Saturday, November 26, 2011

5 Web Resources to Improve your Ballroom Dancing

"Every day's a school day"
~ Steve and Susan McFerran, U of M Ballroom Dance Team Coaches

Learning does NOT stop at the end of a lesson. There's no photographic memory when it comes to muscles - they need a bit more persuasion before they can manage technique and styling on autopilot. But learning doesn't have to start at a group or private lesson. There are plenty of places for new ideas and information to help you improve your dancing.

1. Youtube
Ok, so we all knew this one was coming. Saying "there are dance videos on youtube" is like telling you that there are books on Shakespeare at the library. But have no fear - I'll skip the Dewey Decimal System and point you straight to some of my favorites:
  • The Grand Ballroom - the largest studio in Canada produces a set of DVD's containing sets of steps and routines for nearly every ballroom dance. They have been kind enough to make a good number of these available to the public. The couple is professional and charming. They are by no means flashy, but they really break down the steps in an easy-to-learn format.
  • The Russian Latin Dudes - "Два и три и четыре Один" - "2 and 3 and 4 - 1" - at least, that's what google translate tells me they're saying. Part of, which chrome was kind enough to interpret for me. They upload quite a bit, so you'll have to search their channel. Still, it's going to be hard to find more clear-cut advanced latin steps. You can count to 4, right?
  • The Latvian Standard Dudes - Latvian? Google translate to the rescue again. Either way, I hope you can count on your own. These guys upload a ton of videos as well, so you may have to search their channel a bit - however, this is the place to go for some sweet waltz and foxtrot steps.
  • WSSDF (World SuperStars of Dance Festival) - This is the tip top of partner dancing. Seriously. As in, the human race is currently incapable of producing better dancers than these people - nobody can move smoother, sharper, or more controlled than these people. Use this stuff for showcases or open choreography or whatever. Still, though, try your best to see their subtleties. As my friend Vincent says, "Unless you can do a better Rumba walk than the world champion, you won't do the fancy stuff better. If your Rumba walk is better, you've already won."
  • Swing aerials and stuff - believe it or not, some swing dancers actually study technique! But still, don't be afraid to goof off a bit. Learn a new move every week. Search around on something like LindyLibrary to learn some of the fancy stuff that you can use to keep your partner from getting bored.
This one REALLY helped me get started. It has the bronze syllabus for EVERY SINGLE BALLROOM DANCE ready to go, complete with variations and some sequences. They even have Paso and Bolero! You have to register to see some of the videos, but it's free and to this day I have never been spammed.
It's also got resources for finding further instruction, finding the most popular music for any dance, and a few social connection features (ie, partner search, find a nearby instructer, etc).
Even if you're an experienced dancer, I recommend you check out their Variation of the Week - I've learned a few new tricks this way!

3. (formerly ExpertVillage)
This is where I learned Nightclub 2-Step and a bit of Argentine Tango. The nice thing about ExpertVillage is that instructers were paid to post lectures in a series, so you actually get a decent start-to-finish lesson structure. They have these for specific styles and some overall ballroom tips. Just make sure you only search the videos - many of the written articles are less than professionally drafted.

4. (the Syllabus and stuff)
Not everybody's a visual learner. And some people need direction before they can start absorbing information. Having your definitions down solid will make learning go a lot smoother, and maybe taking a look at the syllabus will help you figure out WHAT to search for when you're ready for the videos.

5. Freedom By Technique with Anna Mikhed (coming soon)
I hear this one's going to be pretty good. I met Anna Mikhed at IDB 2011, and she was a fantastic teacher. She was very excited about this upcoming series - I've been anxiously awaiting this for quite some time! On top of being an accomplished standard dancer, she is an excellent instructor (not to mention easy on the eyes :P). If it's anything like her in-person lessons, you can expect them to be simple, informative, and entertaining. I'll keep you posted as I hear about the site's progress.

At the end of the day, nothing beats proper instruction and focused practice. But don't limit your learning to studio time -  there's a lot of people out there who are offering you valuable information through the web.

And then, of course, even if you don't intend to learn, you might just want to watch some videos for fun!