How to dance with clarity and practice effectively

It all started when I took my first steps into salsa dance.

I danced with a wonderful salsera who was one of the best salsa dancers in my city. I asked her to dance every time I saw her at social events. I’m confident one of the main reasons she said, “yes” was due to her curiosity of what type of dancer I would become. I had an endless supply of enthusiasm to improve as a social dancer and she wanted to know where it was coming from. She understood my skill level was low but forgave the many mistakes I made. Willing and patient. She wanted to help.

In the meantime, I practiced intensely and the next time we danced together it was different. As I walked her off the dance floor, I could see the great big smile which still remained on her face. I knew then that I had transformed into the type of salsa dancer, woman looked forward to dancing with. At the time, I wasn’t sure of what I did to impress her so much. Going out to socials, enrolling in classes, and learning new patterns helped. But looking back at it now, I didn’t practice regularly but I practiced effectively.

“I didn’t practice regularly but practice effectively.”

Practice Effectively

Effective practice comes from doing things with the goal of improvement. When you completely align with why you’re doing what you’re doing, when you’re coming from a place of purpose, when you’re doing things with purpose and you’re acting with purpose — that’s effective practice. Effective practice requires you to set specific goals. Apply intense focus into achieving those specific goals and seek constant feedback to improve. Practice effectively.

Clear Objective and Goals

You can’t perfect everything all at once. Choose what you want to focus on — set clear goals and objectives you can work at achieving. Focus on one area instead of many. Revisit one favourite pattern and focus on improving in that area. Take your time. It’s okay to learn slowly. To develop good coordination you need to practice the pattern again and again. Break it down into smaller, shorter, more manageable elements, and improve that one element before moving onto the next.

Focused Attention

Focus on the task at hand and ignore the other distractions around you. For example, you could focus on improving your breathing, or you could focus on how much pressure is the right amount of pressure to apply when you lead your partner. Whatever you choose to focus on, make sure your attention is on it and it alone. Concentrate intensely on that one particular thing. Are there certain things you can adjust to make dancing easier for the both you and your partner? Focus on that. This type of focused attention can be exhausting on the mind and body. It can be so demanding that after only an hour of consistent social dancing, you may find yourself mentally and physically drained. Be sure to take frequent breaks when you’re practicing effectively.

Feedback System

You need to measure yourself and seek consistent feedback to improve. Without feedback, you won’t know what areas could still use improvement. You may lose the motivation to continue your practice. In salsa, it’s nearly impossible to perform a partner move and observe yourself at the same time. Ask your dance instructor or dance partner to subjectively track your progress. After each dance, ask what you could have done differently, what you could focus on improving next time. They will help you to discover new insights to become a better dancer.

Becoming a better dancer

Dancing can be uncomfortable, scary and difficult — especially for new dancers. Generally, you will try to learn a new dance pattern, repeat it again and again, and then call it a day. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of practice. But with that type of practice, you’re not going to get any better. That type of practice isn’t worthwhile and sooner or later you’ll lose the motivation to keep at it.

To improve your performance, you need to practice effectively. Take the tips I’ve shared, set specific goals, focus, seek feedback, and work to achieve your goals — always with purpose. Learn from others and keep at it until you’ve met all the goals you’ve set.

Practicing effectively is the best way to help you become a better dancer — to help you confidently master new moves and patterns, maximizing your potential, and making you the best partner.

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