improving dance

The first time I went out social dancing, I was blown away. Though I was a  quick learner when it came to the basic steps, I still felt miles away from the veteran salseros tearing up the dance floor. I wondered how long it would take
me to get that good. I started running the numbers in my head – would it take a year? Two? How should I even begin to calculate the amount of time?

I forgot (and still do every now and then) that dancing is about having a good time. For me, having that fun has been augmented by my slow but sure increase in skill. As long as you don’t get in your head too badly, getting better at
dancing can make it more interesting and enjoyable.

We decided to go to the experts again, with a tip from five different styles of dance!

1. Travel Whenever You Can

Salsa instructor Lynelle advises us to “get out as much as you can for congresses, socials, and any other event that you can get to.” Though there are commonalities between different styles and recognizable patterns that we use to
navigate the music, everyone still has their own style. Traveling as often as is possible enables you to learn from teachers in the classroom and dancers on the floor. Being exposed to different people also helps us appreciate how other people feel toward and react to music. We are each of us a blend of all the dancing we’ve seen or been a part of, and traveling enriches us all around. You’ll get to make lots of friends too, which doesn’t hurt.

2. Do Your Homework

Popular advice tells us that the best way to hone a skill is to practice it. The same is true of dancing. Assistant Bachata instructor Hélèna tells students that “they have to put in the work at home. You’ll see improvement even
practicing just a little bit each day.” Dance instructors constantly tell their students that muscle memory is key when it comes to dancing. If practicing over and over in class helps, imagine what practicing over and over every day might
do. A common exercise is to try out footwork and shadow dancing for a few songs several times a week.

3. Role Reversal

While this may seen counterintuitive, DJ and Co-Owner Dorian encourages “followers to lead and leaders to follow.” Whenever there’s a shortage of follows in the advanced salsa classes, Dorian is always the first to step up
and switch roles. Switching roles helps you understand what the other side of the dance partnership experiences. Followers that lead will slowly eliminate their backleading habits. Leaders that follow will learn to be more decisive in their signals and movements. Both will be able to improve their leading and following and develop some empathy for their partners.

4. True Following

Kizomba instructor Ashby would like to make sure follows “let their bodies truly follow.” Too often, follows end up backleading, which creates tension between them and their partners. This can disrupt the flow of the dance and
create general awkwardness. Letting your body truly follow involves responding lightly to touches and being constantly aware of yourself and your partner. Though I cannot vouch personally for it, I have seen many follows close their eyes during slower and more intimate dances to help eliminate distractions.

5. Lead with Your Core

“If you take a step with your foot but don’t move any other part of your body, you’ll step right on your partner’s foot!” says West Coast Swing instructor Samarah. Good leading involves “guiding with the core of your body to give a
better idea of where you want your partner to go.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped on my partner’s foot when I wasn’t leading with my entire body. The reason this tip is so important comes from the fact that the majority
of your body weight provides a better indicator of movement than just a hand or a foot. Dancing emulates developed and styled patterns of walking – we can move our limbs one by one but it takes moving the center of weight to push us from flailing to walking.

Take these to heart if you want to get better at dancing. It’ll happen slowly and take some work, but nothing worth having comes easily! One day the beginners might be looking at you in awe.

Have another tip? Tell us below.