Sunday, December 18, 2016

The starter step is a myth...

I don't know who came up with the starter step, I have a theory it was from some other dance style and they felt west coast needed something.  But whatever the origin, it's crap.
It doesn't work
No one does it.
It's a myth.

At a recent event my friend said "Hey I can't figure out the starter step in this country, I keep making a fool of myself at the start of every dance, then I have to build back some trust after making the follow think I'm incompetent, what am I doing wrong..."... and I said "oops, sorry, I forgot to tell you, it's not real, don't do it, just start dancing"...

I felt bad, because I'd gone through the same thing,  first big event in america, I'm bravely asking strangers to dance, hoping they will be impressed with my dancing, and oh shit... The very first move of every dance doesn't work, the girls keep falling over their own feet and then looking at me like I'm some kind of nasty smelling thing the dog dragged in....

Jeeze I must be doing it wrong!!

So I get a private lesson, and another, and another.  I think I had 3 full private lessons with 3 different international pro's trying to fix it.  I learned variations, I learned how to breath and lift my frame, to give a bunch of subtle and obvious clues that I was about to start the dance.

And the girls kept falling over sideways. What???

So then I watched the other guys on the dance floor, and guess what, none of them are freak'n doing starter steps, they just connect and lead a left side pass, well holly banana pant's batman, that's so easy I don't even need to learn it, I can just do it... And it works every time!.

What the freak'n hell is this triple sideways business, why should a slotted dance, that involves the follow moving up and down the slot consistently, start with a triple sideways?  Which pretty much forces the follow to trip over her own feet, because hey, there's a foot in the way of moving sideways!

What is this, why are we still teaching this nonsense :-)

Lets just teach what we really do, not what we were taught.

Friday, December 16, 2016

What I learned on my trip to the U.S. Open...

  1. It's not the place to go for social dancing! 
  2. Most competitive level dancers (novice and above) seem to avoid the social floor most of the time.  Every time a competition started 200 amazing dancers would appear that I'd never seen all night on the dance floor. 
  3. Pro's don't social dance at the open, (not even on the last night, also not even at the after party). They are busy and tired, and have better things to be doing, and don't like being mobbed, so get that out of your head, you might get to chat with a pro, but you won't get to dance with one. If that's your goal, then go to a smaller event :-).   
  4. Watching the competition/classic/showcase live is awesome, do this once in your life.
  5. The judges are from another era, that really pre-dates the dance in it's current form and appear somewhat biased in favor of existing champions.  It would be fantastic to see existing/recent professionals judging, and people from other countries, and from other dance styles. 
  6. The All Stars are amazing to see dancing! And to dance with. They are often friendly.
  7. TAP The After Party is pretty cool, with very entertaining competitions, and a nice atmosphere, and it's well run.  The social dancing is better, but still not as good as most normal events. 
  8. Private lessons at the after party are amazing, so many options to choose from!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Class structure ideas

These are my current thoughts on the best structure for a WCS class, these ideas are not my own, just the things I think work and why... (And I'm gonna update this when I decide I'm wrong :-)

The customers come in 3 groups.

  • Level 1 = New dancers (less than 8 weeks dancing)
  • Level 2 = first 12 months dancing...
  • Level 3 = High level Novice and Intermediates. These are the core supporters of the dance!

Level 3 are not really interested in classes, they learn at workshops and private lessons, they come to class for the social dancing and to see their friends and from loyalty to the dance.

Level 2 leads want patterns, level 2 follows want styling.  Both need and want technique to make them better social dancers.

Level 1 need to be convinced still that they want to do this thing, they need fun, music, and easy stuff and social interaction!

I think this structure fullfills these different needs the best.

  1. A 30-40 minute beginner class, aimed at fun, teaching 3-4 basic patterns and playing a track after each pattern, the secondary goal of each beginner class is to teach enough for leader and follower to survive one free style song.
  2. A 20-30 minute freestyle. The goal is to integrate the beginners into freestyle as rapidly as possible so they discover the 'fun' and become part of the group.  Idea... Offer first time dancers one on one revision at this point?
  3. A 30 minute intromediate class, teaching '2' easy but non beginner patterns, some styling, some technique. Occasionally a harder move is taught.  Anyone who's been coming more than 3 weeks is encouraged to stay for this class.  The focus is on freestyle patterns and being a better social dancer.
  4. A 60-90 minute freestyle.

  • Level 1 and Level 2, should be encouraged to attend both classes.
  • Level 3 should be encouraged to attend both free style sessions and the second class.
  • Level 2 and 3 are encouraged to seek out the new people during the first freestyle for one dance

Encouragement must be subtle, so people are making the choice themselves to help build the dance for their own altruistic reasons not from guilt or rules...
e.g. "We really appreciate it if you can try and dance with one beginner at the start of the first free style"
not "You are expected to dance with beginners now.." it's subtle but important.

  • Level 1 are happy, because they get a fun quick class, and overwhelming personal attention from the experienced dancers.
  • Level 2 are happy because they get some level 2 patterns, along with lots of free style and practice.
  • Level 3 are happy because they get lots of social dancing, and only have to live through one brief class.

Note on class length: Short classes are better than long classes, normally the rational for a long class is that it makes it seem like it's worth the money, but we should sell the 'evening' not the 'class' so it's 2-3 hours of entertainment. Not $15 for a 'class'..  I think classes between 30-35 minutes are probably ideal, leave them wanting more, and with enough energy to try what they've learned social dancing...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Have you blanked anyone today?

Do you blank people without even knowing it?  Blanking is my word for avoiding being asked to dance with body language, it's as simple as avoiding eye contact, looking away or turning away when someone walks towards you.

I notice this more in some situations than others, if I'm unknown in an area I get it more, if I've already danced with everyone I get it more, if there is a shortage of guys I get it much less!  Worst of all, I do it to other people, often without trying or thinking about it.

Is it ok? Yes and no, it's slightly nicer than saying 'no thanks', and kinda reasonable if you are walking off the dance floor for some urgent reason..., But mostly, it's a bad thing to do and it's spreading a bad vibe through the room.  If you are at a dance evening, then you should be open to dancing with everyone (creepy or dangerous people excluded), so hey, lets try smiling at everyone, and saying 'Yes'  with our eyes, and then yes with enthusiasm when asked to dance, no matter how much you'd rather be dancing with someone else!