Social Dancing as Practice
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Written by Azucena Perez   
Thursday, 22 June 2006
Whether you are just learning a new dance or are an experienced dancer, you will find that social dancing is one of the best ways to refine and reinforce what you’ve learned in class. The reason for this is simple, muscle memory. We all know that habits take time to form. And this is no different in dance. No one is born with a perfect lead or great spinning ability, but it is true that practice makes perfect.

When we learn a new concept, our brain retains the information almost immediately, but our body does not. Our body needs continuous training, repetitive action on the new movement, to fully absorb it. Without practice, our brain will soon forget the new concept altogether. We know we have formed a new habit (muscle memory), when our body can perform the new movement effortlessly and without thinking involved. At this point the movement becomes part of us and we do it automatically.

Social dancing is a great way to practice new material because one can work on key dance concepts while in a friendly, low-key environment. Here are some pointers that can help you improve while social dancing:


You can focus on one or 2 patterns learned that week. Your goal as a lead is to execute the pattern on time and with ease so the follower feels guided through the movement as opposed to muscled into it. Once your're comfortable with the pattern, you can focus on executing it while adding styling of your own, trying to hit a break in the music, or perhaps adding an extra spin if time allows. Ultimately, your goal is to lead the pattern so that any lady can follow it while you look and feel smooth and relaxed. Ladies will love dancing with you!


You could focus on being light on your feet, adding styling movement to your dance without interfering with the lead, or executing your spins with control and ease. As followers, we actually have more time to “think” about styling or spinning because we don’t have to orchestrate the next move as leaders do. We can use this to our advantage by focusing on responding to the lead as quickly and smoothly as possible. You’ll be surprised at how many more dances you’ll get when your following feels light and effortless!


While these are just suggestions for your own practice, there are a few do’s and don’ts that you want to keep in mind:

  • Do Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes. We all make them. You’ll learn better when you have fun and stay relaxed.
  • Do Dance with People of All Levels. It will only help your dancing and it keeps things interesting.
  • Do Make Eye Contact with your partner while dancing. Your dance will be more rewarding and enjoyable when you make occasional eye contact and smile at your partner.
  • Don’t Overstyle, Overspin, or Overdo your partner. This is a dance of two people, not just you! And believe me, there is nothing more annoying than dancing with someone who is dancing on his/her own.
  • Don’t Lead your partner into complicated patterns you know she may not be able to follow. Give her some time to breath and don’t wear her out.
  • Don’t Forget to bring an extra shirt if you know you’ll be perspiring more than it’s comfortable for you or your partner. Nobody likes to touch a sweaty shirt on the dance floor.

Not only is social dancing a great activity for meeting people, having fun, and feeling part of a community, it is also the best way to practice the new and old concepts that you intend to integrate into your dance repertoire. So get on with your shoes and come to the next social.

And save me a dance!


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