Once you learn a few rudimentary patterns you can hit the floor with some confidence to dance with your peers. However, there are other opportunities which become available once you improve a bit- competitions, performances and showcases. Typically when these options are presented, the reaction is either yes, it’s for me or no way! I’m not a performer. True, you can have a grand time dancing without ever performing a solo routine or dancing in a formation, but taking the chance to perform will only improve your all-around dancing. The benefits certainly out weigh the fear that might hold you back from ever trying.
There are basically four main components to learning how to social dance; your school figures, how you look (posture, arm lines, style, etc…), framing your partner and how you emote the dance. As a competitive dancer, you would constantly need to take coaching lessons from various champions to achieve perfection, but as a social dancer you certainly do not need to invest that much time to feel extremely comfortable on the dance floor.
Truth be told, you can see and feel results in three of the four components by remaining consistent to taking your weekly private lessons, group classes and attending as many dance parties as your time allows. Doing a little bit each day or as close together as possible will help reinforce all the instructions you learn.
So, as a social dancer, why are showcases important if you’re learning seventy five percent of dancing on the weekly lessons?
Before I answer that question, let me ask you this, what keeps your attention when you are watching a performance on DWTS or SYTYCD, or in certain movies like Dirty Dancing, Scent of a Woman or Shall We Dance? Is it the music? The costumes? Personalities of the dancers? Perhaps, but I would venture to say what keeps your attention is how much fun the dancers appear to have while dancing. It’s their genuine expression and enjoyment of the dance that draws you into their routines and what makes the performers feel so excited about their performance.
…and that is the reason why participating in a showcase is important. It’s during these yearly events when you focus on that fourth aspect of dancing- emoting the dance.
Emoting, interpreting, or building dance expression goes far beyond the smile you wear when you Swing or the stern face you wear for American/International Tango. Emoting is that “it” factor which captivates the people watching you dance, either socially or performing. This fourth component transforms your dancing from feeling confident while dancing to having a confident dance. When you’re out dancing at a non-studio event, it’s your expressions which encourage people to approach you and say how well you dance.
When I’m working with my students on a showcase routine, I try to encourage them to take on the meaning of the dance, how it relates to a relationship and then try to express those emotions. I understand I might be getting a bit heavy in the topic now, but understanding the dance relationship is a key factor for emoting.
For example, here are the six major dances and how I perceive the emotional story-line which fit these dances. (I’m not stating these are the only meanings, but rather my interpretations of them.)
Foxtrot- The first date where you are smitten.
Waltz- The highest of royal events where you are the royalty.
Tango- The love/hate relationship of Pepe Le Pew and the female cat that always happens to be near him
Cha-Cha- The big flirt. Flirting with your partner and everyone else watching.
Rumba- A loving desire so real you feel it internally.
Swing- Two kids playing tag.
There are many valid reasons to participate in a showcase- great short-term dance goal, learn one dance really well, show progress, etc… Showcases provide you the unique opportunity to dive into the heart of a dance, to explore the untold story-line and bring that aspect to life, and in return your social dances will forever be enhanced by the fourth component of expression; taking your learning to dance from 75% to 100% applied knowledge.