“Dancing is moving to the music without stepping on anyone’s toes, pretty much the same as life.” – Robert Brault
As small children we dance with abandon, unrestrained, lost in the joy of it. Somewhere between the drunken-like steps of childhood and the sweaty partner-clutching of school proms, we lose our liberated prancing and the joy along with it. We grow up with a fear of looking goofy on the dance floor and some of us turn to lessons from professionals. Some of us just give up completely.
From the Salsa to the Waltz, dancing has a firm grasp on ankles and hips throughout the world and people of every age, now more than ever. People have returned to the dance floor, to the enjoyment of swaying the body along with the music, and to the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing it well. Like a gauntlet set down before those who love a challenge, dances requiring specific footwork have become extremely popular. If you visit dance clubs or even attend your cousin’s wedding, you’re bound to see evidence of this.
“Do you love me now that I can dance?” was the question posed in the 1962 hit song by the Contours and featured in the film, Dirty Dancing. The question is still being asked today as couples leave the couch to bust a move on the dance floor.
And what’s pushing potatoes off the couch? Ironically, TV shows like Dancing With The Stars. Since it first aired in 2005, Dancing With The Stars has been proving that even if you have two left feet you can learn to feel the music and vie for the show’s coveted mirror ball trophy. Can potatoes expect to become as proficient as the football heroes, Olympic athletes and race car drivers who have shimmied and rocked across the stage? Unless you're a star, you don’t have the benefit of practice with dance champions like Cheryl Burke, Derek Hough or Maxim Chmerkovskiy. But if you’re determined, you can learn enough on your own to give you confidence and increase your enjoyment on the dance floor. To quote anthologist Terri Guillemets, “Stifling an urge to dance is bad for your health – it rusts your spirit and your hips.”
While participants on the Dancing With The Stars hit show devote more time to the learning process than the average person can invest, you shouldn’t let that stand in your way. If you have the desire, you do have many options for learning the latest steps and for recapturing the joy of dancing. And you can do it all without leaving your computer.
Lambada Like Louis
Just when you thought you couldn’t get the kind of professional help you see on Dancing With The Stars, one of its regulars, Louis Van Amstel, comes to the rescue with a complete course that includes how to Waltz, Cha Cha, Foxtrot, Salsa, Tango, Jive, Samba, Rumba and Swing. The step-by-step video set actually includes everything but the Lambada. There’s no waiting for the course to be mailed to you. The eight video collection can be downloaded instantly. Each is about 30 minutes long and the entire package costs a little under $100.
Louis isn’t alone. You can find several lesser-known instructors offering classes online. Most are selling the kind of related dance videos found at SalsaFlick.com. You can download their free demo before purchasing anything. This site offers most of the usual Latin dances. You can learn how to Salsa in addition to discovering many dances inclidng the Bachata, a new style of dance that originated in the Dominican Republic and resembles the Salsa. Videos on this site begin at about $10. A subscription service that features new videos from different dancers is also in the planning stages.
Register free at iDance.net and you can access hundreds of dance lessons ready for download at the low price of $1.99 each. The site advertises free weekly lessons with 114 of them available for viewing to subscribers. This is the place to find a wide variety of styles from tap dancing to hip hop. Along with contemporary dance moves, you will also see vintage offerings like the Lindy Hop. If you have the stamina of olympic type dance moves you'll be delighted by lesson packs that focus on jumps, lifts, and throws!
Learn by Watching
There are many different approaches for learning anything. A good way to learn dancing is to first watch others who know what they’re doing. From your computer, key in “learn to dance on YouTube” and you’ll find free dance videos for Salsa, Disco, Hip Hop, Foxtrot, and more. Although Arthur Murray Studios has an International YouTube Channel, don’t expect to find complimentary instruction there. The channel is designed to promote one-on-one services provided at their dance schools internationally with testimonials from students recommending personal classes at their dance studios.
You can learn cool moves on YouTube by mimicking what you see on the screen with the help of the “Get In Step” idea below. Practice in front of your computer screen in complete privacy until you feel you’ve mastered the movements. Some people will learn in a few minutes while others will need more practice to reach their goal. Don’t forget to bookmark the YouTube videos that are most helpful to you.
Get In Step
The one thing missing from the free “learn by watching” method is footwork. You may be able to pick up some steps with close observation but how can you be sure you have the correct order? Before you visit YouTube, spend a little time on Google. Key in the name of the dance you want to learn, and search images. You’ll find helpful diagrams you can download and print out for your own use. Some images are very detailed with arrows suggesting exact foot placement and even the beat count. Use your printed page to augment your YouTube lessons. You have a great advantage here because you can refer to the page illustrating the dance steps and the YouTube video as many times as you like at no charge.
If you plan to leave your computer in search of dance instructions, Arthur Murray Studios has a good name but may be some of the most expensive studios you’ll find. Individual dance classes are reasonable, but one-on-one instruction will require a substantial investment especially when multiple sessions are required. Students willing to sign up for additional classes are often encouraged to commit to packages that can run into large sums of money. Shop around. Many smaller studios offer competent instructors for more reasonable fees.
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