Tag Archives: comfort zone

The Secret Step Between Dance Class and the Dance Floor!

27 Aug

Phase 1: Collect Underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit

It’s that simple, right? You know where to start and you know where you want to end up! So getting from Phase 1 to Phase 3 should be a walk in the park…

…not without Phase 2, buddy.

You need to know “HOW”!
If you’re like me (and I’m not so odd that there’s no one out there that can relate) then the following scenario will be very familiar:

You go to dance class, excited and filled with the desire to learn

You learn the new pattern/technique and have it nailed by the end of class… Yippee!

You go out on the weekend dying to bust out your new move

You step out on the dance floor and suddenly your mind goes blank

How did it even start? Did I really go to that class? Are those my feet?

And yet another sweet move is thrown into the ever expanding “Could have been great” junk-pile in the dark recesses of your mind, never to be used again.

This is probably my most common face on the dance-floor!

This is probably my most common face on the dance-floor!

Stupid Brain
Truth be told, we can’t blame all of our “salsa” forgetfulness on our brains or on the dance class itself. It’s become my catchphrase at this point and it still holds true “You learn the moves in class but you learn to dance on the dance-floor”.

There is however an often forgotten or ignored step in between that most people should really consider incorporating into their salsa development…

Practice at Home!
I know from my own experience that I simply cannot remember a new move or technique after a single dance class. I just can’t. I need to practice that move until it becomes automatic, until muscle memory takes over and I no longer need to rely on my “stupid brain” to “think” about what I need to do next.

There is only one way to save a movement to muscle memory and that, my dancing friends, is repetition. The amount of repetition probably varies from person to person but I’d wager that very few individuals can memorize a move from the limited amount of times you repeat it in a dance class. To those of you who can, congratulations… I hate you!

So what’s to be done? It’s rather simple really: Find yourself a partner willing to join you and practice at home.

Home Sweet Home
There are a few advantages to practicing at home that you will not find anywhere else:

  • Home is comfortable and safe and no one else can see you making mistakes
  • You can practice at your own pace, not having to worry about keeping up with other people in a class
  • You can focus on the parts of a move that you find particularly tricky
  • You can dance like an absolute imbecile and no-one will ever know
  • You can review videos you’ve taken from class to help you work on your technique
  • You can play music you like at a pace your comfortable with (building from slower to faster)
  • You can eat a burger or a pizza or an ice-cream sundae while practicing (as long as you share with your partner)
  • You can wear whatever you want (or don’t want). Superman pijamas… Hell Yeah (once again, as long as your partner is cool with it)
If this makes you feel comfortable while dancing... go with it. I have a pair myself!

If this makes you feel comfortable while dancing… go with it. I have a pair myself!

The Importance of Comfort
I regularly talk about how important it is to get out of your comfort zone in order to improve (at anything). I firmly believe it to be true but I also know that to be able to get out of our comfort zone, it has to exist in the first place. What I mean is that we should practice a move until it becomes comfortable to us. Until it becomes incorporated into our muscle memory. The best way to do that is to practice in a controlled, comfortable safe, environment with someone we trust (your dance partner needs to be a friend or at least someone you feel comfortable with).

Once you’ve nailed a move through repetition with one partner, once you’re comfortable, then it’s time to take it onto the dance-floor and step out of that comfort zone and practice it “in the wild”.

That middle step, that “Phase 2” of practicing yourself and committing a movement to muscle memory is what will help take full advantage of what you learn in class and transfer it to the dance-floor.

Keep dancing folks!

**********************************************************************
If you like this article please share it with your friends via the Facebook or Twitter buttons below and if you use Stumbleupon please give it a “Thumbs Up”. I’d really appreciate it 😉

Why You Need To Dance With Better Dancers

2 Jul
If you want to get better you've got to go "toe to toe" with the best!

If you want to get better you’ve got to go “toe to toe” with the best!

I’ve landed on my face, been punched in the ribs, kicked in the throat, I’ve even taken a shot to the “meat and two veg” (thank God for sports-cups). I’ve had my pale Irish arse handed to me on a plate numerous times and truth be told I’m grateful for every single experience.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not referring to some sick “Fight Club” version salsa where you not only have to keep on time with the music but you have to watch out for body blows from your partner and everyone else on the dance-floor. While the thought of becoming a salsa dancing version of “Tyler Durden” does fill me with intrigue, I can’t see the whole movement really taking off (nobody wants bloodstains on their favorite dancing waist-coat).

No, I’m taking about when I used to spar competitively in karate tournaments.

As a kid I was never big into team sports (I’m still not) which was “unusual” for my village in Ireland where both boys and girls were almost expected to play gaelic football, hurling and soccer (which all three of my brothers play). So in order to not feel left out in the trophy cabinet I contributed with trophies and medals I received for kicking people.

I appreciated sparring a lot; it’s a beautiful balance of speed, timing, accuracy of movement and adaptation to your partner. It’s no wonder then that a lot of salseros I know also have a background in martial-arts. The two disciplines compliment eahc other beautifully. in fact, there are very few differences between a well performed “kata” and a perfectly executed salsa combination.

Better Partners
I learned very early on in my karate career that if I really wanted to improve my sparring ability, I needed to spar with partners who were better than me. If I spent the majority of my time sparring with beginners I made very little improvement. However, if I went a few rounds with the bigger, more experienced guys in the club I made noticeable improvements in very little time.

I loved getting to spar with my coach and the older guys who knew what they were doing. As I said, I had my arse handed to me plenty of times but I knew that every time I stepped on the floor with them, being pushed to my limits, I was getting better and better.

That all came to fruition (sort of) about 3 years ago when I got my black belt and entered a regional karate tournament n southern Japan. In on of my fights I was put up against a guy who my coach “casually” mentioned just before I stepped on the floor , had won the world championship the year before.

I learned two very important things from that fight:

  1. Protective head-gear really does very little to soften a punch and…
  2. There is no better learning experience than going toe to toe with with your clear superior

“Your Salsa is Strong, Grasshopper”
This is something that salseros should take into account when they’re dancing.

When I was a salsa beginner I used to spend most of my time dancing with other beginners for 2 simple reasosns:

  • I knew the other beginners from the salsa classes and we were friends
  • The mere thought of dancing with the really advanced dancers made me break out in a cold sweat

This obviously meant that I wasn’t making much progress in the beginning!

My first salsa “break” came when I left Japan for a 10 day salsa vacation to the Philippines and Hong Kong. I improved hugely in those 10 days because I was both dancing much more regularly (thank you law of 10,000 hours) and I was dancing with seriously good dancers. It was a winning combination.

Dancing with dancers much better than yourself is one of the best ways to to up your salsa game… fast. You learn timing and rhythm, proper hand position and signaling, better body movement etc. Like I’ve always said before, the dance floor is where you really learn to dance!

Obviously a beginner girl dancing with an advanced guy is going to improve quicker than a beginner guy with an advanced girl. This is simply because the guy has more points to master and this is the main reason that women advance in salsa much faster than men.

The challenge of seeking better dancers
Going out and dancing with all the the great dancers that you see on the dance floor is much easier said than done, I know, but you don’t have to spend ALL your dances with the best in the club.

While you might not always find a partner as good as Tanja "La Alemana" you can surely find plenty of dancers better than yourself!

While you might not always find a partner as good as Tanja “La Alemana” you can surely find plenty of dancers better than yourself!

Obviously the more great dancers you dance with the better but even trying to have 3 or 4 such dances a night will go a long way to improving your game.

To do this originally, I set myself a challenge. My challenge was to find the woman that I considered to be the the best dancer in a club and ask her for a dance. I remember the first night of that challenge too.

I was in Fukuoka and my target was a beautiful salsa instructor from Colombia. I set my sights on her early in the night and it literally took me a whole night of heart palpitations, sweaty palms and aborted attempts (imagine me walking up to ask her and then suddenly doing a 180 as soon as I got close, numerous times) before I finally asked her to dance.

When we eventually did dance, it was awesome. She responded to everything I threw at her (which in all honesty wasn’t really that much) and I finished the encounter feeling like a million bucks and wondering why it had taken me so long to ask her to dance in the first place.

Get out of your Comfort Zone
I think that’s the problem! We stop ourselves from leaving our nice, safe comfort zones because we focus on all the things that could “possibly” go wrong! We scare ourselves into believing all these terrifying disasters can happen if we take little risks. That’s no way to live.

Stepping out of your comfort zone and dancing with people who are better than you is simply one of the best things you can do to get better.

You need to remember that we get better due to necessity, due to a stimulus that tells our bodies that we need to improve. Just as a guy who lifts weights heavier than he’s used to gets bigger and stronger or just like a child that is sent to school in a foreign country learns the language quickly, so to will your salsa improve when you dance with great dancers because IT NEEDS TO!

You need the stimulus of a challenge, of something more difficult than what you’re used to, to improve.

So on your next night out dancing, step out of your comfort zone and ask out a few of the best dancers you see and prepare to get a whole lot better.

Keep dancing folks.

**********************************************************************

Have you been working-out lately? Because you look spectacular 🙂 If you liked this article go ahead and share it with your friends via the Facebook or Twitter buttons below and if you use Stumbleupon please give it a “Thumbs Up”. I’d really appreciate it 😉

Fiona Uyema

Japanese Cookbook Author

ZoukSide Down - A journey with Brazilian Zouk

A personal blog aimed at contributing, and paying homage, to the most sensual, beautiful dance of Brazil.

SalsaPhD

A blog for my dance research on salsa.

Vocabat

Spanish as it hits my ears

SoraNews24

Bringing you yesterday's news from Japan and Asia, today.

Rhapsodies of the Barefooted Gypsy

Just another WordPress.com site

Carina Of Devon

Adventures of a family afloat

Salsera in the City

The musings of a salsa dancing obsessive

RebSolomon

Cycling: A Great Excuse to Eat More

Alicia en el País de las Maravillas

Las Maravillas del Mundo

Successify!

Create a Life That Matters!

Surfista Travels Philippines

The most fun, personalized & professional SURF CAMP in the Philippines!

Zacki Zacki Miyazaki - Sascha's Blog

宮崎在中、ドイツ出身のサシャのブログ

Raymond D. Murphy's Portfolio

My graphic design portfolio, displaying all of my work working in Tokyo

DMS Photograph

Dreams. Memories. Stories.

Oh what a world!

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

%d bloggers like this: