This guide aims at experienced dancers with countless festival visits that do not know how to significantly improve their dancing anymore by standard dance classes or private dance training
How to "Dance"?
The driving force for people to start dancing and especially couple dancing is as diverse as people can think of - be it social contact, addiction to music, culture, coupling, sex, extraversion, sports, egocentric, art, .... Most of the time, it is a mixture of many of these traits and people still come together dancing in a single event.
Nevertheless, when people start dancing regularly and stick to it a long time, there are strange characters that form with excessive dancing because they promote their initial driving force(s).
Here, I only want to address people that are interested in dancing mainly for expression of music in a dance couple which for me is the masterclass of dancing.
Again, this article deals with prejudices about dancing. Content that is widely not understood or misinterpreted about how to achieve a dance "style" which attracts everybody. Why should someone need to dance an attractive dance style?
Because it is natural, true, meaningful, beautiful and maybe at some point even art.
(I) How to Pratice Basics
In my first dance school in Germany (which has a high quality of teaching and technique) I never really understood why people said
after you reach a certain dance level concerning technique, you should go back working on your basic.
Intuitively it makes sense to work on "details" to perfectionize what you are doing and where you probably lose quality with learning more complex figures. Anyone should practice basics anyway. This is extensively investigated in artificial dances (in this context, artificial means based on unnaturally invented moves to define a dance style) such as Standard dances and Salsa - but this is not the point.
In the end, I noticed that they did also not understand what they meant with it.
Another dance teacher mentioned, he can see the quality of a dancer at his basic step.
It has the exact same meaning as when a University Professor opens his freshman math course with the words:
"Forget everything you learned at school. We start at zero."
This means (as in school and basic dance schools) not learning something to "get you going" in life or on the dance floor but cutting to the essence of what this topic is all about, how it works and how you can take control of it taking the way of a philisopher: with affection to wisdom.
A really good leader can dance a whole (good) song with a (good) follower without using one so-called figure and both will really enjoy it. Why is that so?
Actually, dancing is mainly about connection between dancers, feeling and musicality.
That is why Kizomba exploded as a dance out of nothing where it initially "got rid of" many figures, condensing dancing to its essence and also why (amongst connected reasons) Bachata and Kizomba match well for events such as festivals.
Unfortunately, these features are not tought anywhere and are also hard to teach and to grasp. Everybody can learn a figure which is just a variation of body movements.
(II) The Human Nature
The human being is clearly a group animal with few outstanding loners. That is why it always tries to adapt to other people and environments not to get socially repelled. Then there are some humans that try not to fit, stand out of the crowd but instead want to be leaders.
We can see these types of humans on the dance floor. The ones that repeat figures as learned in any dance school or just improvise stuff, the others trying to draw as much attention as possible to themselves with their "outstanding moves".
I do not want us to end up like this because it prevents us from feeling extraordinary dances. So what to practice basically? How to "start at zero"? Now, first we have to
a) Get rid of what people could expect from you.
The only really thing that matters is if played music - which should be the first cause for dancing - attracts us or not. This seems no big advise because everyody likes some kind of music.
However, the emphasis is not on what we like but about what we do not like.
Sorting out when dancing is just habit and convenience, a "social event" compared to when it really moves our soul is utmost important.
If I do not feel a song on this party, I should not dance to it just because I am on a dance party (unless - out of politeness - I am heavily demanded for a dance). Each time we have to neglect a dance, we should explain why we do not dance because otherwise, people invent false reasons why we neglected that dance.
Now, if we dance to mediocre music out of compromises but we do not musically feel a movement, we should not dance it just because the follower or leader "expects" something to happen on a dance floor so that we as a couple do not look like a beginner. If we instead start doing - excessive - styling for nothing not to look weird, you know that the dance partner also does not have an idea what dancing is about even if he or she already dances for 10 or more years.
The really important thing here is to dampen social instincts in a civilized modern society and rely on musical instincts when you once again in your life start dancing from zero.
What does "feel musically" mean?
This is a strong difference to "feel physically".
With dance courses, we practise physical automatisms of our bodies: the figures we prefer to lead or interpret as a follower. They automatically come when we are dancing just when our body prefers to do a movement (if we practiced that movement before). We do not have to think about that. It is like bicycling, jogging, swimming, ... Up to that point, it has nothing to do with music even if we listen to music at the same time. We are still on the same dance level as in a Zumba course.
When have you ever practised automatisms of your hearing, feel musically?
For example, some people practice this slowly when they create choreographies. There, music is looked at in detail: how dance figures can interpret musical feelings.
Other people simply dance to music alone whenever they hear it. There, you can avoid triggering "leading or following automatisms" learned in dance lessons.
"But DJ Vamp, everybody feels music differently and interprets it differently. How can you learn this?"
This is a widely stated assumption which is explained with vast differences between people.
Think one moment about it.
How similar are human beings genetically? 99,9%.
Also, compared to mice? 97,5%.
How similar do they react if you slap their face or caress their face?
Why do Daniel&Désirée have millions of views with one dance clip with
"their feelings and interpretation" in a social dance compared to other ten thousands of professional dancers that are similarly attractive with their choreographies on stage?
Creatures of earth love structure and symmetry - optically as well as technically. That is in the nature of them. When you understand how music and dancing connect in a harmonic and symmetric way, people want to watch it or act and be the same - "be Daniel&Désirée".
The point is: you cannot be Daniel&Désirée without being yourself because that is also what they are. If you immitate them, you will be neither them nor yourself.
I want to help people to become what resembles to be "be Daniel&Désirée" or even more without immitation.
b) Practice your spectrum of feelings.
Many people only want to reach happiness in life and avoid all negative feelings, travel the world, visit exciting places and swim in different pools. This may be a good idea for holidays but at the same time, these are the most uninspired people to dance with because they do not sense any change in music which is always a moving path between emotions.
"The spectrum of feelings you are able to feel makes you the dancer you are."
Bachata itself comes from the sadest persons and moods there are and has gone through a rollercoaster of different emotional expressions. Practice with different types of songs of different genres. Learn to feel feelings like an actor but learn to feel them, not only pretending them on the dance floor.
You do not learn this in regular dance classes up to now but with life experience, movies, art, music, ...
People are especially attracted to artists that can express a wide spectrum of feelings because they intuitively connect a rich life experience and social ability to such persons.
(III) True Movements
c) Start with SMALL defined movements.
To learn capability and preferences of your body with movements, we have to exaggerate them to train. Same goes for leading excercises. It is a simple principle of sportive training to execute clean movements and excite them for muscles to grow: faster, higher, further.
Now, for musicality - physically - we have to adapt the exact opposite:
Concentrating on small clean well dosed movements.
Therefore, the general principle in dance lessons could misguide us (especially in Bachata Sensual) that every big emotion needs a big motion and these big emotions and motions have to happen all the time.
Beware: a dance class (especially a workshop) is nothing but a very compressed content to learn as many techniques as possible in a short time (as a service for us getting something for our money) - not meant to be transferred with an exact copy in social dancing. Same goes for workshop videos which is publicity for a teachers,
- not being used in that excess in a social dance.
Be it music, feelings, technology, whatever, now, first we look at small details. These details are mandatory for each work of art, each technological system, each psychological and physiological explanation. Clearly, it takes a lot of time to do this. In the end, bigger movements are only a sum of small movements when your body is trained for that already.
d) Practice ALONE with only the mirror.
Experience music and examine your body physically and optically.
In my first exam in physics at university, I failed with the words of the Professor:
You should not study alone, nowadadys people work together. Study in a group!
Up to that point I was not used to failing at all.
I thought about this sentence a lot and my conclusion is twofold: No and Yes.
The first step should always be a step solely by us. We should be able to learn, identify problems, think of solutions, form a concept and an opinion based on facts, necessary assumptions and your interpretation. Test ourselves only. I know that for extrovert people, this seems quite a burden to spend lots of time alone but it is a necessity. Believe me, for introverts the application of learned concepts in social environment is as annoying the other way round ;). This means going back to -our- basics when we already have had technical input from a dance school or workshops to sort out what is important to us and what is not.
Afterwards, it is very recommended to test our perception by interacting with other people: Looking how they dance; dancing with them; talking to them to correct ourselves and correct them (of course not while dancing) - with words and with dancing.
Take care of the sensitive undefined border between personal style and correct style.
(IV) Meaning and Beauty of Music
Music itself has strong patterns which we should basically be able to identify.
Songs, especially romantic bachata songs, have strong rhythmic and melodic patterns.
So, dancing is not "our arbitrary feelings" at all.
On the dance floor, we are the incorporation of music that we love.
If we put yourself above music that we want to interpret,
we have already lost because it is not love anymore but egocentric or lazyness.
First, it is necessary to understand how music works. Obviously, the best way to do this is to learn how to play an instrument. If this is too theoretical, time-cosuming or too complex for someone, it is obligatory to train your perceptions of hearing, see previous lecture section.
Where humans genetically are practically identical concerning what they can achieve, growing up and your activities in this life span mainly form your physical and musical abilities.
We all can hear music, but each person can only perceive a different part of music. (see also my mission)
Most of us have great weaknesses in hearing measure, instruments, notes, note distances, chords and feeling certain emotions which are transfered by music. That is not a problem at all if we do not wish to proceed in dancing or as a person in general.
However if we do wish to proceed in dancing, there is no way around this topic. The training of our perception defines how well we can interpret our beloved music.
If we then have a reasonable recognition of music and a reasonable spectrum of feelings, we can try to understand what our bodies tell us.
Is this hip hop track with strong trembling bass knocking you down?
Is that guitar solo tingling in your head, your feet or your fingers?
The concept stays the same for music and dancing for all people:
Certain instruments and effects can only be interpreted by
certain congruent "beautiful" movements, e.g.:
short staccato effects need short staccato body interpretation
slow waving effects need slow waving body interpretation.
No matter who you are or what you feel.
Still, which body part is ours to feel. That is ours to interpret.
That is what music will tell us if we really start listening to it
and where the beauty in dancing comes from.
If we made it up to this point, we already dance "better" than 99% of other dancers. I prefer the notion "more effective" because that is what we get in return:
lots of additional deeper reaching joy for you and your dance partner.
(V) The Art in Dancing
This is a very complex topic why it should be dealt with only after making to go through all previous steps a) to d).
Art is something rare and precious because it is not only the sum of all parts of a whole. It does not seem to follow natural laws; it does seem to be more.
Let us clarify how to end up with art taking small steps.
e) Better NOT to do a spectacular figure than to do one in social dancing:
never overdo it!
This is actually the golden rule where people fail most of the time.
Each piece of art - be it movie, music, text, theatre, etc. - has got an arc of suspense, meaning: a climax or multiple of those are rare and very well placed. The same goes for dance aesthetics. Proportions of serenity, energy and changes should be followed.
When you now know what moves your soul and consequently your own body,
you can start to practice leading. Each bigger move that you lead should not only fit music but should also fit mood, intensity and speed of the song at the exact time as well as the dance partner and on top - it should please you both in a resonant way.
Not only that many women are struck by intense doubtful leading like a crushing wave but primarily it is for your own good:
In the beginning of practicing art in a dance couple, we simply need to dance a basic step but listen to the music until we can understand fragments of the music. We try to fit these single fragments with movements that fit the song and our style.
A typical example where everybody starts to "interpret" no matter how good he or she dances is "Necio" from Romeo Santos: Repetitive big music breaks allow anybody to prepare a big dip at this point. This is an intelligent illusion of musicality because actually people interpret a spot where there is no music at all. Romeo Santos is a master in letting us think we are the greatest dancers of all times with us being nothing even close ;)
"Practice your leading with musical perception instead of physical perception."
Now it is very important not to follow our physical instincts to artificially fill "dance gaps" but to concentrate on details of music. If we do not catch most of them, it is not a problem as long as we listen. Each song repeats itself countless times in 4 and multiple of 4 times measures. We simply wait for another repetition. Most followers are very happy if only a little part of music and emotion is respected.
When we train more and more, we can increase the amount of interpretation and later also use more complex figures. However, we need to keep in mind that the more complex a figure sequence gets, the way more overproportionally complex the interpretation will become just because we have to anticipate all the spot from an early point comparable to a world class tennis or chess match.
(where speed and fitness/technique equal figure length and music complexity)
Thus, we either have to cut figures in parts - or better do not use them at all.
"But DJ Vamp, you always need to know a song by heart to be able to interpret it". That is not true at all. And that is just awesome about how structured music is.
It is of course helpful to know a song but it is not mandatory.
It totally depends on the quality of composition of a song. The better composed, the easier it becomes for a dancer to anticipate how his next action will be. A better composed song indicates the flow of energy and speed by technical means. That is why it is important that DJs play "good music" and/or remix well and dancers have training in musicality and feelings.
f) Take action as a leader but also give FREEDOM
Some followers would say there is nothing worse than an insecure leader who does not know what he wants or how to lead. Of course, after practising, a leader should be able to lead.
However, a leader should also be able to let go, to give a follower the chance to react and not only impose his or her own interpetation on the follower. After all, dancing is an interplay between two people. Only if leader and follower agree of being one unity, the concept of constant leading can also work out. Especially Bachata Sensual tends to impose leading all the time which hinders a dynamic dance. That is why most leaders tend to lead the whole song with each follower (if the follower agrees or not) because they are used to it.
On the other hand, some followers even tend to dance for themselves the whole song while being lead. These are both unfavorable outcomes for a couple's dance.
In addition, by giving space, a leader can very easily estimate the musical dance level of a follower. Especially in Bachata Sensual, many women are used to follow a whole dance without "worrying" what comes next. Thus, they cannot handle taking action on their own. They seem to be caught in ice or jump to the leader to heat her with fire and action again. A leader should not expose a follower which is uncomfortable with it but continue to lead instead. Nevertheless, a follower who can cope with a solo dance situation is clearly superior by contributing to a versatile musical moment in life.
Again, music itself can already help us leaders with indications when to lead and when to give speace where strong vocal parts should cause a stronger connection between dancers where strong instrumental parts are more proned to individual interpretation.
Just imagine how many weeks it takes to generate one well-composed song of 3-4 minutes length and compare it to your time spend on learning how to dance.
We should feel the decency in what we do compared to the music which we dance on.
We can feel exceptional moments dancing to a Romeo Santos track by absorbing that compositoral quality with the simplest means we have to express it.
Yet, don't you think it is worth trying to push the dance level to match these songs
- instead of playing his songs and simply imagining to resemble the song?
"big e-motions need big motions"
- those, who never learned small emotions and small motions
will never have the quality to perform and to dose big motions
Driving Forces of Dancing
Interpretation of Music
You are a Pro? Better start from zero!
Dancing towards outside
Dancing towards inside
Not your Taste of Music?
No Need to dance
Not your Taste of Music?
No Need to dance
Requested for a Dance?
Dance! But dance authentic to You!
Physical Automatism Training, e.g. Body Waves
Musical Perception Training, e.g. Choreographies
Unique human Diversity?
"Half"-Improvised Dance vs Choreography on Stage
Easy Life vs Hard Life
Spectrum of Emotions
Spectrum of Physical Abilities
Small Details matter most
The Mirror and You
Frequency f [Hz]
People moving to Music as a Unity
Perception of Notes and Instruments
The weakest link
Interpretation Example: Improvisation with
very few corporal Bachata Elements
The sum in art
Climbing the Ladder- no constant Step Size Tallest Boarder marked in red
Chorus / First Peak
An Arc of Suspense in a Song
Chorus / Main Peak
Musicality Illusion with Gaps
This Wave hits you hard, Girl!
Anticipation: Where will the ball go? How to hit is the best way?
The Follower's Freedom
Couple Bachata Dance with small corporal
Bachata Elements in a low Energy Setting
Edwin&Daniela NYC / USA
Follower frozen in Place
Dance Upgrade pending -
are you in?
Sound Pressure Level