A good foundation in dance carries through whatever type of dance you choose to undertake. There are basic techniques that should be the foundation of all dances: creating movement from the right place, using physics to propel yourself in the easiest way possible, maintaining proper spinal alignment to create ease of movement and rotation. These are basics we all should know as dancers.
I often have dancers come to me asking for advice on their dancing. They may seek fancier moves. They may seek better spinning ability. They may seek better partnering skills. They may seek better performance technique. The one thing that I always want to work on with them is their basics. Many of them come to me after they have sought lessons from various professionals in the community. They have spent a lot of money. They have come to the point where they look back at the time and financial investment and realize they are not improving.
Is this lack of improvement due to lack of practice? Maybe. I see many people taking multiple group classes and private lessons each week. I see them return each week the same as the first week they started. The information does not stick with them from one week to the next. There is videoing at the end of classes these days which takes away some accountability of the students to actually remember what they learned that week. Often those videos stack up in their home computer, rarely if ever to be viewed again.
Is this lack of improvement due to not understanding what they were taught? Maybe. Often there is terminology used that a student will guess at the meaning of as they are too shy to admit they are not entirely clear on what the teacher means. As a teacher, it is important to make sure the student understands the words used to convey the message. Sometimes a movement needs to be explained a couple of different ways to see which makes most sense to the student.
Is this lack of improvement due to not taking responsibility for their own dancing? Maybe. I have heard many people blame their lack of improvement being due to their partner, the director, or some external force. Are you kidding me? Dancers control their own body. If your dancing is not up to your standard, it is your own fault. It is most definitely not your partner’s. Anything you do with a partner (aside from being lifted) you can do on your own. It makes my skin crawl when I hear this victim mentality. As a dancer, you are controlling your instrument – your body. You are the one standing on your feet, moving through space, styling, improvising, etc. This has little to do with your partner. Lack of advancement in ability has nothing to do with anything or anyone but you.
When I teach, we often get back down to the basics of movement. I am surprised how often people who have been dancing for years may not have ever had a discussion in a group or private lesson about basic technique. They have fudged their way through routines, choreography, and general dancing for years. Trying to break the bad habits and create new ones is a challenge. Unless some time is invested in practicing new technique, our body will resort to what it has been doing forever. New techniques can be learned, but they do require attention to be paid when you are doing movements that you have done for a long time. Inserting the technique into those long standing movements will be exhausting to the mind and body as it will be working harder to incorporate the new technique. After a while though, your body will accept the new technique and insert it everywhere, especially when it is basic technique of movement.
If you are finding you are stuck in a plateau, not advancing through the ranks as you expected, or feeling like movement is more difficult for you than for others, seek some advice. Talk to the professionals in your community and see what they can help you with. Ask for the basic techniques to be reviewed in your genre. Take a beginner class in your genre as they often review what you should be doing. Basics are the foundation for advanced dancers.