“It’s ironic,” said one of my students on her lesson. “I’ve been walking since I was a toddler and I come in for a dance lesson and you’re teaching me how to walk.” This conversation prompted this month’s Pro-Tip.
On your first or second lesson you should have been introduced to each of the Four Basic Elements; Walking forward and backward, Side Steps, the Triple Step and the Rock Step. These four rudimentary movements are the foundation to all your social patterns. Two walking steps and a side step create your Foxtrot basic. The American Tango basic is comprised of three walking steps and a side step. String together a group of side steps for your Merengue basic. Combine two triple steps and a rock step to form your East Coast Swing basic.
Once we are comfortable with the single components, we give names to a small grouping of elements to save time; Half a Box, Open Break, Tango close or Twinkle for example. Next we compile these bigger elements to form longer patterns, sequences, choreography, etc…
However, how often do you return to the Four Basic Elements and focus on them individually to enhance a certain dance? My guess is rarely, unless you are serious about improving. It’s easy to become consumed in learning patterns, but to truly dig in and improve you social dancing, showcases and competition dances, you should return to the basics often.
When you have your next lesson, pick any of the Four Basic Elements and then compare that element in two different dances. Spend some time getting acquainted with the differences. Then try the basic steps of the dances while keeping the technique of the element at the forefront of your focus. A little bit each lesson will help you in the long run. Soon, your Tango won’t feel like Foxtrot, your Rumba and Swing Rock Steps will change the dances for the better and the Side Steps you dance in Cha-Cha won’t be the same as Merengue.
True, I might have blurred the lines a bit into styling. Each dance should feel different and learning how to correctly adapt the Four Basics Elements, as per the styling of the dance, will ultimately transform you into a more dynamic dancer.