Learning to dance and improving your dancing requires a new and expanded awareness of your own body. Most people have a sixth sense, but it is not ESP or anything paranormal. Your sixth sense is called Proprioception – the awareness of the position of one’s own body. In fact, unless your sixth sense has been lost or damaged – as can be possible with our other five senses as well – you can further develop proprioception.
In order to learn to dance – or rather to learn to dance well – it is a person’s proprioception that must be enhanced. The warmup exercises in class – and in many of the better dance classes we have attended in other genres of dance – are designed to do many things, including enhance your proprioception.
While the Cuddles, Hammerlocks, and Right Side Passes you learn early on in dance class are definitely “dance moves”, they are also exercises that allow you to discover for yourself the kinds of movements and communication that is possible when dancing with a partner. It is not necessary to master any particular “move” but rather to use those exercises as a way to expand your own concept of what is possible.
For those interested or curious, the book Running with the Whole Body discusses proprioception and describes exercises intended specifically for runners. Almost anywhere in that book where it says “running” it could have easily said “dancing”.
An entire approach to movement (and physical rehabilitation) – called the Feldenkrais Method – employs the same kinds of strategies discussed in the book. (The book, above, was written by a Feldenkrais practitioner, so the book actually uses the Feldenkrais Method.)
Sarah and Darrell make use of similar principles in dance class. We endeavor to teach everyone how to move effectively and comfortably with a parter, as well as how to communicate movement with a partner (applies to Leads and Follows equally).
Knowing what to do (the moves or the steps of a particular dance) is only a part of knowing how to do the moves. We teach you not only what to do but how to do it and make it work with a partner.
Remember that “doing the steps” is just a part of “learning to dance”. It takes a bit more time to develop the physical awareness to dance well, but once you become comfortable with the idea that dancing happens in the body (vs in the feet), you can learn countless patterns more easily, and even make up your own new “moves”.