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Home > Technique

The Beginning Dancer: Advice on the Journey Ahead

Being the new kid on the block is a very taunting task for some. Everyone has to start somewhere and being brand new to any activity comes with hardships. There is a learning curve that the new dancer must expect. Any person who is considering dance, whether they are 8 or 38, needs to be prepared for the journey ahead. Dancehelp has put together some advice for the beginner – to help them through the first year. If this is you, read up!

Once the decision is made to begin to dance, and a school is chosen, there are several things one can do to assure the trip is as smooth as possible. A good thing to do is to check out the facility. Watch a class if allowed, find the lockers, note where the restroom is, and ask questions about the policies. Know the dress code, get the proper attire, and asked to be placed into an appropriate class. When in doubt take the very first level.

Prior to your first class, go to the library and check out a few books on the subject (or surf the net). Take a look at body positions, vocabulary and such. Watch some video footage in order to capture the essence of whatever dance style you are seeking to learn. Once you have a little knowledge it will be much easier to understand exactly what you will be learning to do.

The very first class taken usually has a few obstacles. For starters, there will always be someone in the class who is better than you. And this will continue throughout your life as a dancer (unless you’re Sylvie Guillem…you get the picture). The object is to position yourself in the class, next to those who are much better than you, so you can mimic their movement and advance quicker. Most importantly though, it is the teacher who suggests the movement, and it is that movement that you are to mimic, not some fancy trick that a student learned in some other class.

Don’t be concerned with your body shape or others who seem somewhat intimidating. The goal here is to focus on the material and do your best to mimic it. The best thing you can do is to listen with all ears, to practice at home, and to come to each and every class in the season (or semester). There will be classes that are harder than others. Some days you will feel awkward, frustrated and downright silly. But remember; everyone has to start somewhere, and doing something for the first time will of course be awkward. It certainly was the first for every dancer.

Sometimes dancers advance rather quickly, this happens with 10% talent and 90% hard work. Dedicate yourself to taking class at least twice a week minimum if you’re to learn this new discipline. It will certainly help a great deal. Once a week just isn’t enough.

A word of advice for those shy beginners: no one is looking at you …everyone is really only looking at themselves. Learn to operate inside your focused little bubble, eventually you will become less concerned with who is watching you and instead you will focus on the material being presented.

Taking class can sometimes be a tense experience. Especially to a dancer who is new, but is full of passion to learn their chosen dance discipline. Emotions must be checked at the door. This is a process. You must allow yourself this courtesy! Do not be “mean” to yourself, be understanding and take it with a grain of salt.

Don’t always put yourself in the back of the class, try to get a better spot so you can see and hear the teacher better! Or at least stand behind a better dancer than you who tends to remember combinations and exercises. This is helpful but make sure it doesn’t become a crutch! You must learn these exercises on your own without looking at anyone. Try to test yourself with memorization; it is a huge part of dance! Being able to focus and to remember the combinations is the first step, because let’s face it, dancers that are physically able to complete exercises, but can’t remember them are no better off than vice versa.

If you are getting corrected a ton by the teacher: congratulations! They must see potential in you. Either way you found yourself a good teacher. Be thrilled for corrections, learn to remember them and apply them to every other class after that.

Remember to bring water, eat well and get your rest. Dance requires an awful lot from the body, especially those who are starting new. If you are older make sure you don’t go into a dance class with an old injury. Ask a doctor prior to class sign up! Also, make sure you only push yourself as far as your body lets you. Do not try to immediately achieve what you see other dancers most likely took years to perfect. And by this I mean larger jumps or turns. Start at square one and go through the motions like stepping stones. Pay close attention to the pre-dance exercises. Perfect those first! They are responsible for building the strength it will take to achieve the floor movement.

Stretch in your spare time. Go over exercises and floor combinations that were confusing. Ask other dancers for help before or after class. Never be afraid to really pursue dance technique. It is glorious and worth every bit of effort. The payoff is huge whether the end result is a dance career or just a dance hobby. Hats off to the new dancers! Hang in there, we all started where you did!

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