Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts

Friday, 14 December 2012

Tips: The Importance of a Strong Core

Having a strong core is vital to most dances we learn. The core is what keeps us from being able to do spins without falling off, hold our pose, and do isolations. It is also where the center of gravity is, and joins our upper body to our lower body anatomically. If your core is strong, you're likely to be able to hold yourself together for complex techniques, and you can have better dance lines in general because you're able to control your extensions.

I personally have a few set routines to do core exercises and strengthen them, and so far, I have felt that my dance techniques have looked better because of my ability to hold the core and position them in awkward angles if the choreography calls for it. But in order to improve and feel more grounded and secure as you turn, flat back forwards and backwards, dip and do aerial patterns, it’s important to keep training them.

Many dancers I know recommend doing crunches to 5 minute long songs, and even planking for one full minute, and then going on the sides to work on the oblique muscles respectively. But sometimes it’s better to have more dynamic exercises in order to utilize your body to its maximum potential and mobility.

Some of these exercises include lifting your legs into a cycling motion as you crunch, lifting your elbows to touch your knees in the process. Then, you can speed up this exercise, but it’s important to keep your legs straight out as much as possible throughout the exercise. The important aspect here is to maintain that power in each set of exercises you do.

There are programs out there that provide more dynamic exercises too. A good example would be the Six Pack Shortcut system. I’ve tried one for my chest and back muscles and the burn is insane, but it’s vital to work on the back muscles along with the core so that poses like the back attitude and arabesque can look nice and well aligned.

Mike Chang is great at explaining the exercises and you can do these pretty quickly, but you must make sure that you’re really, really pushing yourself as you’re doing the exercises. If not, you won’t get the results as quickly as expected.

Make sure you stretch those muscles out when you're done with the exercises. As dancers, we should aim to develop lean muscles instead of bulky ones. That way we can look really graceful and petite, yet surprise people by our strength.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Tips: Connection in WCS

A few days ago, I stumbled across this dance tip by Two Step Tidewater. Since I also had the opportunity to go for one workshop with Melissa and Chuck about the connection, I want to share a few tips from that class as well.

What's important to note when having the connection is that the lead should not overlead and drag the follower along, and the followers should know how to control their movement. The basic rules still apply that the lead must step out and give a visual signal at count 2, and the follow must keep moving in the direction that they're lead until the lead stops them or redirects them. From the article, the follow has been likened to a car, and the lead is the driver; there should be only one lead at the first count ie: counts 1 & 3 only, and done with only one gentle push. This is an intermediate/advanced concept that I think shouldn't be applied to people who have yet to know how to travel back and fourth properly, so stick to the no autopiloting rules first.

In a previous blog post, I have talked about tension. The neutral position in the connection is when a tension is established, and that there's still enough rope to lead moves. Also, one should always feel like they're being pulled both upwards from the torso onwards and downwards to the legs as they dance, so the opposing movements will help place emphasis on your feet pressing to the floor. This connection helps establish the flowing movements in West Coast Swing.

For the more experienced dancers, a natural tendency for my classmates - perhaps to other dancers as well - who follows is to take the statement of "stay away from the lead to create tension" literally. This habit can help prevent injuries during social dancing with newer leads, as they too have a tendency to lead too strong. However, it gives a very heavy feeling that more experienced leads will have trouble adjusting to. I have experimented with leading, and when I dealt with "heavy" ladies, I found that my stamina would dwindle quickly. I'm sure the leads would have the same complains. So the followers should adjust themselves such that they post at a lighter tension before swinging back at counts & a 1.

Mastering the connection will help you learn the other elements of West Coast Swing a lot faster, but it still doesn't make the dance any less difficult. Don't be demotivated, though. Sometimes the concepts are introduced at a later stage so that you can still have fun dancing without worrying too much about how you should move around.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Tips: Additional Notes on Tension (WCS)

Disclaimer: The notes here are mostly for my convenience. Not everyone will make the same mistakes that I do, so what I state may not apply to you. This is merely stuff that my dance teacher said to me to correct my posture. Check with your dance instructor to clarify your errors. These notes are written in the follower's point of view. Some may work for the leader's point of view but take them at your own discretion.

  • As usual, keep your frame. Your shoulder blades should feel like they're opening up like a ballet dancer's and the rest of your hands are loose and free. Remember to get back into it after moves like underarm pass and outside turns where your arms are raised.
  • There's a tendency to break from the frame when you use up all your rope from the arms during the anchor. So make sure you have enough rope to give tension. You may have to take smaller steps for this. This means less work for the girls, hooray! 
  • The weight of the tension is not by pulling your entire bodyweight back. You're adding tension as you give rope from your arms gradually during the 5 & a 6 & a counts. The "sweet spot" aka maximum tension should be on the 6 & a counts, right before count 1.
  • The best way to know if your tension is right is to feel if its right with you and your partner. Ask his opinion on whether the tension is just right for him or if you feel like a truckload. After all, these are just words on a computer screen, which cannot replace the experience of dancing a partner dance like West Coast Swing. So get out there and start social dancing!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Tips: Remembering how to maintain a good frame

Maintaining a proper frame has been an annoying hindrance for any partner or ballroom dancer, myself included. So, I went on a hunt to find tips that can help us remember to maintain a frame while dancing and I came across this.

In a way, it made a lot of sense for me, because remembering to stay in a frame was a hassle compared to being in the frame. And I'm about to share a few tips to act as reminders for yourself to stay in the frame while dancing. It works for me, but it may not for you. Hopefully it will still give a rough guidance on how you can help yourself remember to be in frame.

During the course of the day, you can consciously think to yourself to roll your shoulders back and get into your dance frame, even if you're not in dance class. Snap your fingers, scrunch your toes, tickle your knees,or do any other signal if you have to before snapping into frame. I find that these subtle signals will help me become aware of the position of my shoulders and I'll just snap back into frame.

Not only that, you can do some shoulder exercises so that you're more aware of where they are. Stretching my shoulder blades helped me prevent collapsing the frame. I'll leave it to you to find suitable exercises for that, as I don't want people injuring themselves because of this blog post :P The link itself also has an exercise anyway, but it's only for ladies/followers. It may be useful for leads in west coast swing too, especially if a follower has too much tension during the anchor it can easily break the lead's frame.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Tips: Compare & Contrast the Simple Right Turn (Salsa) and Tuck Turn (WCS)

Salsa and west coast swing are both partner dances, but uses different counting and technique in order to lead and follow. The two techniques discussed here look visually similar, but are very different in terms of the connection, feel, and timing. It is always important, as dancers who wish to become versatile, to tell the difference between two different dance styles that may look similar.

Simple Right Turn - Salsa
1. Every salsa move has to have the counting 1 2 3, 5 6 7.
2. The movement has to appear sharp, but gentle enough for the follow to balance and end off the turn well.
3. The leader gives the signal to follower by raising hand at count 3, then push follower into a turn. It should look like a halo is drawn on her follower's head. While executing the move, the leader may opt to do the side step or stationary basic steps without getting in the way of the follower in time for 5 6 7.
4. The leader's hands should be in a "high 5" position during count 3 to give a push, but only 2 fingers should be used when leading the turn so that the follower can maintain the C-hold.
5. On count 5, the followers step forward, steps back and turn quarter way through in count 6, and then bring their feet together and completes the turn at count 7. It is this move at count 7 that makes the turning look sharp and abrupt. Leaders will help the followers to complete the turn when at count 7 by resetting the hands at waist level again before moving on to another technique.

Tuck Turn - West Coast Swing
1. West Coast Swing has 2 types of counting: two steps and triple steps. Two steps are done with counts 1 2 (a downbeat and upbeat), whereas triple steps are counted as 1 & 2 (downbeat, an in between beat, and upbeat)
2. The tuck turn is a 6-count pattern with counting 1 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6. The movement should appear relaxed and soft. The additional counts "& a" is meant to give a fluid feel to the dance.
3. The leaders pull their followers like in a push break on count 1 & a 2. At count 2, the hand should already be raised to give the signal for a tuck turn to the follower.
4. On count 3 & a, the leaders bring their hand slightly back to allow the followers to compress into them like in a push break. The leader just pushes the follower off to allow her to turn 180 and step back. There's no need to circle your hand around the follower's head.
5. The followers finish off the turn during counts 5 & a, while doing so the followers introduce tension gradually before reaching maximum tension at 6 & a. This is where both lead and follow will anchor and finish off the pattern.

For partner dancing, it's always vital to maintain a connection with your partner so that you can communicate to them. These simple steps should be mastered so that more advanced moves can be communicated in the social dance floor without having to explain how a pattern should be done to your partner. Leaders should remember that most movements have to be suggested to your partner before they can respond, and followers shouldn't autopilot and anticipate before a pattern is executed.

To those who have more experience or currently teaching partner dancing, feel free to add in what other details I've missed in this blogpost that compares the two patterns in the comments section below.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tips: Technical Details you May have Missed in a Sugar Push

**I'm writing this mostly for my own convenience, but my readers can use these tips if they like. Take note that the tips here may be tailored more to followers instead of leaders since...I'm a girl. Also not everything I mention here is accurate so you may want to check with your dance instructors if I missed anything out/made a mistake describing something somewhere.

A deceptively simple move to a beginner, but this move is riddled with technical details that can be overlooked even for the seasoned dancer. I'm going to list the things that a West Coast Swing dancer has to keep in mind while practicing this move.

-Train tracks. Keep your arms & shoulders parallel to each other. In other words focus on only your partner and don't look/turn elsewhere. Handhold should be at the lady's waist level. Ladies, trust your gentleman and rest your hands completely on his.
-3rd position footing. For guys, the right leg should be behind the left and pointed outwards slightly. For girls, the left leg is behind the right leg and pointed outwards slightly as well. Think ballet, except that the respective front foot is pointed parallel, facing towards the partner. This should allow better anchoring at the end of the move.

Count 1 & a 2:
-Guys step back at count 1 & must already keep foot at 3rd position at count 2. Root yourself before the girl crashes into you. Bend your elbows in preparation for the compression at count 3 & a 4 to redirect the lady back to her original position. Keep hands at the lady's waist level.
-Girls, as soon as the gentleman pulls you, just follow with two steps forward. Imagine following Newton's 1st law of motion literally (An object is either at rest or moving at a constant speed unless an external force is applied.) Don't hesitate or anticipate anything, even if an awkward moment might ensue.

Count 3 & a 4:
-Triple step, stay in 3rd position on counts 3 & a. Then leader steps forward on 4, follower steps back on 4 as soon as leader gives the push back with his arms.
-Guys must provide cushioning/compression for the girl. Still keep in mind that the hands are at waist level (some of my classmates tend to forget that and lift their hands up into what my teacher calls "ladder position") The elbows bend, but lower arms are still parallel to the floor. 
-Girls should still keep in mind the literal Newton's 1st law of motion, and only stop if the guy gives you that compression before count 4 (or you can choose to stop yourself by placing your hand against the guy's chest) Your arms should bend a bit like the guys during maximum compression, which should happen at count &. Also, it isn't necessary to bend your knees further as you compress (Yes, Amanda. You're the guilty party for this one. Please don't ask why I'm talking to myself in third person.)
-As girls step back, try not to introduce tension at count 4 already to allow some styling before the anchor step (which may not necessarily be at count 5 & a 6)
-Keep looking at your partner and not on the floor to avoid headbutting.

Count 5 & a 6:
-Anchor step. Introduce tension to arms, but don't overstretch them.
-Guys, rock backwards to your centre so that the girls don't pull backwards too much.
-Keep elbows pointing downwards to the floor, and don't break the frame whereby the shoulder collapses forward. 
-Stationary triple step on 3rd position on all counts.
-Maximum tension should be at counts 6 & a... (right before another move is executed)

I have a feeling this is going to be difficult to digest for some of these readers. Don't be overwhelmed by them and keep your kitchen sink drills! Most importantly, keep having fun. My instructor even said that WCS is a fun dance, but the first 4 weeks will be a pain, just to master the basics.