What Throws Dance Students Off Their Game?

wedding couple dancing

Don’t let your first time dancing in a big dress be your wedding!

In a perfect world, dance lessons would be ten minutes long.  You’d go home and practice and then come back to learn the next step after you’ve mastered what came first.  In the real world, you work on the first thing until you’re doing it right most of the time and understand it well enough to practice on your own.  Then you move on to the next part and promptly forget the first part.

Cover all bases!

That’s the learning process for most of my students but it’s not as bad as it sounds.  You keep shifting your concentration from one thing  to the next and eventually it all falls into place.  But because of this annoying phenomenon, I try to make sure all bases are covered with couples who are learning their first dance for their wedding.

Just being in a room in front of people is a new thing that can cause everything to disappear if you haven’t experienced it before.  Dancing in heels if you’ve been practicing in flats can throw you off, as can dancing in a giant gown, or dancing with a partner in a giant gown.  And don’t forget the possibility of alcohol!  (If you haven’t read my post about the effects of drinking before your dance, check out my earlier post on that subject.)

Use props!

For this reason I have a wedding dress petticoat in which all of my brides practice before their last lesson.  Both they and their fiancés get a chance to feel what it’s like to dance with a ton of material surrounding her.  One of my students found that he had been using his peripheral vision to guide him.  When he couldn’t see her legs, he was totally thrown off and couldn’t remember any of his steps.

I also recommend they practice at least once in front of other people. If this also throws them off, they know they have to do it more often.

An embarrassing example

Once when I was rehearsing for a performance many years ago, I neglected to have  a dress rehearsal.  The dress was not belted at the waist and when I was upside down in an air step, it dropped all the way down, covering my face and exposing me from neck to feet.  That was the last time I omitted a dress rehearsal, and I always wear tap pants under my skirts when I go dancing!

If you are learning to dance for a particular occasion where you will be doing a performance of some kind, think about what will be happening at the event that isn’t there when you are practicing. Enlist the help of friends to think of things you may forget.  And when you are visualizing yourself doing your dance, put yourself at the real scene, not just in your living room!

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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