Ballroom Dancing Man | Musical Timing … You Wench!

So at this point in my ballroom dancing journey, I am at a point where (as my instructor puts it), I can either plateau or go to really the next level. That is really a great sentiment and absolutely where I want to go. It’s funny though… where I am, I feel that things are going pretty well. I am proving myself as being one of the better more popular gentlemen in the studio, feel good about how I look when I dance, and confidence is (or was) at an all-time high.

But here we are going to the next level. Now, with Arthur Murray, that next level is progressing from Associate Bronze to Bronze level and Bronze level is no joke! Now, in order to progress, you have to “check out” to the next level. That includes being judged on the major figures in front of a senior instructor. I have been through this a number of times before so that part isn’t a problem, but for some reason, there has emerged something that is very troubling with the Cha Cha for any dancer … musical timing.

Now, you can be one of the worst dancers from a technique perspective. You can simply shuffle your feet… you can have the weakest of frames… you can look down at your feet the whole time… and still do better than the guy with the best form and technique, but can’t stay on time with the music. For the life of me, I don’t know why it is, but I have an idea. So the Cha Cha count goes 1..2..3.. 4 and 1 (Cha Cha Cha)… rinse and repeat. My instructor pointed me to the 1 beat and how I’m cutting it short (not giving it the full beat) and with a fast dance like Cha Cha, it’s very easy to get off time when you cut a beat short.

So here I am… listening to my playlist of Cha Cha music counting out every bloody “1″ I can. If I can’t figure this out, my dance career might be cut short too J.

Ballroom Dancing Man | First Choreography Performed

So in the previous article, Preparing first choreography … What?!?, I describe the process of preparing for the first choreography to be performed at a dance competition as a solo. Well, my wonderful instructor and I did perform this luscious Tango and I do have to say that it was one of the most rewarding (and terrifying) experiences I have encountered in my life. Now you have to understand that it wasn’t the kind of thing that I could mentally prepare all day and then perform. No, this was smack-dab in the middle of all the other dances we were dancing in the competition. So after performing all of our smooth dances (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot) as well as a good number of our rhythm dances, it was time.

I quickly retired to the changing room to put on my very fitted costume. The shirt was official competition style… buttons in the crotch and all. The pants were also competition style where they didn’t hide anything. So then I went back to the ballroom to wait for our time.

Once the time came, I took my position and my instructor took hers. I’ll be honest… once the music started, it’s really all a blur. I do know that I didn’t see any of the audience during it. I was so in character that and into the dance that I could help but have tunnel vision. It must have been good, though. The entire section from our studio were on their feet giving honest applause and recognition. One fellow dancer said that she actually cried. Now, for me it’s not about the awards or accolades. If I can actually move someone with my dancing then I know I’ve won. And now I’m hooked on performing choreography.

Shortly after the competition, I acquired more choreography (this time a Rumba).

Let’s see if I can pull that one off…

Ballroom Dancing Man – Male Dancer’s Body

OK so it’s been a good while since I’ve been back in here. I promise to post more since there’s so much that’s going on in my world of ballroom dancing. For this post, though, I wanted to discuss a phenomenon that happens to gentlemen that engage in ballroom dancing. So we’ve discussed the social and personal benefits of ballroom dance: better self confidence, better cardiovascular strength, and the sharper mind.

What I’ve noticed over the past few months is another remarkable value with ballroom dance: a chistled male ballroom dancer’s body. You’ve all seen what I’ve talked about. It’s the slender body that has rock-hard muscle. And gentlemen, this body does make women go a bit nuts.

So why does ballroom dance create such a physique? Well, if you think about it, you use muscles you would never ever use otherwise. I’m talking about every aspect of the core. Since it’s your spine that drives moving in ballroom rhythm and it’s the strength and consistency of the frame that drives ballroom smooth, a man’s body starts to strengthen these certain areas and the physique is born.

Then you go one step further. Especially in rhythm dancing, you start to isolate hip action, core and rib action, all while keeping your top line straight. This again works all of those muscles from the 6 pack to the obliques to every muscle in your back.

So gentlemen… as if you didn’t have enough reasons to get into ballroom dance… it will make you look fantastically sexy… and the ladies love that!

Ballroom Dancing Man – Preparing first choreography … What?!?

That’s right folks. I am preparing to do a solo with my crazy awesome instructor to choreography that we had developed for us by one of the Arthur Murray professional dancers. If you have been following this blog for any amount of time whatsoever, you will recognize that this is nothing short of a miracle. When I think of the fear I had when this dance journey began, it’s amazing the progress I’ve made and the self-confidence I have built to even be able to approach this as a possibility.

So how does this choreography thing, work, anyhow you may be asking. Well, the studio invites the pros in for coaching sessions and you can use that time for whatever you choose. Some use it for technique critique, others use it to fine tune choreography they’re currently working on, but by and large people use this time to craft new choreography for future solos. This is exactly what I used this time for (my wife did as well and got an amazing Rumba routine). My poison was a dramatic Tango. My instructor found some great music from Cirque du Soleil. Cirque du Soleil is a great place to start when you’re looking for music selection because this music is made for movement and has some very nice hard beats.

Since we had the music selected, the pro worked through her process, listening to the music and really getting the feel for what would look great within my abilities (ok, we stretched those abilities considerably but nothing I can’t handle). So, yes there’s a good amount of what I’ve learned already with a bit of pazazz thrown in, but there’s also a lot of what I term “true dancing” or at least steps that make me feel like a “true dancer”. There are moves that you would see on any dance show that graces our primetime television experience. So, effectively, taking this step is really the start to some hyperbolic growth.

As of now, we have made it about halfway through the choreography (45 seconds worth) and I have mixed feelings about the progress. Certain areas are going really well and others I’m struggling with. My instructor tells me to trust the process and she’s pleased with the progress. All-in-all, I’m very excited about this new part in the journey.

Stay tuned…

Ballroom Dancing Man | Leading By Example

Something pretty remarkable has happened with my dancing.

A little back story first.

I have been so freaked out by remembering routines, flubbing up technique, and just generally needing to become a better dancer that I have made it a point to go into the dance studio when classes/lessons aren’t in session and using the space for practicing. I have also bumped up my private lessons and group lesson attendance. All of this extra effort has caused me to gain a reputation around the studio as that dedicated student. It also has made me a better dancer, apparently. I know this because there is one student that has started to look up to me as an example of how to get better as a male dancer.

“What?!?”

This is pretty amazing. This person in question has the same dance instructor as me and she told me that my progress is causing him to work harder/try harder. If you are an avid reader of this blog, you will know that this is definitely a milestone for me. It’s also a crazy responsibility. I’ve made a point to take this guy under my wing, impart whatever knowledge I have, and generally give him as much support as I can offer.

An interesting side effect is also that I am now trying harder because of all this. Effectively, I don’t want to prove him wrong. I want him to continue to look to me as a model and example of what progress looks like. So I think that the two of us are going to work off of each other and just get better in the process.

I’ve said it before, but the social dynamics of ballroom dance is deep and complex. This is a new wrinkle in that dynamic. I am no longer the newbie that is just trying to get my steps right to music, but I am now an intermediate level dancer that is not only getting the attention of female dancers, but also new male dancers as well. This is all unfolding as I prepare for my next competition in October.

Let’s see the impact it makes…

Ballroom Dancing Man | What a summer!

So I guess I took the summer off from posting, but I am now back in full force. The past 3 months have seen amazing growth in my dancing. In that time, I have solidly positioned myself as one of the better male dancers in the studio. I know. If you’ve been following this blog at all, you will know that my dancing is riddled with anxiety and baggage from my past. There’s something about competing (and having a rock star solid instructor) that moves you past the anxiety and into a place of pride and conviction.

Over the summer, I participated in a friendly competition with another studio. Now, I’ve done this before, but I was only competing with my wife. There’s a comfort with that. Even though you are more exposed by dancing with a fellow amateur, there also isn’t the perceived judgment. I say perceived because after going through the experience, not only was there no expressed judgment, but going through something like that makes your dance relationship much stronger.
So I dance the majors (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Rumba, Cha Cha, and Swing) twice (once with my wife and once with my instructor). Then I danced a West Coast Swing and a Salsa with my instructor. Those last 2 I had never danced before.

So the last time I finished one of these Team Matches as they call them, I was energized. I told my instructor my ambition of wanting to be the best male dancer in the studio. This time around, I was even more energized. I told my instructor that in addition to those goals, I see a long exciting dance future with her whatever shape that takes. I think she was excited about that. I know I am. I guess at this point all this crazy stuff is becoming a true passion of mine. Crazy.
So, yes, what a summer! We’re preparing for a new Showcase in October so stay tuned for those updates.

Ballroom Dancing Man | How do I keep my shoulder back?

So I guess every dancer has that one thing that holds them back. For some, it’s maintaining head position. For others, it’s staying in time with the music. For me, it’s my damn right shoulder. In order to maintain proper frame, you need to do several things but keeping your shoulders back and down (also known as “locking your lats”), is critical to create the pocket of proper dance space. If this breaks down, then so does the pocket and the man’s movement encroaches on the woman’s and all communication of a proper frame is lost. If I could only master this one element, my whole dancing or level of dancing would change. My instructor has given me a number of exercises to work on this. I have done them every night, but I still seem to be having problems. It’s just when I’m focusing on the shoulder, I’m able to keep it back. The moment that I’m concentrating on footwork, timing, or style, the shoulder problem comes back.

Do any of you have any tips for me? Is it just that I need to continue with the exercises and muscle memory will take over?

Ballroom Dancing Man | Best height for a ballroom dancing man

So you have probably noticed that I talk about my height as a ballroom dancing man. A man’s height influences the length of his strides, the size of his lines, and ultimately, his presence on the dance floor. It’s a fact that taller men are noticed more on the dance floor if for no other reason than the fact that there’s more of them to watch. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword. Just as all of your successes are noticed, so are your failures.

So what is the ideal height for a man dancing ballroom? I would say in addition to the previous statement above, you want to complement your partner. You want your partner to naturally match you stride for stride. This makes for a much more symmetrical dance and uniformity. That’s not to say that partners with more of a height difference can’t be beautiful. My wife and I have about 8 inches between us (when she’s wearing her heels) and we dance beautifully. The height difference doesn’t make that big of a difference because we know each other and have danced with each other so long that she knows the strides I’m about to make and I know what I can give her.

Give me another partner, on the other hand, and all bets are off. Now, that does have a lot to do with me, admittedly. I just know that outside of my primary dance partner, my experience has been that if the skill level is comparable, dance partners closer to your height just feels better than those with more of a difference. You’ll notice I said skill level comparable. This is very important. I’ll take someone a foot shorter than me that can dance to someone exactly my height that cannot.

So take these few pointers and pick wisely, gentlemen. J

Ballroom Dancing Man | How to get your man to dance

I haven’t been dancing for that long, but I do like it. Now it hasn’t always been that way. I’ve fallen victim to the similar trappings that prevent men from getting on the dance floor: not wanting to look foolish, thinking it’s not a masculine thing to do, and just downright fear. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that it’s been quite a journey for me to get where I am. That said, I also have aspirations for competitive ballroom dance. So here are a few pointers on how to get a man to dance.

  1. Appeal to his male ego and let him know that other women are noticing him dance

    Let’s face it girls, yes, your man does want and need you to notice him and think he’s the best in your eyes. That said, any compliment coming from you has a certain bias attached to it. Either they’re trying to make you feel better or trying to steer your behavior in some way. When other women notice you (thus giving a derivative compliment), it means only 1 thing: you look good. Then the ego takes over and any man would then not only want to do more dancing, but may want to improve by taking dance classes with you.

     

  2. Appeal to his competitive and jealous tendencies

    Now this one’s a little bit more of a tightrope to walk but if done well, it can be quite effective. Let me first say, do not mention how other guys look so good when they dance. If you do that, you will crush whatever confidence he has and he might never dance again. Instead, just be the supportive girl you are and he will notice other men dancing. Then (and this only really works in a dance class setting where it’s expected other men will ask your lady to dance), when another man asks you to dance and he sees how much fun you’re having, he will feel really crappy at first, but then after he cools off his competitive spirit will take over and he will want to be better than this other guy (and all the other guys for that matter). You will then see a newfound dedication in him that you never saw before.

     

  3. Let your man know when they execute a dance step or song really well

    For this one to work, it has to be real. Partner dancing has so much communication that even if you were to tell him that he’s doing well but your body communicates that you’re still worried about him stepping on your feet, you’ll just lose credibility. But when you honestly and earnestly notice that he’s getting better, let him know. Moreover, when you breathe a sigh of relief when you switch partners and you get your man because he is much better than others, really let him know! I mentioned before about the Equity Theory of Dance where you grade yourself against others so any time you can compare your man against others in a positive way, it will go leagues to build him up to stick with dancing.

     

  4. Get involved with a dance group socially

    Bonding with your dance group either through organized functions or outside of the dance agenda, getting involved with a group socially is what will cement your man’s commitment to dance. Not only will he not want to be a bad dancer when he dances with other women in the group (thus making him want to practice more), but dance will take on a social circle meaning which is quite powerful. By having dance and dancing well tied to a positive social circle, he will put in the time to get to be a better dancer to maintain that social aspect.

     

  5. Tie dancing to sex

    OK, this one may be a tad controversial and do with it what you will, but if you want to change a man’s behavior in any aspect including dancing, tie that behavior to sex or a high probability of getting sex. Now, this isn’t a deal where if they will “bear dancing” that there’s sex in it later. No, that’s way too clinical and won’t persist in the long-run. Instead, he will notice if dancing (either in lessons or out on the town) makes you feel sexy and then when you get home you’re all charged up. Your man will associate those two activities and will want to dance not for the sex alone but because he will figure out that dancing makes him look good which, in turn, makes you want him.

     

     

    I hope this helps along the way. Just a few things I’ve picked up from a man’s point of view.

Male Ballroom Dancer Confessions | Grease is the word!

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the elements that makes the Arthur Murray program so successful with teaching you to dance is the encouragement to attend the parties. This is what’s closest to a real social dance experience where the guys ask the girls (sometimes vice versa) to dance and they play different music telling you which dance it is. I’ve talked about how these parties really have stressed me out in the beginning but I have learned to appreciate them for how they force you to learn to dance well.

Twice a year, our studio has a set of themed parties. You pay a little bit and they decorate up the dance room, cook some food, and give away prizes. At first, I looked at this concept a bit sideways since we already paid our group classes and we wondered whether or not it would be worth it to “sponsor” further. After experiencing the first one (Mambo themed), we realized it was a great concept, we got our money’s worth, and a neat way for the studio to raise more money (I’m under no misconception about the underlying business model at work here).

The second party was themed “Sock Hop”. So think swing, foxtrot, and Grease Lightning. Now one thing you need to know about me is I absolutely love Grease. When I was a kid, I must have watched it a hundred times and there was a time when I tried to impress a girl by dressing like Danny Zucko. <Yikes!>.

Needless to say, this party turned out to be a whole lot of fun. I dug out a fitted black t-shirt that I hadn’t worn in years (still fits, though), rolled up my jeans, and went to the party. Something interesting happened as soon as I got there. Although my costume idea wasn’t original, I did get an air of confidence about me. Women were approaching me to dance. I was approaching many women to dance. Even though I may not have had all the dance steps, I really didn’t care. I started to actually have fun.

Then the costume contest came. The line up all the people in costume and parade them around. They played “Grease Lightning” and then it was over. Granted, I’m certain I looked a bit foolish, but I started playing out my best Grease scene and dance moves. It was a big hit. The rest of the group were really encouraging me on and for a moment I felt, well, cool. Of course I saw the pictures later and maybe I wasn’t as cool as I was in my mind, but it was a whole lot of fun. And I won! Got a copy of Grease to boot.

I’ll have to put some thought into what real impact this had on my dancing, but I think socially I made a turn.