This past Saturday, I spent pretty much my entire day at the studio to attend an American Smooth dance camp. My studio holds these all-day camps at least once a quarter, and usually two in a row – one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Both amateur and professional ballroom dancers attend the classes, sometimes sharing classes and sometimes splitting into separate groups. All have their heads filled with dance knowledge from top-level coaches.
Have you had the opportunity to attend workshops like these but wondered if it would be too much for you or you weren’t “good enough” yet?
Even at the risk of being overwhelmed, you should definitely include these kind of workshops or dance camps in your dance training, in my humble opinion. Here’s why:
1) You hear perspectives you haven’t heard before.
Like me, you probably get the vast majority of dance training from one person – your primary teacher or coach. There are a lot of advantages to working with one person, from continuity of concepts to tracking progress. One person means one perspective though.
At the camp I attended on Saturday, we had seven different coaches! The main subject was American Smooth, but each class had a different focus, and not just the different dances. The first class included a lot of work on creating volume in your dancing. Another class focused on breathing to the timing of your dance. In yet another, the coaches covered a variety of subjects, from conditioning drills to common mistakes they see at competitions to good posture.
You can have seven different coaches talk about the same subject and get seven different lectures. Through their personal experiences and influence from their own coaches, they’ve developed unique perspectives on how to approach the same subject. Now, it could get confusing. This one says to focus on the moving leg. That one says to focus on the standing leg.
The benefit to getting even conflicting perspectives is you have options to help you figure out what works best for you. Because the goal is always the same! All of the coaches are trying to teach you how to dance better, in their own ways. You’re going to dance better when you figure out what translates best in your brain to get your body to do the intended action. You ever have your teacher give you the same correction over and over, and it just doesn’t click until you hear a different teacher say it in a different way? That’s what I’m talking about.
2) You learn from people you’ve only heard about or can’t afford to work with directly.
I knew of all of the coaches who taught on Saturday, but I had never had the opportunity to learn from four out of the seven, partly because extra money for private coachings is so hard to come by. So it was a fantastic deal for me to pay a little bit more than a single coaching and get to learn from all of them over the course of an entire day. Of course, group classes aren’t the same as private coachings, but in the case of these camps that go a day or longer, you’re getting so much more time with the coaches than you would if you just paid for a single coaching lesson.
3) You learn new things.
Obviously! Every class holds something new to learn. Along with the new people with the fresh perspectives at these dance camps, you may also learn new topics that your teacher just hasn’t gotten around to teaching you yet because you’ve been focused on other things. Sometimes it’s something you overlook because it seems so obvious. Paying close attention to how we inhaled and exhaled through a dance was fascinating to me, because I just never thought about it that much! I knew I needed to breathe while I danced, of course, but I never thought about the effect it could have when I timed it intentionally with the timing of the dance or my partner.
4) You will be pushed out of your comfort zone more than usual.
Yes, I’m listing this as a reason to go to a dance camp, not avoid it. Part of the magic of dance is the way it challenges and transforms us. We don’t just grow as dancers; we grow as people. Growth requires tension and discomfort though. You have to push outside of your comfort zone in order to change and grow, and not to be too obvious, but that is uncomfortable! It’s awkward, maybe even painful, but it’s necessary and rewarding once you get past those uncomfortable feelings.
I was incredibly uncomfortable for most of Saturday. During the second class, we were getting a crash course in Gyrokinesis. I was feeling good, although sore and tired, with all of this intentional movement, but then the teacher commented that we shouldn’t be feeling any strain in our lower back during this particular move. I was consistently feeling strain exactly in the area of my lower back every time I did the move, even after I tried making the adjustments she suggested to prevent it. After that, I felt like a pig in a class of birds thinking it could fly. Granted, I’ve been dealing with a LOT of stress over the last month or two, so I was perfectly primed to be thrown off by an innocent comment.
The point is I felt uncomfortable, overwhelmed, anxious, and full of self-doubt, but I kept at it through the rest of the class and the rest of the day. Beneath the demons screaming “you suck!”, I knew I was just discovering areas that needed improvement that wouldn’t have necessarily been brought to light through just my private lessons, or at least less quickly. There was more growth to be had!
5) You’re surrounded by like-minded people.
Everyone in the dance camp with you loves dancing. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. Everyone wants to learn and grow as dancers, just like you do. It’s inspiring and motivating when you’re around like-minded people who understand perfectly why you’re giving up your Saturday to be here. It’s also comforting.
Let’s face it. Our family and friends who don’t dance don’t really get it. They may support us and love cheering us on when we perform, but their eyebrows still raise if we disclose how much money we spend or how many social events we say no to because we have dance. It’s just nice to be in a place where you are surrounded by people who get it. Am I right?
So what dance camp are you going to work to attend now? If you feel like coming to my neck of the woods, the studio is holding its next dance camp in February!
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