Boosting Your Social Dance Popularity, Part Two: Joining the In-Crowd

Everybody wants to dance with the regulars at the ballroom dance hall - the really good dancers that make every dance look simply amazing. But getting on their radar is no easy feat.  It takes persistence, experience... And most importantly, some knowledge of how dance socials work.

After all, if you want to get noticed and recognized as somebody who would make a fun dance partner, you have to stand out from the crowd. No, you don't have to strip naked and dance on the tables... Instead, you must learn to speak the secret language of "pro".

Transcript:

Hi guys! My name is Ian Crewe. I'm and 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've talked recently about the "regulars" at the dance social - the ones who have the most experience, the ones who everybody wants to dance with, because they always seem to have the most fun dancing with them.

Now, the reality is, unless you already happen to be friends with one of them, you're not going to get accepted overnight. BUT, there are things you can do can gradually make you more visible to them, so they're more likely to dance with you in the future.

One thing you can do (and I know I've said this before, but it's worth repeating): go to the same social regularly. First of all, you're getting repeated exposure to them, and they to you, so they can see you're dedicated to dancing, and are not just passing through.

And second of all, it's just good practice! If you commit yourself to going out for one evening a week, that allows you to improve on your social dancing abilities. I like to say that social dancing is a skill that can be improved on like anything else.

Now, there is a way to fast-track this process, if you have a little more dance experience. One thing you can do is start dancing with a beginner at the beginning of the evening, then gradually work your way up to more and more experienced dancers.

So with that beginner dancer, you want to acquit yourself, pull out some decent moves, but you're going to stay within your partner's comfort zone - make sure THEY have a good time. That way, you'll attract the attention of other people who see that, not only do you look good, you're making sure they look good as well. And they're going to want to enjoy a similar dance with you.

So now you can then dance with someone who's a little more experienced, and now you can pull out a little more technique, so you can attract the attention of someone who's the next level up. And in this way, you can gradually work your way up the social dancing ladder, until you're either dancing at the top of your ability, or you're dancing with some of the most experienced dancers there - either way, you're guaranteed a pretty good evening.

If you're trying to grab the attention of somebody in this upper level dancing group, you're going to want to position yourself to ask or be asked by them earlier on in the evening. The fact is you're less likely to score a dance with them once they're friends arrive, so if you talk to them earlier on in the evening, they're a lot more likely to say yes to you.

And keep them in the corner of your eye when you're dancing or if you're off the floor, so you can jump in and ask them before someone else gets to them. That might seem a little desperate, but in the ballroom dancing world, it's considered fairly natural for people to jump up and ask as soon as they can.

And by the way, regardless of whether you're a man, or a woman, or a leader, or a follower, I don't see anything wrong with going out and asking another person to dance. I've seen so many of people - usually women - who sit frustrated throughout an evening because they're hoping another man is going to come up and ask them to dance.

The fact is, this is not very empowering behaviour - you're basing your happiness on whether someone is going to ask or not. I say, take your power back! Get out there and ask someone to dance. If they say no, you can just do what the rest of us do - smile, thank them and move on. It's not personal.

Now if you do manage to get a dance with one of these dancers, it goes without saying that you should bring your A game! We'll talk about this more in a few weeks, but for now just know that good dancing is about more than just pulling out all your best moves - it's about entertaining your partner. All the best dancers recognize that, if their partner isn't happy, the dance as a whole is going to suffer. So show these elite dancers that you can speak their language, and they're more likely to want to dance with you in the future.

Now, you might consider starting up a light rapport at the end of a dance, something simple like "that was great! Who do you learn from?" Watch their response, gauge their reaction, see if they're interested in talking with you more - if they're looking around for another partner, or give one-word answers, probably best to just thank them and move on. But this gives you an opportunity to get to know them a bit better.

You might make friends with this whole group at the same time, or you might just get to know one of these more experienced dancers, but ultimately, you only need to get to know one of them before they start introducing you to everyone else.

If they start asking you what other socials you go to, or maybe invite you out for a  snack or a drink after the social, it's a very good sign that you are getting accepted into this group.

And by the way, you're going to sometimes encounter groups of people who are TOO cliquey. You know, the fact is, some more advanced dancers are not very supportive of the social dancing atmosphere - they're only dance with other friends of theirs, or maybe they'll only dance with other dancers on the competitive circuit.

There's not a whole lot you can do about that. If this group comprises the whole comprises the whole upper level of dances at this venue, you might want to consider changing venues.

I know that's frustrating, the good news though is that most good dancers aren't that cliquey - they're more accepting of dancers who have a little less experience, because they recognize that a beginner dancer is just another challenge they can overcome.

So look for venues that are a little more inclusive, where's there's more exchanging of partners, and that will give you some idea of how welcoming they are towards people who are looking to dance around and meet different people.

But those are some tips that can help you network and meet the right people and get the dances that you want to get, mostly through things that you can do OFF the dance floor. In a couple weeks, we'll talk about things you can do to be a more entertaining dance partner, so people will want to dance with you more frequently. Next week we'll be talking to a dance student and how she went from being a social dance wallflower to a social dancing butterfly.

So I look forward to seeing you then. If you had any questions, you can message me on my Facebook fan page, Ballroom Dancer's Anonymous, or you can email me at ian@socialballroom.dance, again, that's ian@socialballroom.dance. I look forward to seeing you next week, and until then, happy dancing!

Boosting Your Social Dance Popularity, Part One: Newcomer’s Guide

Newcomers have it tough. When they first step into the social dancing world, they are doing it with few to no connections, zero experience in social dance etiquette, and relatively little technique to work with. It's enough to keep a beginner from social dancing at all.

If only there was a guide to helping social dancing first and second-timers make a great first impression, so they can start making friends and potential dance partners from day one... Oh wait, now there is! (See what I did there?)

I've always believed that if you know what to expect, you can go into even new situations with greater confidence. Consider this then, your confidence-boosting, dance-partner-acquiring, popularity-increasing guide to success!

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.

So, who would like more dance partners at the next social? Unless you're the visiting pro, you probably answered yes to that question. That's what we're going to be covering for this month's theme.

We're gonna be talking about how to boost your social dancing popularity, and today we're starting with newcomers, because you know what? It's harder for newcomers to start to make new friends and start finding new dance partners.

Because people don't know you as well. They don't know if they can trust you, if you're a nice person or if you're a little bit off or strange or creepy, they don't know yet. So you're not as likely to get dances initially.

So, how does a newcomer dancer get around this? How do they start to meet new people, and to find more and more dance partners over time. So let's look at some ways in which we can do that.

Let's start by talking about how we convey ourselves in general: You want to convey the impression that you actually want to be here, so smile! Start a conversation, be open in your body language.

You know, a lot of new dancers convey - without meaning to - that they don't want to be here. Their nervousness about whether or not they are going to be asked to dance, ends up getting translated into a kind of standoffishness.

I remember a student of mine in particular, who was not only nervous about people asking her to dance, but actually would assume that people weren't going to ask her to dance. She assumed that she was going to just wait all night and have nothing to show for it.

So, she ended up making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. She would go to the corner of the room, she would cross her arms and cross her legs, and basically pout in the direction of the floor, so guess what? Even the instructors felt shy about asking her to dance, because they felt like she was saying, "hey, I don't want any dances."

And then she came and complained to me afterwards saying: "this was a waste of time. Nobody nobody wanted to dance with me." And I said: "well, how were you conveying yourself? I heard from different people that you didn't really seem like you wanted to dance with anybody." And from there we could start to work on how she appeared to other people and it progressed from there.

So make sure you pay a little attention to how you look to other people, because if people see you as somebody who is going to be a fun dance partner, they're a lot more likely to take a chance on you, stranger or no.

Make sure you do a bit of research on what you wear when you go to these places. I've covered a little bit about dance wear and what we wear to different venues and so on over the previous month, so if you want to look at the theme on dance wear, go check out those previous videos. I'll include a link below:

Dance Wear, Part One: Dos and Don’ts

But in general, what you want to convey here is 1) I'm being conscientious of my partner - so you're not bringing sharp jewelry or anything that might hurt the people around you, 2) I am one of you - you're wearing clothes that are at least somewhat in keeping of what other people are wearing.

So for example, maybe if this is a ballroom dance floor, you are dressed a little more formally. So you might be dressed how I am right now, which is a dress shirt that's a little bit open, I've got dress pants on black socks - you know, simple but elegant.

If this was a West Coast Swing social you might be dressed a little bit more casually, but again you can check out our videos from the past year to learn more about that.

Now say you're trying to figure out what dance social you want to go to first, and let's say for the sake of argument that you're spoiled for choice: There are tons of different dance studios around you, and they all have their own social. There's also a number of Latin nightclubs and ballroom dance halls around the city, that all have their socials at different times and so on.

Great! Fantastic! Probably not very common, but where would you start under those circumstances? Well first of all, if you are part of a ballroom dance studio; meaning you're already taking group classes or private lessons at that studio, go to that studio social!

Because that's where you're going to meet the most people who have already met you before. You know, they could be students in your group class, students who learned alongside you in a private lesson, friends who started dancing at the same time as you, other instructors who have taught you, and therefore would like to see how you've progressed out of social with a dance or two. So, you're a lot more likely to to "fill up your dance card" so to speak, with dances.

Now if you are NOT affiliated with a dance studio, going to a dance studio social is actually not a very good idea. I mean, some studios foster a more inclusive atmosphere, but most of the time when you go, you're gonna find that they tend to be a little bit cliquey.

And there's nothing against that - I'm not bashing other studio socials. But the reality is that, you're getting more students who are maybe not as comfortable dancing with people that they don't know yet. They haven't left that comfort zone of the studio social: They know people in their group classes, they know the instructors who teach them, and the instructors might feel obligated to only dance with their students because, they don't want to to lose them, and won't lose that business.

So you're likely to find yourself not getting as many dances as you would if you went somewhere else. So for those people who aren't affiliated with a studio, I recommend checking out a social that's not affiliated with a studio. Go to a Latin nightclub, a dance hall, a church floor that's been rented out - anything like that.

Because that's where you're going to meet the people who are a little bit more comfortable socially. Not necessarily comfortable dancing: Don't go there expecting that "oh, they're all going to be pro dancers that I'm going to be completely intimidated." You will find some good dancers there, but it's a good range of people.

The point is that there are going to be more people who are comfortable taking a chance on somebody they don't know, AKA you!

Most of these socials begin with a introductory lesson to get you started -sort of a dance icebreaker if you will. Go to these these dance lessons, because it's a chance for you to start meeting different people, usually more in the beginner level - so probably more comfortable dancers for you and less intimidating.

It gives you a chance to start getting to know some of these people and showing them that, "hey, I'm not a creep. I'm not somebody who's going to ignore you. I'm a nice person who has at least a few dance moves, and you're gonna enjoy dancing with me."

And then when the general dancing begins, they will remember that, "oh yeah, there was this guy that I danced with, or this girl that I danced with who was a pretty fun person." And so it gives you a chance to make a good first impression, before you have to start competing with all the other more experienced dancers.

Because as the evening progresses, those newcomer dancers are less likely to stick around. You tend to get more of the more experienced dancers who know each other a little better coming in. And over time, you can gradually start to make that transition to connecting with those people as well, but we'll get to that in a second.

Now when the social dancing starts, position yourself near what I like to call the "loading bays". This is just where the dancers who have finished a dance will come off the floor and congregate, so that they can find a new dance partner and get back on the floor for the next song.

Position yourself, not in the middle of that crowd - because as a newcomer it's easy to get lost in the shuffle - but just off to the side. That way you're still gonna stand out if you're waiting to be asked to dance, but it's also easier to see people who are going past you, so that if you want to ask them to dance, you can maybe get them before somebody else who knows them can ask first.

And by the way, if you're doing the asking make sure that you're keeping it simple but direct. So if somebody walks up to you and says: "Hi! Wanna dance?" This is conveying a lot more confidence and assertiveness. They're saying that "hey, I'm a lot more comfortable with dancing than maybe some other people, you'll have a great time dancing with me, how about it?"

Whereas if somebody is coming up a little bit more uncertain of themselves, they're saying things like: "Well, I saw you from across the floor, and I didn't see you having a partner, so I thought maybe..." Now we're conveying that we're not really sure about ourselves.

It's easy for dancers to extrapolate from that and say "well, they might not be very sure about their dancing as well, so I may not want to dance with that person." It's a sad but true fact about it.

So keep it simple, keep it direct, and as a bonus, if they say no - which if they do, and it will happen, smile, shrug it off - but if they say no you can just quickly ask another person, or two more people before the dance really gets going and everybody gets taken.

And if you're waiting to be asked to dance, position yourself close to the dance floor with as few obstacles between you and it as possible. So that means put your drink aside (or better yet, don't drink at all - that's not really conveying that you're there to dance), put your purse or your satchel  somewhere else, make sure it's stowed away somewhere safely, no crossed arms or crossed legs.

We're trying to convey that we are willing to dance, we have open body posture, and we're going to say "yes" if somebody asks us to dance. Which by the way, if somebody does ask you to dance, unless you've got a REALLY good reason to say no, say yes. And the person being a newcomer is not a good reason to say no: go along with it.

Most people who do the asking tend to be men, and men are very nervous about getting rejected, so if we are conveying that we're likely going to say no to them, by crossing our arms or by doing what my student was doing, they're are less likely to come up and ask us to dance, because they want to be assured they're probably gonna be told "yes".

So if you're watching the action, you're close to the floor, maybe you're bobbing your head and grooving a little bit on the music, you are saying "hey, I want to dance! Give me a reason." And they're a lot more likely to come up and say "let's make this happen."

And finally. check and see if they have regular social dances, and come back regularly. Because these places tend to draw the same people over and over again. So even if you didn't get as many dances the first one or two or three times, as people get more used to seeing you there, other people will talk.

They talk to each other and they try and get a sense of you know who is safe to dance with, who's a fun dance, who is a less fun dance. So if you are making a consistently good impression, if you keep putting your best face forward, even if you're not the best dancer on the floor, you're going to gradually become noticed by more and more experienced dancers.

You start to make some friends and friends of friends, building those connections. And that is how you will gradually progress from a complete newcomer when it comes to social dancing, to somebody who's experienced and learned in the ways of the social dancing jungle.

Now, there is a transition point where we have to make sure that we maintain those social connections and don't let them die, and we're going to talk more about how we can network and build on those connections next week.

But if you enjoyed what you heard today or maybe you have any thoughts about how you built your own social dancing popularity when you started dancing, please let me know. My Facebook fan page Ballroom Dancers Anonymous and I will let everybody know what your own tips were.

Or you can always email me at ian@socialballroom.dance, again that's ian@socialballroom.dance. I will see you next week, have a fantastic time, and until then, happy dancing.

How to Get More Men to Dance

Any female ballroom dancer knows that the majority of classes and socials she goes to is going to have considerably more women than men. And that means longer waits between before paired with a leader.

True, there are increasingly women who learn the leader's part as well, but this remains in the minority. And the reality is that most women would rather dance with men, and vice versa.

I used to think men's aversion to dance came from seeing it as something only for "sissies". In my own research however, I realized that sometimes there are men who want to dance, but don't. And that's a tragedy.

Tune in for why I believe this is - and what both women AND men can do about it:

Transcript:

Hey 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.

Of the different group classes that I teach, one of the most common complaints I hear is, "there aren't enough guys!" And they're right - the fact is your average guy is a lot less likely to get into ballroom dancing,  and they're are a lot more likely to quit soon after they start. But why is that?

This is more, I feel, than simply wanting to appear macho, or avoid dancing because they see it as something that only "sissies" do. The truth is your average man is very sensitive to making mistakes publicly. In their minds it correlates with appearing weak in front of others.

Now, this didn't used to be so much of a problem. When we were younger, we were still developing various skills that we needed to be successful, we were finding our chosen field of interest, so a lot of mistakes were inevitable, and we had to make peace with that.

But your average middle-aged man is a lot more secure in their line of work their spouse, their marriage, and their, hobbies, and they have stopped expanding their comfort zone.

For these people, dancing is a particularly terrifying prospect because a) you're gonna make a LOT of mistakes, and b) you have to make those mistakes in front of the opposite sex. And that is your heterosexual man's worst nightmare.

It doesn't help that ballroom dancing is often seen as kind of effeminate. There's a lot of competitive dancers, male dancers, who go out there in the  skin tight leotards and the rhinestones, and that does not exactly help that image (not that there's anything wrong with that).

But to the men who feel that way about ballroom dancing, let me just say that, if you want to dance in a more masculine way, you can! It's all about just expressing the parts of yourself that you want to express. The great thing about ballroom dancing is you can express anything that want to express, and you're doing it in a place where it's socially acceptable - it's pretty much all good over here.

Ladies, if you have a spouse, or a boyfriend, or friend, or whatever who is interested in getting into dance lessons with you, it is so important that you stay patient with them and use encouraging language.

As a general rule, don't correct them unless they're seriously in danger of hurting you; let the instructor work it out with them.

The fact is - and this might seem silly to you - but a lot of guys view any critiquing of their abilities as emasculating: they start feeling like they're being told that you can do their job better than they can, and I've seen a lot of dance couples stop dancing, because the man was getting sick of feeling "less than" in front of his partner and he just dug in his heels.

Now that said, men, don't let your fear of dancing put you in a cage! Life is too short to always stay within your comfort zone. Get to know your fears, and more importantly, get to know what goals or activities they are preventing you from accomplishing. Recognize that you are limiting yourself by giving in to those fears.

Now, I'm not saying that you need to jump straight into a dance studio, but that doesn't mean that you can't still learn to dance.

One of the reasons why I have modified my website now to offer online dance lessons (more on that soon), is so that people like you can learn to dance in the comfort of your own home. So that when you do go out to that social or that dance studio, you have the confidence that comes with the knowledge of knowing more about what goes on in the dancing world, so you're not just going in blind and feeling awkward the whole time.

And let me just say that for men: if you're single, there are a lot of interesting attractive woman out there who LOVE a guy who can dance.

Ultimately, I think we need to make a cultural shift; we need to educate both guys and girls that dancing is okay. Usually if we see an activity that is not as common in society, we're much more likely to see it as strange. But the more common a male dancer becomes, the more okay we're going to be with it.

So I hope you found this interesting or thought-provoking, and if you had any questions about it, you can 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, and next week are we are beginning a new theme, covering how to be more popular as a social dancer.

So until then, happy dancing!

Dance Wear, Part Three: Buying on a Budget

"What do you mean I need to buy dance clothes and shoes? Haven't I spent enough money on lessons already??" I know, I know.. Truth is, having clothing and especially shoes for dancing makes it a lot more enjoyable. And they don't have to break the bank.

I didn't always dress this snappy (my wife bought most of my clothes worth wearing), and I've always tended to buck the trend towards dance studio-themed clothing. Not only do many other clothing choices do the job just as well, they're cheaper too.

Over time, I met others who felt the same way I did, who managed to cut costs on their dance wear, while still buying what looked good and felt comfortable. The tips I'm including today are a combination of their advice and my own. Enjoy!

Transcript:
Hey 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.

When I first started ballroom dancing, one of my first challenges was having appropriate dance clothes to wear. Back then I was not what you would call a snappy dresser - I was more the kind of guy with the baggy clothes who you might not want to meet at a dark night in an alley.

I didn't even have any proper dance shoes - I generally danced in my socks, because they were the only things I owned that were slippery enough for me to do my turns.

Now, over time I learned how find clothes that were nice, and I could do it on a budget, because I didn't have a lot of disposable income at the time. And I met other students and instructors who were doing the same thing. So today, I present to you our five best tips for how to dance - and wear - on a budget.

Tip number one: Buy shoes that are cheap, but not too cheap. Sure, you could buy those dance shoes that are less than $30 on Amazon, but they those tend to fall apart pretty quickly, and who knows how much the workers who made them got paid?

I recommend aiming for the mid-range, say, $50 to $100. You can find some great brands through a site called Ballroom Guide - I'll include a link to them below (http://www.ballroomguide.com),  and I'll just read off the shoes that they are recommending on this list here, so that you can look these up on Google.

So we have Bloch, Capezio, Diamant, Freed of London, Gogo, Rotate Dance UK, Stephanie Dance Shoes, Topline, and Very Fine.

I'll also include my personal plug here for C&W Dance Shoes. This is great if you live in Toronto - this is actually where I got my very first pair of dance shoes, and amazingly I still wear them sometimes today, and I have yet to wear holes through the soles. That's the only pair of shoes I haven't done that with, so that says something! So I highly recommend them, go check them out. 

Tip number two: Use ballroom dance soles. This solution is a little bit DIY, but it allows you to restore the soles of dance shoes that have worn out, or even to convert non-ballroom dance shoes into dance shoes.

You simply need to buy your soles - preferably from a dance site like Soles2Dance for example, and you can either slap them on with the adhesive that some pads come with, or you can glue them on with a sturdy glue like shoe glue.

Make sure wherever you buy the dance soles that you are buying them from a place like Soles2Dance, because not all suede leather is created equal you want the leather that's specifically designed for dancing, that's soft enough to give you the traction you need on the floor.

And make sure that you follow the glue or adhesive drying instructions, just to make sure that your sole isn't going to come flying off in the middle of your dance performance.

Tip number three: Don't buy your clothing at a regular dance studio. Branded dance clothes are often very expensive, and they're no better than clothes you could just buy when you're out shopping anywhere.

Just make sure that you are buying clothes with the right kind of material, so a lightweight cotton or linen is often great. You want to be able to see the light coming through it, and it should be light in your hands. These are both signs that it's a lightweight material and it's going to breathe well.

Not so good choices will be things like silk or polyester, these types of fabrics tend to hold the heat in - you don't want to turn into a wet sleeping bag on the floor.

Tip number four: Learn how to make small repairs using needle and thread. This is such an easy way to double the lifespan of your clothing. If you don't know how to mend a button or a small tear yet, go to YouTube and learn.

It is just a piece of cake to do, best five ten minutes you'll ever spend, and it's just gonna make it so much easier for you to just fix any little problems in your clothing, before it becomes something big that stops you.

Tip number five: If you decide to go competitive, consider buying and gluing on your own rhinestones. As Steve said in our interview last week, that can be very very expensive to have somebody else do them, because each one is literally glued on by hand, and if you're willing to put in the time it can save you thousands of dollars.

Just make sure that you have a design in mind before you start gluing, and that you follow that design VERY closely: You don't want to get paid off of all that hard work with a ruined dress. But you can pick up some fairly simple clothing at places like Men's Dance Pants, or EK clothing. 

One instructor I know actually just grabs a bottle of wine, puts on a show that she likes, and spends the evening gluing. Sounds like a pretty good night in.

So hopefully these tips help you not only look smart and dress smart, but shop smart as well. And if you have any questions about them please feel free 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.

And this concludes our theme this month on ballroom dance wear. Next weekend, we're going to have a one-off and I don't know what the topic is going to be yet: you're just gonna have to wait and see.

So until then, happy dancing!

Dance Wear, Part Two: Different Venue, Different Costume

Dressing well for a social dance is about more than simply leaving your sharp jewelry at home and dressing in breathable clothes. Different venues call for different costumes, as my interview with ballroom instructor revealed.

Now, before you start telling yourself how superficial all this is, remember that fitting in is often a way of saying "hey, I'm one of you". And of course, this leads to more dances. That's why you came, right?

Transcript:

Me: 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.

We are continuing our theme this month on dance wear, and what we might wear to different dance venues, and today I am joined by Stephen James, a fellow dance instructor at the Joy of Dance Centre.

Stephen has danced at a number of different dance places, from Latin nightclubs, to West Coast Swing dance halls, to ballroom dancing both socially and competitively. So he's had a fair bit of in the field experience you might say, and seeing what other people wear and and why. So great to have you with us buddy.

Steve: Thank you.

Me: So let's start with an easy one - do people wear what they wear just because they want to look fashionable or good on the dance floor, or is for more practical reasons?

Steve: Why certainly some people do I imagine, but there should be a practical reason for choosing what you're wearing on the dance floor.

For example, in competitive ballroom you will see people - this is not exactly a costume: if you think of the whole look as part of the costume - will always have their hair tied back. It keeps it out of your partner's face, it's less distracting for the judges: that's something specifically for ballroom.

You notice a lot of tighter fitting clothes in Latin. That's usually so you can see body movements; they want to see if you can do a rib isolation or something with your body. 

So socially speaking, you should be asking a few questions of yourself. First of all what time of year is it - that's practical! (Some places are) air conditioned, so you have to dress appropriately.

I always think practically, but you can't help in a social situation wanting to think aesthetically as well and that's great: you do want to present yourself when you go out in public, but I think it should be secondary to some very important practical considerations.

When you go out dancing, are you wearing something that is going to get caught in your partner's hands or arms, for example loose-fitting clothing that has especially things like weaves, or dangling bits, or belts that kind of hang around out, or those those mesh - if it's like a really thick mesh - fingers get stuck in it, stuff like that.

Me: Yeah yeah. One of my students, she likes to bring these - I guess they're called sweater vests - I don't really have any experience in fashion of any kind - but what they have, its basically they create these little wings that hang down from their arms and when they turn it's just an invitation to get caught on all kinds of things.

Steve: Wings will fly.

Me: Yes. And then I politely asked her to remove it, and then it's okay.

Steve: Haha. So we also had vests - we'll do that same thing  in West Coast Swing right now. For people to have an open vest or something like that, that can sometimes fly and get in the way.

Then again, that can also be a source of fun in that particular dance, because in a jack-and-jill, even having a moment of improvisation, which could be a gift from God to you in that moment.

Generally speaking, on a social dance floor you want to avoid anything that's gonna snag on your partner. You also want to think about something that's not too hot or too cold - usually too cold, it's not a problem, you're dancing. But too hot, then we run into the issues of people sweating a lot.

I know there's some guys who will wear one shirt to the dance and bring a spare to change to later, which is really smart, because nobody really wants to dance with somebody covered in sweat.

Me: Yeah, it's it's not pleasant. What are some other costume differences that you've noticed between say, people going salsa dancing, or Latin dancing in general, versus west coast swing dancing, versus ballroom. What are some examples you've seen?

Steve: Aside from practical, we start with the aesthetic. Every dance has a sort of a look to it - ballroom dancing smooth and standard both have a very classic look. They want to, if you think of something you'd wear for a night on the town, evening wear, formal attire, or something like that.

People will compete sometimes in a tuxedo, a variation on a tuxedo. They will of course tailor them specifically for competitions. So you wouldn't wear a normal tux jacket for example on the dance floor, because when you lift your arms up in your frame, the shoulders bunch up and they look kind of ridiculous.

So they're actually tailored to look proper when your arms are held up in your frame and when the arms are relaxed, it's not as nice a look. So they're specifically designed for down some of these, specifically the ballroom dances.

Me: Yeah.

Steve: When they're up in that frame, they're going for the look of the dance, the waltz, foxtrot, everything with that classic night on the town, so that's the image that you'll want to put on the dance floor.

Salsa dancing - something you'd wear out to a club right? This is not just something for hanging up casually at home. It's usually a bit more loud and has some colour to it, has sexiness to it - it's clubwear basically.

Me: Mm-hmm.

Steve: West Coast Swing prides itself on being very casual, so people don't want to go too much in the department of putting on extra airs. The more chilled out you can look the better.

So it was very popular too, for example, with the the bow tie, put then on but leave them hanging down on either side. 

Me: Right. I sometimes feel like West Coast Swing is almost a reaction to ballroom.

Steve: From the other dances, absolutely. Ballroom in particular? Maybe. Yeah, it definitely prides itself on being different, and we don't have to put on these particular airs. We don't have to match someone's idea of what a dancer should look like.

You can be free to sort of express yourself and be chilled out and relax, and just go out and have a good time and that's what they want to see, even in competitions to a certain amount.

There are some West Coast Swing competitions that will say for example, "no jeans". The fact that you even have to say that...

Me: Oh goodness no! What are you doing here??

Steve: Haha.

Me: So when we're talking about, now just ballroom versus Latin or nightclub styles, why do why do skirts tend to be longer for your waltzes, your foxtrots, your tangos, versus your salsas, your Merengues, your cha chas.

Steve: Well two reasons - One, the look you're going for in the elegant evening wear and smooth and standard, so you want to have something that flows. You're flying around the dance floor while doing a Viennese Waltz, having a dress that flares looks fantastic.

In the Latin dances you want to see knee and hip movement, so a dress that covers your knees, you can't see as much what's going on with the legs. So there's a practical side to it.

And then there's the, of course, the culture. Latin dances typically come from more of a club environment, whereas our smooth and standard are inspired by this formal - more, I suppose the example of a European upper-class look. So the long skirt is that tradition. so thirsty

Me: Right, right. It's very grandiose in that way,  and I suppose that's why a lot of people - ladies can live out their Cinderella stories, with the glamorous gowns for example.

Steve: Yeah.

Me: And then you have your Mr. Rights with their tuxes.

Steve: Haha. Everybody loves a little Disney every now and then.

Me: I guess so, yeah. So, we know that ballroom dance shoes, the heels tend to be lower on ballroom, and taller in Latin.

Steve: Ah yes. I know what you're going to ask me.

Me: What the heck is with that? 

Steve: Yeah a lot of people wear the Cuban heels. A lot of people really don't like the look. It has practical purpose in that the higher heel brings you forward on the balls of the feet, it helps with the articulation of the ankles, and of the hip movement in your body.

Is it necessary to use them? No, it helps and again it's become part of a look. I personally don't wear them outside of the competition - if I'm competing in in Latin I'll wear them. If I'm doing a performance at the studio I'll tend not to wear the Latin heel.

I'm not as big a fan of walking in them. Bless the women who can wear heels - I don't, haha. Even a little Latin heel which a Cuban, I understand it's not as high, but it's got a bit of height to it, and that's enough.

Me: Yeah. I'll never forget my first Latin heels and after, I don't know, 15 minutes, I was starting to hurt. The ladies that I was teaching were just completely unsympathetic of course.

Steve: Yeah.

Me: They're like "you think that's bad?" Now we were talking a little bit about the practical versus the aesthetic side - we've talked about that quite a lot - but when we talk about competitions, is it really necessary for people to go super-glamorous with all the rhinestones and the glitter and the hair back and so on.

Steve: Good question. I'll start with ballroom and specifically in that there are some rules where you actually are discouraged from wearing - I think in some competitions you can't wear rhinestones at a lower level.

At lower entry levels, if you're starting as a new dancer: It's your first competition, you're doing a pre bronze heat for example -

Me: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: In pro-am you can't wear rhinestones, you can't wear these Swarovsky crystals in most comps, and I think that's to make it a little bit more accessible to first-time competition: "Okay you're telling me you have to learn all of this technique, fantastic. Now I'm committed to those lessons - that's a fair amount of money from me. And I'm gonna go compete, and okay, I have to get a dress that costs HOW much money? I have to get an outfit that costs HOW much money?"

That's a lot to ask. So to even the playing field they simply disallow it at the lower levels, allowing more people to to get into the dance without having to go to those extremes, because it is a bit much.

You know, those things are glued on individually, and that takes a lot of someone's time, and if you're not gonna do it yourself it's going to take a lot of money to pay someone else to do it. In addition to purchasing the crystals themselves and getting a dress designed or a tux designed or whatever you're gonna wear. So it's a fair commitment. So at the lower levels they don't expect that.

At the higher levels, if you're not doing that, I think it reflects on you that you're not as sort of committed to the culture of the dance. And that is those over-the-top costumes, which we love to criticize, but at the same times some of us really - some secretly some not so secretly - love to put on. Because they're so fabulous!

Me: It's the Cinderella thing.

Steve: So yeah, you kind of gotta go, if you're gonna go in, you go all in and if you've committed to the dance enough to get to those higher levels of competition, you usually have to show that in what you're wearing.

Me: Is that the same for performances would you say?

Steve: No, for performances I'II think about what's our audience, and what's our venue. Okay, for example, we've done at the studio, summer dresses and jeans parties, that was on top of the old Ontario place. We're outdoors on Sunday, this beautiful venue, but it had a casualness to it, sure. 

So I didn't go as extreme on my costuming that night. Something in house, in the studio, I might not be encouraging my students to wear crystallize costumes, but if you're going to go to an event, especially a ballroom event, then I would.

So the venue is, simply consider who is it for: "Are we in a casual scenario? Am I doing a performance at home for mom and dad?"

Me: Haha! Great stuff. Okay, so are there any final tips that you would give our listeners about, oh... whether they're competing, or they're social dancing, just general tips or just wise decisions when it comes to their costume, and that includes like hair, shoes, the whole getup.

Steve: Okay yeah, we've probably forgotten quite a few things then. This is not something you wear as a piece of clothing, but it is something you wear and that's perfumes - perfumes, colognes, any fragrances. I'm a big fan of deodorant - I think you should shower, wear your deodorant, especially when you're dancing socially.

Me: I need to jump in real quick about that one actually, because actually I've heard studies that's the number one, like absolute number one turnoff for ladies, when it comes to meeting any guy you know, regardless whether you are attracted to them romantically or not - number one thing is BO.

Steve: Absolutely, not just, yeah we're talking about not in the dating world, but in the dance world, nobody wants to dance with somebody who's odour they cannot handle, and that goes both ways.

So I'm saying yes put your deodorant o, shower, but don't slather yourself in perfumes and Cologne either to try to cover things up. Because that could be offensive in its own right, and there's allergies you have to take into account.

Some people physically, their eyes will water, they will have reactions to strong scents like that. So it's disrespectful to your fellow dancers to be walking into a room that's typically crowded and an enclosed space wearing that kind of perfume. So I'd say that's something you want to avoid.

Oh, jewelry and things like that yes. That's right generally, so bracelets, rings - even I've had issues with rings holding people's hand in advance, and the ring can be very uncomfortable in the hand if it's something that has a lot of gems on it or rough edges to it, and especially there's loose fitting it kind of flops around and ends up being on the wrong side of the finger.

I'm not suggesting anyone take off their wedding ring, if they're fine, smooth -

Me: But if you're going to buy your partner a wedding ring, be aware that if they might go out dancing, that might be part of your choices when you're getting that.

Steve: Well, you really are committed to dance if you're making your wedding ring choice based on dance considerations, well kudos to you.

I've had issues with cufflinks, my cufflinks sometimes getting caught - once in someone's hair, that was very awkward.

Me: Oooh..

Steve: Yeah. So I debate with them - I like them so much sometimes, but, and it depends on the dance, if you're doing a standard dance you're never gonna do an underarm turn, you're all good to go. But in a salsa club, when you're constantly spinning your partner, cufflinks might be a bad idea.

Me: All right, well thank you very much, this is great. We came up a lot of things that certainly never occurred to me, and I think you both went places that neither of us expected to go.

Steve: Haha! Sounds like a good day.

Me: Yeah, exactly.

Steve: I'm sure these, a lot of these are just my opinions right? Take them as you will.

Me: Well sure of course, everybody's gonna have their own own take on things. But I really appreciate your input on this, thank you very much for joining us Steve, and you know for those of you who want to contact Steve, and if you're interested in lessons and so on, you can always just get in touch with the Joy of Dance Centre and ask for him.

But thank you very much for listening in, and I look forward to going further with this on you... or with you on this.

Steve: Haha.

Me: That's better. See you next week, and until then, happy dancing!

Steve: Thank you very much it's been a pleasure.

Me: Cheers.

Dance Wear, Part One: Dos and Don’ts

Good dance clothing makes it easier to dance, and move with others. Bad clothing and accessories are uncomfortable, and might even injure other dancers around you.

Not sure which is which? Fear not! I'm loading you up with 5 of the most important rules of social dance clothing and accessories, so the evening is a success for both you and your partners. Because as we know: Happy partners are repeat partners.

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.

What we wear says a lot about us as a person, and being on the dance floor is no exception. There is however, the added dimension of not only wanting to be a snappy dresser but a conscientious one as well. Let me give you some examples by using two imaginary couples: the Joneses and the Jacksons.

The Joneses made sure to remove any long or sharp-edged jewelry before they left for their evening. Heck, Mr. Jones even wore a thinner wallet just to make sure there was no risk of anybody getting hit while they are moving around on the floor.

The Jackson's by comparison wanted to look extra posh with their bling, and now Mrs. Jackson is scraping up mr. Jackson pretty solidly with all that jewelry, especially when she makes a turn - kind of like a bladed wheel on a Roman chariot, am I right?

The Joneses wore clothing that was fitted above the waistline; this made it a lot easier for them to move around and connect with each other. But Mrs. Jackson chose to wear a shirt that was baggy, and with large holes for the armpits, and now Mr. Jackson is having trouble connecting with his partner's back without getting his hand caught on her shirt.

Mrs. Jones wanted to wear a skirt that was light and flow-y, but not TOO light, so she chose some heavier material. Mrs. Jackson on the other hand, wore a skirt that was so light every time she turned it flew up, and now everyone's getting a free show of her thighs from every spin she makes - it was a bad day to choose to wear that thong your husband likes Mrs. Jackson!

The Joneses wore proper dance shoes - they wanted this evening to go perfectly, so they made sure to get one some nice suede leather soles with heels no higher than 1.5" inches for the leader and no more than 3" high for the follower.

But the Jackson's sadly, did not think it through. Now, Mr. Jackson is crushing his wife's toes with his heavier work shoes, and she's returning the favour with her 5" high stilettos. Oh your feet are gonna be bruised tonight, Mr. Jackson!

Finally, the Joneses wore clothing that was light and breathable, and Mr. Jones brought an extra shirt just in case it ended up being a little warmer at the club than they expected.

But Mr. Jackson simply brought his heavier work shirt, and now both it and him look like they've just been through a car wash. Oh, those Jackson's!

As you can see, it only takes a few simple accessory choices to make the difference between a really lovely evening out, and a nightmarish one. So let's recap:

  1. Don't wear clothing that is long or sharp-edged, or really anything else that could fly out and injure either your partner or those around you.
  2. Make sure that your clothing is fitted above the waist line, so that it's easier for you to connect with each other and less risk that you're going to end up getting caught on each other's clothing.
  3. If you choose to wear a skirt, make sure it's of heavier clothing, so that you're not giving everyone a free show of your thighs every time you make a turn - unless you're into that. I don't know, I don't judge.
  4. Wear proper dance shoes! I cannot stress this enough - suede leather soles heels that are no longer than 1.5" for men and 3" high for women. It makes a big difference: You're much less likely to injure your partner, and it's just so much easier to dance in them once you get used to them. It's well worth the investment.

Assume that it's going to be a warm night out, even if it's wintertime (dancing can get hot fast), so wear light breathable clothing, and seriously consider bringing an extra shirt.

Keep those tips in mind, and you can ask me questions about this by messaging me on my Facebook fan page, Ballroom Dancers Anonymous, or you can email me at ian@socialballroom.dance. Again that's ian@socialballroom.dance. 

Next week, we're going to be interviewing a fellow ballroom dance instructor, Steven James. Steve has experienced competitive ballroom dancing, dancing at social dance halls, at West Coast Swing clubs, at Latin nightclubs, and he has some very useful tips on what you might want to wear, depending on the venue you're at.

So we'll look forward to talking to you about that next week, and until then, happy dancing!

Posture and Ballroom: The Interviews

Hopefully you've already seen and enjoyed my vlog special on ballroom and posture earlier in the week (if you haven't, check it out here). The three experts I interviewed had a LOT of useful information to share, and a lot of it didn't make it into the video.

So today, I'm including ALL THREE interviews, complete with footage that didn't make the original cut. Take these pro's advice, and take your posture to the next level!

Vlog Special: Posture and Ballroom Dancing

Don't get me wrong - I love technology. Maybe not ALL of it, but... The fact that I can sit at my computer and simply communicate with thousands of people I never could have reached otherwise - it's an introvert's heaven, I tell ya!

It DOES however, cause an awful lot of us to neglect our bodies. Due in large to  hours spent slumped in various chairs and couches in front of screens, lower back pain is now the single leading cause of disability worldwide (according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010).

Countering the effects of work with an activity that reinforces good poise is now more important than ever. Let's look at how ballroom dancing measures up:

Transcript:

Announcer: Technology. With every advancement, mankind becomes ever more adapt at navigating the challenges of today and the future. But these steps forward come with a cost. As a result of less physical activity, combined with increasing amounts of time slumped in front of computers or handheld devices, bad posture is on the rise, along with it's crippling cousin, lower back pain.

But despite back pain's debilitating effects, there is hope. Increasingly, average Jills and Joes are turning to ballroom dancing, lauded by many for it's positive effects on poise and posture. This education video explores how you too can harness the power of ballroom dancing to live your life upright and pain free.

Me: 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.

Today, we're talking to a number of experts about posture in ballroom dancing, how to do it correctly, and how you can use it to improve both your dancing and your daily life. But first up, WHY is good posture important?

Noel Miller: Good posture is important because it allows you to use your joints properly. So the more your posture is off the change in your bony structure causes continuous wearing. Now, instead of doing a movement that was positive to the body becomes negative.

And this is why posture is so important, because it's an indicator that these things are off and has been off for some time because now it's visual - I can SEE it that the posture is off. It's a sign that changes have been underway.

Emily Tench: Posture number one I would say is a method of injury prevention. So as a dancer there is so much risk involved even if you are doing something simple. A repetitive movement, doing the same thing over and over with poor posture will slowly develop into chronic issues in your body, say pain in your lower back, or pain in your knees, or pain in your ankles or maybe in your neck.

And it won't necessarily come across as an injury. And it's maybe not an injury, but more of an overuse that causes pain. And really good posture is primarily a way to avoid developing pain in your body and avoid developing injury.

Olé Burlay: Posture is important for everyday life, and I do believe that many of our students come to learn so they can improve on their posture. So, that's why we have the students, and that's why we're trying to do the first thing, and the first thing, and the very first thing in the first couple of lessons is to put two people together in a comfortable position. To be able to do the things that we teach.

Me: Right. So they need to have that posture before all the movements of ballroom dancing become possible.

Olé Burlay: That's right. Because the centres of two partners, because ballroom is a couple dancing. So when those centres are related properly, it can go around connected, it can go linear, sideways. So we need that posture to do the moves that we teach. That's the importance of good posture.

Announcer: Clearly, good posture is vital to overall health, yet many might ask: "What do I have to worry about? How can bad posture affect ME?"

Noel: Generally, these normally happen with arthritis of any joint. This is because of bad posture, either by bad habit or by overuse. So the most important thing is maintaining your body, so that you don't fall into this overuse situation.

So other than arthritis these kind of things, then you get joint aches and pains generally, or cramping in the leg or lower foot or back, or muscles fatiguing quickly. So at the point of after pain, there comes a point where it becomes weak again. So you try to pick up a cup and it drops out of your hand, because you don't have the strength - the muscles are too overdone to even hold something.

So those are some other kinds of issues you might see as well.

Announcer: Now you're no doubt convinced of the importance of good posture. But, how does ballroom dancing help to improve that posture? One of our correspondents decided to try a short class to find out.

Me: Alright so, if I was a total beginner coming into your ballet class, what are some initial tips you would give me, to get me started thinking about correct posture?

Emily: Right. So, let's place you just in front of our camera here, and I'll just get you to place your feet side by side parallel... No, that way.

Me: Oh okay. I'm the trouble kid in the class.

Emily: And you would just look at yourself in the mirror, and assess what's going on in your body. But the first thing I will say is just look straight forward and... Drop your chin, relax it.

Me: Ha ha ha! I'm a terrible student.

Emily: I know this about Ian. Oh... There we go. Then... Ohhh! Wow that was nice! So we got a little more height there. Then the other side is, if we had a tail, it's a tiger's tail. And your tiger tail has to go straight down. Right? It's not a happy puppy, it's not a sad puppy, it's a tiger. So you want to think that - he's tight again.

Me: Ha ha ha!

Emily: So, you're floating up with your helium balloon, and then at the bottom - yeah, you have a tiger tail releasing. Then we'll do a parallel plie, so bend your knees... Good, and then come straight back up again. Very nice. Now to make it a little bit more vibrant, we want a sense of lifting up through the back, and at the same time, lifting up through the front, but breathing. So, lungs... Turn your whole body.

Me: Oh, okay. And I've got to breathe through all this, huh?

Emily: So, you want wide breath... Yeah. So you see how my hands are going in and out... Ooh, that's quite good. Yeah. So, there's your breath with lift and ease. Good, and like, the feeling of an hourglass, right to the side please? Your arms out, back to here, floating. So this hourglass feeling is coming up that way, so you're really rising together. Now can you, without doing anything, push the floor away... Not with your bum.

Me: Hehehehe.

Emily: Relax your tail.

Me: Well I was thinking I had to push down with my legs.

Emily: Yes, but your legs are straight.

Me: Ah.

Emily: Ah. So, energetically push, as if you were about to rise.

Me: Okay, so the balls of my feet.

Emily: You're about to rise, but you're not rising. So you're pushing down, while you are floating upwards.

(Switch to Olé)

Me: So, if you have a complete beginner coming into your classes, what's some of the first things you would tell them about having correct ballroom posture?

Olé: Well first we need to align the head, the shoulders, hips, and feet.

Me: Right, right, just making sure the blocks of weight are centred over each other.

Olé: So there's no such thing as "good" and a "bad" posture - there is so much in between. And I think we should start from the point where the student's posture doesn't overwhelm learning the steps. So, it has to be introduced - it doesn't mean the students will be able to practically do it at the time of the lesson. But, you plant it, and you reinforce it over the period of time. And as I said, many people can relate to parts of the body that kind of align like a pyramid - one on top of the other. And when we move, that pyramid sometimes sometimes gets crooked. So one part falls off the other part, and this is when it's impossible to dance. So even telling that much - introduction of the body parts is a great way to start introducing posture.

Announcer: You now know that ballroom dancing can play an important role in keeping our back healthy and happy. But, can ballroom dancing contribute to the problem?

Olé: There are some, in international standard, that can hurt follows if they do many hours a week and if they do it professionally, because of misalignment of the neck and the side of the body. They are reclining over to the left...

Me: Always keeping that chest open and that corkscrew off.

Olé: Yes. So that's something you would not need to do as a person walking off the street. But is will introduce the muscle tone, that will cause the muscle to help you keep your posture in everyday life. But that is the only one that actually might give you some problem. There is a Latin, international Latin that has very balletic intensity in the lower back, and if we don't move the hips in the right place, in the right direction, that can give you lower back ache as well, but again, if not done correctly.

Me: I'm occasionally guilty of this as well.

Olé: That's the two things I can think of.

(Switch to Emily)

Emily: Anything that brings your body into an extreme position, if you are not strong enough to do that movement, or if your are not flexible enough, or if you don't have the understanding of how to maintain good skeletal alignment - so have good posture - any movement could potentially injure you.

So in ballroom dancing for example, you've got many degrees of your frame, and so you are going slowly up and backwards, but if you don't understand how to use your core, or how to extend upwards through the upper back, your thoracic spine, you'll end up putting a lot of stress on your lower vertebrae, and they're pretty susceptible to injury.

(Switch to Noel)

Noel: Mostly I've heard from other teachers that, in ballroom dancing, there's not a huge emphasis on stretching.

Me: Right.

Noel: Right, and this leads to postural issues, because when you have someone coming in who wants to enjoy dance, they are pre-exposed already to life. Life has happened before they met you, therefore there are already imbalances. So if they continue to express this imbalances, either by the shoulder being up, moving the shoulder blades out of the centre position more to the side - we call this winging of the scapula, or movement away from the centre of the spine - and then we have some different issues with the shoulders and traps starting to take over, pecs tightening, this kind of thing.

Another thing that I find is tightness of the calves. Everyday life we have tight calfs, most likely, by the age of... heh, sixteen, now just keeping more understanding that you have to maintain, keep it stretching. And sometimes, there's a point where the muscles won't stretch through traditional... you know, point your toes, put your foot against the wall, get that nice stretch against the wall.

Me: Right.

Noel: Sometimes that won't be effective. So at this point generally you have more cramps, you've got to stretch it out and they stop, before they finish their routine. And this is an indicator to the teacher, hey, you know what? Maybe we should do a little more stretching, and if stretching doesn't work, maybe we should seek someone who has a little more input on this issue.

Announcer: Despite these obstacles, it seems correct technique is the best way to protect ourselves. Still, many might remain skeptical: How does what you learn on a ballroom dance floor help you with your posture in your everyday life?

Emily: I like to sometimes talk about your head, like it's a hot air balloon, and if your spine is a chain of little mini balloons dangling underneath your hot air balloon. And your pelvis is the basket underneath the hot air balloon. So there's energy from the fire, from the core drawing you upwards, but it almost has a better sensation, you get a better result if you just feel this whole area is floating upward in opposition to the pelvis, which is weighted downwards with sandbags or something. You know, something's holding you down. And instead of trying to force yourself into certain positions, that is a more natural, relieving way to allow the body to hang in a really nice neutral alignment.

Me: Okay, and we can use this when we are walking around, sitting in our desk, or pretty much anywhere.

Emily: Yeah, yeah.

Announcer: There you have it - the experts agree that with proper training and application, ballroom dancing can help transform how you hold yourself, and so counter the effects of back pain. So remember: An investment in ballroom dancing, is an investment in a high-quality life.

Motivation and Inspiration, Part Four: Positive Dance Habits

Raise your hand if you've ever set a resolution you didn't keep. What, you didn't? YOU'RE A LIAR.

Okay, what stopped you? Usually we get all fired up at the start of a new project, but over time, that positive energy, what I'm calling the 'honeymoon effect', wears off. And that's when we quit, because suddenly it stopped being fun, and became work instead.

That's why most people don't become the dancers they want to be. Of sure, they have plenty of reasons why it was a good idea to stop now, but ultimately, they rode the emotional high, and when it crashed, they crashed.

Of course, there are many who manage to keep that spark burning. These people pick a dance goal, and consistently work towards it until it's theirs. They may not like stepping outside of their comfort zone, but they've developed a determination to not give in to the excuses and self-sabotage.

This is what I'd like to talk to you about today: How to get out of your own way, so you can persistently apply yourself to ballroom dancing until you're the dancer you've always wanted to be.

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.

What do we need to do to build some positive ballroom dance habits? Maybe you want to get more dance partners at a social, or maybe you want to catch the eye of that special someone. Or maybe you want to compete and be known nationally or internationally.

What do we need to do to build these positive practice habits, that we can consistently apply, so that we can improve on our dancing and ultimately get what we want?

If you have trouble motivating yourself to achieve the things that you want, first we need to start with your mindYou need to change the way you think. Why? Because if we don't, then we'll end up sabotaging ourselves.

How many of us have tried to make a resolution we've intended to stick with, we got all fired up about it, and then a week or two later, what happened?

We start procrastinating. We started forgetting why we made the decision to continue in the first place. We started giving into instant gratification. The "honeymoon phase" of making that resolution was over, and without that positive feeling, that good feeling pushing us forward, we ended up giving up. We went back to our comfort zone.

So we need to start changing this narrative inside our head. You see from a very early age, we LEARNED these expectations - what to expect from the world, from the people around us, and also from ourselves; what we believe is possible for us.

This becomes collectively what a great writer of mine, Don Miguel Ruiz, he refers to this as a "Book of Law". And the thing is is that following this Book of Law helps us feel safe - The book of law might be completely incorrect; there might be so much more that's possible for us but it makes us feel safe to follow them.

When we try to break out of that, there's this narrative that comes up in our mind and says, "hey, know what? This is probably a waste of time. You're competing against people who have been doing this since they were three years old. Why don't you try something else."

What we need to do is start paying attention to that narrative. We need to start spotting when that arises in our mind, and we need to stop talking to the fear-based thinking as Ellen Smith the life coach we interviewed last week was saying. We need to start talking to the POSSIBILITY.

So what I want you to do is to start spending time on your dream - just picturing it in your head, getting enough details so that you don't just see it, you can feel it.

Maybe you're going into that club, you can see the lights, you can smell the perfume of the ladies around you, you can feel yourself in that awesome dress, and your favourite music comes on - whatever it is, use that!

Pay attention to that narrative when it comes up, and when it comes up start replacing it with this dream. Because that dream is your WHY. Why you continue, why you push through when that that good feeling that you got from from setting that goal starts to wear off, and we're left with: "I've got to keep pushing, because i know that someday is gonna be my day."

Les Brown, this great motivational speaker, says "sometimes we cannot say 'I can do that', but what we can do, what we can retreat to if it seems like we're wasting our time is we can remind ourselves that 'it's possible'." 

Because ultimately, NOBODY knows what you're capable of. NOBODY knows how far you can go on this ballroom dancing path - not even you. All you know is that you can get better than where you are, and it's possible that if you keep pushing if you keep pressing that one day is gonna be your day.  So replace that negative narrative with something more positive.

The next thing is - when we start to set out on that path, when we start to show up for our the times that we scheduled for ourselves to start practicing, and start working on our dancing, we have to accept that the next hardest part is stepping out of that comfort zone and traveling along that path.

As we start to improve - what I'm saying is that you're gonna start having times where you're going to feel tired, stressed out, maybe a little sick.

Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't check yourself into the hospital if you're feeling that bad, but most of the time these are going to be excuses, that your narrative is dressing up as legitimate reasons to keep you from going after what you want.

Because that requires you to step out of your comfort zone - that requires you to be something more than what you are right now, and if you listen to that narrative, you're setting yourself up to be just an average dancer. 

You've got to keep returning to that vision of why this was worth it for you. Eric Thomas, another well-known motivational speaker, talks about how some people describe themselves as procrastinators - like it's it's part of who they are, like it's a condition. 

And he says, "listen to me. If I told you to meet me here at 5AM in the morning, and if you meet me here then I would give you 5 million dollars, at 5AM tomorrow morning where would you be?" And they say "Eric, I would be there at 4:59AM!" and he says "exactly! You're not a procrastinator - you just haven't made this important enough to make it happen."

There's this excitement, there's this passion there, and it may not be for everybody - I personally believe that everybody can get something from ballroom dancing, but how far you want to go is up to you. Keep returning to that idea, and don't let those excuses get you down.

The next part of this is, come up with ideas for how you can make this work. The two most common objections that anybody has when faced with whether or not they want to continue with their dancing, is time and money.

So we need to come up with ways in which we can make ballroom dancing work. What I want you to try doing is get a sheet of paper, get a pen. Start writing down ideas or open up a word file. Start typing up ideas - it doesn't matter how crazy or harebrained they may sound. Don't censor yourself.

Just get it all out there - the point is to get those creative juices flowing, and as you start working on this you're gonna start finding that there are some ideas coming out, which didn't initially occur to you when you were looking at that blank sheet of paper.

You'll start coming up with some really good ideas. For example, if the issue is that you don't know how you're going to be able to afford ballroom dancing, you might start a bake sale, you might work extra hard at work and then ask for a promotion, you might take a second job, you might hold off on buying some of those fancy clothes, or that new flat-screen television, that you were planning on buying, because maybe ballroom dancing is more important to you! You might get up an hour earlier in the day so you can read about how you can get more benefits out of your business, so that you can get more income - a better commission, more clients.

Those are six ideas that I just came up with, and the idea is that as you're getting it out you're gonna start finding that some of the ideas are actually not bad ones at all, and after you've done that one day of twenty ideas, the next day try and come up with another 20 ideas, the next day come up with another 20 ideas.

Keep going until you feel yourself really start to slow down and then look at all these ideas, because now you've got this repository of creativity, of 20 40 60 80, a hundred ideas: All you need is ONE OR TWO good ideas and you're set - you've got your plan.

If you look at all those ideas and none of them really are looking like like something that you think you could do, then you gotta ask yourself: "is this me getting in my own way, or is there really something else going on here?"

Sometimes it's a sign that we just need to refocus, we need to return to the dream and change things. Because maybe it's not firing us up as much as it used to - sometimes we need to revisit our dreams because what we want is gonna change.

Maybe I want to just be a decent social dancer, but then as I get closer to that, I start to dream bigger. Maybe I want to perform now. Maybe I want to compete now.

So you need to revisit these things to make sure that you're not starting to fall out of alignment with the reason why you continue with dancing in the first place.

The last thing about this I want to say is that sometimes you really are going be tired - you really are going need rest. But don't initially give into it. Say "okay. I'm going to wait wait six hours or a day. If at the end of those six hours or the next day shows up and I still feel tired, okay. I will rest."

But until then, keep pushing forward. keep making this work for you. Because odds are when the next day comes, you're going find out that was just another excuse, and you're ready to go again. So use that, don't give in to it.

Now, I'm gonna share something that I believe: I don't know if all the dreams that you have with regards to ballroom dancing are achievable in your lifetime. But what I DO believe, is that to not spend your life going after those dreams, those things that you want, those things that allow you to grow and develop as a human being, is to not only cheat yourself of the greatest pleasure that life can bring you - it's also to cheat others around you of the inspiration they could draw from your achievements.

There's a great quote that really hit me hard when I first heard it, and it goes like this:

If you do not risk, then you cannot grow.
And if you cannot grow, then you cannot do your best.
And if you can't do your best, you cannot be happy.
And if you can't be happy, then what else is there?

Think about that. That is the end of our theme this month on motivation and inspiration. I hope you found this useful and hopefully it motivates and inspires you to take that extra step in your dancing.

If you have 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.

We're going to have a little surprise for you next week. I'm going to release something a little earlier in the week and follow that up with our usual post on on Sunday. So you can look forward to that.

After that we're gonna get into our new theme in September, which is dancing apparel: what would you wear at a competition vs a ballroom dance hall vs a Latin nightclub, so we can get more comfortable with being prepared for when we do make that step to get out on the social dance floor.

I look forward to seeing you then, and until then happy dancing!

 

Previous Articles on "Motivation and Inspiration":
Part One: The Right Mindset
Part Two: Loving the Process
Part Three: Self-Sabotage

Motivation and Inspiration, Part Three: Self-Sabotage

"You are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are." - Anonymous

We carry around a belief system that informs us on the world; what it's like, and what we can expect from it. It also informs us on what we can expect from ourselves. And very often, when we try to defy those expectations, it draws us unconsciously back to our comfort zone.

Today I partnered up with life coach Ellen Smith, while we tackled the problem of self-sabotage - what it is, what causes it, and how we can gradually remove it from our life. We had some great insights, which we'll share below.

(By the way, very sorry for the poor audio quality in this video. We were rained out of our expected interview place and had to do it in Ellen's lobby. I've included the transcript below in case you missed anything.)

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 Social Ballroom Dance, where you can learn your dance, at your place, on your schedule.

I’m joined today by Ellen Smith, a life coach and a managing director of iMedia Matters, a marketing PR company, and Ellen also has considerable dance background, including ballroom dancing and a number of other styles,

And we’re here today to talk to you a little bit about self-sabotage in ballroom dancing: What keeps us from achieving our full potential. So really glad to have you hear with us Ellen.

ELLEN: Thank you,

IAN: So when we talk about self sabotage, what do we mean by that?

ELLEN: That’s a very big question indeed. To me what it means is what we do that gets in our own way. It’s those things that we tell ourselves and those things that we do that prevent us from moving forward and feeling successful.

IAN:  Right, So if I want to reach a particular level of ballroom dancing, maybe I want to win a competition, but for some reason I am getting in my own way, what are some examples of things that might get in my way?

ELLEN:  Oh my. You could start telling yourself how wonderful everyone else is but you, so create a state of fear and nervousness that has you not approach things with confidence. In fact, you might even get to the point where you might even get to the point where you want to back out of the competition because you feel you are not up to the same standards as you feel everybody else is. When you asked me this question a little while ago, the first thing that came to my mind is, I have a thousand excuses not to do something, but I don’t have one good reason not to do them. I think what happens is, you call them rationalizations, its all those things that can stop you dead in your tracks and you believe them with all your heart and soul at the time, and that’s usually because you’re afraid. Ad so you stop. So whether that is saying no I’m not going to take that dance class or I’m not going to do that particular exercise or I’m afraid of of trying that particular move because I might fall or I might look stupid. Whatever it is, you stop yourself.

IAN: Right. Is there a way you can recognize that its an excuse, versus an authentic thought?

ELLEN: I think it takes practice but I think yes. The answer to that is yes. And it comes with being really aware of yourself, and when you feel yourself resisting

IAN:  Yeah.

ELLEN: When you feel yourself resisting, stop and ask yourself, Is this because I’m afraid, or is it because I really cant?

And its one of those times where you get to be really honest with yourself. And people are sometimes afraid of that but its an important question. So if its because you’re afraid of looking foolish or something like that, the question I ask is, what would I do if I were not afraid? And if I weren’t afraid, I’d usually do it. I may do it cautiously but I’d do it. The other thing that I find is that there is something inside of you, there is a voice that says this is an excuse, there really is and if you listen to it it’s your opportunity to say what’s behind that? How do I get at that? And does it make sense? Is it rational or is it irrational? And you can start to say well maybe I will start by doing this little bit and this little bit more but the point is that you keep on doing that little bit more so that you feel like you are making progress and you start to gain that confidence. The other thing I do is I turn the question on its head SO if I’m telling myself I can’t do this, then again I will go back and say “What if I can” what does the world look like if I can” what does that dance movement look like if I can?

IAN:  That’s great. One of the people I used to work for at another studio, he had this great line: You can come up with tons of excuses why you can’t do something, come up with some reasons why you can.” Its just this simple idea of switching the energy and thinking, what if this is possible? What if I CAN do this? Because I agree - it’s easy for us to believe these rationalizations with our heart and soul as you put it, but at the same time maybe part of that is that we’re feeding it. We keep repeating it to ourselves.

ELLEN: Yes. So there’s a saying that says, what do you feed? Do you feed the hungry dog or do you feed the happy one? And sliding into something that parallels that, or doesn’t parallel it but moves in to it, is that when we’re staring to envision things for ourselves, we can go to the worst case scenario or we can go to the possibility. And you start to talk to the possibility and name the different things you see in it, like I can be a wonderful ballroom dancer or I can be very confident or whatever, it’s literally taking those traits and speaking to them like they are a human. And you can do it to yourself, you don’t have to look goofy out in public talking to yourself.

IAN: Preferably in a quiet room.

ELLEN: But it’s speaking to the possibility, there is something inside of you that starts to feel happy.

IAN:  Its kind of like journaling.

ELLEN: Yes.

IAN:  Like when we write, in a way we can be talking to ourselves. Or its getting that information out there so we can see things in perspective.

ELLEN: And what’s also true Ian, and you’ve heard me say this many times, I have borrowed this from Michael Beckwith, who is a very famous leader, is that the words that follow “I am” are what you invite into your life, and its very very true. So if you start saying to yourself, I’m not good enough, then that’s what you start to live. So if you start to speak to that possibility by saying I am strong enough, I am a dancer I am… something positive. Your subconscious doesn’t know it’s not true, it starts to behave as if it is true.

IAN:  So we talk about these different beliefs and how some of them are, shall we say, self-limiting vs self-loving. Where can our self-limiting beliefs come from?

ELLEN: They are usually entrenched in us before the age of five. For example. Say you’re a very expressive kid.

IAN: Yes, absolutely.

ELLEN:  And somebody is always telling you, “be quiet, nobody wants to see that.”

IAN:  Right. That becomes a belief.

ELLEN: That becomes a belief. So you’re going to start to play small. And you grow up playing small. Or the other thing is you act in a whole opposite extreme and get yourself into a whole lot of trouble.

IAN: As a reaction, a rebellious response to that.

ELLEN: Yeah. But its usually, you come to these beliefs because of a situation or experience that is your first experience and it becomes a point of disappointment, a point of fear, whatever it is. You take it in and you start to believe it, so every decision you make is coming from that place of frustration fear or doubt.

IAN:  Right, right. It sounds like a part of us almost gets stuck in that period, and its still there until we can resolve it in some way, or replace it with something.

ELLEN: Exactly right. I know for myself, is that our family wasn’t wealthy growing up, so we were always making sure there was enough to go around and so that comes from a place of scarcity.

IAN:  Right.

ELLEN: And so, right through my entire life that was my mindset until I started to realize I was getting in my own way. That I was preventing my ability to move forward and it’s the same with dance. I remember the first dance I was kicked out of. I was kicked out of my first ballet class at 5 ½ years old. And at that time, cus I’m old, I was told that I was too big, too tall and that I had bad feet, and I do have bad feet, so they said there is no point in me continuing it anymore. Well I was heartbroken. All I wanted to do was to dance. And I remember my mom, to make me feel better, decided to take me to my first ballet down at the O’Keefe Centre, to see Swan Lake, and along the way, we stopped at this restaurant where there were Flamenco dances, well my God I had never seen anything so spectacular in my entire life. This woman had power and the skirts and the ta’ tah and all that.

IAN:  “Forget about Ballet, I want to learn Flamenco. Give me one of them skirts!”

ELLEN: But you know something, I never forgot that. And when I started to get old enough to make my own decisions, it was, whether it was going to a high school dance or not is that the drive to dance was stronger than the excuse not to. And when I realized that I could dance, and nobody could tell me that I couldn’t then it was “Ok then, I’m going to dance, now I’m going to take a dance class, and I’m going to take another dance class and another dance class. And how do I feel when I finish those dances? I feel fantastic. Was it my best class? No. Was it my best class? Yes. It depends on the day. But the point is that it was in me and I couldn’t let it go. It was stronger than any fear that I may have had or what anybody told me about what I could or couldn’t do.

IAN:  So it feels like we are kind of getting now into how we can start to replace those limiting beliefs.

ELLEN: It sometimes helps to talk it out with somebody who can look at it from a different point of view, and often that is not a really good friend or a relative because they are too involved with you. But somebody who can step back and can listen to you get out your fears and frustrations. So that there is this vomiting all over a table, I know that’s a disgusting thing, but once it’s out, then you are clean and you can start over. I think the other thing, is look for somebody that can be a bit of a mentor. And even in dance there is this one person who you can go to and say, “you know, I’m afraid I won’t be able to do that well”, and that mentor can say, “well, let’s see if you can.” Those self-affirmations that you give yourself, like yes I can, are important because that yes I can, can be the one yes I can, to get you to a class.

IAN:  Barack Obama had it right all along?

ELLEN: He had it right all along. So instead of going for the level four class, why don’t you start at a level one? And get the feel that you can. And then you start to graduate, the more you learn and the stronger that you feel. The point is to DO. Like working with my trainer, Noel Miller, when I first started working with him, I was coming out of a bad situation physically, and it was very difficult for me, and what we did is that we started with balance. And balance was really interesting, because all he had me do was stand there with my eyes open, and then stand there with my eyes closed. And it was so that my brain wouldn’t rely on the visual trigger to keep me balanced.

IAN:  But it was such a small step.

ELLEN: It was such a small step, but it was such a HUGE step. So it’s looking at the pathway is there, you don’t have to walk the whole thing at once. Break it in to small bits that you can handle. Try it on for size. Realize that you can. Get that solid in your body. Then go to the next one. Get that one solid in your body.

Its like dancing with you.  It’s coming back after all that time away, is that we are going to start ‘here’, and we just stayed there until you said it and I felt it, “we can try this next one”. Ok, now I’ve got that one, we can try the next one.

IAN: So I only have one more question. When people say “Oh I don’t have time for this. I have enough on my plate, I can’t add on meditation, or mantras or seeing a life coach or whatever” How do you respond to that?

ELLEN:  The way I respond is the way I respond to myself, because I’ve had to ask myself the same question. And that is “do I have time not to?”

IAN:  It’s flipping it on the head again.

ELLEN: It’s flipping it on the head again. I think that what a lot of us don’t realize is that we don’t make the time to invest in ourselves and all those things that have to be done are usually for other people. And then you burn out. If you’re always giving, giving, giving and you’re not taking in to take to replace that energy, you’ve got nothing left. So the first person that you have to take care of, and this is not selfish, it is absolutely being kind to yourself and taking that moment to inhale and to breathe in and to centre yourself and to be the best you can be in any given moment.

IAN: Because if you don’t take care of yourself then you can’t help anyone else.

ELLEN: Exactly right.

IAN: Awesome. Awesome. Thank you very much.

ELLEN: You’re very welcome.

IAN: It was great having you.

ELLEN: Thank you.

IAN: You can get in touch with Ellen Smith at 416-312-7446. I hope you guys enjoyed this. I hope it gave you some interesting food for thought. And I look forward to seeing you next time. Until next time. Happy Dancing!

ELLEN: Happy Dancing.