New Content: Ask an Instructor

Instructional videos are great, but one of their drawbacks is if something I explain doesn't work for you, you're kind of stuck. I mean, it's not like you can replay the video, and I will magically explain it differently. Or can you?

Well no, no you can't. But this is the next best thing! The "Ask an Instructor" series is a new monthly video program I'll be releasing, in which I answer - with demonstrations - any dance-related question you have. How do you ask these questions? That's the subject of this video:

New Content: Vote for Your Videos!

We can't just come to your home and teach you directly (you probably prefer it that way), so we're giving SBD members the next best thing - the option to control what videos are made next by voting for them!

Every month, votes will be tallied up, and winning dances will have new videos released for them in the following month... So long as they aren't winning every month anyway ūüėČ

Here's how it works:

Dancing at Any Age, Part Two: Doing Classes with Class

Let's be honest: attending classes at a studio for a senior isn't as simple as just checking what's nearby. There's some important considerations - like how many stairs there are between you and the dance floor.

There's also the challenges of protecting your body during a lesson from partners who don't know better, as well as keeping up with the pace of the lesson. If you want your dance class to be an enjoyable experience, watch on! Continue reading "Dancing at Any Age, Part Two: Doing Classes with Class"

Dancing at Any Age, Part One: General Tips

I've heard a lot of talk about seniors lately, and usually the language is one of limitation: "They always want to dance with the younger dancers.", "I can't change jobs - I'm too old to find another".

It makes me doubly sad when the limiting talk comes from a senior themselves, because I know where they learned it from. And I don't accept it. Why not? Because I've seen too many people buck the trend.

I've danced with women over a hundred. I've competed with a 60-year-old with multiple sclerosis in one foot. I refuse to accept my life - or anyone else's - is done at 55.

Continue reading "Dancing at Any Age, Part One: General Tips"

The Home Schooled Dancer, Part Four: Supplementing Your Lessons

While instructional videos can't replace learning in person, it does grant us increased flexibility in improving on what we've learned before, or at least refreshing our memory. After all, you can't simply hit rewind on a lesson and play it back whenever you need a reminder.

Today I interviewed Candace, a student who dances and practices at studios, socials, at home, or even waiting for an elevator! Candace's occasional migrations south make this flexibility of learning especially important, as she recognizes how easy it is to forget what she's learned.

Transcript:

Ian: Hi guys! My name is Ian Crewe. I'm an instructor at the Joy of Dance Centre in Toronto, Ontario, and the creator of SocialBallroom.Dance: Where you can learn your dance, at your place, on your schedule.

I'm joined here today by Candace Poulton - did I get that right?

Candace: You did.

Ian: Awesome! Candace is a student: did you want to say how long you've been dancing?

Candace: It feels like a hundred years, but probably twenty.

Ian: And it looks like ten.

Candace: Hahaha!

Ian: so Candace is here because, not only does she take lessons at different places, but she also practices at home. So why do you sometimes practice at home versus going to a studio?

Candace: Convenience. I live in a condo, so it's nice. I have a beautiful rec room, we have nice wood floor. Sometimes it's just easier, especially if it's cold and rainy out. And if I feel like doing a dance I can just go down with somebody and practice a few things that I've learned. I don't do it as much as I should...

Ian: We never do. Do you ever find that space is an issue?

Candace: Because of where I live, space is not usually a problem but I like to go to different places around Toronto. I've only lived here 11 years - I'm originally from Montreal, and when I came to Toronto I found it great, because then it's got me into meeting a whole bunch of people. I don't know what I would have done without dance.

Ian: And do you have any methods for working your dance practice into your routine?

Candace: Because I live in a high-rise condo, when I'm in the hallway, waiting for the elevator, I will try practicing a step that takes a lot, takes a long stretch.

Ian: So while you're waiting for the elevator, because you have that hallway... That's awesome! Do you have to like, awkwardly stop when somebody comes around the corner?

Candace: Oh yes, oh yes! I usually just stand there, and just shift awkwardly, talk to them. I don't do that a lot - I usually like to practice with somebody, but I don't always have that opportunity so that makes it difficult. I find people can progress a lot faster when they have someone to practice with.

Ian: Do you ever get the opportunity to say, meet with other people and practice in more of a communal area. 

Candace: Well yes, we usually get together to dance in a couple of places down in the Etobicoke area. And as I said: it was the best thing I did, moving to Toronto and meeting the dance community.

Most people, the only time they dance is when they go to a lesson and they practice there, and they go home, get busy, and they don't do anything. And the next week they show up and they've forgotten everything, right? You know, so that was that's where I find most people are.

Ian: Have you been able to see the difference between when you don't practice versus when you do?

Candace: Yes, it's a huge difference! Because you come out of your class and you remember it, and I remember when we first started dancing, that's what I used to do. When we went home, we would clear out the dining room and practice, and then the next day we'd do it again.

But sometimes we would go home, not practice, get busy, get to the studio, say "okay, what did we do?"  Couldn't remember a thing.

Ian: So you're talking about clearing out the dining room? Are you serious?

Candace: Yeah, and the chandelier was a little bit too low, so I got like a little hook, and booked it up on the ceiling.

Ian: Wow, that's amazing! Do you have any other places apart from home or the studio where you practice, and do you tend to have a preference of what kind of place?

Candace: Well almost every week I go out dancing...

Ian: So at socials.

Candace: At socials. And I get to dance with different people. And when I go to Florida, I find places I can dance down there. Everybody has a different style, so it's really great because as I said, it gets you out, it gets you to meet people.

Ian: So are there any other methods that you explored that helps you develop your dancing, or anyone you know who has used other techniques other than learning at a studio?

Candace: Oh, I go on YouTube and try to find if there's a step that I am having trouble with. And it's been great - I've learned a whole line dance that way, and I've learned a little bit of West Coast Swing, and even Foxtrot. I don't remember which step it was now, but I find it on YouTube.

Ian: So can you tell me some of the names of the socials that you go to in the city?

Candace: Oh, I I definitely Joy of Dance - there's good Saturday parties. And I go to The Westway and 30-Up: They're both in the West End of the town. And one or two up closer to north. I've been to Dance Cafe...

Ian: Oh yeah, I've heard about the Harmony Club...

Candace: Yes, I've never been there. I've heard so much about the Harmony Club. There's another one up on Gervais now, I think it used to be called the Police Association...

Ian: Oh yeah, the OFL.

Candace: Yeah, that's right.

Ian: Well, thank you so much. It was great that you were able to join us today Candace.

Candace: It was a pleasure.

Ian: And thank you for watching viewers! If you had any questions or comments about today's video, you can always message me on my Facebook fan page, Ballroom Dancers Anonymous. Or you can email me at ian@socialballroom.dance - again that's ian@socialballroom.dance. Have yourself a fabulous week, and until next time, happy dancing!

The Home-Schooled Dancer, Part Three: Practice Strategies

It's one thing to want to learn to dance, quite another to have the time and space necessary to practice. True, this is a BIG advantage of going to a dance studio, where the space is provided along with the lesson. But there's plenty of options for a creative home-schooled dancer as well.

When I was first learning dance as a teenager, my parents would pay for ONE group lesson a week, and sometimes the occasional private lesson, nothing more. And I couldn't use the studio space to practice in between classes.

So I, like many of you, had to make-do from home. Usually the only place that wouldn't put me in anyone's way was my own bedroom. The walls were about 10 ft. apart, less a shelving unit on one side - but you better believe I made the most of it!

Every night after completing my homework, I practiced, learning to take smaller steps, or even break some of the patterns into two pieces so I had room to complete them. It wasn't easy, but it was enough to prepare me for that next group class, or social.

Now that I think about it, I had plenty of other options, but they simply never occurred to me at the time. Since I can't rewind the clock, I'm including them here.

For more tips on making time for dance practice, check out my video on Positive Dance Habits.

Transcript:

Hi folks! My name is Ian Crewe. I'm an instructor at the Joy of Dance Centre in Toronto, Ontario, and the creator of Social Ballroom Dance: Where you can learn your dance, at your place, on your schedule.

We covered last week the different types of videos that you could use to improve on your dancing from the comfort of your home or wherever you are. But now two challenges present themselves: First of all, how do we find the space in our homes for it, and how do we find time in our schedule?

Let's start with the first one, because it tends to be the more common of the two.

There's a number of different ballroom dance techniques that you don't need any space at all to practice. For example, you can work on your posture, your Cuban motion, your rise and fall; these different activities require no space at all. All you need really is a chair in front of you or maybe a balcony railing for a little bit of balance and stability.

Then there are other dance moves which move around a little bit, but not too much. For example, most Latin or rhythm style dances, they don't take up more than say 2 to 3 square feet if you're stepping smaller - good practice for getting used to those crowded nightclubs!

And if you have a hallway or another long straightaway at your house, you can practice your smooth and standard movements that use a lot of forward and back movement.

Don't be shy about moving some furniture if you need a little more space. One student of mine simply shifts her dining room table over, and she's ready to go. And basements are another often overlooked area where there might be more space to practice.

If you find it's tough finding enough space inside your house, you can always check out your patio, your balcony, or your garage to see if there is available space there.

But if you really need to find more space to practice, there are some options outside of your house which might work just as well. These are just a few of them: Gymnasiums, church basements, dojos, fitness centres, meeting rooms near your workplace, community centres, smaller event halls, town squares, concert halls, classrooms, friend's houses, anywhere where there is an open space and someone who is willing to rent it out (phew!)

Now, the good news is that often people rent them out for peanuts, or nothing at all if this space is not normally used for rental purposes. And with so many potential options, odds are that you can find something within walking distance.

Now, I know if you're thinking: "Ian, this is all well and good, but how am I gonna find time in my work schedule to work on all this?"

Well, first of all, remember you don't need to set a block, or like an hour block of your time aside like this is a private lesson at a studio. If you only get in 10 minutes a day, you're still practicing more per week than you would in a single private lesson. And it's gonna be a lot fresher in your head, getting that constant exposure.

Schedule it in advance, like you would with the private lesson, and when the timer goes, practice hard! Get the most out of your time. After all, you wouldn't get as much out of your gym practice if you took five-minute breaks between every set. Make the most of your time, and that will allow you to improve the quickest.

Now, there are some techniques that you can do well while doing other things. For example, you might practice your Cuban motion while you're washing dishes, or brushing your teeth. This is not ideal, because whenever you're multitasking you can't be fully present for either activity, but it is a good way to just keep it fresh in your body, so that you can pay more attention to it at a later time.

And if you need the reminder, some people use clothing or dance shoes or other props to help them stay consistent with their practicing - for example, one student I know used to put her dance shoes in her entrance hallway.

And if you get yourself excited about why you danced in the first place, those reasons can help generate creative solutions on how to make more room for your practice in your life, both physically in your home, and in your schedule.

If you need more ideas on fitting dance into your schedule, you can check out my video: I've included a link above on positive dance habits, so hopefully you can find some other useful material there.

And next week we're going to interview another student on how she finds time for her lessons or her practicing, even when she doesn't have time to make it into the studio.

But that's all there is for today! I hope you enjoyed this. If you had any questions or comments please message me on my Facebook fan page: Ballroom Dancers Anonymous, or you can email me at ian@socialballroom.dance - again that's ian@socialballroom.dance. Have yourself a great week, and until next time, happy dancing!

 

The Home Schooled Dancer, Part Two: Finding Videos

Take a couple of hours - or in the case of this vlog, about 5 minutes - to understanding your options before choosing, and you can save yourself hundreds of hours of wasted time.

Novice dancers choose the first instructor a studio sticks in front of them, without knowing if another could have taught them in half the time. And many home-schooled dancers rely on YouTube for their information, then spend years unlearning the many bad habits they picked up along the way.

If you decide to learn, or at least supplement your learning from home, it's important that you understand that YouTube isn't your only option. It's not even your only FREE option.

Transcript:

Hi guys! My name is Ian Crewe. I'm an instructor at the Joy of Dance Centre in Toronto Ontario, and the creator of Social Ballroom Dance: Where you can learn your dance, at your place, on your schedule.

Now, we talked last week about the benefits of learning to dance outside of a traditional studio setting, so now the question is: How do we do that?

By far the best way to learn is through instructional videos. I mean, reading about dancing is kind of like reading about rock climbing: It's going to be very very different in practice.

There are some images, true, which can help you to achieve a certain look in specific patterns, but dancing is about more than just going from one picture line to the next. It's about that flow through, that movement.

There's three different types of videos out there: There's your social media sites like YouTube and Daily Motion, then you have your dance blogs like addicted2salsa,  and then your premium content sites like - well, like socialballroom.dance. let's look at the pros and cons of each one.

So first you have your social media sites, which is primarily YouTube when it comes to videos. Now the obvious pro of this is there is a LOT of free online content! I mean, everybody is uploading videos, whether it's competitions, whether it's instructional dance videos, whether it's just dance advice from people in the industry; there's lots of potentially great material for you out there.

The downside is most of that material tends to be of a lower quality, so you're going to spend a lot of time and energy sifting through all that information, trying to find those diamonds in the rough. So if you do decide to go along this route, I urge you to be as discerning as you can.

When somebody is explaining something on YouTube, try it out! Practice it - actually when somebody's explaining something anywhere, make sure that it feels good for your body. I'm all about learning to dance in a way that's good for the individual. There is no cookie cutter way that everybody has to conform to.

And over time you're going to get a better and better sense of what style of dancing, what style of explanation works best for you. Kind of like when you're choosing an instructor who works best for you.

There's also a few good YouTube channels that you can check out. For the West Coast swingers, WestCoastSwingOnline offers some great video content and for international ballroom dancers, Passion4Dancing has some great HD videos for beginners as well. But let me know if you find out any other so I can pass those on as well.

Now, the second option is our dance blogs: These tend to be produced by instructors who have gone out and social danced, and now they're making these blogs as a way to boost their popularity.

They tend therefore to be focused on certain nightclub style dances. So you might get one blog that's devoted entirely to salsa, or entirely to West Coast Swing, or entirely to Argentine tango.

The plus side of this is that you tend to get higher quality content, and the instructor is more experienced. But the downside is that there's not a lot of them out there. In fact, as of right now I don't believe there are any ballroom dance sites that offer free content that, you know, is well laid out, and there's a decent quantity of it. But let me know if you hear about some that I can pass on.

And finally, you have your premium content sites. Now the obvious benefit is, because these sites are being funded, they can give you the best dance experience - you can get the highest quality videos, you're going to get the best layout, the most useful instructions, from the most talented or the most experienced dance teachers. so it's a really great way to get that premium content.

The downside of course, is that you do have to pay for it, and because of that I don't recommend it if you are not yet in a place where you want to make, you know, a consistent effort to learn.

If you already have some experience learning either from videos or from learning at the studio, your next question might be: "Well, how do I work practicing these patterns and techniques into my daily routine?" And this is something that we are going to cover in our next video.

So if you had any questions about our video today, please don't hesitate to message me on my Facebook fan page, Ballroom Dancers Anonymous, or you can email me at ian@socialballroom.dance, again that's ian@socialballroom.dance. Have yourself a fabulous week, and until next time, happy dancing!

The Home Schooled Dancer, Part One: Benefits for the Office Worker

"I just don't have time to try dancing." "I'd like to, but where am I going to find money for lessons?" These kinds of objections are what inspired me to create Social Ballroom Dance - so the benefits of dancing could be available to everyone, not just those with money and the means.

In preparation for the site launch this December (more on that later), let's look at some ways dancing can improve our life, health, and productivity.

Continue reading "The Home Schooled Dancer, Part One: Benefits for the Office Worker"