I remember having a conversation years ago with a salsa friend who was surprised I’d not been invited to join the performance group she was in. ‘Your dance technique is so much better than mine. I might be better on the performance side but my technique is sloppy compared to yours’.
We both had a similar background having danced since childhood although mine was mostly classical ballet trained while hers was more varied including many styles more dependent on performance and show than the training I’d had.
It got me thinking about what’s important in social dancing. The clue’s in the title – social – which indicates fun and meeting people, but there’s also a lot of people who’ve danced in the past and take up dancing again as an adult finding modern jive or salsa is a perfect dance style for them.
If you’ve got a natural ability for dance, good balance, and the ability to just let yourself go and dance freely, then technique probably doesn’t feature. But I think a good grounding in technique really helps someone progress and be a good dancer. The expression of the music can come later.
I compare dance technique to grammar and spelling in english. If you’ve got a strong technique and understanding as your basis, then you’ll always find modern jive (or any other dance) easier to learn than someone who hasn’t. It’s also obvious to others watching or partnering you if you’ve danced before. Lead and follow in partner dancing is different to solo dancing, but a good leader or follower needs some understanding and learning of technique to improve. With technique behind you, you can then just work on the performance and flourishes.
Even without specific dance training, it’s often those with sports training who tend to pick up dancing quickly. My theory is that dancers and sportsmen know their bodies and know how to isolate movement. Their brains can quickly taken in moves. Muscle memory is a big thing, but training your brain to pick up dance means it’s so much easier than someone who’s not trained in anything physical before.
Of course with modern jive it’s broken down so non-dancers can learn it and progress quickly. Modern jive isn’t about technique, it’s about everyone getting onto the dance floor and enjoying dance. Fun is certainly top of the agenda for most attending.
I really savoured my time as a taxi dancer. When beginners asked for help I could give them snippets of technique tips that would really help solve problems they were having without them being scared about having to learn technique. Those who were interested in technique were those who were interested in improving. They’re also the people who stuck around dancing for longer because they could see that improvement.
Credit needs to be given to social dancers because dancing isn’t just about moves, it’s about being a good lead or follower. That needs technique, and sometime modern jivers do have technique. Maybe technique should be taught in a fun way and recognised by beginners that it usually means improvement. And it isn’t always scary to learn.
Let me know
What are your thoughts? Are you one who loves to improve technique, or are you happy to focus solely on enjoyment? Let me know in the comments.