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?
Short or longer answers welcomed!
I look forward to your comments.
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How Many Instructors: Part 1
How Many Instructors: Part 2 (Same Sex?)
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