Their eyes are everywhere, always watching… Where are you? Your studio, of course! Well, that’s what a friend of mine thinks. She, bless her heart, is terrified of anyone seeing her dance, and the studio has to open up its doors when nobody is there just for her. She’s never competed and I’ve never seen her at weekly socials. Again, bless her heart.
But, this article isn’t about my friend. However, that fear of vulnerability (or is it just plain stage fright) is certainly a hindrance when you need to practice on your own.
Why Practice on Your Own?
You might ask, “Why practice alone? Ballroom is a partner sport, so is there any point to practicing partner-less?” Yes, in fact, there is, especially from a follower’s point of view. As ladies, it’s really, really easy to become overly dependent on our man’s lead. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve heard this: “I can only dance well if I have a strong leader.” In my opinion, if a woman is to become a truly adept dancer, she needs to know her steps without the aid of a leader. Not every leader, is a strong one, and you need to be versatile enough to handle whatever he may throw at you. Not to mention, my Bronze I test, had me do the three school figures from each dance by myself first, and with Nick second.
When Should I Start?
Anytime you want. Unfortunately, I didn’t start practicing on my own until I was really close to testing out of Bronze I. The combination of nerves and hunger for more dance gave me enough of a kick to drive to the studio and practice. I’ve seen some newbies, mostly wedding couples, write down the steps to their routine so they can practice it. Whether they actually do is anyone’s guess, but the intent is still there.
How Often Should I Practice Solo?
That depends on your schedule. Since I’m a full-time college student I can only really practice alone once a week, on Wednesday or Friday nights during newbie group classes. I arrive at around 7:12 p.m. and I head out when the class ends at 8:30 pm. Oh, and I always stretch beforehand, which brings me to…
This. This right here is crucial. Yet, I never see anyone besides Silver and Advanced dancers do it. Others just sit and wait for their lesson. Um, what are you doing?! You should be stretching! Rant aside, I really can’t emphasize how important stretching is for any athlete unless you’ve actually sustained some sort of injury that could make you appreciate it. Once, when I was in middle school, I was walking down a flight of stairs with Mom to go home when the muscles in my right ankle suddenly seized up. Luckily, I was about three stairs from the bottom and was able to catch myself. Over the next couple of days, my right ankle was terribly swollen, and I could barely walk. I still have no idea how it happened, but something definitely went wrong that day. And to think, I hadn’t had much exercise that day. Seriously, stretching is a bit time-consuming, but would you rather have a pulled/strained leg muscle? A really good stretch-out lasts between fifteen and twenty minutes. Hold the stretch for the bare minimum of ten seconds, but try to reach thirty. Also, stretching can enhance flexibility if done consistently, which is always desirable.
The Fear Factor
I’m not going to lie: it’s a bit nerve-wracking to practice alone at first. All these other dancers are there, and just feel as if they’re watching you. They’re not, trust me. Mentally, dance is a very selfish sport. Dancers are always concentrating on what they need to improve themselves. Thoughts that run through my head include:
- “Shoulders, down. Don’t want to look like a neck-less dancer, do we?”
- “Dang, where’d my center go?”
- “Transfer weight, settle, transfer weight settle…”
- “Ack! Lost body contact there!”
- “Okay, for every movement your hip makes, you leg must follow it…”
Those are just a few. Believe, dancers are perfectionists when it comes to their technique, which seems to be an immortal beast that can’t be slain. Most likely, when you’re there, they’ll either be practicing with their teacher, in group class, or practicing alone. Chances are, they’ll probably be so engrossed in what they’re currently doing that they won’t give you anything beyond a passing glance.
Any Other Tips?
- I always bring my iPod with my ballroom playlist at the ready. You don’t really want to depend on the studio’s music during your practice.
- Please, for the love of all that is holy, be spacial aware of what’s going on around you. There’s nothing more exasperating to me when I’m in a private lesson and a practicing couple almost runs me over. People in private lessons and group classes have the priority because they forked over the cash to get more specialized instruction. You, on the other hand, are using this space for free. Please be considerate. I wish the waltzing couple from this post would understand that concept.
- Bring a bottle of water, towel, or any other essentials. Deodorant is a must.