Aug 24

This posting provides tips to help us remember the ballroom dance steps we learn in ballroom dancing classes or in private dance lessons.

Have you been going to ballroom dancing classes and had this experience?  You think you are doing really well, you can follow the ballroom dance steps the instructor is teaching you and when you come back next week, you cannot remember a thing that you learned the week before?  Don’t worry, you are not alone.  I’m like that too so I developed many techniques to help me remember and have the information sink into my long term memory.

I have used all the tips below as I am notorious for forgetting ballroom dance steps as soon as I’m out of class!

Tip#1 – Take notes.

This has been very helpful to me.  The abbreviations I use are RF (right foot), LF (left foot), RH (right hand), LH (left hand),S (slow), Q (quick), H (heel), T (toe), B (ball).

Take notes on the timing if it’s different from the norm.  Eg: in American Tango, it is not always SS QQS.  The timing for Open Fan is SS& QQ&S SS& QQS.

Take notes on footwork if it’s tricky eg: American Foxtrot has an interesting lilt action in the Bronze figures on the QQ in steps 3 & 4 of the basic figures.  For the Basic figure, the leader’s footwork for step 3 is HT (heel toe) and step 4 is TH (toe heel).  The follower’s footwork is THT (toe heel toe), step 4 is TH (toe heel).

Take notes when the figure is long and has lots in it.  Just boil it down into the elements.  For example, in American Bolero, the Romantic Sways figure is long – 8 measures.  But it is made up of simple elements starting with  alternating side rocks and forward rocks until the 5th measure which has a strong swivel action into a check and UAT turn for the follower and UAT for the leader.

Tip#2 – relate the name of the figure to the main action

Try to relate the name of the figure to something that makes sense to you.  And remember either the key lead element or for followers, the key lead they should be responding to.

For example, if the figure is Outside Partner Breaks in American Rumba, outside partner means the leader and follower are stepping outside each other.  The lead into this figure is by the leader taking a side and slightly forward step with the LF (left foot).  The key to leading this is the LF “side and slightly forward” and turning the body 1/8 left.  If it was just a LF side step, the leader will still be in closed position with the follower and there would be no way for the leader to step outside the follower’s feet.

Or if it is the Slow Underarm Turn (UAT) in the Waltz or the Rumba, the “Slow” part reminds me that the follower is completing the turn over many steps insead of the usual 2 steps like in spot turns.  I call it the12 step program as this figure has 12 steps.  The lead is in steps 3 and 5.  Release RH on step 3, raise LH on step 5 like you are waving to a friend (this is the prep for an UAT).

Tip#3 – video the dance steps

This is so much easier nowadays as cell phones and digital cameras have video capability.  Just make sure you have a narrative with it describing the name of the figure and important lead and follow elements.  You can ask the instructor if you can tape during the class or you can tape yourself or your friend(s) after class repeating the dance steps.

Tip#4 – buy the DVIDA syllabus

This has worked really well for me but I know other students who got completely overwhelmed with the DVIDA syllabus manuals.  And it only works if your instructor is teaching from this syllabus.  If you are with Arthur Murray or Fred Astaire, they have their own syllabus.  When learning a new figure, I make notes in the syllabus on the different variations.

Not all teachers teach accurately to the syllabus.  There are many reasons for this – some are teaching the old version of the syllabus, some are teaching a more practical application of the figure or some just plain don’t know.  I teach the latest syllabus figures and then if there are variations, I will teach that too so my students who social dance can dance with anyone and not freak out when they are dancing with some one who is dancing the figure slightly differently.

Tip#5 – buy the DVIDA DVDs

This also works well for me but it is more expensive.  The DVDs do not cover as much technical elements as the manuals but is good for a quick refresher.

Tip#6 – review the ballroom dance steps immediately after the lesson or on the same day

If you don’t review it immediately or on the same day, you will most likely forget it unless you have super duper memory.  So immediately after class, stay behind if you can and walk through everything you have just learned.  Or as soon as you get home, go through the ballroom dance steps you just learned.

Tip#7 - find a way to use it when social dancing that week

This is easier for leaders as you get to lead what you want.  So keep practising that same figure you have just learned with every lady you dance with.  For followers, ask the leaders if they would mind leading you in the figure that you have just learned.  You will find the leaders to be very accomodating if you say you are learning, want to improve and would he mind leading you in that figure several times.

Tip#8 - teach it to somebody else

This is the best one for me!  Teaching it to someone else really solidifies it in my brains.  This is one of the reasons why I teach.  The other is because I love helping others grow and learn something new that’s going to make their lives better.

When I was still an amateur, after ballroom dancing classes, I would rush over to my close friend’s house and go over the choreography or figures I just learned and teach it to her.   We would practise until we got it and laugh ourselves silly.

I hope these tips will help you remember the ballroom dance steps you are learning in your ballroom dancing classes.  I would love to hear from you, please enter your feedback or questions in the comments box below.

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