General Dance Discussion > How many basic steps in a dance?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by ticolora, Nov 1, 2016.

  1. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    I'm new to dancing. For the sake of the discussion let's assume nightclub two step.

    I am comfortable with 10 patterns. Are there any guidelines for a "good" amount of basics?

    Should I try to minimize number of basic steps in a routine, and use those mostly to bridge patterns or as a fallback while I'm thinking of a next pattern to execute?

    If you take a large number of good social dancers (couples), and have them dance to a variety of reasonably sited songs, with average song duration of 80 bars. What do you guess a distribution of basics count proportion would be? Is it every other move is basic, or is it more like 1 out of 10?

    I'm trying to set myself up in a right direction as I learn to string patterns together. So far, I think that a dance looks better if it has fewer basic steps (although sometimes a basic is exactly what song is calling for).

    Would you agree that a better dancer, in general, uses fewer basics than a novice dancer?
  2. davedove

    davedove Well-Known Member

    In a social dancing situation, you can do a great dance with 10 figures, as long as you do them well. When some beginning dancers watch me dance with a classmate, they will comment on how much I know. I will tell them that if they really watch closely, they will see I don't use that many different figures. When I'm at a social, my objective isn't to show off how many steps I know, but to dance well, using steps I'm very comfortable with. Now, if I'm dancing with someone from my class, I will often try out figures we are learning, but that's only with people from my class.

    It's not how many steps you use, it's how you dance them that counts.
  3. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I'm answering both as a professional and someone who social dances a lot as both a leader and a follower. I've been dancing for over 20 years.

    Less is more. Ten patterns is plenty--most followers don't expect you to get through a whole song without repeating steps. In fact, I'm not always even aware of whether my leader has repeated, because I'm focused on following what we're doing in this moment, not what we did a minute ago (unless he only knows three patterns). I'm must more concerned with dancing comfortably and well. Make sure your leads are clear and that you're not causing your partner discomfort by holding her too tight, knocking her off balance, etc.

    In fact, I generally get more enjoyment out of a fairly simple dance done well than a dance with a ton of patterns that keeps me guessing. It takes a lot of energy to follow the more complicated patterns, and it can even be stressful. I like it when he does a few simple steps, then something fancy, then a couple more simple ones to let me recover, etc.

    Whether you memorize a routine is up to you, but a lot of leaders do find that helpful. I often teach them a little routine to do, but stress that they need to stay flexible according to the crowd, and they have to really lead and not rely on that routine. They usually start out with that, then do more improvising as they get more practice social dancing.

    It's good to know easy ways to vary both the routine and the way you do your patterns. For example, crossover breaks have several different endings. If you learn two or three of them, or different ways to combine the patterns you know, it adds some variety without you having a huge repertoire.
    raindance and RiseNFall like this.
  4. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    Agree with above. Ten will get it done and more is not always better
    danceronice likes this.
  5. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    For mixing basics with more advanced figures, you want to mix in things below your skill level as a partnership. If you try to do an entire song of moves that require all your (you + your partner) skill to execute well, you're going to be absolutely exhausted at the end and things will probably fall apart. Mixing in basics allows the two of you to have a more relaxed, enjoyable dance and catch your metaphorical and actual breath in between the challenging stuff.
    raindance, Loki and RiseNFall like this.
  6. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    Thank you for responses. I agree with everything said. However, I didn't word the question well. When I refer to a "basic step", I am not talking about various "simple" or "bronze level" figures. I am referring specifically to a basic side to side with two rock steps figure (in nightclub two step): side step (1), rock step (2-&), side step (3), rock step (4-&).

    I spoke to a classmate, and she said that 60% is a good number.

    My teacher said "as you get better, you tend to reduce number of basic steps, and use those as a bridge to connect figures".

    So, my guess for answering my own question is 10%.
  7. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    My answer really doesn't change based on your clarification. I have never used any kind of formula to figure out how many basic steps I should do, and as a follower I'm not keeping track. But if you must use one, I'd say 10% is too low.
    danceronice likes this.
  8. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    Agree the basic steps are used to bridge to other figures so 30% at least
    ticolora likes this.
  9. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    Do the basics as best as you can... don't focus on the outright number of them. In social dancing I generally notice his ability to lead first before I'll notice the number of steps he's done.
    Dancing Irishman, Mr 4 styles and GJB like this.
  10. GJB

    GJB Well-Known Member

    If you're new to dancing, you shouldn't be doing any advanced steps. As everyone else has said, focus on your basics. It's not what you do, it's how well you do it. If you can dance your basics well, even advanced followers will enjoy dancing with you. Beginners are just happy to be dancing. Advanced followers are very sensitive and will be very appreciative of good clean basics. It's sometimes the intermediate dancers trying to get to the advanced level that get bored or impatient. Don't worry about them. You are on your own path to advancement.

    Focus on lead and connection. Maybe start with a short routine that you repeat over and over. Then learn short combinations that you can mix and match and combine in different ways.
    raindance likes this.
  11. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    In AT we have maybe five patterns, and that includes doing nothing.
  12. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    I have been watching some amateur Salsa competitions. As level of competitors increase - the number of "basic" figure moves decreases. In advanced category, there are no basics at all. This might be the case for other dances, but for Salsa it seems fewer basics is better.
  13. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Is your goal social dancing or competition?
  14. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    That's a good point, @twnkltoz. Not a rhetorical question: what's the difference? I understand that social dancing might require few special skills, but mostly, I believe (with no arguments to back that up), that if you good enough for competition, you are good enough for social dancing. Am I wrong?
  15. Jeravae

    Jeravae New Member

    Competition dancing and social dancing are very different, IMO. If you are a competitive dancer, you can easily learn how to social dance well, but I've danced with competitive dancers that weren't great social dancers. Namely, my husband. He's wonderful, I adore him, but I don't often dance with him in social situations. He dances me into people and doesn't know when it's appropriate to pause and wait for another couple to go by. But you better believe his alignments were just right. :rofl:

    And to add my two cents: I love dancers who only know a few patterns. It's so much easier to follow someone who does a few patterns than a lot of patterns. As a follower, nothing makes me feel uncomfortable like a gentleman leading patterns that I don't know or haven't done a lot. Newcomer leaders are my absolute favorite to dance with. And I'm not a newbie. I'm starting most of my gold syllabus.
    I should edit to add that I like it when my instructor tries new figures. It's fun to see how well I can follow new things, but only since it's him leading.
  16. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    There is a huge difference:

    • In competition, you're dancing with a partner you practice with on a regular basis. They know all your moves and every nuance of every lead. Someone you dance casually with for one or two songs a week at a social dance will not be able to follow you as well. Additionally, practice time is much different from social time, because you can stop and discuss what's going wrong and work on it.
    • In competition, you either have a routine or at least groupings of patterns. Much more predictable for your follower, since she knows all of them by heart and you've practiced them so much, so she can focus on her styling instead of wondering what the heck you're doing. Much easier for you to execute than making things up on the fly, even with your method that you detailed in another thread.
    • A competition is short bursts of high energy, all-out dancing. Social dancing is a whole evening--sprint vs marathon.
    • Competition is about looking good. Social dancing is about feeling good.
    So, what's your goal? to look good, even if it means being uncomfortable or intimidating to dance with, or for all the women to want to dance with you?
  17. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Although this is often taken blindly as a "truth" (without any substantiation),
    I'm inclined to believe feeling good and looking good come hand-in-hand,
    because the underlying issue is good physics.

    I believe a lot of the separation between looking and feeling is a myth
    propagated by mediocre instruction/learning, where dancers artificially
    promote "technique" that are actually more harmful/irrelevant than

    I wonder how many (true) top dancers really think it's possible to
    look good while feeling crap, or vice versa.
    danceronice likes this.
  18. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I'm not saying they're mutually exclusive. I'm saying they have different priorities. I don't mean any disrespect to competition dancers at all. But a leader who only dances competition routines, all out, on the social floor can be intimidating and/or exhausting to dance with.

    Hence my question: give followers what they want, or focus on making yourself look good?
    LateToTheDance and RiseNFall like this.
  19. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    @twnkltoz, thank you. I didn't expect the difference to be so drastic. My goal is to make women want to dance with me.
    twnkltoz likes this.
  20. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    Then don't worry about the number of patterns you know. At all. Just be sure you're polite, smell nice (read: clean), and actually lead what you do know. Variety comes later, but never at the expense of clarity.

    There's a fairly beginner lead here that knows 4 figures in waltz - natural, reverse, change and spin turn... but he's worked on them really hard, has a clean and smooth weight transfer and clear lead. He's one of my favourite social dances. It's not fancy, but it's a nice un-stressful dance. Now if I could just get him to stop apologizing for being a beginner...

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