feedback.
If there are no regular instruction opportunities, there is no way for new people to join the group or outlets for current members to grow and expand their knowledge base. Members lose interest and momentum if there aren’t regular opportunites to continue learning and a clear progression to improve their skills.
Frequent practice opportunities
Classes and workshops are great but if there are no regular venues to put new knowledge to the test then students feel that they are taking lessons in vain. These opportunities can be an organized practice, monthly dances or simply a group of members going out to a live music venue to dance. Students want to be able to use what they learn on a regular basis.
Social Connections within the community
People are more apt to have fun and return if there is a social connection beyond instruction and regularly organized events and outings. If their friends are there or if they make friends through the organization, then it’s more fun to be a part of whatever event is going on. Learning is fun but when you’re doing it with friends, it’s even better. In an ideal scene the level of dancers feed off each other: advanced dancers take care of beginners and beginners bring a certain level of excitement that comes with learning something new and fun!
In short, dance scenes or clubs don’t simply run themselves. At bare minimum these four key elements are needed to make your scene thrive and grow. With these in place you’ve got your bases covered from brand-new dancer to seasoned member.
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