A 5-Day Dance Camp Taught Me Perseverance, Part Three

dance camp

Finally, we come to the end of my 5-Day Dance Camp adventure! For those of you who haven’t read the previous articles, you can find them here and here.

Day Four:

I wake up feeling energized after my morale-boosting discovery from the day before. Walking back on the floor and greeting fellow dancers like old friends, I spot Matt Auclair and a high level student dancing - of all things - a dub-stepped West Coast Swing, and making it look good.

It amazes me how every time I begin to develop a sense of pride in what I’ve accomplished, the universe puts someone in front of me who’s learned the techniques I’ve been sweating over, but half a lifetime ago. I refocus on my spinning practice.

dance camp

The aches in my body have virtually faded into the background, like a sleeping dragon threatening to wake at a moments notice. Fortunately, musicality class is next, so the adrenaline stays up. Unfortunately, Debbie Figueroa tells us it will be blues-themed. Crap.

It’s not that I don’t like blues, just that I’ve always found it hard to dance to it. Or so I think, until ‘Layla’ comes on, a song I know like the back of my hand. I quickly decide blues is actually the most awesome music to dance to, as long as you know it well. By the time we’re done, I’m borrowing my fiancé’s brace to soothe my complaining ankle.

At times, I step back and simply marvel at how happy I am to be here. I laugh at Matt’s jokes, listen to Debbie’s tidbits of wisdom, and dance like crazy when Cameo tells us to. My mind is too tired to add anything that would destroy these beautiful moments.

dance camp

Day Five:

Everyone’s a bit quieter, perhaps conserving energy for the long drive home that night. There’s an unspoken ‘goodbye’ with each partner switch. Bittersweet emotions float through the room.

Around the middle of the day, my energy levels crash, hard. Numerous times I have to bite back defensive retorts to well-meant suggestions. I struggle to find my centre. This isn’t what I want my last memories at camp to be.

dance camp

After dinner, I take an emergency nap in the lounge. Nearby, the instructors eat at the table. As they talk, something occurs to me: They’re just as tired as we are, in fact probably more so. If they can rally themselves to keep giving their best, surely I can too.

I know my reserves are holding when Matt actually finds something to compliment in my musicality. ‘I’ve been yelling at this guy all weekend about getting too excited with his styling’ he announced to the class. ‘But you know what? This level of energy actually works here.’

As the evening wraps up, I hear one of the instructors talking to a couple of newcomers. ‘I want you to know that a lot of beginners feel intimidated here, and I’m glad you stuck it out’, they say, before adding; ‘don’t worry - there’s plenty of things I suck at too.’

In a flash, I realize I’ve said much the same to my own students. Even this high-level instructor, winner of countless awards, recognized they weren’t the best at everything - what made them champions is that they persevered, pushing through their limits instead of being stopped by them.

dance camp

‘The challenges really don’t go away’ I reflect, as we stagger into the car and drive out of Ancaster. ‘But our ability to deal with them gets stronger, and that determines how far we go.’

And so, to those readers who’ve faced some hardships, in dancing and in life, but made the choice to keep going anyway, I applaud you: You share something in common with the greatest champion dancers in the world.

dance camp

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

A 5-Day Dance Camp Taught Me Perseverance, Part Two

dance camp

If you have been following from last time, I was relating my experiences at the West Coast Swing Dance Camp in Ancaster, Ontario - 5 gruelling days that taught me a lot about what drives us, whether we’ve been dancing for 10 months or 10 years.

The first two days of camp were challenging, but I knew from past experience that the worst - and best - were still yet to come.

Day Three:

I’m getting better at just ignoring my complaining feet now, but my exhausted mind is another story. I switch from pants to shorts, hoping the cooler temperatures will help keep me awake.

dance camp

At the next coached practice, Matt stops me yet again over my styling. ‘You have to tone it down, especially in your upper body’ he says. I’m trying, but my weary body can’t seem to find the balance between too much styling and too little.

I keep reminding myself this is part of the process, thinking of how last year I was so frustrated I wanted to quit on the spot, and how glad I was when I stuck it out instead. The breakthrough is coming… Just a little longer…

It comes during a styling class with Cameo Cross, in which only the leaders can hear the music played through their earplugs, while the follower’s try to emulate the style of the song based on what their leader does. Barely 10 seconds into the first song, Cameo tears into me.

dance camp

‘You aren’t paying any attention to what she’s doing’, she points out. ‘You’re just focusing on your own moves.’

I blinked. ‘What?’

‘You have to watch your partner more, let them experiment with what they think is happening, and then compliment them with your own movement. If you just try to show them, the connection becomes dead at the wrist.’

Gradually the implications of what she is telling me sinks in - I was so used to ballroom dancing, where the leader initiates most of the movement, I’d forgotten that my partner has equal input.

dance camp

The next coached practice is a revelation: Not only can I create great moments with my partner, many of the best styling moments have nothing to do with me! I simply respond to what my partners do, rather than ‘forcing’ my own moves. Many of them congratulate me on passing a major checkpoint in my dancing.

Like most of us, I’d passed through a rough patch in my dancing, but had made it to a new level through the power of perseverance. I don’t have any special talents in this regard; I simply kept pushing until something gave. And so can you.

Next time, I wrap up with my final and most important discoveries about how important perseverance is, and how it’s something we all share regardless of our ability level.

dance camp

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

5 Easy Tricks to Learn Dance Timing

dance timing

In the past, I’ve tried to explain how to improve dance timing in a variety of ways. In return, I’ve frequently met with frustration. I recall one reader brusquely replying, ‘I’m not a music major.’

I needed something simpler, some ideas that worked for anyone. And so, after hours of research, I’m finally ready with five new exercises. I recently used these in a group class, and they worked great! I hope they work for you too.

dance timing

1. Dance to your pulse.

We have a natural rhythm that goes on inside us all the time. In fact, some say this is why we like music in the first place! Even if the simplest music leaves you frustrated, your pulse will never let you down.

  1. Find a quiet space.
  2. Find your pulse. If you’re not sure how, watch the video below.
  3. Now, try snapping your fingers, tapping your foot, nodding your head, etc. to your pulse. Try to find something that still allows you to feel your pulse.

2. Use music with a clear beat.

Once you can move to your pulse, it’s time to find music with a clear beat you can switch over to. I’ve included a few of my favourites below:


Continue to tap, nod, or march to the timing you hear, whichever is easiest. Not sure what the beat is? I explain it here.

3. Count the beat.

Here’s a crazy statistic: Counting aloud gets dance timing into our bones three times faster than just stepping to the beat. Why? First, because we focus on saying the beat, and then we hear ourselves say it. How’s that for efficient learning?

Using your pulse, or one of the songs above, start counting from the first beat you hear (you might want to start the song a few times to make sure you’ve caught the first one). Count up to 8, then start over.

Next, try tapping or matching in place to your vocal count - without losing track of the beat in the music. This helps you connect what you hear to a movement in your body.

dance timing

4. Count the timing.

Most instructors don’t teach dance timing by the beat, but by the rhythm of the dance they are teaching. For instance, Rumba timing is ‘slow-quick-quick’.

We can connect the timing of the dance to the beat of the music by counting one beat as a quick, and two beats as a slow. On a chart, it would look like this:

Beat count 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Timing (Rumba) S Q Q S Q Q

Try to find the rumba timing in the music or your pulse. Remember that for a slow, there will be one beat where you do nothing, because it’s included in the slower movement. You can also use your 8-counts, pausing on count ‘2’ and ‘6’ (see the chart above).

Finally, you can actually try dancing a rumba box! If you’re not sure what that is, see below (ignore all that talk about hip action):

5. Finding the ‘1’.

After all you’ve accomplished, consider this a bonus round to prepare you for the next level.

The ‘1’ is the most important beat in dance timing, because it’s where the biggest emphasis in the music is. If you can’t find this however, the first beat of the songs above all start on the ‘1’.

Return to the 8-count as before. Now, on the ‘1’ add an extra action, like clapping your hands or stamping your feet.

When you feel inspired, try dancing the rumba box again, clapping or snapping on the ‘1’ as you go. Don’t forget to say the count loud and clear! With every step, you are tying the beat to your voice, and your voice to your dance timing. Good luck!

dance timing

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

What Dance Techniques Should I Learn First?

Learning dance, especially ballroom dancing, can feel like drinking from the firehose at first. Every new skill you master, just seems to reveal three more dance techniques that take twice as long to develop. How do you know what to focus on first?

Fortunately, there IS a fairly specific order to building your expertise. When learned in the correct order, each of the dance techniques you learn preps you for the next one.

In reality, you’ll sometimes find you still need to work on several techniques at once. And really, that’s a good thing: who wants to spend hours perfecting their footwork before they even touch a partner’s hand?

dance techniques

The thing to remember is that until you can do it without thought, focus on the simplest techniques first. This gives your dancing reliability and consistency, and that’s what will keep your partners coming back for more.

This article is great if you are making a practice plan for your dancing, want to make the most of your time (and money) spent on lessons, or even are thinking about teaching yourself. Sound like you? Then let’s get started!

A VERY General Summary of Ballroom Dance Techniques

Before we get properly ‘stuck in’, it helps to know that you can group everything you learn in ballroom dancing under these very general headers:

  1. Footwork
  2. Timing
  3. Leading/Following
  4. Musical Expression

It’s easier to see here, how each group of dance techniques makes future groups easier to learn. You obviously can't develop your musicality if you haven't learned to step on time, or lead your partner without knowing your footwork.

dance techniques
Okay, we're connected! Now what??

Now that you’ve a general understanding of how all ballroom dancers progress, it’s time to get specific! What are the common dance techniques we learn, and why should we learn them in this order?

1. Foot positions

Why it’s first: Like the bottom layer of a wedding cake, we need to build our technique from the ground up. That means learning the basic patterns of where you place your feet, so you can eventually create cool combinations with your partner.

2. Moving to the beat

Why it’s next: Once you know where to place our feet, it’s time to think about when you place them. This is when dancers first learn about quicks and slows, and stepping on the beat (more on that here).

dance techniques

3. Partner connection

Why it’s next: At this point, you’re starting to develop more confidence in your own ability to travel through some patterns to music. Like the old saying about loving yourself first, only now are you ready to connect with your partner.

This is means delving into the concepts of frame and pressure, which is how your arms are positioned in relation to your partner, as well as where and how much you ‘push’ against your partner’s frame.

dancing techniquesIn everyday terms, frame and pressure create ‘room’ for you to dance without stepping on each other.

4. Floorcraft

Why it’s next: You could actually go out dancing at this point, but without floorcraft, you might find it frustrating, and you wouldn’t be the only one! Floorcraft, simply put, is the ability to progress safely around the floor while avoiding other dancers.

dance techniques
Back into us, and I'll spit in your eye.

For instance, you might practice avoiding chairs placed in your way while practicing, or increasing pressure on your partner’s back to prevent a collision. Leaders learn to plan ahead, so they can dance for longer periods without getting confused.

5. Posture

Why it’s next: You may be functional on the dance floor, but it’s hardly a compliment to be called ‘functional’, is it? Correct posture means your body is well balanced, which allows you to handle more challenging patterns. And you’ll look better too!

At this stage, you also learn how to tighten up your body, so it moves like a single unit. Imagine trying to lift a wooden board vs a bag of sand of equal weight. Which is easier? The board, because it doesn’t change shape when it’s moved. Be like a board.

dance techniques

6. Moving from the centre

Why it’s next: As your posture improves, you become more able to connect your centre of gravity, located around the solar plexus, to your partner. Most dancers initially connect through their arms and chest, causing them to lean forward and sometimes lose balance.

Putting emphasis on leading and following through the centre will do wonders for your balance, because it will make your body move like a wall, upright and balanced with every step.

7. Turning

Why it’s next: Sure, you’ve probably done a few turns by now, but if you want to get into more advanced and multi-turns, you’ll need that core connection you just learned! That ‘upright and balanced’ movement is your ticket to spinning without falling over.

dance techniques

8. Smoother movement

Why it’s next: This is interchangeable with turning, but smoother footwork marks the point where you finally start to advance into more musical dancing. Smoother movement can mean footwork, like heel or ball leads, or body movement, like Latin hip action, or rise and fall.

At this point, you can drill further into any of the dance techniques we’ve talked about, so prioritizing becomes less important. Knowing these building blocks of ballroom dance technique will help you accelerate your learning, with any ballroom dance you choose.

dance techniques

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when Ian is available for lessons.

3 Ways Slow Dancing Helps With Fast Dancing

Slow dancing

We get it - it’s fun to dance fast. When you watch performers cutting a rug dancing salsa, or rocking out to a jive, it seems the ones who catch the eye are those who can pull out the most crazy moves in the shortest amount of time. And don’t get me wrong, those are often the best dancers. What they don’t show you however, is how many hours they spent dancing each step. Much. More. Slowly. Because as it happens, there’s a lot that slow dancing can teach you about dancing fast.

1. Slow dancing teaches you patience.

Most dancers hate waiting. They rush on to the next step before they’ve completed the previous one, and before they know it, dancing fast doesn’t look or feel like fun anymore… It feels like work.

Slow dancing

Those awesome fast dancers aren’t just awesome because of their moves-per-minute. They’re awesome because they can pull off those fast moves and make it look easy. Learning to dance slowly teaches you to find the stillness between the movements, so it’s not just crazy energy.

2. Slow dancing gives you greater balance.

What’s the difference between a balanced dancer, vs a balancing one? The balanced dancer can pause on any movement without falling over, while the balancing dancer must continue moving, or face-plant.

Slow dancing

If you can slow dance without losing your balance, it becomes a lot easier to control your momentum, which means you can change direction much faster than you could before. Plus, who wants a dance where they’re constantly about to fall over?

3. Slow dancing gives you greater precision

When we dance slowly, we have a lot more time to focus on the details of movement that change us from ‘someone who’s trying to dance’ to ‘a dancer’. These details in a fast dance are like the air we breathe: We may not be aware of it when it’s there, but we are very aware when it’s gone.

Slow dancing

In fact, the metaphor works for all three principles. Those fast dancers we love so much would look a lot less awesome if they didn’t dance with patience, balance, and precision. They learned the magic of slow dancing - and you can too.

Next week, we’ll discuss strategies to slow down your dancing, so you can learn like the dancing greats you admire. Until then!

The Les Brown Approach To Your Dancing Dreams

Dancing Dreams

When working on our dancing dreams, a time always comes - usually on a day when both body and mind are feeling bruised - when we wonder if we aren’t kidding ourselves. For many people, this is all it takes for them to give up and walk away. For Les Brown, that’s just another opportunity for growth.

Les Brown was born in an abandoned building in a low-income area of Miami, Florida. In school, he was classified as ‘educable mentally retarded’. And yet, he has since gone on to become a motivational speaker, author, radio DJ, television host, and politician. The following 5 principles he shared in countless speeches, as a way to find the strength to achieve your goals - no matter what.

1. It’s Possible.

After a rough week, month, or year of ballroom dancing, sometimes a voice inside says ‘c’mon, get real. There’s no way you’re getting there.’ When this happens, remind yourself that it’s possible. Accepting possibility keeps us moving forward, when we would otherwise feel helpless and defeated; it reminds us that we don’t know our true limits or what the circumstances of life will bring us.

And for those of you who don’t believe it’s possible, let me tell you about two women who didn’t accept that for an answer. The first had multiple sclerosis in her left ankle. The second was making minimum wage working at a theatre. Not only did they find the means to take lessons, I had the pleasure of performing with them both. It’s possible.

Dancing Dreams
A New Definition of Dance Merry Lynn Morris Artistic Director October 11-17 2015

It’s Necessary.

Most people tend to steer clear of challenges in their life. Either through fear of failure (‘what if things don’t work out?’), or of success (‘what if they do and I can’t handle it?’), they prefer to merely dabble in their dreams, without diving right in. But here’s what’s necessary: To achieve your dancing dreams, you will need to devote considerable time and energy towards lessons and practice. Furthermore, it will send you into unfamiliar territory from time to time. For example, it may be scary to perform, but few things can motivate you to improve faster than accountability to your audience.

Dancing Dreams

It’s You

When the going gets tough, another common temptation is to start blaming your circumstances: ‘I never have enough time, I can never focus, and anyway I hurt my toe dancing last week. I’ll never be a great dancer at this rate.’ But ultimately, it’s not your circumstances that determine whether you succeed or fail: It’s you. While it’s not productive to focus on things you can’t change, there’s always things you can do to move closer to your dancing dreams. For example, the person above might a) change their lesson time, b) read an article on improving their focus, and c) treat the injury as an opportunity to unlearn a bad habit!

Dancing Dreams

It’s Hard.

Accepting that it’s hard, and being okay with that, is immensely important in approaching your dancing dreams with determination and good humour. So if you botch that pattern, don’t drain your energy further by bemoaning the fact or berating yourself for not having prepared better; smile at yourself for your ‘unexpected creativity’, and do it again!

Dancing Dreams

It’s Worth It.

What it all comes back to in the end is that having your dancing dreams must be worth it for you. Ask yourself: Why do I want to dance? Then, find an answer that moves and motivates you. Don’t buy into other people’s reasons - find the answer that specific to you, down to the precise wording. Then, type it up and paste it somewhere you can see it every day. Trust it! In time, it will lift you to unimagined heights.

Dancing Dreams

Audio books by Les Brown

Essential Ballroom Dancewear for Any Event

ballroom dancewear

Whether you’re psyching yourself up for your first lesson, hitting up the local dance hall, or making your checklist for an upcoming competition, bringing the appropriate ballroom dancewear is essential. After all, you don’t want to be the only one in a business suit, do you? Or the only one who forgot to bring a towel?

1. Dance Shoes!

Anyone planning on taking lessons longer than a couple of weeks definitely needs to invest in this ballroom dancewear. Dance shoes are heeled, with suede leather soles, allowing you to make turns without sticking to the floor and wrenching your knee. Shoes for smooth/standard have a lower heel (1-2”) and a closed toe. Shoes for Latin/rhythm dancing have a higher heel (2-3”) and an open toe. Men’s heels are shorter than women’s.

Ballroom Dancewear
Higher-end shoes are often split-soled as well, giving you greater flexibility.

2. Comfortable, breathable clothing

No different from any workout, your ballroom dancewear should be light, and allow unrestricted movement without catching on anything. While you can dress in yoga pants and a tee shirt for a private lesson, you might want something a bit more smart or business casual when in a group class, or out on the town.

3. Deodorant and breath fresheners

An absolute must - would you want to dance closely to someone who smelled bad?

Ballroom Dancewear
Pro Tip: chewing mint leaves or parsley is a great natural way to cut bad breath.

4. Water bottle

Don’t be fooled - you can work up quite a sweat in a class, even more so at a Latin club. If you don’t want to drink out of a bathroom tap or pay the exorbitant rates charged by club management, smuggle in a bottle hidden in the rest of your ballroom dancewear.

5. A snack

If you’re like me, prolonged physical activity causes you to get major food cravings. In my case, I actually get dizziness and muscle weakness if I ignore this! For an immediate energy boost, bring something with natural sugars, like fruit in a ziplock bag.

6. A Towel

See number 4: Unless you’re just as bad, a sweaty dance partner is NOT a tempting prospect. Stick it in your bag during dances, or just stuff half of it into the back of your pants pocket.

ballroom dancewear
It's also good for making a fashion statement.

‘Hang on’ you say, ‘there’s WAY more stuff I bring when I dance!’ And that’s fine too; these are the bare essentials for ballroom dancewear you would take to any event. Next week, we’ll get into a more comprehensive list for more experienced dancers, based on the event you’re preparing for. See you then!

MORE Roadblocks to Better Balance

better balance

I teach a lot of students every year, each one presenting me with the different challenges that make teaching them so interesting. And yet, whether they fall out of turns or over-shape on a tango corte, it’s amazing how many of their issues come from a since source: lack of balance. In fact, I would argue that if we all worked to gain better balance, over 90% of our challenges in ballroom dance would become non-issues.

better balance

That might seem like a crazy-high statistic, but it makes sense when you consider that better balance is a matter of improving your body awareness and coordination. And if there’s anything ballroom dance asks of you, it’s to become ever more familiar with your body. The 3 common challenges below are just indicators of where you’ve accidentally led your body astray - here’s how to get them back on track.

Problem 4: Falling Out of Turns

What is it: It seems you can never stay over your spinning foot, and you always have to step out of the turn early, or risk falling on your butt. And pretty soon, you’re too dizzy to see straight anyway.

better balance

What to do: Try an easier turn, or return to your walking exercise, making sure your weight settles over the ball of your foot. If you tend to lose your balance on bigger turns only, you may need to turn more from your hips, which are located near your centre of gravity. For better balance, use your abdominals to rotate your hips, letting them ‘pull’ your body through the turn.

Problem 5: Top-heavy on the Rise and Fall

What is it: You can’t seem to lift without toppling over. A flat-footed step is fine, but once the heels leave the floor it feels like you’re trying to dance on ball bearings.

better balance
Don't try this at home, or anywhere.

What to do: Better balance on the dance floor requires enough muscle tension to keep the body from tipping over on the rise. Increase your tension by focusing on pushing the ground downwards, rather than pushing yourself up. Remember that the rise should happen gradually, as through you were on an escalator - be watchful for rising too quickly or early.

Problem 6: Too much tension!

What is it: You feel stiff, and awkward. Your steps and turns are jerky, and this throws you off your centre.

What to do: Relax! Take a deep breath, and let your muscles loosen up. Some muscle tension is good, but too much prevents your body from making smaller adjustments to stay upright and absorb weight changes. This is very common for many dancers, so don’t worry if it takes a while to find the right level of tension.

better balance

Roadblocks in Your Dance Balance Training

balance training

During your balance training exercises, you will inevitably encounter periods of ‘balance block’, where you could swear you’ve ticked all the boxes, yet you’re still wobbly as a newborn kitten.

balance training
Any excuse to have a kitten picture is a GOOD excuse.

Treat these roadblocks as tests, making sure you are really committed to your ballroom balance training. In the end, you’ll always find something that was missing, accelerating your body control and awareness. To speed you along however, these are some common causes of balance block you may encounter.

Problem 1: The Wobbly Foot

What is it: Every step, or balancing on one foot, feels like you’re walking on ball bearings. You always feel like your foot is about to collapse inward or outward.

What to do: First, try again with lower or no heels - it’s possible you don’t yet have the strength to balance yourself in the heels you like to dance in. Make sure your weight settles on the front part of the foot, not back towards the heel.
If your balance training continues to suffer, try walking directly towards a mirror or a camera, and watch your ankles for signs of folding inward or outward as you step. If your ankle bends, focus on stepping down the centre of your foot, pushing through your second and third toes. Often we pick up little structural imbalances, caused by past injuries, that can affect our gait and balance. Check in with a paediatrician or a sports massage therapist to find and correct the imbalance.

balance training

Problem 2: The Tack to the Side

What is it: It’s like one side of your body is weighted, pulling you over. When you lose balance, you always fall in the same direction, and when you walk, you may curve in that direction too.

What to do: Scar tissue or tight muscles in our back and chest can pull our spine slightly towards them, causing us to lean in that direction. This is especially common with people who use one side of their body a lot, like rowers or baseball players. You can usually correct the problem by stretching out the tight muscles, or exercising the opposite side of your body.

balance training
Or, y'know, just stop drinking before practice.

Problem 3: The Overbalanced Step

What is it: The biggest hurtle in your balance training is stopping your movement; you always feel like you are falling forwards or backwards, and have to catch yourself. You dance partners may complain of being pulled or pushed off balance.

What to do: The strength of your push-off should be just enough for your body to cover the length of your stride. So if you are falling forwards or backwards, it most likely means you are applying too much or not enough strength to get you there. Without leaning or changing the length of your stride, focus on changing the power of your push off, aiming to settle your weight over the centre of the ball of your foot.

balance training
Mel Gibson said it best.

Three down, three to go! Next week, we’ll look at correcting issues with turns, rising and falling, and when your muscles can actually work against your balance training. Stay tuned!

More Dance Exercises for Balance

Ready for more punishment? Today, we look at three new dance exercises that improve your balance on turns and rise and fall, so you can handle the more complicated dance maneuvers with style.

4. The Turning Exercise

Basic: Step forward onto the ball of your foot, and without losing momentum, slightly twist your hips to turn 1/8 in the direction of the foot you stepped with - leftward for the left foot, for instance. Try again if you can’t stay balanced on the LF at the end. Repeat on the other foot, and gradually increase your turn by increments of 1/8.
Advanced: Continue to increase how much you can turn, eventually seeing if you can pull off multiple turns in a row. Try starting a turn by stepping backwards, turning rightwards when stepping with the LF, and vice versa (WARNING: this will be a lot harder!)

Pretty close, actually.

5. The Rise and Fall Exercise

Basic: This is a great exercise for building for dance balance for ballroom dances with rise and fall, like waltz. Standing with feet together, 1) slowly elevate yourself onto the balls of both feet, 2) hold, 3) slowly lower until your heels touch the ground, 4) continue lowering by gently bending the knees, and 5) slowly straighten the knees to return to standing position. Complete each step over a slow 3-count.
Advanced: Return to your walking exercise, but add a slow rise over three steps, lowering at the end of step three, and repeating. Steps two and three would be taken on the balls of the feet.

dance exercises

6. The Pivoting Exercise

Basic: This is similar to the turning exercise from before, but every turn will be a half turn. Stepping forward with either foot, twist the hips to turn in the direction of the foot you stepped on. Hold the opposite foot behind you without weight, so it traces a semi-circle on the floor. Finish on the same foot you started the turn with, and hold for a moment to make sure you are balanced. Now, step back on to the ball of the back foot, and make another half turn in the same direction, holding the other foot in front of your body. Repeat.
Advanced: Gradually increase the speed of the turns, but continue to check that you can stop on either foot without falling out of the turn.

Try and spend at least an hour a week on these and the previous dance exercises, and watch your balance and control steadily improve. Next week, we’ll wrap up the series on balance with some troubleshooting tips to make the most out of your dance exercises. Happy holidays!

dance exercises Do you have your own favourite dance exercises? Spread the word!


dance exercises