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Thinking on your feet
Posted by Peter Harris
9/20/2018  12:36:00 AM
Hi .. I have been taking lessons for about 2 years and have quite a few moves that i can complete easily. I learn quickly and have good rhythm. However when I try to put this into practice outside of the classroom every thing goes to pot! I don't forget or lose my sense of rhythm (which is reassuring) I have extreme difficulty thinking on my feet.. what do I lead next? that leads to stress and my mind goes blank and I'm in for 3 minutes of torture for us both!! I see the problem is worse when I am tired. I've no doubt its linked to my mental abilities.. I'm no fool, I have a good job, speak more than one language ... So my question here is how can I practice/learn this skill? Yes I know I just need to get out there and dance but the experience is so negative it will stop me dancing if I don't find a way soon. I am looking for some sort of mental drill that I can do away from the dance floor to train my brain (ha that rhymes ) in fact any tips to get past this would be great!
Re: Thinking on your feet
Posted by Peter Harris
9/20/2018  1:55:00 AM
To get things started I have thought of a few exercise.. please add your comments, alternatives and improvements!!
1, Put play a tune you might dance to. While it plays list your moves until the end of the song. Count them and repeat.
2 In two minutes list all the easy moves you can.
3 In two minutes list all the improvers moves you can.
4 create a choreographer using easy moves in 3 minutes .. different starting move each time
5 as above but including improvers moves as well.
6 List the moves you have difficulty with and practice them till you don't have to think how to do them.. just think about the next move
Re: Thinking on your feet
Posted by nloftofan1
9/21/2018  10:05:00 AM
Other people have (or have had) your problem. I know I have. My wife and I have been dancing for a good while now, but I remember that when we were getting started it helped to make up a small amalgamation for each dance style. That takes away the problem of worrying about what to do next, moment to moment. And if you depart from the amalgamation for some reason, the dance police aren't going to get you.
Re: Thinking on your feet
Posted by Ladydance
9/21/2018  4:38:00 PM
At this stage, I'd suggest learning a routine (long wall and short wall) and not deviating (unless forced to) until you are comfortable. Don't be afraid to stop and start again. Although it's good to visualize your steps, you need muscle memory and that comes with practice. It's always easier to dance in a class. Don't try anything fancy until you have the basics.
Re: Thinking on your feet
Posted by ericauerbach
2/17/2019  9:19:00 PM
I teach beginners through silver level. For smooth dances you just need a way to get around the floor; straight ahead or something like progressive twinkles. In between these forward movements you can do something like crossover breaks (which has many variations. Yes, you can do it in any dance with three steps per measure: waltz, foxtrot, rumba, salsa, bolero, bachata, tango (using QQS), and nightclub two step.

In waltz, for example, you just have to make it look waltzy by doing it smoothly and with rise and fall. And end it with an outside turn, just like rumba. Then add something else, like a turning box or a cross body lead in all your dances. Just change the STYLE for each dance.

One pattern, many dances.
Re: Thinking on your feet
Posted by nloftofan1
2/18/2019  10:27:00 AM
The suggestions from ericauerbach are excellent. Here's another. You say you "have quite a few moves that i can complete easily." Good. Take advantage of that by concentrating on the music. Just "lose yourself" in the music, and muscle memory may come to the rescue. That may work better for you than trying to remember patterns.
Re: Thinking on your feet
Posted by bocagirl
2/20/2019  12:00:00 AM
Here's another trick.
Most of the bronze dances here have a "PRECEDED BY" and "FOLLOWED BY" column. Find a step (call it B). Find a step before it (A) and a step after it (C). Now you have a combo A-B-C. Now make a BUNCH of different combos (based on how many unique combos you can make from the PRECEDED BY and FOLLOWED BY choices), and practice them, one right after another. Before you know it, you'll find out that the skills for leading between these steps will come much much more naturally!
Re: Thinking on your feet
Posted by prak
2/25/2019  12:48:00 PM
Even after 8 years, this still sometimes happens to me too. What I tell the beginners I teach is a little different from most of the answers here... Obviously, beginners use the "basic" step of the dance as a fallback. Sounds like you are already doing that, and the suggestions that you add 'style' to them are good. What you need to do next though is twofold:

a) make sure that you're confident enough in your basic that you can think ahead while dancing it. You are probably already doing this, but even people with a few years of lessons sometimes still don't completely have this down. Add to that the leads stress of floorcraft in social contexts, and suddenly it starts getting very difficult.

b) assuming you already have a), the next step is to add steps or small patterns to the things you can dance without thinking.

Let's say you have waltz. Beginners learn a closed change and a box step. Once they get their feet going, in international they learn "basic amalgamation" (Basic amalgamation is a natural turn followed by a closed change, then a reverse turn, another closed change). This is the real "basic, nonthinking" pattern. So let's say you can do this, but you're struggling to lead more. Pick a move, and focus on flowing into and out of it from basic amalgamation. Some good options are:
Whisk to promenade and chasse
natural hesitation change (good choice because it leads to many other moves)
natural spin turn
outside changes to open or closed position
(good choice because it forces you to have a strong lead)
basic weave (good choice because it is extremely useful for floorcraft)

So, pick one of these and work to add it to your repertoire as a move that you don't have to think to dance. For a little while you'll feel like you're dancing mostly basic and one more move; that's ok! Your goal here is expand what your brain thinks of as "basic": the things your body can automatically and easily switch between with no thought, even when your brain is trying to recall what the heck other moves you know, 'cause it's gone and frozen!

After some practice, you'll be able to easily add, say, outside changes to your repertoire of "basic" and you'll be able to use them just as easily as the rest of basic amalgamation. Now pick another move. Now is a great time to look at the charts of "followed by" and "preceeded by". As you integrate another move into your muscle memory, focus on adding it in different places of what is your brain's new "basic steps", and check whether you can exit the new move into different parts of your "basic steps".

So for example if you've got natural hesitation change in your repertoire of "basic moves", and you decide to add Basic Weave. You enter basic weave after an underturned reverse turn. Your "basic" includes two ways of achieving that: in basic amalgamation after a natural turn and closed change OR after a hesitation change. So you want to practice both of those entries into the weave until it becomes second nature.

I hope this isn't too wordy and you find it helps a bit. Feel free to reach out; teaching people from beginner to bronze-ish level is where much of my passion lies!

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