Monday, June 21, 2010

Dancing Tips

By Stanley McCalla, Fred Astaire Dance Board Member and Examiner

Hello there, I hope that you are all about to enjoy a dance lesson, or have had yours some time in the near past.

Last night, I was asked to teach an international Latin group class. The group of students (4 guys and 3 girls) had such a good time learning that I came out of that class with a great feeling of accomplishment.

One of the students approached me after the class and said: “Mr. McCalla, I really learned a lot today and I am very pleased how you communicated the information to us.” He went on to say, “I don’t know about the others but I appreciate how you explained things from the bottom up.”

Since you are probably curious about what the student was talking about, let me explain. The dance I was teaching was the International Latin Cha Cha. The students did not know that style very well at all, so I started with a series of exercises that would hopefully instill a strong foundation in them. These are exercises that you could practice yourself while reading this.

First, I had everyone standing around me in a circle. Second, I had them stand feet together in first position, toes turned out, the body erect, their spines straight, their shoulders down, the back of their necks pulled up, their sit bones hanging between their feet and with their body weight perched over the ball of their feet. They would move then to 2nd position, then to 3rd, then to 4th, then to 5th.

Thereafter, I taught them the lock step or triple cha cha, as you might know it, as a fourth, a fifth and a fourth step. Then I would link the right lock to the left lock followed by the right lock again, ending with a forward break step. I would do the same thing for the back locks and link the two patterns together. All the while doing these exercises, I would talk about foot pressure, strengthening and bending of the knees (when and how), rotation and settlement of the hips (when and how).

The next pattern and exercise I showed them was the basic chasse to a New Yorker or a crossover brake, as you might know it. The students would practice those slowly with my supervision, then they would do it by themselves to slow music, and then they would do it again partnering each other. They would then change partners practicing leading and following. At the end of the hour, the students were having fun, sweating and happy. To make it short, the students had learned some patterns of a new dance, practicing some of their learned foundation and technique in a fun and comprehensive way.

Obviously, I could not go into everything in detail with you today, but some of the technique including the posture, the foot position and the leg techniques mentioned above here could be very beneficial to you by practicing them. I recommend that you try them, but before you do so, please check with your expert teacher who will make sure that you practice correctly.
I hope I gave you some food for thought that should enhance your dancing quest. Until next time, keep your dancing feet moving to the beat!

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