A lovely infographic created by one of our own staff members here at the studio!
by Patti Smith
To become a great dancer, you need a great dance teacher; that goes without question. But that’s not all you need! We can argue that without great instruction you will not have great results, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. Forming the big picture and reaping all the benefits of being a great dancer involves many more pieces.
First of all, there’s equipment. Every sport has its own gear, and dancing is no different. Having the proper shoes, venue, and practice tools make all the difference in the world. Michael Jordan would have had a rough time had he been in dress shoes and not his Nikes.
Next is action, otherwise known as practice. Even the greatest dance teacher in the world cannot create a great dancer all by themselves. Each dancer has a responsibility to take the information that they are learning and put it into action. I can tell anybody, “Bend your knees, straighten your legs, pull your weight forward,” and I can say these things a thousand and one times. But if my student doesn’t put these concepts into practice, then they will never achieve great dancing.
Another piece is the company of others. Many great authors of self-improvement books have let us know that surrounding yourself with people who are characteristic of the person you want to be will help your own advancement to becoming that person. This little pearl of wisdom goes all the way back to the time of King Solomon, if not further. Simply put, if you want to be a great dancer, surround yourself with other dancers. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that you should only surround yourself with dancers with more knowledge and skill than you. Just surrounding yourself with people who have the same drive and interests as you will help you meet your goals, and everyone can teach you something.
That drive to succeed is one of the things the most successful people in the world have in common. They are constantly learning to improve their craft; the same is true of champion dancers. They don’t go to win world titles by saying what they have is good enough; good as they are, they still continue to practice (remember that point above?) to hone their skills to the best that they can be. Your goal may not be to become a world champion, but when you’re constantly learning to improve, whatever your goal may be, you will always find success on the dance floor.
Now, success doesn’t come in one day through one giant action. Can you become a great dancer in one lesson? Nope. Can you become a great dancer in five lessons? Highly doubtful. That’s something that you achieve over a period of time, through small, everyday improvements. Let’s say I want to be a great Latin dancer. There are so many hundreds of things I need to know and do to achieve this goal, and there’s no way I can do them all at once! But I can take one aspect today and focus on that, and only that, for one week. Once I have improved that skill, I can move on to the next. Like building a block tower, eventually all those little things add up to something that people will notice and pay attention to!
The whole time you’re improving, you want to keep a positive attitude to keep up your momentum. But don’t keep it to yourself; you should bring that same positive attitude with you when you actually get to dancing with someone. In that situation, there’s really two directions you can go in, mentally. You can look for greatness in others, or you can expect them to fail. Really, you want to focus on all the good things that they’re doing rather than pointing out mistakes. The golden rule should apply to everything, even dancing: how you want to be treated is how you should be treating other people. Besides, no one wants to leave a dance with a sour taste in their mouth, and being pedantic is one of the surest ways to do that.
Fitting these pieces together to form the beautiful picture that is a great dancer isn’t hard. It just takes persistence and patience to put it all together, just like a real puzzle. But if one of the pieces is missing, the picture is incomplete. Putting the pieces of this puzzle together can be a fun and rewarding experience, and the end result is something where everyone can see the time and effort you put in!
by Patti Smith
If you go to any ballroom dance studio across the United States, one of the first things you’ll probably notice is that most or all of the students are adults over the age of 25. It’s true that the ballroom dance craze sweeping the nation has perked the interest of adults more than kids, but why is this? One of the common misconceptions about ballroom dance is that it’s an adult activity, when in fact it’s fun for the whole family!
Learning ballroom dance at a young age can be extremely beneficial to one’s growth and development into adulthood.So why should your child be learning ballroom dance?
- Encourages good social skills
One of the great things about ballroom dance is that it’s a partnered activity. Kids will learn how to work together as a team towards a common goal (the dance). It encourages courtesy and respectful behavior.
- Increases confidence and self-esteem
When kids learn how to move their bodies effectively to create a beautiful motion, they start to see themselves as beautiful. An understanding of one’s body creates an appreciation for one’s body.
- Great form of exercise
Dance is a sport, just like soccer, football, swimming, or any other physical activity. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. (1, 2) And in 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. (1) Schools and other organizations have implemented dance programs as a way to combat this and promote healthy, active lifestyles.
- Promotes creativity
We just told you dance is a sport. Guess what? It’s also an art! Kids involved in ballroom dance have a great understanding of music and the picture that they can paint with their bodies.
- FUN to last a lifetime
Kids that learn ballroom dance take that skill and lessons they’ve learned into their adulthood and enjoy the benefits for a lifetime. Ballroom dance can be done to any music, whether it’s an old, classic standard or a fresh new pop hit. We find that most kids light up when they take their dance steps and pair them with their favorite music. We also find that dancing to the classics helps to build a new appreciation for the music that their parents and grandparents grew up wtih.
With this ballroom dance craze that’s upon us, I can only hope that it’s passed down to our future generations. Below are some links to programs through out the country and in the Albuquerque area.
1 Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(5):483-490.
2 National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.
by Patti Smith
Being a ballroom dance teacher is a fun, rewarding career. What most people don’t know is, how did we get there? How did we become ballroom teachers? What does the road look like from average Joe to top ballroom professional?
One of the comments that I hear from time to time from new students is, “So Patti, what’s your real job?” They all seem to be shocked and surprised when I tell them that being a dance teacher is my full-time career and not a hobby. What many people don’t understand is that this is a serious profession, like being a personal trainer, or any other job that requires serious education, credentials, skill, and knowledge. Also, ballroom dance has a governing body known as the National Dance Council of America. This is an organization that sets the standard and quality of dancing and instruction within our industry, and any instructor worth their salt will follow the guidelines of the NDCA for dancing and teaching. Which brings me to those people calling themselves “professional dance teachers,” like the one in the video below:
Yeesh, that was painful. I imagine those readers who know what Bolero should look like are probably shaking their heads and wondering what they just watched. Thankfully, this is pretty far on the end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, there are people who have been dancing for many years, and because they are good to great dancers, they believe themselves qualified to teach. A true professional has been trained not only to dance well, but also to teach well. These skills are measured through certification exams. The NDCA recognizes 9 syllabi that an instructor may be certified in. Those syllabi are:
- Arthur Murray International (AMI)
- Dance Teachers Club of Boston (DTCB)
- Dance Vision International Dancers Assoc. (DVIDA)
- Fred Astaire Dance of North America (FADS)
- National Dance Teachers Assoc. (NADTA)
- North American Dance Teachers Assoc., Inc. (NADTA)
- Pan American Teachers of Dancing (PAN AM)
- U.S. Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (USISTD)
- U.S. Terpsichore Assoc., Inc. (USTA)
You may ask yourself, “Well, if someone knows how to dance, why would they need to be certified in order to teach someone?” There are many reasons for this. It’s not enough to just be able to dance! In order to teach someone how to dance, qualified, certified instructors have to know ALL aspects of the dance and human movement. For example, the box step. The box is a simple pattern that is used in several dances, the foot positions being forward-side-together, back-side-together, and counting 1-2-3 or slow-quick-quick. But is this really all I need to know to teach someone how to properly dance a box? A professional teacher will need to know aspects of these movements like dance position, amount of turn, alignment, CBM, sway, rise and fall, and footwork! Not only will your teacher need to understand these intricacies, but also understand the technique and movement of each dance; the character of each dance; and how we portray it through our bodies. So you could say dance is as much science as it is art!
The next thing your qualified instructor is well-trained in is the art of instructing. (Go figure!) This is also measured by their certification exams. When we take exams, we have teaching questions such as how we would structure a group class, what to teach and when, and how to teach certain techniques like Cuban motion and rise and fall. It’s one thing to know how to do these; it is another thing entirely to know how to teach them!
I want to let people know that there are many levels of certification, and one of the qualities of a great dance instructor is that they are always continuing their own education. The first level of certification is known as Junior Associate, and the last level is known as Full Gold, with many levels in between. Should your instructor be Full Gold certified for you to consider them a good teacher, or to spend your time taking instruction from them? Absolutely not. Some of the best teachers I know only have their Junior Associate certification. This exam gives an instructor the best foundation possible to be a great dance teacher. This doesn’t mean, however, that a teacher should stop at Junior Associate! Like I said before, the best teachers are always continuing their education and striving to achieve higher levels.
When you are searching for a dance teacher, you should ask them what certifications they hold, and even what certifications they are striving to achieve. Those of us that are qualified, certified instructors are very proud of the work we put in to earn our certifications and are happy to share that information with you. In case you’re still wondering, “Do I REALLY need a certified teacher?” Watch that video again, and you’ll have your answer.
by Patti Smith
If somebody told you, “I’m taking ballroom dance lessons,” what would you imagine that person to look like? What would their everyday life be like? What occupation would they pursue? Would they be single, married, young, old? When you watch shows like Dancing with the Stars on TV, you see celebrities learning how to dance, but is this an accurate portrayal of the kind of people that take dance lessons in real life? The truth is, the title “ballroom dancer” can apply to anyone and everyone. Let’s break down some of the common misconceptions that accompany the phrase.
Dance lessons are for children – Many of us remember being age 3-5 and putting on the tutu and pink tights to go to dance class. Guys too if you had a mean sister! What most adults don’t realize is that learning to dance does not have to happen when we are age 3-5 and does not require those pink tights or a tutu. The reality is more adults are learning how to dance despite their experience (or lack thereof). Learning to dance as an adult has many benefits for your heart and your mind and is a great social outlet, a way to meet other people. It also can help you become more connected with your spouse.
Dance lessons are for people who already know how to dance – Almost every student that takes dance lessons walked through the front door of the studio having never danced before. The comment I hear most from people who I invite to one of my classes is, “But I don’t know how to dance.” To which I reply, “That’s the point!” The reality is, qualified dance instructors specialize in teaching beginners. My favorite kind of student is someone who has never danced before but wants to make it a part of their life. I love to show someone in fifteen minutes that they can indeed do something that they never thought they could before; it’s the highlight of my day! Often I will hear first-time students say to me, “You must get so bored teaching the basics over and over again.” Honestly, it’s very exciting to teach the basic step to a non-dancer and see them move to the music and have fun. That moment of discovery really makes it worthwhile.
Dancing is for skinny, fit people – The American Heart Association recognizes ballroom dance as the number one exercise for heart health. And since heart disease is the leading cause of death of men and women (1), I guess everyone should be dancing! If you walked into the average studio you would see students of all shapes and sizes. The bottom line is , if you can walk, you can dance, and you don’t need to be skinny to walk. However, after six months of dancing, you’ll probably be one of these “skinny, fit people,” which is not a bad side effect!
Dancing is only for coordinated people – I can tell you from personal experience that when I’m on the dance floor, people say “Wow, you’re so graceful!” Then the song ends, I walk off the dance floor, and into a wall. One of the many benefits of learning to dance is that you will increase your coordination skills. I can’t guarantee that you’ll stop walking into walls or tripping over your own feet, but I can guarantee it won’t happen on the floor!
Dance lessons are for couples – Often I will hear a prospective student say to me “I’d love to come to class, but I don’t have a partner!” And then I say, “that’s what your teacher is for!” When taking private lessons, your instructor serves as your partner. Group classes, on the other hand, are a different situation altogether. Most group classes that you’d attend will have an odd number of men and women; this is NORMAL. A great instructor (like the ones at CSP!) will be able to organize the class in such a way that you are engaged the whole time, and are able to dance with many other students. One of the most common complaints I hear from students that have experienced classes from other studios is, “I stood around the whole time, I didn’t have a partner so I didn’t get to dance.” I also hear “There weren’t enough men, and they made me learn the man’s part” or “There weren’t enough women and I didn’t get to dance at all!” This should NEVER happen at a group class! That being said, learning to do your part by yourself without a partner standing in front of you is very good for your dancing and makes it a lot easier when you DO dance with someone! When I have a class of odd numbers, I use a technique called “flying solo,” where if you don’t currently have a partner, you’re still dancing your part with the rest of the class and will have a partner in the next rotation. It’s important that at no time during a group class you are standing off to the side or not participating with the class.
So if you’ve ever thought, “I want to be a ballroom dancer, but…,” remember that the only definition that applies to the term “ballroom dancer” is someone who wants to dance.