Success depends largely on how much time you dedicate to perfecting your performance. We all know practice is an important part of every dancer’s life, but how good are we really at it? We think that learning to practice well is one of the most important things you’ll learn in your career, but it’s also one of the hardest.
Ballroom dance sport is extra difficult because we are dancing with a partner- cue disagreements and clashing personalities, but more on that in upcoming posts. But if you really take the time to get to know what practice methods you can use are and how to plan your training, your life will be much easier.
So here’s how we divided our practice, we hope you’ll find it helpful!
technical dance practice
This is where you’ll perfect your coordination of steps/actions. Technical practice is the type of dance practice that takes up the most of your time and the most concentration. Different dancers use different ways to train their technique, but here are some guidelines you can try:
- HOW: break up the dance into ever-smaller sections- from choreography to figures, from figures to steps, and from steps to single actions. Depending on your level and skill your practice should be planned in a way that allows for finer and finer detail in coordination.
Technical practice should be high intensity in terms of concentration and movement control, but keep your energy level moderate at the start- too much muscular tension will prevent you from developing the necessary sensitivity for detail.
However, make sure that you don’t only train in low-energy/low-speed mode! Work on the required movement slowly for half of your designated time and then increase the speed/intensity of execution. If you don’t do this, you’ll encounter difficulty when performing at full speed – your body will learn the right coordination slowly, but you won’t be able to execute it when moving faster and stronger
- HOW LONG: Technical practice sessions are usually roughly 90min long. This is not to say that all it takes are 90min and you’ll learn whatever it is you’re training but stay away from the “I practice 5 hours a day” trap- your mind will not be able to cooperate. Spend 5 hours on your dancing, but mix it up you won’t be able to concentrate on technical details alone for that long!
- HOW OFTEN: every day!
performance dance practice
This is sometimes very confusing for dancers- it’s often mixed up with dance stamina training. Performance practice is training your competition/show performance, meaning you want a maximum expression of energy and presentation without loss of quality. This type of dance practice is difficult because it’s easy to just focus on energy and forget the technical quality we have to show whilst competing but it’s also very difficult to focus on technique too much and forget that we’re supposed to be performing.
- HOW: Performance dance practice should put your mind and body in competition mode, so concentration and focus should be the most important aspects of your training. As we’re trying to make it as easy and automatic to perform in competition, we have to make performance practice more difficult than the competition is- for example, dancing 5 finals in an hour, or alternating dances with an extra quickstep or jive to put yourselves under strain.
Increasing the length of music will also work wonders as will changing the speed of it.
- HOW OFTEN: at least twice per week, duration of each session should be 90min
stamina dance practice
This is what we jokingly call “dance till you drop” training 😊 Dance stamina practice is the shortest practice session you’ll do during the week and it’s the one we recommend doing solo.
- HOW: here the only thing that matters is ENERGY and the quantity of movement/actions you can produce. It’s more about endurance and increasing your maximum level of energy expression than technical quality. A typical example of dance stamina practice we do is dancing 10 Jives, where each dance lasts 3min and all you dance is the basic step with simple kicks. Or 15 Viennese Waltzes where the only thing allowed are traditional figures (nat./rev. turn, change step).
The idea is to put your body under as much strain as possible by dancing highly repetitive actions and increasing the duration of each dance. There are two reasons why we recommend you do this solo; to prevent you from disturbing the balance and coordination of the couple you’ve worked so hard to achieve, but also to save you unnecessary fighting😉
HOW OFTEN: aim for two sessions per week, each will take about 30min
Adittional Dance Practice
We’ll talk about all of the activities that make up a dancer’s practice plan as we go along through this season, but it’s important to remember that practice doesn’t necessarily mean what we described in the first three points. Here’s a list of some of the activities that will help you improve your dancing:
- STUDY OF TECHNIQUE BOOKS: if you want to learn the right coordination you have to understand where it comes from and why. You can buy your technique books here
- PHYSICAL PREPARATION: as in getting yourself to the gym! The “I’ll be bulky if I work out” excuse is so 1990 😉 Read why you should work out and how in our previous posts and get in touch with our resident “Rambo” Marco Cavaccini at Team Diablo Sports Centre– the only 100% Ballroom Dance Sport specialised PT
- YOGA/PILATES/STRETCHING: these of course belong under the physical preparation, but we keep them separate as they’re often neglected. Stretching and relaxation techniques are just as important as getting stronger and practicing your Natural Turn- your body will thank you by working better and for longer!
- MENTAL TRAINING: as in- how well does your mind work? Anxiety? Difficulty shining on the floor? How’s your concentration and how well do you deal with defeats/wins? Your body should be trained but you need to get to know your mind as well. We wrote about performance anxiety, motivation, and body image of dancers in previous posts and we often chat to our fave dance psychologist Lucie Clements on our She’s Just A Dancer Podcast– have a look and hopefully, it can be helpful to get you started on understanding and training your mind as well as your body
- FREESTYLE: as in going a bit crazy! Creativity is very important and we’re all artists deep inside. Feeding your creative monster and developing your expressiveness will do wonders for your performance. Dance, jump around, try new things, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes- freestyle practice is supposed to help you break out of the box.
- FIND INSPIRATION: watch other dancers, other dance styles and listen to the music that makes you feel great. We’re all different and inspired by different things- find out what makes you feel creative and go for it!
There are no rules set in stone about what your practice plan should look like. During the month of March, we’ll take a look at some of the practice methods mentioned above in more detail, but the thing to remember is that there needs to be a variety of methods you use when training as only one of them won’t make you a great dancer.
Try and work out what your practice plan should look like and don’t hesitate to get in touch and ask a question-we’d be happy to help!
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