I read an article on addicted2salsa.com today and found that it meshed nicely with some of my own ideas on learning to dance.
I started out knowing nothing but swing dancing; it wasnt until recently, about 3 or 4 months ago, that I started getting into other styles of dance. I was invited to a social at a ballroom studio, where I now take Ballroom lessons. I learned the basics of about 6 or 7 new dances while I was at that party and since then have been working to learn more about them. Beyond just having fun learning and dancing these differnet styles, I’ve found that every new dance I learn helps me improve in what I already know.
A lot of what you learn in one dance can translate nicely into another dance. From my experience with swing, I was able to quickly pick up the basics of Chacha, Salsa, Rumba, Hustle, and other stationary dances. I knew how to follow when I was led through a turn, I knew how to set my feet going keep up with the beat, I knew how to dance the basics of these other dances well enough to have fun. Then, as I practiced and learned more, I started noticing the things I was learning in other dances. I would be on the dance floor, and during a Salsa or Chacha I would be brought into a cradle or sweatheart position, and I would recognize the lead from swing. I would learn a new move in Salsa or Hustle that was a move I had difficulty recognizing in Swing, but because of the slight difference in lead due to the different dance, I was able to respond to the move in that dance, and it allowed me to respond better to the move when I went back to swing. Dancing Salsa has greatly improved my ability to following elaborate arm locks and twists and turns that are performed in swing.
Dancing the traveling dances such as Foxtrot, Waltz, and Tango has given me insight into the use of the body to signal a lead. In swing, I was used to responding to the tension in the arm from Lindy Hop, but learning Waltz has giving me greater knowledge of how to respond to non-stationary movement, using the body to signal a turn to a new direction, and more. It has made me more aware of the space around me on the floor, and more trusting of my lead… dancing around the floor backwards is definitely a slightly scary experience at first!
A lot of people get set in the dance they like and don’t go out and try anything else. Many swing dancers I know aren’t willing to try something new. They found swing, they dance swing, they know swing, they like swing. They are happy to dance it. And that’s great, but you never know what you are missing out on, or what you could learn from dancing another style. I have definitley become a better follow, a smoother dancer, and a more stylistic dancer from my experiences with multiple forms of dancing. I think that no dancer should be so stuck to their own style that they are unwilling to try something new.
I encourage all swing dancers to go out and try ballroom. You will learn to have more control of your body, and become more aware of the space around you. You will learn new moves that can be integrated into swing, and new twists on moves you do every day. You will learn more about the interaction of your body with your partner… weight shifts, forward and backward movement… it will help with your Balboa 😉
And ballroom dancers, I encourage you to try swing! It’ll teach you to have some fun! I’ve danced swing with some ballroom dancers who maintain the strict, upright posture and form of ballroom… dancing swing in a swing setting, versus a ballroom setting, will cause you to loosen up a bit. From my experience, swing dancers tend to have better tension in their arms, which is helpful in the stationary ballroom dances. Their arm and hand leads are usually more pronounced, versus ballroom dancers with better body leads. Swing will also give you new ideas of styling to add to your dances.
In conclusion… open up, learn some new dances, and try and incorporate everything you learn into as many other dances as you can. And to all you swing dancers out there, remember that swing developed out of ballroom! There are more similarities than you are willing to admit 😉 You might be surprised that you can like something other than swing.