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Essential Components in Learning a New Dance

April 25, 2016 by Oren Pardes

Interested in learning a new dance or better dancing an old one? What is REALLY required?

Essential components in learning a new dance (that should be taught/learned/known FIRST):

  1. The rhythm(s) of the music, how to recognize it, what to listen for, and how to hear it.
    The music playing dictates what can – and “should” – be danced (when and how). Sometimes several dances may fit the same song – but each dance also has its own music. The speed/tempo of the music and instruments used often change what movements fit.
  2. Characteristic movements and mannerisms that distinguish the dance from others.
    Every dance has its own “rules”, movements, and/or ways of moving that make it distinct.
    What makes different dances recognizable and unique is less just what is done than how – affecting foot placement, knee and hip motion, arm, hand, head, and leg styling, and if steps or body movements are small, large, smooth, staccato, pulsing, bouncy, flat, or rise and fall.
  3. The physical orientation, relationship, and connection to partners (and others).
    If/when/how to dance individually, as a couple, or in a group – close together or apart – while traveling around the room, staying in one spot, in a circle, or along a a line/in a track. How partners hold each other and what other parts of the body touch where, when, and how. Posture and if/when/how partners lean toward or away from each other or stand straight up, how their weight is distributed, and where their body is in relation to their center of balance.

    • The center of balance is the sternum – NOT the navel. The abdomen is one’s “core”.
    • The hips and core provide power and propulsion – and are also where the lead should come from (NOT from hands, arms or chest) – but the center of balance is the sternum.
    • To lead, follow, and stay (or come back) together, partners should continually orient their sternums/torsos toward each other – and “spot’ (turns) with their nose rather than eyes.


LEAST needed in learning a new SOCIAL dance are choreographed Step and Turn Patterns – even when considered “basic” (or part of some school’s standardized syllabus). A dance should be able to be done in place (in a small space surrounded by others) with just weight changes rather than focus on the feet moving, turning/spinning, or doing any of the “steps” or “styling” many want to learn or teach before understanding what rhythm(s) they are trying to match in their movements and how do so with their partner (regardless of what is done). Steps, even the really “cool” ones, are WAY over-rated – and often not even necessary. Far more important in a SOCIAL dance is learning to connect in the moment with one’s partner and to the song playing.

If a class starts with or focuses on teaching patterns, BEWARE! Unless it is an “advanced” class, it’s possible the teacher may not really know what “matters” in that dance – or how to teach it. What do YOU think?

© 2016, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

Oren Pardes

Oren Pardes has written 22 post in this blog.


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