Frustrated learning to dance

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by mrrumba, Apr 7, 2011.

  1. mrrumba

    mrrumba New Member

    I have taken East Coast Swing lessons for around ten months. I still have trouble following the beat. I don't find it easy to count the steps in my head and listen to the music at the same time. If I count the whole time, it is tiring and I don't really enjoy it. If I just listen to the music, I think I do somewhat well with the basic step; but once I start doing turns and things I lose count of the steps. I only recently mentioned this problem to my teacher. She hasn't been able to help too much.


    I haven’t been to a ton of actual dances, but I figure I’ve probably danced at least 40 times (not counting classes). I would think I would be somewhat competent by now.



    I wonder if my teacher could have helped me more, or if I don't have much talent for dancing. I don't know if private lessons would help. Maybe with a different teacher. I'm not anxious to keep spending money on lessons though.
     
  2. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    First, mr r, please stop putting yourself down.

    Second. Welcome to DF.

    And third just from my own selfish perspective...) Why do you think things aren't working for you? Not to put you on the spot, but understanding what you're seeing/feeling might help the experienced dancers here understand what's going on, so they can help you.


    Oh yeah and fourth. Welcome to DF.
     
  3. mrrumba

    mrrumba New Member

    I'm not really enjoying the dancing because I'm struggling to follow the beat. I feel frustrated because it's taking so long to learn. I get fed up and feel like giving up.

    When I danced without trying to count the whole time, I was more relaxed but my teacher said my timing was not as good (she was at the dance, this was not in class). Should I not care if I'm missing steps and am not on beat?

    Does that answer your question?
     
  4. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    welcome to df...how are you counting the dance?
     
  5. mrrumba

    mrrumba New Member

    I count: "rock step, triple step, triple step". That's called six count, right?
     
  6. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I find 123, 123, rock step (strictly for ecs mind you)... to help a bit more.. only because you can more easily say "triple step" over a less defined amount of time...if that helps...at any rate...dance takes a while ...don't be discouraged...and don't hesitate to scout around for someone who speaks a language that works for you
     
  7. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    I would spend more time listening to music, counting along with it - one, two, three and FOUR, five and SIX...and working to hear the space between the beats and can feel the pulse (oooone, twoooo, three-and foooour, five-and siiiix). Identifying the up and down beats, etc. Get to really FEEL the music. This took me a really long time. I'm NOT musical in nature - I was the one that always clapped on the off beat in church. For the longest time, I could NOT step on that "3" beat - I just couldn't hear it, but after listening - REALLY listening to a lot of music, it finally clicked.

    Also, you need to get out and DANCE more! Honestly, 40 dances is a drop in the bucket. That's like, a couple night's worth of dances. I'll be honest - I'm a WCS dancer who started to take up Lindy Hop, I took 4 months of beginners classes every week, and at the end of the 4 months, still felt like I couldn't successfully follow it socially(even with my prior dance knowledge of following and connection). The rhythm was hard for me to get. Y'know what? I quit Lindy. My heart wasn't into it and the music didn't move me the way the music in WCS does, and I wasn't willing to take time away from my WCS to dedicate the time it would have taken to REALLY get Lindy. Learning to dance is HARD, and it takes countless hours of practice. If you're only dancing a few songs a week, you're not gonna get it, you're just not.
     
  8. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    No matter how good the instruction or learning level, private or group class, you must go to dances and practice; that's the only way you will get better at it. 40 dances over a 10 month period is not very much at all.

    Have you been learning other dances as well? If so, how are you doing with those?
     
  9. i concur with all that is said so far. also, i have found it useful to remind myself that it takes two years to become a two year old. there is no shortcut. it takes time to have ones body doing something new well enough and independently enough to have mental and physical "space" to enjoy -- or know that one is enjoying the dancing. hang in there. welcome, and good luck!
     
  10. mrrumba

    mrrumba New Member

    It's hard for me to stick with it when I'm not really enjoying it. If it didn't make me anxious and frustrated, I think I'd like it.

    I'm not taking any other type of dance classes now. I took a ballroom and salsa course a few years ago but I didn't stick with them.
     
  11. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    So what motivates you to dance? If you want to continue in the dance, you need to find what motivates you to slog through the frustration. I've gone through nights, weeks, months even, where I feel like I can't do a damn thing - can't stay on time, can't follow, falling out of balance, stumbling through even basics, and needed to find that motivation to keep dancing anyhow. One big tip - making friends in the dance community to encourage you along is absolutely indispensable. On those nights when I hated my dance, and didn't feel like dancing, it was my friends there that were like "cmon, just DANCE with me, it doesn't matter, just have fun!"
     
  12. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    mrrumba, I know you said you don't want to spend more money, but if you can handle the cost you might try private lessons. I myself did not do well in group classes when I first started out, but did better with privates.
     
  13. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    The joy of dance for many of us is worth the frustrations. As Spitfire said, some private instruction may be a help here. Best wishes with this!
     
  14. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    I have to agree with the recommendation to listen to the music. I made two transitions learning to dance with the music in my time. The first happened when I was in college. I spent a summer listening constantly to reggae and ska. When I got back to school, people thought I had spent the summer dancing, my musicality had so improved, but I just listened to music.
    When I started learning ballroom, every song I heard on the radio, I would count out the beat to see what dance I could dance to it.

    Unfortunately for you, swing is a weird one. The music is four beats to the measure, and the dance is six beats for a basic, and for many figures, so every two figures makes three measures. In other words, half the time you are starting the figure in the middle of a measure.

    After I started learning West Coast Swing, I stopped counting "rock step, triple step, triple step", the way I was first taught, and just counted numbers for all the beats. The EC Swing basic became for me "1 2 3&4 5&6".

    Now, when you say you "danced 40 times", what does that actually mean? Did you dance at 40 socials? How many songs, roughly, at each one? Did you just practice 40 times? How long each time? It's kind of hard to judge how much practice, and the kind of practice, you've had based on what you've said so far.

    If I were where I'm guessing you are, I would practice some combination of figures by myself, to music of my choosing. Maybe start with slow swings (blues is good for that) and just work on being on beat to that. Maybe crank up the bass to make the beat very clear. As I became more comfortable, either turn down the bass, or speed up the music. As I got more comfortable, I would eventually try to dance to songs that are faster than anything I encounter at a social, with the idea that I won't feel rushed at the social.
     
  15. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    First point: everybody sucks when they have to think. No exceptions. You're stuck in a spot right now where you have to think more than most, so it looks like they are having an easier time of it than you are. That's OK; there's always somebody who has a harder time of it than everyone else. So you're the unlucky one this time. It's not an insurmountable problem, if you decide to get better.

    There are three habits that you need to develop, and I would suggest concentrating on them separately.

    First, you need to learn to listen to the music without thinking about it. That means you need a lot of laps listening to music. Ideally, whenever you aren't sleeping, you should have music playing. Take it with you. FM radio is fine, a personal player is better. It doesn't have to be dance music - classical music has a beat too.

    Second, you need to learn to do the steps without thinking about it. Again, that's laps - I recommend this is where you keep your focus during lessons. Counting is a drag - it's also the fastest way to make progress. My favorite instructor insists that students count out loud when working on hustle -- and when they do, you can really see the difference it makes.

    Third, you need to learn to dance without thinking about how it comes out. "Dance like nobody's watching". Let the habits you are learning express themselves naturally, without fretting about it -- that's for practice time.


    A question for you: when you count to yourself (just normal counting: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10...), do you hear the numbers, see the numbers, say the numbers, or feel the numbers?

    Put another way: can you read and count at the same time? Can you talk and count at the same time? Can you listen to someone else talking and count at the same time?
     
  16. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    not to be a buzzkill...but...dance is not for the faint of heart...no one strolls in and has an easy time of it...you have to want it...and you have to not take yourself too seriously...and you have to leave your ego at the door...and get a double shot of courage...if not...well...doomed....just like everyone else who ever tried it
     
  17. danceamanda

    danceamanda New Member

    hey mrrumba, sometimes i find this technique helps my students get better at musical timing.

    Play the music you want to practice to and count along with it.
    Then just move around in time to the count 1,2,3 & 4, 5 & 6 or whatever count you are using.
    Dont worry about patterns, just get comfortable moving your feet under your body and changing weight in time to the music.
    This will get you used to generically moving in time to the music without worrying about patterns.
    You can even just stand on the spot and change weight in time but it helps to move about randomly.
    When you get the rythm into your muscle memory its one less thing to worry about.
    Moving on time will become second nature and you can focus on the patterns then.

    Its a technique that works with many of my students, it might work for you.
     
  18. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I agree. And if you say you're okay with basics but only lose the timing with more complicated moves, then that's an indication you need to practice those moves more (without music), until you have muscle memory for them. Then you should be able to do them in time to the music.
     
  19. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    That's great advice... :cheers:
     
  20. mrrumba

    mrrumba New Member

    Thanks to everyone for your advice and support. Learning to dance is much harder than I thought.

    I’m not good at distinguishing the half and whole beats when I dance. Wouldn’t a more accurate count of the beats be something like: 1,2, half, half 4, half, half 6 (the rock step: 1,2; and the triple steps: half, half, 4, half, half, 6).

    Maybe reading a bit about music theory will help me. I don’t have a great understanding of beats and measures.
     

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