Let me tell you an embarrassing (at the time) story about the first time I went out Salsa dancing. I had been learning for a while at this point, but had always danced inside the studios I went to, and had gotten pretty comfortable in those environments. I was in my late 20’s and still pretty shy, but, I had some friends with me, and knew I could dance with them. As we walked in the venue the music was super-loud, there were lights everywhere, and great dancers were everywhere, to0. I thought, “Man, these guys are pretty good!”
Whenever we go out to the club, we always compare ourselves to the most awesome dancers in the club, right? Of course we do! They’re the ones that command the most attention! But those guys have been dancing for years! Nowadays when I go out dancing, occasionally people will shake my hand and say, “You’re awesome, I wish I could dance like you!” People buy me drinks! Girls come up to me insisting that I dance with them! Men ask me to dance with their girlfriends! It’s fantastic! It’s a dream come true! But I’ve been dancing for years! If we had goggles that told us the experience level of the dancers on the floor, we’d be a lot less down on ourselves for not being the best dancer in the club after having all of say, two weeks of experience under our belt.
Back to the story. The first thing I wanted to do was leave. The last thing I wanted to do was get out on the floor with these experts and look like a fool. That’s another thing. A lot of the time you feel like everyone’s looking at you. But virtually no one is! Of course you can’t help the way you feel, and neither could I! Sitting with my friends forced me to hide my instincts to bolt, and I consoled myself with the fact that I had learned a good number of moves, and had been practicing them, too. I can’t remember if I was asked or if I asked my friend to dance, but however it was, I ended up on the floor with a pretty girl in front of me. I started with my Basic step. So far, so good. Next I did an Underarm Turn. It was shaky, but I did it. Alright! And that was about it. I couldn’t remember my moves!
When you’re in a new environment, the only moves you’re going to remember are the ones that you learned first and therefore practiced most! In our classes we talk about the 4 stages of learning:
- Initial Use – When you first see a move, and you’re trying to do it. You don’t completely know if it’s right our wrong.
- Awkward Use – You know what you should be doing, but you’re fighting your body to make it happen.
- Conscious Use – You finally look good, and even feel good doing the move, but you still have to think about it.
- Natural Use – It’s muscle memory. Now you can talk and dance at the same time, and the move is permanent.
Don’t try to use your latest moves when you go out, unless they’re part of a sequence that you’ve done over and over again. Well, you can do whatever you want, just don’t expect it to be good, unless you’ve sequenced it. Girls don’t have control over WHEN they’ll do their moves since the man leads, but the rule is the same. If practice your moves in a sequence, you’re going to be a lighter and better dancer than the ladies who haven’t. Repeat after me: Sequences are the bridge between learning your moves, and being able to execute them out on the floor! Repetition is the mother of skill. Being able to execute your sequences backwards and forwards will make it so you remember what to do, and give you the ability to do it well!
I made my way through the rest of the dance, and the night went all right, and as I watched the other dancers on the floor, I pictured me up there, dancing with ease and confidence. I promised myself when I became a dance instructor to always remember my past experiences and use them to help teach others. That night was a big reason why we teach things the way we do here at The Dance Shack.