We all have beginnings in everything we do. Some beginnings are methodical, following a written step-by-step procedure. Some are done hap chance, hoping the project will come out usable. Dancing is the same. In west coast swing dance, a beginner is taught methodically using steps by steps, various patterns, correct timing, and application of proper techniques and principles. The process starts with easy patterns and steps to more complex as time progresses. Some dance instructors are strict or not, and it is left to the student to carry on with what and how she/he understands the instruction. In doing so, there are shortcomings that are overlooked. Not that the dance instructors do not care, they just missed or failed to notice the student’s mishaps. Each student has various aptitude in learning how to dance. Some are slow learners, others are quick learners.
West coast swing dance is a highly technical dance; there are so many steps, principles, and techniques to remember. Some newcomer or beginner dancers can get a little confused or frustrated. As a result, they make mistakes, which if not corrected in due time, will become unbecoming dance habits.
What could these challenges be?
- Not Anchoring Properly – Some beginners do the anchor steps while stepping backward or not fully completing the 5 & 6 steps. The word “anchor” means to stay, stop moving sideward, or backward. Like a boat that anchors, the boat stops moving in one spot where the “heavy anchor” is dropped and the engine is turned off. Why do I emphasize this? Because it will look really good if the anchor step is solid. How To Overcome: Do the anchor properly. Follow the 3&4 count while doing the marching step in place. Do not step backward or sideward.
- Not Waiting For The Leader To Lead The Follower – Many beginners tend to not wait for the leader’s lead. They do step #1 to move forward immediately after the last pattern. It is somewhat common mistakes by beginners and sometimes, intermediate dancers as well. If not caught attention at an early stage, this will become one of the beginner’s bad habits. How to Overcome: After doing the anchor steps, stop and wait for the lead. Really, wait for the lead! Wait for the leader’s body lead. The lead might be subtle or might be a pronounced pull from you. But wait for the lead!
- Anticipating What The Next Move Or Pattern The Leader Will Lead The Follower – When a follower does this, she/he may end up executing the wrong move the leader is trying to lead her/him to. It is a good principle to know that as a follower you have to wait where and what the pattern you are going to be lead. One of my private instructors who is a champion dancer advised me to not anticipate the next pattern I will be lead to. Take it easy, apply correct timing, and follow the lead! How To Overcome: Let the leader leads you with ease and follow smoothly. Let your body reaction be a slightly 100th of second late. Do not fight the lead because you anticipated a different pattern in your mind, that he might be leading you to execute. Follow the lead, and you will be on your success as a follower!
- In A Hurry To Up-level To Intermediate Level Of Dance – Some dancers do not like the sound of being a beginner. So, they are in a hurry to learn intermediate level, ignoring the correct application of the principles that will help them solidify their beginning level. Well, I can say that sometimes it could be the instructor’s fault. Dance instructors, as the dancing mentor and guide, must be able to create an open harmonious line of communication between the students and instructor. This way, he/she can notice the challenges the students may be experiencing. Then, the challenges can be discussed and explained. The correct principles can be reiterated, and those ought to be followed consistently for the benefit of the students without the instructor’s explanation being misconstrued. Honestly, I danced at the beginning level for continuous 6 months before I decided to study the intermediate level. I was not in a hurry to do the intermediate level. I became very confident in my beginning level. I am glad I did it that way. How To Overcome: It is a matter of mindset. Be proud and grateful you have started to learn this dance. Slow down. Like eating a meal, savor the process. Listen to your instructor. Just follow what is being taught. There are valid reasons for methodical teaching.
- Not Learning The Proper Execution Of Steps 3&4 Count On The Passing Side Pattern. The 3&4 steps are the quick triple steps while walking forward to the other end of the dance slot. Too many times, the beginner dancer cannot do the “‘triple-step” or 3&4 quick step. For someone very new to west coast swing dance, this step is almost always the one that poses a challenge. This is a common challenge, though it can be overcome. How To Overcome – Do them slowly at the beginning. Do not settle for just a walk to do the 3&4 steps. I suggest to truly learn the triple step. And then practice the “repetition principle.” Repetition is the mother of all education. The more you do it, the more you get good at it.
It pays to be persistent in anything you want to learn. As in any learned skill, it takes time and practice to acquire expertise!
Do you have any challenges in this dance? How do you think you can overcome them?