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5 Helpful Tips for Line Dancing

1.
Something to remember while learning to line dance, and this is very important: Catch onto the steps that you can for the dance you are learning, and trust that you will pick up the rest of the dance with time and practice. You might pick up the walking to the right four steps and walking to the left four steps, but not anything else at first. But with each subsequent time you go over the line dance, whether that is during class while your instructor is teaching, or practicing at home you will pick up more and more. By the way, it is not uncommon for me to FINALLY get the steps on the last rotation when the song is just about over. ūüôā

2.
Try to find a class to attend in person. The instructional videos found online are great, but if you are a beginner I believe it will be much easier to make sense of the instruction in real life. Realize you may flail around in the beginning, we have all been there. Just keep moving and keep trying. Even if you think you have two left feet, you will get it!

3.
Keep in mind as you learn each dance, you are learning steps that will almost certainly be used in other dances. After you have been line dancing for awhile, you will find that you pick up the dances more quickly, and part of that is because you already learned those steps in previous dances.

4.
Be sure to wear appropriate shoes. To my first class I wore athletic shoes, the type that you would wear to work out or run in. I did not know that because they grip, they prevent your feet from moving (pivoting) on the dance floor. This can be harmful to your knees and other joints. If you can’t find dance sneakers, at the very least invest in “dance socks” which will allow you to wear just about any kind of shoe. See my review on Dance Socks to learn more.

5.
If you love the song, you will LOVE the dance! Many of my old favorite songs from when I was a teen have a line dance to go with them. The easiest way to find out is to do a search on YouTube with the name of the song,with the words “line dance” in quotations and you may find a line dance to the song you love.

What if You Don’t Like a Line Dance?

Dance Class

It’s going to happen. You’re going to come across a line dance or two or three that you don’t care for, or maybe even straight out dislike. Maybe you don’t like the music;¬† some music is going to move you to your core, other music just won’t.¬†I have learned for myself that much of whether I love, like or dislike a line dance relies heavily upon the music.

Or maybe you don’t like the moves.

What do you do if you don’t like the music or the line dance?

The solution is easy, sit it out.

This is the perfect option for parties or a line dance conference.¬† Typically you’ll be dancing for hours in a situation like this so it’s a great chance to sit for a few minutes and catch your breath. Maybe you should visit the little girl’s room because who knows when your next favorite line dance will start and you’ll be racing to the floor.

But what if you’re in a class? The right thing to do in this case is to learn the dance, and dance with your class. Why? Here are some reasons:

Respect For Your Class Instructor

It’s disrespectful to your instructor to sit out for a dance you don’t like just because you don’t like it. Your instructor took the time to learn this dance and not only learn it, but commit it to memory so that he or she can teach it to you step by step, and maybe has even memorized the right words/phrases to call out the steps.

It’s not as easy as you might think to teach line dancing. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not terribly hard, but it does take time and effort. That is, if you want to do it right. You’re an instructor, you should take pride in what you do. Learn whatever you can about line dance and give your students the best experience you can. I have been very lucky to have a professional, empathetic instructor who shines much brighter than most other instructors I’ve known.

The next time you don’t like a line dance, remember your instructor spent valuable time from his or her daily life just for the class and you.

Modify the Steps or Movements

Not liking the steps can often be related to physical discomfort, or simply an inability to perform the steps/moves. If your instructor is good at what she does, she will have alternative steps for you to do. If she doesn’t volunteer alternative steps, ask. A good instructor should know which steps can be a challenge and have alternatives. If she doesn’t already have¬† them, she should be able to quickly come up with alternative steps.

Let’s say doing a full turn makes you dizzy. There are ways to counteract the dizziness such as “spotting” (read more about that here: Ballroom Turns and Dizziness), and building a tolerance but your instructor should be able to help you figure out what to do so that you can just step in place. Full turns often require four counts, so it might be as easy as stepping in place four times. You’ll stay facing north, the rest of the room turns and you all end up facing north.

Maybe you can’t perform or don’t like the movement for some steps. As an example at times my back feels tight and it feels uncomfortable to bend at the waist, so I just stay upright. Some line dances have you bumping and grinding to the floor but if you might end up stuck, just don’t go so far.

Working Your Brain

Even if you don’t like the line dance or the music, you are still learning and perfecting line dance steps. Steps that you’re going to recognize in other line dances. Every single time you line dance, you get better at it. Every single line dance you learn, you strengthen your brain and memorization ability. You may even have to try a little harder without that oomph of joy from loving the music. Did you know you’re also strengthening your willpower by this simple act of pushing through something which is not really that unpleasant. After all, it is line dancing.

It’s Still Exercise

Taking those steps and working that dance is still exercise, even if you aren’t 100% into it.

I will be honest with you… I have never liked exercise. I could even go so far as to say I hated it. Even as a young child I had low energy and you would find me reading a book any day over physical exercise. But line dancing? I enjoy it so much that I don’t even consider it to be exercise. But there is a little voice in my head that is shouting for joy that the body is moving!

Maybe It’s Time to Find a New Class

If you find yourself¬† in a situation where you know you love line dancing but are disliking the class, it might be time to find a new class. I know line dance classes are far and few between so we can’t be too choosy. But this is an extreme solution. Hopefully there is just a random song once in awhile that you don’t like.

What You Should Not Do

Going back to the first reason, respect for your instructor… never complain out loud that you don’t like this line dance. Ditto for the dancer standing in line next to you. There’s no reason to say a word to anyone, keep it to yourself. You can do anything for 5 minutes at a time so just tell yourself it will be over soon.

Happy Line Dancing!

How to Choreograph a Line Dance

As of the writing of this post I have choreographed one line dance. This first one is an ultra-beginner, four wall line dance and I created it specifically to aid my dancers who have little or no vision, in making turns. So, I have just a tiny bit of experience choreographing, but I will share with you the sites I have found to be helpful in choreographing a line dance.

OUTLINE THE SONG

First, Robert Royston does a very nice job of outlining the process for choreographing a line dance.

This video is great for getting you started and may be enough. But if you want to delve deeper into choreographing your first line dance, continue reading.

CHOREOGRAPHY BASICS

Next, I recommend this article from Max Perry. Click on this link, and you will be taken directly to a PDF: Choreography Basics by Max Perry.

A snippet from the article:

“CHOREOGRAPHY BASICS By: Max Perry To choreograph an effective routine, a dancer will use several techniques to create a dance that will not only fit the music, but will feel good when danced. The tools we use as choreographers are knowledge of the dance components, a basic idea of phrasing music, and an idea of how the material is to be used.”

With those two under your belt, I invite you to read this article from Norm from Dance with Norm. This link will take you directly to a PDF entitled Basic Line Dance Terminology. This article will help you to know the names of various line dance steps. Bear in mind that country line dance steps may have a different name than the same steps when soul or urban line dancing.

This site also includes a list of line dance steps: Roots Boots Line Dance Terms and Definitions.

STEP SHEETS

Next, I want to touch on step sheets. First off, it is not necessary to write step sheets; however, I feel it is an important way to immortalize your line dance.

I will admit it is a challenge to even know to read them, let alone write them.

One big challenge in reading step sheets is that the exact same steps can have different names.

When you’re writing step sheets, you want to be as clear as you possibly can and Peter Blaskowski from KickIt has attempted to instill some guidelines to help with this challenge by writing a very helpful, thorough e-book called¬†Kickish: The Language of Line Dance. This e-book has been extremely helpful for me in constructing line dance step sheets. Peter points out that it can be very confusing to learn a line dance from step sheets when people are using different terminology for the same steps.

For example, you want to be consistent in the way you describe the step. Here’s a snippet:

Consistency means saying the same thing the same way every time. This is sometimes called using a “single voice” throughout the step sheet. Any instruction in a step sheet can be written multiple ways:

“left foot – step to side”

“left foot step left”

“left foot step to left side”

“left foot step to left”

“left foot step to the left”

“left foot to left side”

“left foot to left”

“left side step”

“left side”

“left step left”

“left step side left”

“left step to left side”

“left step to side left”

“left step to the left”

“left to left side”

“left to left”

“left to side”

“left to the side”

“side step left”

“step left foot to side”

“step left foot to the left side”

“step left with left foot”

“step out left”

“step to left with left”

“step to the side with the left foot”

Notice how stepping forward with the left foot happens twice, but is described in two different ways. This inconsistency decreases readability. When a step sheet seems understandable in one section, but unclear in another, the most likely cause is lack of consistency. The proposed step sheet vocabulary will help a step sheet writer to keep a consistent voice throughout a step sheet.

Visit Kick It here for the article (opens as a PDF):  Kickish: The Language of Line Dance

Last but not least, Skippy Blair on Contemporary Social Dance: Disco to Tango and Back by Skippy Blair has just a few pages on line dancing, including a “Line Dance Formula” (on pages 43 and 44), but I would highly recommend it as reading material. The whole book, not just the pages on line dancing.

Skippy Blair on Contemporary Social Dance: Disco to Tango and Back/Plus Teacher’s Breakdown for the Universal Unit System

I am still studying Skippy Blair’s book, and learning a lot of very interesting concepts that I never realized about dancing.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you choreograph line dances, or are you just getting started? Leave me a comment or use my contact form to drop me a line.

Teaching Line Dance to the Visually Impaired

love-dancing1775507This past Wednesday, I began teaching line dance. Part of me was saying, “What in the world are you thinking?! You have been line dancing less than a year!”

Another part of me shouted out, “Just try it! It will be an adventure! If it doesn’t work out, you can stop. But for now, just do it!” I knew soon after I began line dancing that I wanted to share this wonderful experience with others through instructing. I definitely wanted to share my passion for line dance with anyone who was willing to try.

For the past 15 years I have worked for an agency that provides rehabilitation to adults who are blind and visually impaired. I have strong feelings about this community. I have seen that they are capable of almost anything they put their minds to. I have watched people walk in the front door dependent on family or friends to do for them, and chauffeur them around, but after receiving training go on to find a job and travel independently.

I also toyed with and looked into the prospect of teaching a class at the studio where I take my lessons. Between the two options, interesting enough, I was less concerned by the prospect of teaching line dance to adults with limited vision, so I decided to start there.

I decided the first line dance I would teach is the one I learned first:¬† Ms. Jody’s Thang.

I had ten dancers present. Four had no visual impairment. Two are experts in the field of Orientation and Mobility (O&M). These ladies help people regain their independence after losing vision. The other two sighted people are volunteers at the agency.

Of the six visually impaired, two were experienced square dancers, one of these is a man who is also hearing impaired, and wears a hearing aid. He told me he square danced for over 20 years, and used to teach classes, and asked that I not make the music too loud otherwise it would reverberate in his hearing aid.

Five dancers have enough vision that they were able to stay in line while we danced.

One dancer has very little vision and did well, but had some difficulty keeping in line with the rest of us as we made our turns. This is to be expected, and I’m working with the O&M Specialists to see if we can figure out how to help her. She told me she had a great time, and is looking forward to the next class!

All in all, it went very well. Although I was rather nervous. It was my first time calling the steps out loud and it is definitely a learning curve. I need to work on my audio cues since my dancers cannot watch my feet, they definitely need verbal instruction to stay in step.

It is said when you are line dancing, you must concentrate on the steps to the extent that you cannot be thinking of other things. I find this to be very true. Even the moment I begin to think, “Hey, I’m getting this,” I fall out of step. But having to call the steps out loud and keep dancing the correct steps? Whew!

For the first class, we worked on just one dance. We went through learning the steps one section at a time, then putting the sections together and finally doing a full rotation.

One problem I had was teaching the dance at a slower pace than the music. When I turned the music on, it was much faster than my dancers had learned to take the steps.

I also had decided to teach my dancers that once you learn a dance, you can use it for multiple songs! I love this idea! So we ended up learning the steps and dancing to Ms. Jody’s Thang at first, but I also found two other songs that worked perfectly. The only little problem is I had trouble counting the beats from when the song began, and I got flustered and kept starting the song over again, and apologizing. {How embarrassing! Oh, how I agonized over my mistakes for the next 24 hours! I also felt wiped out, thankfully not physically sore. Mentally, more than anything.}

I found an awesome website that allows you to enter the beats per minute (BPM) and find songs at that BPM, by genre!

Ms. Jody’s Thang (Remix) is 144 beats per minute. The other two songs I chose were:

It Doesn’t Get any Countrier Than This by Tim McGraw

It’s a Beautiful Day by Michael Bubl√©

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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How To Improve at Line Dancing

Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to get better at line dancing is to practice. In many things in life, you will find that repetition helps. Some people pick up line dancing very quickly. I have seen women come to my class and I am just amazed at how they can watch our instructor take us through the steps and then dance the dance.

One step in particular in the beginning blew my mind. It is called a weave step. You are walking to the right (or to the left) and crossing one foot behind or in front of the other one. I could not wrap my brain around it. When our instructor did it slowly, I could grasp it, but when we put it to the music, I was tripping all over my feet. Here is a video that demonstrates the weave step.

So what I did to ingrain the weave step into my mind is I started to practice every chance I got. For example, when I was walking down the hall at work (usually before anyone arrives for the day) I would walk sideways doing the weave step.

Another step I had trouble with was the “Touch right side, touch right together (toe turned in), touch right side, right to toe right, step right together” which is basically touching your toe to the right twice. But it seemed like my feet wouldn’t work that fast. So I spent some time just practicing stepping to the right twice, then stepping to the left twice, to the beat of the music.

It wasn’t enough help to get my practice during the song, I had to concentrate on those steps by themselves, in order to master them. It might sound funny, to need to master steps, but remember we are actually doing brain function training when line dancing.

Line dancing is so much fun for me. I have never been one to enjoy physical exercise and it has always been such a drag. And I am not one to go out someplace and freestyle dance. Line dancing gives me the structure I need, and I enjoy it so much that I look forward to my classes, and practicing on the weekends at home.

Do you pick up the steps for line dances quickly? Or do you need to practice? Let me know in the comments!