Just like learning a sport, skill or profession, you will go through learning phases. It pays to be patient with your partner and yourself while they go through their own learning curve. Students who take private and group lessons as well as participate in social dances or practice spend less time going through each phase. They tend to enjoy their dancing much sooner.
Everyone will go through these four stages of learning!
INTRODUCTION: When you are a new dance student you may feel over-whelmed by the amount of material introduced. Practice and repetition will resolve this. If you stick with it, you will move through the curve of learning quickly. When advanced dancers learn new material they go through these phases too!
Initial introduction of foot work or “patterns” are the start of the foundation you need to build the rest of your dancing such as; rhythm, lead/follow, style/technique and variety. The steps may feel “mechanical” at this phase since you’re concentrating on footwork.
AKWARD USE: You can do the steps but you may feel clumsy and self conscious. The only way to resolve this phase is to practice. During this initial practice time you will need to keep “counting” out loud (or to yourself). Counting helps keep your undivided attention on what you are doing until the step and timing become automatic. You will notice that when a stray thought flits across your mind, you tend to lose your step or count. Count with your partner, avoid having a conversation while dancing or thinking about the events of the day, etc. will help you keep your concentration.
CONSCIOUS USE: Your dancing may start to look pretty good at this stage. You are able to perform the steps in a mechanical way that feels a little more automatic even though you still have to consciously think about each step.
You may be tempted at this stage to add more and more dance steps. This is a great time to “fine tune” what you have learned by concentrating on your frame as well as the style and technique. As an experienced teacher and dancer, I personally prefer dancing with a partner who has fewer steps but who has taken the time to learn to lead them well, they dance with the rhythm of the music and express the style or personality of the dance as well as having good posture and frame. Quality vs. quantity….
MASTERY: When you have reached the unconscious or automatic use stage you don’t have to think about the step. You may even be able to dance and talk at the same time and are more likely to hear the music, keep the rhythm and concentrate on other details such as style and technique. Once you have the foundation and understand the basic elements of dancing you will learn new material with less time spent in each of the four phases.
Try not to be intimidated!
Please don’t be intimidated by advanced dancers, they had to learn the basics at one time and most of them are very encouraging and supportive if you take time to get to know them! Most beginners have a mistaken idea that more experienced dancers do not want to dance with them. They want you to keep dancing and improving too so we all have more people to dance with!!!!