How Dancing Can Be Used to Improve Soccer Skills

 

cartoon soccer player

Whee! Soccer!

I’ve noticed in my years as a swing dancer that soccer tops the list in sports that occupy Lindy Hoppers when they’re not dancing.  If you’re curious as to why that is, this may offer some insight into the connection between soccer and dance.

Good coordination is a vital part to succeeding in all sports. For example, Health Fitness Revolution writes that in soccer, coordination is essential due to the dramatic shifts in pace and judging how to play the ball. Coordination is something that young players learn at an early age and one of the new innovate ways to increase coordination and other soccer skills is through dancing.

One such program is Soccer Jam which is a new type of soccer training that combines “soccer footwork exercises choreographed with energetic, clean music to help players develop foot coordination and muscle memory.” The founder of Soccer Jam is Kelly Knauss who not only played soccer at a semi-pro level but also earned a four-year master’s degree in leadership and teaching methods. His program states that his training sessions will improve young players individual technical footwork and boost game performance.

In order to see the benefits of using dance to improving soccer performances on the pitch, beyond amazing goal celebrations, it is vital to see how closely linked the sports are. Five-A-Side Football Coach states that soccer “encompasses footwork, power, endurance, agility, balance and other abilities that are held in high regard on the dance floor too.” For instance the soccer site compares the art of dribbling to the “virtuosity of dance” as both require the body to be manipulated in order to move quickly.

An example of a professional soccer player with dancing experience was former Manchester United captain and England national soccer team player Rio Ferdinand, according to Men’s Health. The soccer star told Men’s Health that he credits ballet with improving his balance on the soccer pitch. Dancing has become identified with professional soccer due to the elaborate celebrations of players after scoring. Rush Canada, the largest youth soccer group in the world, even state that “if you watch Cristiano well enough you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him perfecting his dance moves either at training or when he scores. Likewise, Lionel Messi and Neymar are avid dancers.” Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the top two players in the world, according to soccer preview site Betfair with Ronaldo winning the award for best player of year in 2016. And if young soccer players should focus on developing their skills, they should look no further than the likes of Ronaldo and Messi to become the best they can moving forward.

Live Healthy in their article The Body of a Soccer Player vs. a Dancer state that competitors from both sports have overlapping body types. The health site cited the success of US goalkeeper Hope Sole on Dancing With the Stars as an example of how easily the two sports can be interchanged due to the same type of fitness requirements.

As young players embrace the rhythm and coordination of dancing and incorporate them into their soccer training we could be seeing more exciting and dynamic players in the future of the game. Dancing and soccer may seem like worlds apart, but combined together they can create a formidable player who will also be in line for the best goal celebration of the season.

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Tap Dancing On Skates!

A pair of skates

The Start of an Innovative Dance

I’ve blogged in the past about tap dancers, and I’ve also written about dancing on skates, but a recent facebook post of Gene Kelly tap dancing on skates inspired me to write this post.  I’ve also written about fusion, the blending of two dance styles.  This has got to be the mother of all fusion. My friend and fellow writer and dancer Lisa Buchanan sent my memory rolling when she posted this gem:

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Lindy Hop on Skates

Our Lindy Hop community boasts a couple of dancers who occasionally come to our weekly out door dance and dance lindy hop on skates, usually with normally shod partners.  Lindy Hoppers on skates are always amazing to watch.  See http://www.stepsontoes.com/2014/03/men-dancing-heels/ for an example of Lindy Champion Keven St Laurent social dancing in skates.  Street dances like Lindy and Tap are constantly changing and finding new innovations.  Brilliantly gifted dancers like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were amazing innovators, never ending sources of new ways to look at the dances of which they were masters.

Skating in the Jazz Era

There are a few examples of roller dancing in the jazz era, but not a lot.  Here’s an example of one of my all time favorite dancers, Donald O’Connor, in the only scene I know of in which he shows off his prowess in skate tapping

 

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And the most famous tap dance on skates would have to be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers from “Shall We Dance?”

 

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Dance Contest Played for Laughs Raises Consciousness Anyway

 

me and jose when we were young

Dancing with Jose in younger years

Jack and Jack Dancers

During the Peach State Country Western Dance Festival in Atlanta, there was a Jack and Jack competition in which men partnered with other men in texas two-step, waltz, west coast swing, and night club two step.  These guys were all excellent dancers and many of them were teachers.  They were also all straight and they camped it up, somewhat offensively, playing for laughs even  while dancing masterfully.  There was no Jill and Jill counterpart.

 

My friend Jose, who was my host, says they do this every year and we tried to avoid it by going Salsa dancing earlier but managed to arrive right in the middle of it anyway.

 

C/W dance teachers never die..

I noticed that they seemed to know each other well and were good friends.  They clearly enjoyed showing off their considerable skills together and they were having a lot of fun, but they couldn’t give themselves permission to just enjoy dancing together without making a joke of it.  When one of them made a particularly lewd dance move, the announcer to my astonishment said with a laugh “Dave Getty better not see that one!”

 

And neither does homophobia

Dakota Dave Getty was my first country western dance teacher at a now defunct club in Hayward called the West 40.  He was also the head honcho of the people who made the rules of C/W competition.  Because there was a gay couple who were so good they were likely to walk away with all of the awards, Dakota  changed the definition of a couple to “a man and a woman”.  He also would not let me dance lead in his classes even when there were extra women who could not be in the class because there weren’t enough men.  I haven’t heard anything about him in years, but I guess his homophobic reputation  is still known far and wide.  After the contest, during the dance, Jose was invited to dance by a man 3 times, and we noticed same sex couples on the floor dancing without raising a hint of hostility from the mostly heterosexual crowd.

 

“That never happened before,” said Jose later.  “Maybe some change was brought about by that contest after all.”  What do you think?  Coincidence?  Exposure over time to the sight of men dancing together even for laughs? Maybe the unmistakable friendship and real caring between the dance partners?  Or the changing times coming into play in spite of the homophobia of the contest?  Readers, weigh in!

 

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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The Fat Dancer “Controversy”

A scene from Nothing To Lose

Dancers from Nothing To Lose

I’ve written a few past posts about fat dancers and was inspired to write again on the subject by a show in Australia featuring a cast of obese dancers.  What caught my interest, aside from the obvious fact of how unusual this is, was the director’s comment that such a show shouldn’t be, but is, controversial.

 

In my area there is a popular feminist dance company called the Dance Brigade. It’s talented director, Krissy Keefer, while not fat, does have an atypical body type.  She’s short, stocky, and muscular.  Just because her body is not that of a typical ballerina, her dancing is controversial.  Just what is this all about?  Why is it controversial for more than one body type to perform dance?

 

Human beings move naturally to music.  We do so with grace, or we don’t, and it has nothing to do with our shape, size, or even our physical abilities.  Yet the majority of people in our society are astonished to see great dancing in a fat body and embarrassed to find themselves as mesmerised by the movements of the fat dancer as by the more familiar lithe dancer body.

 

Even worse, derisive laughter is a common reaction, no matter how good the dancer.  Derision is a tool that keeps people in their place through shame.  So it’s all the more impressive to see the existence of a show like  Nothing To Lose, where the dancers are unabashedly comfortable in their bodies.  Take a look at this video and notice if you have a reaction, positive or negative.  It’s interesting to look at the root of that reaction and question it’s history, influence, and how much of it is culturally imposed and how much is pure artistic appreciation.  Have fun!

 

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Do Justice to the Culture Whose Dance You Are Borrowing

 

Jacqui Barnes

Jacqui Barnes dancing in Carnival

Dance teachers in my present

I wrote a post a while ago about dance teachers in my past who influenced me.  I’d like to write now about teachers who are influencing me now.  Yes, dance teachers do still study.  It never ends!

Brazilian Samba

I am lucky enough to be able to study Brazilian Samba with the great Jacque Barnes.  Just getting the footwork is challenging enough in this beautiful dance, but that’s not enough.  “Don’t just go through the movements,” Jacque tells us.  “Do justice to the Brazilian people and their culture.  Put your soul into it and make it your own.”  

 

What I love about working with Jacque is her passion for the music and the culture that created the dance.  You can’t help but pick up that passion and feel inspired to let the music move you.

 

When I was in Europe studying the delightful European swing dance they call Boogie Woogie, one of my favorite teachers once said, as if she was eating chocolate, “I just LOVE every step!”  That’s the spirit of Jacqui’s Samba classes.

 

Everyone learns differently and some people get the feel and style before they get the footwork.  But most people first have to learn the mechanics and then can put their attention to the styling.  I’m like that, but I’m constantly inspired by the effortless grace of Jacqui and her advanced students, so that as I learn the footwork, I also get the feel of how the movement relates to the music and can throw myself into the spirit of it all.

Ballroom vs. Street Dance

If you don’t understand the difference between Ballroom  Samba and Street Samba, it is this.  Ballroom dance has a styling that infuses every dance in it’s genre.  Even though there are many different Ballroom dances, they all look kind of similar.  They no longer have the feel of the original culture and have often, as in the case of Samba, morphed into a dance that bears little resemblance to the original.  There is a unique styling to the genre of Ballroom Dance and it infuses every dance in that category.  

 

Street Samba is unique to the Brazilian culture.  It’s not a partner dance and I don’t teach it.  I just do it for fun and to broaden my skills to keep myself sharp.  If you are intrigued by the dances of Carnival, and are lucky enough to be in the bay area, I encourage you to take advantage of Jacqui’s expertise and supportive teaching style.  Maybe I’ll see you in class!

 

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Why I Love Balboa (The Dance, Not The Island)

dancing Balboa

My first and still favorite Balboa teacher, Sylvia Sykes, dancing classic bal with the great Maxie Dorf

I might love the island if I’d ever been there, but this article is about the dance!  In a recent blog post about different swing styles, I got some feedback that made me realize I’d inadvertently given the impression that pure Bal was boring so you have to mix it up with Lindy.  The writer commented that if I’d ever danced with one of the old pros I’d know how fun pure bal could be.

Experienced dancers needn’t worry

What I had meant to say was that beginners, while learning the dance, can practice while mixing it in with a more familiar dance if they worry about boring their partners.  Advanced bal dancers need not worry about boring their partners as they well know.

Some of the old masters are still around, mostly in Southern California, and unlike my commenter, I have not enjoyed the pleasure of dancing with any of them.  I did have a dance with Maxie Dorf once when I attended a workshop shortly before he died.  Maxie was one of the greats and a dance with him was memorable and an honor.

Just one basic dance step will do!

I’ve often said that waltz is the only dance I know in which one can do only a basic step over and over and not get bored.  Now that I think of it, though, Bal fits that description as well.  Even though Bal has more than one step, I wouldn’t complain if one of those masters chose to do a whole dance using only the basic. With a skilled leader, pure bal is like floating on air.  It’s mesmerizing and intimate.  Some dancers refuse to dance it with anyone but their spouse because it feels so romantic.

It’s also a dance that takes up very little space and can be danced to very fast music without being physically tiring.  It’s challenging to learn, but so worth it.  Some of my favorite partners will turn down a dance when it’s too fast for them.  “You really have to learn Balboa one of these days!” I tell them.

Classic Bal is still alive!

You can see in this clip why it’s not boring and also why it’s a challenge to learn.

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If you want to dance to fast music (you don’t always have a choice, you know) without tiring yourself, and make your partner fall in love with you, if only for a few blissful minutes, make Balboa your next dance to learn!

 

 

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Great Musicians Who Dance

 
 
Elvis the pelvis

The King: a quintessential dancing musician!

In my post about dancing piano players, I mentioned Cab Calloway’s famous dancing skills.  In my last post, There’s Nothing New Under the Dance Sun, I talked about James Brown. 

More Dancing Musicians!

In this one I’ll talk about some of my other favorite dancing musicians.
 
As I pointed out in that earlier article, the majority of musicians who play for dancers don’t themselves dance.  They’re always in the band when everyone else is dancing so often they never learn how.  When they do, it’s usually because dancing is in their blood and it’s natural for them.  Musicians who dance on stage sometimes gain fame for their dancing style as it perfectly illustrates the music.  

Cab and Elvis

 Cab Calloway and Elvis Presley are perfect examples of this.  
 
Unlike Cab, Elvis dances while he sings, not just during the breaks.  His nickname, Elvis the Pelvis, came not from his famous voice, but for his dancing.  He even does a little pole dancing while showing off his famous swivel hips in this example:
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Michael Jackson: Natural Dancer
In my opinion, one of the best natural dancers who ever lived was Michael Jackson, who came along late enough to get some of his inspiration from both Cab Calloway and Elvis Presley.  A great showman, Michael Jackson builds the tension and has the audience screaming before he even begins. Here he is giving his audience their money’s worth with his signature moves.
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I don’t know if Michael Jackson had any formal dance training.  He was already dancing like a pro at age 5, so regardless of any instruction he might have had, he’s clearly a natural dancer.  This charming clip suggests he was influenced by, if not formally taught, dances from the 1930’s
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It wouldn’t surprise me if he taught himself how to tap!  The moon walk, not an easy step to figure out from watching old videos, wasn’t well known before Michael Jackson made it famous.  It’s unlikely he learned it in tap dance class.  A more probable scenario is that he spent some time learning from the old masters and recreated it from an old film clip like this one:
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As I mentioned in my last post, There’s Nothing New Under the Dance Sun, great dancers (and pretty good dancers, too!) steal from each other all the time.  Without even changing the step beyond incorporating a tap step into pop dancing, Michael Jackson made the Moon Walk his own.
 
Do you have a favorite dancing musician?  Tell me about it!
 
By LaurieAnn Lepoff
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More Fusion Dance: Lindy and Balboa

Jeremy Otth & Laura Keat dancing

Jeremy Otth & Laura Keat demontrate Lindy/Balboa fusion

Of all the fusion dances, Bal/Lindy is probably the most natural.  Almost everyone who knows both dances has done them together on occasion if not regularly.  Pure balboa is done in a close hold that never breaks, but almost everyone does Bal-swing and calls it Balboa.

This isn’t fusion, but rather a street dance that evolved and changed.  Bal-swing is not Lindy, but they both  have roots in the same place, come from the same era, and are danced to similar music.  Bal and Bal-swing are usually danced to very fast music.  While mentally difficult to learn, they are not physically tiring to dance.

Lindy Hop is danced to a variety of speeds.  While variety is everywhere, the predominant speed varies by locality.  In my area (San Francisco) a lot of the music is on the slow side.  In L.A. or Seattle, it tends to be mostly fast.  Unlike Balboa, dancing fast Lindy takes a fair amount of physical stamina.  It’s not surprising that Bal is popular in L.A.

If you know how to gracefully segue into Bal from Lindy and back again, you can use Bal as a rest when you need a break.  If you only know a little Bal, it gets boring fast but you can hang out in the basics long enough to catch your breath.

If you are masters of both fast Lindy and Balboa, you can put them together into a stunning fusion dance, like this one from  Jeremy Otth & Laura Keat at the All Balboa Weekend of 2012:

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Non Dance Focused, but Shared Vision

fitness coach Zo DeMuro

You don’t have to be a dancer to share my vision: The irrepressible Zo DeMuro

I may focus on dance, but I do have the occasional other interest!  I love this post by one of my favorite bloggers, Zo DeMuro.  Of course, he shamelessly promotes me in it so what’s not to love, but even if he didn’t, it’s a great post.  I refer to my vision statement often enough and I love it when people in a different line of work share it and talk about their own version.  Zo’s wonderful sense of humor and unabashed sense of play not only enable him to leap around without embarrassment, but also have a lot to do with why he’s one of the best wellness coaches anyone could ask for.  You’ll see what I mean when you check it out for yourself!

http://livingfullywellness.com/2013/11/18/i-admit-it-i-have-a-gamboling-problem/

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Contra Dance guest blog

the line is what differs from square dance

Contra Dance is danced in a line

Contra Dance is a great place to start if you’re a beginner looking for a friendly scene. I don’t teach it because it’s a called dance, like square dance, but much easier. The best place to learn is at the scene. Here’s a great blog from a contra dancer at Oberlin College

http://blogs.oberlin.edu/community/student_organizations/music_weekend_p.shtml

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Dancers Extraordinaire: The Nicholas Brothers

Many people believe the Nicholas Brothers to be the greatest tap dancers who ever lived. Self taught, they started as children. Although the act was Fayard’s idea, and he engaged his brother into the project, they were also fortunate to have a very supportive father whose excellent advice they were smart enough to take.

This is my favorite Nicolas Brothers clip, from the great classic “Stormy Weather”.   I once had the honor of having dinner with Fayard Nicolas who I knew briefly in his eighty’s. “Are you a tap dancer?” he asked me. “No,” I confessed, “I’m a Lindy Hopper. But I know plenty of people who’ll be impressed when I tell them I had dinner with Fayard Nicolas!” I take my bragging rights where I can find them.  His brother Howard was already dead by the time I met Fayard.  A stroke survivor, he was wheelchair bound, but he still had those amazingly graceful hands.  Notice how the brothers use their hands in this amazing clip.

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By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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What dance goes with what music?

Knowing what music to pick or what dance to choose for your music can be confusing for beginners. If you already know what 4/4 time is, you can skip the rest of this paragraph. Most dance music is in 4/4 time. When you listen to dance music, there is a steady repetitive beat. There is also a place where the music keeps turning over. If you count the beats from the place where it feels like it keeps starting over, and you get to 4 before it starts again, that’s 4/4 time. If you count 3, that’s ¾ time and that’s a waltz. You can only waltz to three quarter time and everything in three quarter time is a waltz.

If it’s in 4/4 time, it’s often a judgment call. Many dances can be danced to the same song, but some are better than others. The speed and the mood have a lot to do with the dance you choose. If it’s bouncy, swing might be a better choice than foxtrot. If it’s smooth and romantic, foxtrot or night club two step would fit. If it has a latin beat, it’s better for Rumba, or Salsa, or Cha Cha.

One of the most common mistakes couples make in choosing their first dance music is to pick a ballad. Ballads are slow and romantic so it seems like a natural fit. The problem is that ballads have no beat. They are so slow that by the time you get to the second beat, you’ve already forgotten the first. Ballads are perfect for clutch and sway dancing, but if you want to do a real dance, you need something with a beat.

If you plan is to take dance lessons, I recommend letting your teacher show you which dances go with your music and pick the one that you like best. It’s also a good idea to bring more than one possible song. You may be surprised at which music is the easiest to dance to. If you have one song that really is your song, has special meaning for you and is the only one, don’t worry. Even a ballad can be worked with if it’s the only possibility. That’s one of the reasons to give yourselves plenty of lead time. If your music is challenging, it will take more practice, but it will still work!

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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