Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cross-Training other Dances

High skilled musicians are often cross-training different styles, expanding their musical understanding and playing skills.

You'll see the same thing among the strongest dancers and you should consider it too. It's a huge win as long as you are not a short-term thinker.

When I started dancing in my 40s, I had never danced once in a club. Today I cross-train in other dances and I find it extremely helpful. My balance, body control, turns ("spins" for social dancers) and other foundational moves continue to grow over time. I feel I'm just getting started, and see the biggest pay-offs ahead of me.

I originally started taking salsa aerobics classes at a local gym to lose some weight and improve my fitness. I never dreamed of taking dance classes. I didn't even think about partnering until a few months into it the instructor invited me to a partnering class outside the gym. That was the start of my unlikely journey into the dance world.

Today, taking other styles give me a set of intended benefits, and I've discovered a world of unintended positive benefits. I regularly find insights that make my salsa dancing better. For example, I see the stronger salsa spinners employing techniques that are standard fare for jazz and ballet dancers (with minor modifications).

I'm learning footwork and body control that others learned dancing at high school parties, club dancing or in what I call “foundational dances” (jazz, ballet, ballroom). By the time I hit high school, I was already playing the music and watching dancers, but never dancing myself.

In my case, these cross-training classes provide a structured method for building up my weaknesses and providing sound foundations for growth. Just the balance exercises alone make any dance better, and I had a couple guys ask me what I've been doing, because my posture is so much better than when I started.

Many dancers branch out to other styles after dancing a few years, and if you've cross-trained one of the traditional dances like jazz or ballet, every new dance is much, much easier and more fun. Many martial arts are also excellent cross-training vehicles too. They tend to work core strength, body awareness, balance and timing in ways which enhance a dancers control.

I'm wondering how many others regularly take dance classes outside of partner dancing or dancing at the clubs?

For the record (since I'm asking you to answer some of the questions), here are my responses to get the ball rolling:

I'm currently taking three jazz and two hip-hop classes each week. The jazz classes are all with the same instructor, and the hip-hop is with another instructor. Two days a week the classes are back-to-back, first the jazz, then the hip-hop class (an intense workout but most of the time it's a blast!) I have dramatically improved my strength, flexibility, balance and basic body control, and I’ve lost some weight. See "Better Instructors Always Learning" to see an example of my progress (Link below)

Many of my improvements do NOT show up today in my club dancing, but I see it as a longer term foundation. I started these other dances because when I analysis the leads favored by the world class follows in know, the vast majority of their favorite leads have a jazz, hip-hop and/or traditional Cuban street salsa experience in addition to strong New York or LA style components.

As mentioned in the beginning, my favorite musicians tend to be highly cross-trained, although in any one setting they sound like they specialize in one style. Their cross-training gives them insights that are rare among single style players. I originally took it on faith that the same would apply from a dancing perspective, and I see that playing out over time.

I call this concept "back-filling," where I'm filling holes in my dance education that others filled when they were younger. Many world class follows have experience with other dances, including jazz, ballet, hip-hop, gymnastics and/or cheer leading in addition to dancing salsa. Most cross-train other dances as they grow, stealing great techniques from other dances and applying them to salsa.

Now I’m my curiosity about your other dance training. Click on the "comments" link below and add your thoughts on cross-training, including your pros and cons.

Some other questions I have (please answer one or more, as you see fit):
  • What types of classes are you taking?
  • What benefits do you see or hope to see?
  • How often do you attend classes?
  • Why did you start the other style/dance?
  • How long did it take before it made a difference for you?
  • Are you planning on other dances in the future and what are they?
In other words, what do you do to grow and why? Feel free to go outside my questions above, those are to prime the pump but are not intended to restrict you to a specific type of answer.
Short or longer answers welcomed!
I look forward to your comments.
You are what you eat. Which makes me cheap, quick and easy.
--Dave Thomas (Wendy's founder)
RELATED ARTICLES
Better Instructors Always Learning 
How Many Instructors: Part 1
How Many Instructors: Part 2 (Same Sex?)

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23 comments:

  1. My wife and I are taking one ballroom lesson a week, and teach 1-2 salsa lessons a week.
    The last few weeks we attended a few hours of modern dance (interesting, rolling around on the floor and stuff, quite a challenge), and I started to do daily workouts from the book "Conditioning for Dance" from Eric Franklin (Eric Franklin has great books on moving your body, we are already checking if there is a workshop with him we can attend).

    Since there is no one in our area teaching LA Salsa, we learn by DVD and by attending some salsa festivals (Munich will be next).

    As a teen I started to dance (alone, no partner dance!) in discos, which is the base for my musicality (which could be better), as twen I started with aerobics and step, which messed up my musicality quite a bit *gg*, and at around 30 I started ballroom dancing, a few years later I started salsa.

    Since I have been dancing a lot, picking up salsa was/is easy for me.

    Whatever I dance or teach, I did mostly for fun, so I never really thought much about why to take a class or course. Mostly because I liked the teacher :)

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  2. Can I just pick up on something that might be really interesting to run with, as a Google Doc poll with feedback, or some other method -

    I think you might well be on to something in actually analysing the leads that follow's prefer/enjoy* - from the beginner, to the improver, the intermediate, and the professional, to the world class?

    This presumably is a crucial area for leads to get feedback on - we want our lead to be good, useful (indicate what's coming up, very well, be flowing, fun etc) and so on.

    But as most leads don't follow, we don't get much of a chance to actually feel the lead of any of our teaches, much less our peers, and our idols!

    So here's a question - what is the lead like that the top 10 follows out there in social dancing enjoy? What are your idols like?

    Presumably an actual explicit aim of getting feedback, and working towards improving it could do wonders. Our lead is basically a big part of communicating with our partner whilst dancing, and without it, our moves, patterns etc are for naught.

    This all comes of the back of you saying that you analyse the leads favored by the world class follows in know. (Tangent- you're seeing what the best follows prefer, rather than what the "best" leads leads are like - i'd be curious to see the correlation strength between being at the top of the game as a follow/lead, and their fun rating as a partner voted by their peers)

    I find it very interesting to see that jazz, hip-hop are in there with traditional CUban street salsa experience, and this is all in addition to NY/LA style components.

    I think that some classes don't actually emphasise all this, and that the style is seen as extra, rather than vital. But that zing, that personality breathing through you via your style is a big attractant i'd imagine for women.

    Do women prefer a fun novice/intermediate to a more advanced non-fun or non-spiritful lead?

    I think "styling" really misses a trick here, for both men and women. As a beginner, some of this feels alien - in a way, starting from within actually helps it, and then styling help is more to channel it into something more than enthusiastic wiggling and flailing**.

    Going back to the post subject -
    Any chance you could find a list of different dance styles? I think it might be informative to actually see how many there are out there. Basically to answer what types of classes/dance styles are actually out there (problems with pigeonholing aside).

    *bearing in mind you've got to tease lead personality& charisma out of this

    **I have nothing against either. Much a fan :D

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  3. Interested in seeing the discussion - great post.
    Of note, I just checked and Amazon.co.uk does a decent sized preview of Conditioning for Dance that sam mentions, and i'd imagine the amazon.com look inside will also do this. They're hiding the advice section on turns though!

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  4. Tom,

    Yes, I've been fooled in the past, where I thought a lead looked great (they did), but when I talked to the follow privately, they told me directly they dislike their lead.

    It took me a while to see the issues myself, as I matured and did enough following to experience it myself.

    Lots of guys who look great don't lead well, as they are two skills.

    There are a set of leads who combine both, so the two skills can be combined. But most guys don't get feedback from very advanced follows.

    Check out old videos of SuperMario. His "style" doesn't impress many guys, but the ladies love his lead.

    As it turns out, because of the quality of his lead, he attracts stronger follows and his styling has improved significantly over the years.

    You have it exactly right; looking great doesn't guarentee your lead is high quality.

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  5. Hi Don,

    I'm not cross~training YET.

    I do however think that any cross~training helps in anything one does in life, Business, Music, Hobbies, Language and especially art. Except for maybe sex. LOL (I personally don't think going both ways helps at all. LOL)

    Anyway, I do plan on taking Jazz (from your suggestion for balance and spins), Tap, All ballroom disciplines and MAYBE ballet for flexibility. I also plan on taking Music and learning percussion's for the Musicality aspect of finding, hearing & feeling the beat.

    What I DO want to say to you is that you need to write a book with all your insight and knowledge and consideration for helping others see that there is more to salsa (or any dance) then what you learn in a club class. You take time to share your insight and that is what makes a great book and a great teacher. Besides, I've been looking for a book like this and can't find any. So the market needs one.

    Hope you are well


    Valentine Doran
    L.A. Salsa Studios
    www.lasalsastudios.com

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  6. I have never danced before. Salsa was the first dance I ever learned. However, after having read articles such as those published by yourself I decided to take jazzclasses in hopes to improve my balance, spins and overall bodycontrol. Today I had my first jazzclass. It was even worse the my first salsaclass. I have never felt so NOT coordinated and lithe. However, I am going to approach it as a challenge and my longterm goal is to evolve as a dancer. Just as Valentine I believe in crosstraining in (most) areas in life, so why should dancing be any different.

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  7. Lilith,

    I'm with you on that... My first six months of jazz class were not fun but worth it.

    The conditioning section alone is worth my time, and now I'm just starting to make progress with the actual dances.

    When I started I could barely bend over and touch my ankels and now I can get palms down with my legs straight. I see that if I keep doing it, more is possible.

    Anyway, it's worth the effort for me, I'll be curious how it's working for others.

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  8. I did about 6 months of tango, once a week. I found the contrast this provided with salsa very helpful and it also showed up some of the limitations of salsa. In particular, in tango, you are not a slave the beat in the same way. You can slow down, speed up, hit a few beats when it flows right with the moves and the music - or almost stop altogether and let the music wash over you - if you like - and just feel the rhythm inside instead of having to step all the time. It has a smoldering passion and a dignity which salsa lacks. I sometimes use this feeling of tango in my salsa - especially if there is a big mood change in the music, to something slow and lyrical. Sometimes this works in bachata too - in fact I think some people are mixing aspects of the two dances and the music deliberately. In the end I did not stick with the tango - it did not grip me and hold me the same way salsa does - but I'm very glad I did it.

    I've done occasional classes at weekenders in other styles. These can only give a brief taster - but they do show you whole spectra of other possibilities and ways of expressing yourself through movement. Recently I did a couple of classes on Kizomba - a slow, bachata/tango kind of dance - really entrancing, but you have to live in London to find anywhere that does this in the UK. Lambada too is similarly appealing, great music and flowing movements.

    I did a couple of classes of "contemporary" dance style - not a partner dance at all and therefore much more concerned with the visual effect. I would love to be able to master this kind of thing - but that brings me to a major problem for me, I'm a slow learner and I don't like the thankless struggle which many of these things seem to demand, at least at the outset. I want to enjoy my learning, not regard it as some kind of purgatory, with a possible future reward. Even when first starting out in salsa, you are having fun with other beginners, listening to great music and enjoying the whole fun club scene - a lot of styles are not like that - and the self-disatisfaction, feelings of inadequacy and sheer hard work become overwhelming. I guess a lot depends on the skill of the teacher, but my own experiences are akin to being thrown in the deep-end and left to flounder and drown - really no fun. Some folks can pick up new stuff fast - they are the lucky few - a lot of others are like me and I guess yet more would not even dare to try. This is a real shame. I guess most of the people who teach (especially the more advanced styles) are very accomplished dancers and they can't remember what it is like to be a beginner and not to understand. They will quickly warm to those in the class who can pick things up quickly, like they can themselves, and they will tend to aim their lessons at the top-end, rather than the bottom or the middle.

    I don't need to be convinced about the value of studying other styles, I know it brings huge benefits - but for me it can be a very tough road.

    There's also the matter of how many days in the week have you got and how much energy ? It also casts a light on the perpetual question, why do I dance at all...

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  9. I have taken hip hop, jazz, and belly dancing classes, but not nearly enough of any of them. I love them all, especially the belly dancing. I wish I could find a good adult beginning ballet class that worked with my schedule.

    I personally believe that there is so much to learn from taking classes in other styles of dance that it's almost a crime not to. There is something to be gained from all of them. Certainly the "classic" dances -- ballet, jazz, etc. -- teach you to use your center, drop your shoulders, spot your turns, turn out your feet, tuck in your bum, stand tall, listen to and feel the music, correct your timing.....all of these exercises contribute to your overall strength, flexibility, and musicality as a dancer, no matter what style you favor.

    I did not have money as a child to take dance classes. Learning salsa as an adult is one way that I have tried to satisfy my "inner ballerina". I do hope that I will find the time and resources to expand my repertoire soon. I'm ALMOST as old as Don, and he's SO far ahead of me!!!!!

    (I kid because I love, Don. You are really an inspiration...you know that....hugs...)

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  10. Joe,

    I hear you on the:
    "I'm a slow learner and I don't like the thankless struggle which many of these things seem to demand, at least at the beginning..."

    Anybody who starts these individual classes has to have a thick skin in the beginning. I'm often embarrassed to tell others I take jazz and hip-hop classes, because they expect by now I'd be good at them. Classes are long term plays for me, and few will be impressed with my current skills.

    I'm dramatically better than when I started, but the "kids" in the class often blow me away and I'm regularly humbled. Hard on the ego some days, but I keep doing it and I am making slow, steady progress.

    As long as I only focus on my progress relative to how I was last month, I'm fine. That is easy for me to say, but harder for me to do for a variety of reasons.

    As an instructor, it's very good for me since it helps me directly relate to people who struggle with salsa or any aspect of dance.

    For me, the challenge is to keep my head straight, and a few times I've almost quit because I felt like a loser after some classes ("but Mom... all the other kids get it...")

    I should mention: I cheat! I'll tell you how in an upcoming article.

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  11. SalsaMama,

    Ah, last I looked I think you are around 20 years younger than me, and I'm simply held together by lots of hair spray.

    You're always a blast to dance with and when I see you in the clubs I know it's going to be a good night.

    You were so nice to me when I was learning the words "cross-body lead".

    Right back at cha!

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  12. I am cross trained in many ways and I really can confirm that it helps.
    Of course not, if you start to learn a complete new style of dancing. But if you continue it pays back.
    I started dancing at the age of 5 years with ballet, after I changed to jazz, lyrical jazz and so on. When I was 12 / 13 years old I started with ballroom dances (latin section), but even during this hard training I tried to keep my time to take other classes. After stopping competing in Ballroom I started dancing Flamenco for years (the basics I learned in Spain). Here I love the communication between the musicians and the dancer. I was in a lucky position to find a very good teacher who taught Flamenco only with a guitar player (no plastic music ;-)) This boy always was playing during the training.
    For me, Flamenco did help me to improve my expression (attitude), posture and arm movements including hands and fingers. I saw really good Flamenco dancer and these had more expression in their and than professional dancer in their hole body. This impressed me so much.
    I absolutely agree that all kind of dances - jazz, ballet, modern and so on - will help Salsa dancer in their technique.
    All these dances I have done / still do are really helpful to create / improve my own style.
    We always advise to our students if they have the possibility to take other dance classes, they should take these!
    It is very helpful for coordination and after a while you are able to pick up the steps much faster = good training for the brain.
    But Don, you are living in a perfect location for dancers - LA!
    Here you can find so many different gyms/classes to go.
    But what happens if you have nobody in your area who can challenge you...???

    I am teaching now more than 20 years (hiphop, latin moves, salsa..)but I still love taking classes for getting my mind free.
    But what can you do if the good teachers left your area...? Learning from video...The danger here is that you do some exercises wrong.
    For myself I found an other challenge in cross-training.
    Guess what kind of classes I took? I started 2 different kind sports
    1. Martial art training - Thaiboxing
    2. Power Yoga!
    Thaiboxing not for competing or sparring. I found out that this training did help me a lot in body balance, strength and concentration. Some of my Salsa students are martial artists and they learn fast. Because they are trained in coordination. Well, in the beginning it does not look very graceful but this takes time anyway.
    Power Yoga is so helpful for flexibility and gives you also mental power.

    Greetings from Germany.. Silvia

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  13. I've been dancing basically my whole life, starting with Korean traditional dance when I was three, moving on to ballet, jazz, and modern around the age of eight, taking up tap in high school, learning ballroom, swing, and salsa when I started college, and just now starting to get into Latin ballroom and Argentine tango.

    Having any kind of dance background definitely helps when you begins to learn salsa. It really doesn't matter what dance, as all of them give you something different to work with. No matter which one you've done, though, you're going to be much more comfortable with your own body.

    Here are some ways that these dances have helped me improve my salsa, and some ways that they have hindered my development:

    ------------------------------

    Ballet:
    The big one. It is almost guaranteed that a person with significant ballet training will be competent at any other given dance much faster than the average person.

    The most important thing that I took away from ballet is posture, closely followed by core engagement. It is very difficult to look like a polished dancer without these two factors, nor can you be very balanced.

    Of course, learning to turn in salsa was much easier because of all those chaines across the floor. However, I found it difficult to break the habit of "spotting where I'm going" since in salsa you're supposed to spot your partner (almost all of the time) and sometimes you're moving away from him!

    Strength and flexibility are also extremely important in ballet, and those factors come in handy for the flashier moves in salsa. The ballet exercises that deal with strength and flexibility (arabesques, panches, battements)usually also deal with lines, which are important to understand for salseras during shines and flares. Ballet also helps you learn to keep your toe always pointed -- again, for lines.

    Another thing that has helped me immensely is something that is, I think, often overlooked: the dancer's relationship to the floor. It really helps when you understand that a proper leap is not just jumping into the air, it's pushing off of the ground. Turning is not just your body going in circles, it's your feet pushing the floor under you so that your spins will be controlled. You get so much more control by acknowledging the power that using the floor can give you, even in the basic.

    The one thing from ballet that really hindered my learning in salsa was the "stiffness" of the hips that is essential to the entire ballet aesthetic. In ballet, the hips are constantly "lifted" out of the sockets for balance and freedom of leg movement. Instead of constantly keeping my hips level, I had to learn to "sink into" the hip socket whenever I took a step in salsa.

    Jazz:
    Most of the stuff from ballet applies to jazz as well, except that jazz can be slightly more “free” about the hips and some steps require much more hip movement than anything in ballet.

    Jazz is great for ladies’ styling because of all the core isolation. A lot of the “rhythm box” movements from rumba are straight out of a jazz conditioning class. In general, the torso movements in jazz can often be adapted for styling in salsa, as can a lot of head styling.

    Tap:
    I can’t believe more salseros don’t take tap! If you need to work on footwork, there’s nothing that can help you more than tap. Tap dancers learn to quickly shift their weight, get their feet where they need to be to efficiently, and manipulate their ankles for heel/toe work more than any other kind of dancer.

    Tap is also great for rhythm. In tap, a beat of music is often sliced into ever-tinier sections to fit more “clicks” in, and that really helps you realize how much music there is to work with!

    Ballroom:
    After learning a lot of solo dances, it might be difficult for the beginning salser@ to learn to relate to a partner. That’s where ballroom comes in. Ballroom with teach you arm and upper back engagement, as well as a lot of arm/hand/head styling, in addition to teaching you how to lead or follow.

    ------------------------------

    Because I have such a heavy classical background, I found it really difficult to “loosen up” when learning salsa. Another thing was to stop thinking about performing so that I could relate to my partner better. However, on the whole, I think having training in these dances really helped me learn salsa quickly and enjoy it more while I was a beginner. I’m thinking about taking belly dance soon to help me loosen up even more!

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  14. I danced ballroom and found that it changed my entire salsa style.
    I think it's very important for people who want to progress in their salsa dancing skills to broaden their spectrum beyond just salsa

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  15. Even though this is an old post, I'll comment.

    My two and a half year dance career has been cross training from the beginning. First year was 1 or 2 classes a week of the partner dances that you usually dance in "dance halls" in Finland: some folk dances + socialized versions of ballroom dances (jive, tango, waltz, chacha, ...). Many who teach have ballroom experience so technique-wise I got that kind of influence.

    From the beginning of the second year I added LA style salsa (wanted to see what salsa babes are like, and Cuban with its arm locks does not intrigue me), Boogie Woogie and Lindy Hop (wanted to know why people liked it so much). At some point I also went for Argentine tango (because it's hard) and West Coast Swing (so I can dance to Justin Timberlake :-P).

    So at this point it is quite a lot of dancing per week (5-7 days / week).

    One goal I have had, is to become a really good lead, somebody people want to dance with. This goal also requires me to know a lot of dances at least on a decent level so that it'll be fun.

    What this has gotten me, is, firstly, a lot of dancing, which is always useful, especially when beginning. It has given me different approaches (and techniques, drills) for leading and following. All styles tend to have a thing that gets more attention than others so I can use this information with other dances too (if applicable).

    It has given me moves faster, since many are common between dances, although require tuning since all dances have their steps and timings and style that has to be accommodated.

    I also get cross-talk: dancing salsa I suddenly realize that I went for a boogie woogie move, with a boogie woogie lead! And there's style creep: all the dances you dance start to look similar in style and perhaps also in moves. This I am trying to actively combat, since a) it makes things boring and b) I don't want to mutilate dances. Or when training some dance to a song that is more suitable to another, it can come through and suddenly you are doing a different dance.

    Similar to cross-talk is trying to apply a technique or concept from another dance to the one you are learning at the moment. It can help, or be completely "wrong" for it. Or both.

    I've noticed that LA-salsa (I've just recently started ET2) tends to help me with WCS, and also generally with complicated patterns. Body leading (and also what your body should feel like) issues are generally handled more in the swing scene so those come to help when needed.

    A major thing is getting a broader view of things: how moves are similar, but style often makes the critical difference. Things are easier if you can find the "soul" of the dance and let it guide you. How elements of the dance relate to music (especially the style of the dance) since that is where the dance comes from.

    Generally I'm happy with my current repertoire of dances, but I could go for something afro-cuban just to get better body movement.

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  16. I had ballet and jazz. I don't know why I never thought about taking tap -- as dorkydi says, it makes perfect complimentary sense for lots of reasons.

    Don, I would love to know what you think about cross-training in other sports/fitness systems. A cyclist friend has suggested spinning, since I have weak knees and my VO2 max could always stand improvement.

    But she's a *cyclist*. So I am scared.

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  17. Basicarita: Spinning or other sports are certainly reasonable choices, depending on your goals.

    Depending on your knees, you may do other dances which build your legs, or spinning is a great cardio exercise if that's something you wish to improve.

    In my case, I'm looking for things that improve my body control, flexibility and leg strength. I could see gymnastics, martial arts or similar activities would benefit me.

    I still feel like I'm a beginner in jazz & hip-hop, so for now I'll continue to grow in those areas. I can see tap would be very helpful too...

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  18. Well, not only have I taken Salsa, but Cha Cha, Argentine Tango, Swing and Afro-Brazilian. I think it really has helped. Once you've learned one dance, it helps with the next one. It really helps makes me more aware of my body and movements and it really helps getting in sync with the music.

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  19. I have been dancing salsa for the last 5 years (plus cha-cha and bachata) And picked up tango in the last year. Learning salsa had a big positive impact on my salsa - people comment on that all the time. I can see how cross training is really helpful in not just learning a new dance, but also in improving the previous dances.

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  20. I have been dancing salsa for the last 5 years (plus cha-cha and bachata) And picked up tango in the last year. Learning tango had a big positive impact on my salsa - people comment on that all the time. I can see how cross training is really helpful in not just learning a new dance, but also in improving the previous dances.

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  21. At the moment, I'm taking mostly:

    - Brazilian (Rio) Zouk (4 lessons a week, at least 2 as a follower and now the other 2 are pretty much always as a leader)
    - and oriental dancing (6 classes a week + 1 of American Vintage Belly Dance (half of the lesson is spent on learning how to play finger cymbals) + 1 private lesson a week).

    These are my 2 biggest passions at the moment, but I also have one class of Chi Kung (not that interested in it, but I did some ashtanga yoga previously and loved it and now hoping to get some insights into the body and becoming more open to meditation/less physical activities and learn how to take care of my body better, since chi kung helps with healing and meditation), + teaching pole dancing and aerial hoop a couple of hours a week and I'm not counting the parties/festivals/workshops on the weekend, mostly zouk and oriental dancing festivals, and here and there some salsa parties.

    I dont go to
    - salsa/bachata classes anymore, but I did quite a lot in the last year (around 10-15classes a week) and now I just go to parties to enjoy the dancing, but Im not really trying to improve my salsa anymore, I see it more like I had to start with it before I found out about my number 1 love: Brazilian Zouk :) And it definitely helped to do couple dances before I started zouk, so I got used to learning foot patterns etc.
    In the past, I have also tried:

    - beside couple dancing (Cuban and crossbody salsa, bachata, tango)
    - flamenco
    - ballet
    - lyrical jazz
    - pilates
    - ashtanga yoga
    - judo and karate
    - basic gymnastics
    - and pole dancing, which I did more than anything else, and for sure it has helped with body awareness and me learning a lot faster.

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  22. I have already seen how oriental dancing was a huge advantage when I started Brazilian Zouk. All the smooth moves, the bodywaves, the hip movements were very easy, doing oriental dancing already, since we do them even more precisely in oriental dancing. I also took in the past reggaeton lessons and that was again a different way of approaching bodywaves and hip moves, which gave me another way of seeing this kind of movements.
    Learning Brazilian zouk, which has so many head/neck movements, has made all the salsa head movements seem so trivial and basic, because zouk is the ultimate head-crazy couple dance. And having started to dance it as a leader as well in the last few months, has dramatically improved my listening skills/musicality and ideas of how to lead another body, why it feels right/wrong as a girl/follower, etc.

    The very first thing I started, though, was pole dancing. But the best pole dancers were all gymnasts or dancers and there was no way I could compete with that unless I seriously got into dancing, myself (pole dancing is not dancing... its acrobatics). I was quite nervous, but I always liked the idea of oriental dancing, so after about 2 years of doing exclusively pole dancing, I gathered up my courage and went to an oriental dance class. I did only one class a week for 1 year and a half and was not thrilled at all, until I met this amazing inspiring teacher...

    Then I suddenly got crazy about it and went to 4 lessons a week, and this semester it has become 8, including a private lesson. So, although at first, it was only to improve my movements/abilities as a pole dancer, it's now one of my 2 favourite dances.
    I tried a few other things on the way, and when I went into couple dancing just a year ago, it was bachata that attracted me. I learned some salsa, too, because I couldnt imagine going to a party and waiting 10 songs to go until the one bachata song came up and even then I'd run the risk of not even finding a partner to dance it with but although I had phases where I had a lot of fun with salsa, it still didn't feel like my thing.
    A few months later after learning these intensively, I saw Brazilian Zouk... And from then on, it became the other thing Im crazy about, along with oriental dancing. The music, the atmosphere and the dancing... everything is just perfect to bring me close to that ecstatic state :)
    Whatever other dance/activity I do nowadays, I do it hoping it will improve these 2 and I can just pick any style/movement in my repertoire to make it fit to the music playing and me expressing myself.

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  23. I think it took about 2 years to realise I was a different person when I went to teach pole dancing. The first year and a half I only did one lesson of oriental dancing and it wasnt too inspiring, and I always felt unable to do any dancing if I didnt have a pole (even then, it was only acrobatics I was doing) but after that and especially after trying salsa and tango, I felt after about 7-8months I was coming up with new transitions and becoming quite artistic on the pole, coming with new beautiful moves quite naturally, just like I had hoped for so long, and I even gave examples to my students and encouraged them to find out new ways to do a particular move.

    Im becoming more and more serious with my dancing nowadays and really would like to become also an oriental dancing teacher and Brazilian Zouk teacher one day, so Im planning on taking regular ballet and lyrical jazz lessons next semester (I took a few workshops and saw a big difference on my balance and awareness and know that it will improve me dramatically as a dancer if I do these regularly).
    I would not have been ready before, because I would have considered these dances too "traditional" and ballet especially too "boring", but the last few times I went to a ballet class, I enjoyed it so much, and lyrical jazz is even more fun and vibrant, that I think it will be hard to restrain myself with these next semester!
    And the timetable never fits, but I really need to make some room for flamenco as well. The few classes I had were musically very interesting (clapping handwork and footwork) and the footwork and the artistic take on the dance is a new dimension that Im very eager to discover.

    On the instrument side of things: I never learnt any instrument, but I bought 2 months ago a darabuka (or solo drum/tabla), which is the leading instrument very often in Arabic music, and I started to read/learn about Arabic music structure so as to improve my oriental dancing musicality and improvising ability, and I also started to play the drum, myself, partly to improve my understanding of it as a dancer, and partly because I just always loved the idea of playing an instrument with my hand.
    Also thanks to oriental dancing, I just started to play finger cymbals. Thus, pretty easy instruments, these 2, but seemingly really daring for a non-dancer and really exciting!

    In the near future, along with all these classes, Im starting to train outside classes more and more with dancing friends, and making choreographies and want to work on my facial expressions and story-telling in the dancing. This is, after all, what makes a good dance really good. Not what you do, but how you do it and how you express it. And to improve my confidence, Im also going to try regularly to improvise anything to any music and dance freely, drawing from all the things I know, and dance 20min, which is supposed to be the minimum amount of time after which something happens in the brain, and you really get a feel for this improving thing. 90 days (or 90times doing this exercise) is supposed to be the optimal number of times. So if I do it/after I do it, I will come back to say how all this cross-training has affected my dancing abilities/confidence and myself as a person ;)

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero