My relationship with solo dance practice was born out of necessity. I needed a way to improve as a dancer that didn’t come with a financial cost. The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing was born out of my need to improve as a dancer without a financial cost and with a limited time requirement. The framework I developed for my solo practice sessions worked wonders. I grew in strength, balance and confidence. Lessons with Teacher were more productive. Other coaches noticed the improvements in my dancing when I competed. I became a World Champion!
Solo practice can be lonely work though. Running through choreography or technique drills on your own can feel tedious and tiring. There’s no one to help you figure out where you’re going wrong when you keep stumbling out of a turn or end up facing diagonal wall when you’re supposed to be facing diagonal center.
Most of the time, I liked being alone for my solo practice. It meant that no one else would be witness to my mistakes. Even minor ones echoed like massive failures in my head. It also gave me the space to play with ideas I was too embarrassed to try in front of anyone.
Eventually, as my self-confidence grew because of my solo practice, I became less concerned about witnesses to my solo practice. I became more willing to dance solo in front of Teacher during our lessons, even while other lessons or classes were happening. Was I nervous to dance in front of others, especially when my dances were still in “draft” mode? Yep. Was I embarrassed when I made mistakes or completely blanked on a section of choreography in front of others, like in the video below? Yep! I kept dancing anyways, because I understood how valuable it was to try the dances on my own. Those mistakes and blank spots pointed to exactly what I needed to focus on next. My limited time was not wasted.
Still, the ballroom dances are partner dances. That aspect is one of the main things that drew me to the ballroom styles of dance in the first place. Partner dancing is the idea of “the whole being greater than the sum of its parts” come to life. It’s true human-to-human connection without bias or assumption getting in the way. Dancers who have never met before, who don’t even speak the same language, can come together and create something beautiful. I love this video from a few years ago that documents just that.
However important solo practice is to my ballroom training, it gets lonely dancing a Tango or Foxtrot on my own. Lucky for me, as I restart my ballroom dancing in Maine, I’m doing it with a friend and I’m getting to re-experience why the partner aspect of ballroom dancing was such a draw to me, but in a different way. We decided to share private lessons primarily to help both of us save some money while still getting to dance ballroom. She loved the idea of having another female perspective, and I saw the opportunity to learn the lead role, which is a goal I’ve always had in the back of my mind.
After just two lessons and one brief solo practice session, I’m also remembering how great it is to share this dance journey with someone. Students of the same teacher or dance studio often bond and become each other’s dance family because of that shared journey. We understand each other’s struggles because they are also our own. We celebrate each other’s triumphs because we know how hard won they are.
As a hardcore introvert with social anxiety, I’m not afraid to be alone. In fact, I require alone time to process and recharge. I value the time I have to be with my own thoughts and away from any social obligations and expectations. As a ballroom dancer, I’m grateful to get to share this journey with someone again, who also gets excited about practicing. It makes the solo practice that much more fun!
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