The Art of Motion: Learning to Dance

The Art of Motion: Learning to Dance

Way back in the spring, I got an invitation to my cousin’s wedding. I knew it was coming, of course, having seen their engagement update on Facebook, but now I had the particulars of the date and location. I was happy to see the invitation, but it came with one small problem.

I don’t know how to dance. Like…at all.

So one day a couple months later, I was talking to a friend about this and she suggested I take lessons and mentioned DANCEnergy in Calgary (thanks Merieka!). So I looked it up and found out it was only about 2 blocks away from the Parkour gym I go to, score! I dropped in before class one day and talked to the ladies at the front desk, got all the needed info, and signed up for lessons a couple weeks later. The package included 2 private lessons, one group lesson and a 3 hour practice party afterwards.

I was told only indoor shoes allowed on the floor so I had to go find a pair, which worked out since I needed some for parkour anyway. I was going barefoot until then but shoes provide more grip, and I can use them for both activities. Done deal.

I show up to my first lesson and sit down for 10 minutes with one of the ladies, going over what I’m looking to learn (if anything), why I want to take lessons, what I’m hoping to get from it, etc. Then I meet Paige, my instructor. We decide on the Rumba first (all dances she teaches me are American style, international being a little different), and she shows me a simple box step. Step ahead with the left foot for a slow two count, then to the side with my right, and bring my left next to it, one count each. Slow, quick, quick.

Reverse order to complete the box. Back with right foot for two, to the side with left foot and bring right foot next to it, one count each again. Something like so…

 

                        Slow ↑, Quick → , Quick → ,                        Slow ↓ , Quick ← , Quick ←

 

We try this a few times until I start getting the rhythm, then she puts on some music. More practice. Ok, not too bad. I’m doing the movements but still feel very wooden whilst Paige is all rolling hips and pointed feet. But she says I’m doing good. Guess I’m just harder on myself.

Next movement, the Chasse. After the first slow, quick, quick, step right with right foot and transfer weight to it, then bring it back, step to the left with left foot, again with weight and bring it back. Repeat with right again, then step forward into another box step. So far fairly easy and I’m catching on pretty quick.

            Next up the Jive, a 1, 2 rock step movement. Step left with left foot, transfer weight to it and lift the right, then back to right, stepping back with left foot and taking weight off the right with a small hop, lifting the knee. And repeat. We do it a few times, then start talking about other things and I lose the rhythm. Ok, reset and try again, with music. Not bad. It’s basic but I can get it.

End of lesson one. Lesson two happens two weeks later, again with Paige.

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The talented Paige and I

I totally forgot the Jive foot movements, so we recap for a couple minutes, and then head into the cha cha for more Latin dancing. It goes like so…

 

  1 ←, 2 ↓, 3 ↑, 4 →                    5→, 6↑, 7↓, 8←

 

Then into reverse order, stepping to the right after 4 and up instead of down, and repeat, with the cha cha cha being the quick sideways movements in between the first and second set of four. Being a dance with quicker movements, I start slow, but get a handle on it after a couple minutes. We try a few songs with different bpm’s (beats per minute) to practice speed. So far so good.

Now Paige says we have to work in the hip rotation. Basically rolling them in a figure 8. We stand in front of the mirror, which seems to make it harder for me for some reason, and she demonstrates. I try it….does not go well (in my opinion). Have to transfer weight from one leg to the other, while leaving both feet flat on the ground. I keep wanting to lift my heels as I move, might possibly need some weighted shoes for this one… . Anyway it feels funny, but apparently that’s how you know you are doing it right.

Cue the music. We try again slowly, this time with hips. Paige watches in the mirror, I don’t bother. Still feels a little funny, and I probably don’t roll half the time, but she gets excited when it does happen. Ok, break time for the hips.

Moving on to the so far extremely easy Waltz. Steps are…

 

1 ↑, 2 →,  3 →            1↑, 2←, 3←

 

You step ahead with left foot, right to the side, bring together. Step ahead with right foot, left to the side, bring together. And so on around the room we go. Paige says we have to act snobbish and NEVER look at each other. Faces to the side. I’m a pretty nice guy and wouldn’t act snobby to anyone, so the analogy doesn’t work too well for me. I just focus on the corner in either case.

The add in for this, stepping to the side but onto your toes, so there’s a rise and drop in height. Again pretty simple. We try another circuit around the room, putting in slow turns as we come to the corners. Nothing complicated here, so moving on.

We have a little bit of time left so we decide to try a Nightclub Country style dance. It’s pretty simple as well…

 

1 ←, 2 ↓, 3 →,              4 →               5 ↓, 6 ←, 7 ←

 

Moves 3 and 6 are just stepping slightly across and in front of the back foot, before stepping to the side, and repeating with opposite feet. We always start standing beside each other so I can see what to do, but when Paige moves in front, I usually mess up the first couple as I adjust to having her there. Again, just a bit of practice and it gets easier.

Ok, lesson two is complete! Next up……(tension)…..the group dance, immediately followed by a three hour practice party. Dancing with a bunch of random people should be interesting, hopefully fun. I’m just hoping I don’t crash into and injure anyone. There is one happening the next night, and I plan on going.

 

Oh look, time jump 24 hours later. Just got back from the dance party, but that’s later on. First off, the group dance. There are two beginner dances, Nightclub and West Coast Swing, and two intermediate dances, Foxtrot, and Samba. I choose West Coast Swing, which luckily Paige is instructing. We line up, men on one side, women on the other. Paige starts with the men, showing a straight back and forward movement with slow and quick steps, than the ladies, and repeat. Practice time with a partner. We try it once or twice, then the men rotate to a new partner. Repeat a few times over.

After that we split back to our gender lines and learn the next move, a spin for the ladies. More solo practice, then partner practice, men rotating again. Once again the gender split, and the last move we will learn, a 180 degree turn for both people. Start basic back and forward, add in the spin on the next set, then basic again, lastly the 180 turn for both people, and back to basic to finish. Aaaaaaand repeat with new partners until class is finished.

Alright, claps and high tens all around. I’m a bit thirsty so its time for a water break while the dance party is being set up. The majority of the playlist is the four dances that were taught, with some others added in to mix things up. At the start of each new style, an instructor is at the front to give a quick lesson for the first song, and then set us loose to practice when the second comes on.

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Dance party!

I sit the first one out to cool off a bit, then get asked to dance by one of the girls who was in my group. I haven’t spent enough time with each dance yet to just go and start without remembering which is which, though I do remember a few. The first couple songs are West Coast Swing, lucky me. We dance one or two, then break time again. After a couple dances I don’t know, I join the learning group at the front, and partner up with the girl across. The odd time it will be one from my original group, mostly not though. But it’s fun, even if I do lose the rhythm and steps half the time. And I notice there’s usually more women than men taking the quick lesson. Looks like there won’t be any shortage of partners for the night.

On one occasion I’m doing a faster country style and concentrating on the steps with my partner and I guess we moved a little too far out since one kind gentlemen informs us to stick closer to the center of the floor as the more experienced dancers are moving quicker around the outside. So we attempt again back towards the center until the song ends. Lesson learned: focus on what you are doing, but be mindful of the others on the floor.

I’m probably taking longer breaks than I need to, usually being an observer in these situations rather than taking part, but I’m pushing myself more to action these days. Paige finds me now and then for a dance, much easier when the instructor is there to help. Sometimes she’ll come over for a break and to talk, but being in charge for the night, there are many interruptions. Understandable of course, so I don’t mind.

The party goes to midnight, but after eleven it quiets down quite a bit and I end up mostly watching, only going on the floor when a familiar style is being played. More chats with Paige as the evening winds down and she goes off to dance a bit more with whoever is left.

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If you are ever in Calgary and wanting to dance the night away, I highly recommend DANCEnergy. A friendly and welcoming atmosphere with amazing people who are always ready to help you out!

Overall a fun evening doing something I’ve never done before. I didn’t eat much beforehand with all my nerves on edge, but I ignore them as much as I can and start to loosen up a little during the class. With the dance party over, my intro package is done and I have to decide on where to go next. Most likely more private sessions with Paige and a couple dance parties when my days off allow it.  By the time you read this, my cousin’s wedding will be over and hopefully I managed to “drop it like it’s hot”, at least somewhat well.

So here I am, starting one of the first of many new things that push me beyond what I ever thought I could do. It’s scary sure, but at least it won’t be on the list of things that I regret not trying out because of some random nerves and being a little uncomfortable. If we are too comfortable in our own skins, then we aren’t pushing ourselves in the direction of our fears enough. I’m sure I’ll be nervous again for the next group class/dance party, but over time that will go away, and then…..well just watch how smoothly I’ll move. At least until I trip and fall on my face. But then that’s part of the fun of learning, isn’t it?


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