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Deciding to take dance lessons is exciting, but it can also be daunting to enter a whole new world of dancing. Here are some tips to make it easier for you to get started.

Before you schedule:

Do some leg work. Fortunately, this kind of leg work does not involve plies! Research dance styles on the internet, in magazines, or on TV. Youtube is probably the best research tool available to you, because it will allow you to use search words, such as Ballroom, Ballet, Salsa, and such, to ensure that once you call an actual dance studio, you will have an idea of what kind of dancing you would like to learn. Then, when the time to sign up for a lesson package comes, you will know that you will be learning what you want.

Call a few studios. If the first studio you call sounds perfect, you are in luck! However, it is always helpful to have a back-up plan. In case something does not work out as planned, you won’t have to go through the search process all over again. Pull up a few phone numbers and write then down, in case the first place you call turns out to be not what you are looking for. And if the studio you call does not sound like a good fit at all, don’t make an appointment and then not show up! Let the person on the other end know that they don’t offer what you are looking for. This way you won’t waste the studio’s time, and give them an opportunity to better their business by being better aware of what customers are looking for.

Before your first lesson:

Make sure you have comfortable shoes that will stay on your feet as you dance. Don’t worry about buying dance shoes right away – take your time to make sure of the dances you want to work on, and find out what type of shoe works best for the style.

Don’t be nervous! Remember, most people taking their first dance lesson think they have two left feet, yet, those are the same people you will see a month later looking graceful and self-assured on the dance floor. If dancing is something you want to do, go for it, regardless of how many right and left feet you think you have!

On your first lesson:

Wear something that stretches and does not ride up. You don’t want being uncomfortable in your clothes to become the focus of your lesson.

Talk to your instructor about what your goals are. I know it seems too early, but you may be wasting your time and money if you aren’t being taught what you want to learn. For example, if you see yourself dancing in competitions a year from now, it may be a waste of time to learn social dancing first, and visa versa.

Tell your instructor what kind of music you like, especially if you are utterly lost as to what kind of dancing you may be interested in. This can point you in the right direction. For example, if you love Pop, you may want to learn some of the dances that can be done to it, like the Hustle, or Swing. And if you hate Pop, learning these may be a waste of time for you, since these dances are most often done to the music you don’t enjoy.

Remember that you are there, first and foremost, to have a great time, and do whatever it takes to get there!

Visit me at www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com for more on Ballroom and Latin dancing.

You know you are a dancer when:

*You can’t stop choreographing in your head every time you hear a song you like, even if all you know about dancing is the box step.

*Before buying a new outfit, you first evaluate it for its dance potential.

*You buy groceries on sale, because that way you will be able to afford more dance classes.

*Before going on vacation, you spend hours on the internet researching all available dance opportunities at your destination. And you don’t book the tickets unless there is sufficient dancing.

*Your friends tell you that all you can talk about is dancing.

*Your friends tell you they haven’t see you in ages, because you are always dancing.

*You don’t have any friends, besides friends you’ve met dancing.

*You buy dance shoes by the pound.

*You start to dance, or at the very least vibrate in place, every time you hear music, be that at work, your dentist’s, or the supermarket.

*You think dancing is the greatest thing in the world, so everyone should do it, and are always showing new steps to your friends, co-workers, and the baby sitter.

*Everyone knows not to call you on Saturday, because you aren’t home. You are in dance class all day, and out dancing all night. So if the world is coming to an end, you will just have to find out on Sunday.

Don’t do any of these things yet, but suspect you too may want to be a dancer? Visit me at www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com to get started!

Dancers are famous for always looking great – not only their bodies, but also their hair, clothes, make-up, basically the whole package. But dancers, for the most part, have the same genetic make-up as the rest of the earth’s population. So what is it that makes them so damn good looking?

Dancers, just like real people, don’t have a lot of time. But, unlike real people, we are always under pressure to look our best. Solution? Find whatever works and stick with it.

This is easier to do than you think. All you need is a commitment. Committed to looking great ever day? Good. Now, when you go shopping, buy things that fit. Only the things that fit! Stay away from the pants that will fit you if you lost that extra 5 pounds you’ve been trying to lose for the last year and a half. And the dress that looks great if you suck in your stomach and your butt at the same time, and then proceed to hold your breath for the rest of the day, while maintaining normal brain function, is probably not worth the investment. Also, please, stay away from shoes that make you walk like a duck! No matter how cute they are! There is such a thing as stylish clothes that are also comfortable. Find them and invest in them!

Same goes for your hair and make-up. Does your mascara always run? Stop hoping that today will be the day when it will become ashamed of itself for making you look like a raccoon and stay on your eyelashes instead of under your eyes. Instead get new, preferably water-proof, mascara that will not require a prayer and a Voodoo spell to stay put.

Wondering if the new neon-green eyeshadow will work on you? Try it in the privacy of your own bathroom, not at an office meeting. Every dancer knows not to show up to an audition, performance, or competition in make-up that is not tried and tested. We know that we only have a few seconds to impress the judges, or capture the audience’s attention, so our make-up and costume has to be pleasing to most people. Individuality is great, but it is better expressed in small details than in a whole outlandish outfit and crazy make-up.

Hair giving you a miserable time every morning? Change it! For most people, hair misbehaves because they try to make their hair do things it was never meant to do. Working against your natural texture and color will only make your life difficult. Find a hair style that works well on your hair and compliments you. Get some highlights, color it, but don’t go crazy. Something that requires an enormous amount of work is probably not worth it, unless you are independently wealthy and don’t mind putting in the time and the cash. Ask for advise from your stylist, friends, look through a magazine… Try different things until you get what you want. Then stick with it.

Not the stick with it type? Feel free to experiment to your heart’s content – dancers always do. But the trick is still to have a go-to style that has been tested and proven to work. This way, if your experiment doesn’t quite work out, you can gorgeous yourself up in no time – no need to decide between calling in sick, or showing up at the Tuesday morning meeting with pink hair!

And now that you know how to look like a dancer, visit me at www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com for more Ballroom and Latin dancing.

It is a problem many women face – we know how to get ourselves looking good, but fail to understand what to do to send men the signal that we want to be approached. And to make matters worse, there is this whole thing about equal opportunity and equality between sexes. Does that mean we need to muster the courage to approach ourselves? Or does it mean that we only need to be more forward with our signals of wanting to be approached? And what exactly are those signals?

In the dance world, just like in the real world, women are faced with this dilemma all the time. For some, it is an ongoing struggle to be noticed and asked to dance, while others often settle into dancing over and over again with the few partners they’ve already managed to accumulate. And many beginners are faced with the prospect of sitting on the sidelines dance after dance, because nobody seems to even notice them, let alone ask them to dance.

To be honest, the world of partner dancing can be even tougher to crack than the world of dating. Not only do dancers behave just like real people, but most of them also have an ego that is larger than life! Ironically, this is especially true for beginner dancers, who often firmly believe that they have learned everything there is to know about dancing in the few short months they’ve been taking lessons, and now feel superior to those around them. Think about this: I am a professional dancer and instructor with over 20 years of experience, and I sometimes dance with beginner men, who can barely keep timing (and who don’t know I am a professional) who tell me I am doing things wrong!

Granted that you may not want to be a approached by those guys, being approachable still pays off big time when you are at a dance social. And unfortunately, you have to sift through the rubbish to find those few amazing dance partners with whom you can feel like you have defied gravity and bone structure! So what should you do?

First off, smile! Sounds simple enough? People want to be around people who are having a good time. Many women tend to sit, or stand around the edges of the dance floor looking upset at nobody asking them to dance. This is completely understandable, and yet, it makes them much less likely to be asked for the next dance. Instead of getting pouty, watch the other dancers. Like what you see? Show it! Smile, make eye contact, even dance by yourself! As long as you don’t go overboard, and stare someone down for the duration of the song, or start doing head stands in the middle of a Ballroom social, someone will probably ask you to dance in the next few minutes.

Second, compliment someone. Do you like somebody’s moves, shoes, dress, hat…? Compliment them! This is a great way of starting a conversation, and can lead to being introduced to the person’s friends, or just make you appear more approachable, as you will now be the woman having a conversation with someone, instead of the woman standing in the corner by herself. Ask where the person takes lessons, what dances they like, where they go shopping for their dance cloths… be creative, and smile!

Third, ask them yourself. Here is where the equality between sexes comes into play. Many people consider it appropriate for a woman to ask a man for a dance, so if you are one of them, then go for it! A word of caution though – don’t ask first what dance it is that is playing. The person you are asking may not be a beginner, and a question like that will make them assume that you are, and decline the offer. A better way to go is to say you love the song, and would love to dance to it, so would they please dance with you?

Being approachable is an art in itself, and it is an old art. This sometimes makes women feel like their un-progressive, pre-feminist, no-options-besides-a-husband-and-a-baby great-great-grandmothers. But being approachable simply amounts to being pleasant to the people around you, and you don’t need to sacrifice being a modern career woman for that! You go out dancing to have a good time, right? So have a good time! Don’t let other people dictate whether you will have fun. Be determined to have fun no matter what, and other people are guaranteed to join you!

Visit me at www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com for more information about dancing, dance lessons, and more!

Hot summer nights can be long and boring without proper entertainment. I discovered this as a child, when the excitement of not having to go to school was suddenly tapered by long hot hours of freedom, and absolutely nothing to fill them. And the worst part about it was that my dance classes would be suspended for the summer as well.

As a child, I lived and breathed dance. I willingly did all my homework, as soon as I got home from school, just so that I would be ready to go to my dance class. Unlike most of my friends, who found any excuse to watch TV for as long as they could and threw temper tantrums when they were told to turn off their video games, I could never tell the difference between all the kids programs my friends discussed, and the only reason I flipped out was when my mother told me I couldn’t go to dance class, if I was too sick.

My passion for dance hasn’t worn off over the years, and I still find myself sulking if for some reason I am unable to make it to a dance social that I’ve been looking forward to. But fortunately, I now realize that I am not the only dance loving, music-obsessed freak. I have found people just like me, and lots of them, and what’s even better, I get to share my knowledge and skills with them.

If the thought of learning how to dance has ever crossed your mind, Jacksonville offers a number of opportunities (and unlike my childhood dance classes, these are not suspended for the summer). There are lots of dance events to participate in and lots of affordable lessons and groups classes to help you get your feet wet, or improve your technique and musicality. There are also lots of internet resources, if you are the thorough research type. Whichever route you choose, remember that dancing is a great hobby that combines exercise, social connections, music, and lots of other good things, so get your dance shoes on, and beat those summer blues!

Visit me at www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com for more on Ballroom and Latin dancing.

The reason most people never learn how to dance is because they think it is hard. Shows like Dancing with the Stars, with all the light and sound effects, costumes, sky high eye-lashes and heels, make the average person think “I will never be able to do that!” The people on the screen have hours of dance lessons, personal trainers, coaches, people to get them coffee and lunch while they have the luxury of fully emerging themselves into the intricacies of the Foxtrot. You, on the other hand, have to feed the dog, take the kids to soccer practice, invent something for dinner, and possibly watch Twilight, if you ever get to it at all.

Understandably, the time to make your Foxtrot (or Salsa, Cha-cha, Waltz, or any other dances of choice) look fabulous is hard to come by. Fortunately, social dancing, and even performing, is often not so much about what you do, but about how you do it. Remember the box step that you learned in that group class you made it to once, three months ago? Well, guess what? There is a reason the box is the basic step of so many dances – professionals do it too! We have it in our competition and performance routines about 90% of the time. It is just done so well that you probably can’t see it! What you see is the glittery costume, the make-up, the smiles on our faces, the fact that we look like we are having the time of our lives doing it up on that stage.

Of course, when you go out social dancing with your honey on a Friday night all of this may be too much, but who is stopping you from looking like you are enjoying yourself? Instead of trying to make it perfect, stopping every two steps to check if your body is properly (and painfully) twisted in the right direction at precisely the right angle, why not leave the technique in class, and have a great time just dancing to music?! What if you can’t remember anything at all about what you learned about a particular dance? Don’t let that stop you! Usually, as soon as you start moving to music (and by moving I mean swaying, vibrating… anything) your body will remember the steps on its own, and if that doesn’t happen – who cares? One of the great things about social dancing, as opposed to dance competition is that there are no judges, so go ahead and have a great time!

Watch these easy steps that look great on any social dance floor – all you need is your dramatic Tango face! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdH1zMqRZRA

And remember to visit me at http://www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com for more on Ballroom and Latin dancing.

Musicality seems like a natural thing to consider in one’s dancing, but in Ballroom dancing, like in many other dance styles, choreography, lead and follow, and technique often get in the way of dancing musically.

Many people mistakenly believe that being musical simply means dancing on time. This could not be further from the truth. Musicality often involves going off time in the strict sense of the word, and following an underlying melody, a single instrument, or even the vocals, instead of staying with the main beat of the song.

Musicality is not taught very often, or very well, for the most part, especially to beginners. The reason for this is often the fact that it is very difficult to explain. One needs to hear it in the music, and most people hear different things within the same song. Unfortunately, beginners, not being taught musicality from the very beginning, get into a rut of dancing on time and never concerting themselves with being musical. For example, most people are taught the bare bones structure of slows and quicks in American style Rhythm and Smooth, and are never told that they can venture out to dance on other rhythms.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a professional to be able to play with musicality, and having the basic slows and quicks structure down is a good place to start. Once you’ve understood and can clearly hear the slows and quicks in the music, try adding and’s, as in 4-and-1 in Cha-cha. In other dances, an and count can be an arm movement, and head flick, a hip rotation… anything you can think of doing that is not going to change your weight from the standing foot. And once you’ve gotten that down, try breaking the beats down even further, counting 1-and-a-2, and so forth.

If that sounds too complicated for you, just remember that it is all in the music. The infinite possibilities of musical expression are all in there waiting to be discovered and expressed through your body. And most importantly, have fun with it! Don’t worry if you are doing it right, or if it looks good. All of that will come with time. For now, just have a good time dancing. And I guarantee that once you try it, you will finally feel like you are dancing, not just doing steps.

Visit me at http://www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com for more on Ballroom and Latin dancing.

I am beside myself with excitement! I will be teaching an Argentine Tango workshop this week. The deeply passionate nature of this dance has fascinated me for many years, and I am honored to be able to share it with other people.

I came across Argentine Tango by accident, running into a Tango practice session at a studio where my partner at the time and I used to rehearse. One time was all it took. The music spoke to me. The idea of dancing whatever I felt, was extremely appealing after hours of dancing International Latin choreography, figuring out a way to make something that someone else came up with seem like my own.

The instructions I got for dancing the Tango were simple: dance to any instrument, or tune you want, listen to what your partner is doing, and let him know what you are doing – treat it as a conversation. This is still the best advise for dancing Argentine Tango that I have gotten, even though I have been studying and dancing it for years. Tango is a conversation between two people. You can tell your partner anything – that you are in love, angry, sad, that your heart is broken, or bursting with joy… And it is futile to try and hide your feelings – I have tried! – they always know by the way your body moves, by the way your weight feels against their body, and they can choose to cheer you up, or go with your emotion to help you express it and thus live through it.

Argentine Tango is said to be one of the hardest dances to learn for beginners. The reason for that is simply the fact that most of us are not used to expressing ourselves so directly and freely. We are taught to always be cheerful and polite, hide any hardships, or disappointments, and put a smiling face out to the world. But Tango is real. It is the dance of peasants, immigrants, workers… people with nothing left to hide, those whose emotions are the only treasures left to them. If you know anything about music, and you listen to an Argentine Tango, you hear sounds from around the world, many cultures put together. This music belongs to the world in general, not one particular culture. Though it has a very specific place of birth – La Boca in Buenos Aires – anyone can relate to the music and the dance, if they only listen to it. Some say that Tango speaks many languages, but others say it only speaks one – that of the human race.

Visit me at http://www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com for more on Ballroom and Latin dancing.

We have all heard the old truth: communication is key. It is impossible to lead a normal happy life without ever understanding and being understood by a fellow human being. We have invented languages, gestures, phones, computers… basically gone to unbelievable lengths all to be able to communicate with as many people as we can. Yet, many of us still often feel out of touch.

Here’s where I point out the obvious: the need for communication is one of the most basic and important human needs. We will seek out ways to connect by any means, and when the traditional means, like conversations with friends, for example, fail us we will turn to more and more intricate methods. This need is what keeps many internet websites, life coaches, and therapists in business.

Strangely, in our everlasting preoccupation with staying connected, we often miss the most obvious chances and ways to connect. A New York City art project just installed 60 pianos throughout the city, because the artist, Luke Jerram, whose idea the project was, wanted to help people communicate better. Jerram had observed people in public places, and noticed that even though some of the same people kept coming back to the same place, like a coin laundry, every week, they failed to even acknowledge each other. He thought that public pianos may give people a better chance to communicate.

Learning to play a piano in order to stay connected is a great idea, but may be a little too far-fetched. Fortunately, we are surrounded by millions of other ways to communicate non-verbally. One of these is body language.

We use it unconsciously all the time, but body language can also be used consciously. One of the things I teach my students when I teach them how to dance, is to be aware of their body language. Once you are aware of what signals you are silently sending out to the people around you, you become much more successful in dancing, as well as in all other aspects of your life. Think of a person who stands up straight, looks people right in the eye, and smiles. Now think of a person who slouches and avoids eye contact, or has a look of dissatisfaction on his or her face. Which person would you buy a house from? Or even tomatoes? Which person would you feel more comfortable approaching to ask them to dance?

Body language is something you use whether you like it, or not. So if you find yourself wondering why people react to you in a certain way, what you do with your body and facial expressions may be worth looking into. And if you need help, but think hiring a life coach is a little extreme, there is always the option of finding a hobby, like dancing, or acting, where you will learn to be more aware of your body language through doing something you enjoy. I guarantee that your communication skills will improve dramatically, once you become aware of some basic facts about your body language, and who can’t use some better communication skills?!

Watch this youtube video of people dancing at a Latin dance social and observe their body language: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCzqJCZ8uXE

Visit me at www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com to learn more about using your body in dancing.

Sunday night is one of the most important parts of the week. It is often the last time we have to ourselves before the long work week and until the following weekend. So why not do something really fun and set the tone for your entire week?

What is the most fun you can have in Jacksonville on a Sunday night? If you ask me, it is dancing, of course. There is a number of great dance events held throughout Jacksonville in the summer months (and some year round), PJ’s grill being the newest addition to our dance scene. The grill offers a fine selection of food and drink, along with some great tunes, spun by our favorite DJ Clave.

PJ’s Salsa Sundays came about as a substitute for Salsa Sundays held at Castillo de Mexico, which were cancelled following a conflict with a neighboring business. PJ’s location at the beach is sure to attract a diverse crowd of Salsa lovers, along with beach bodies looking for a good time after the sun goes down. All in all, the new location is shaping up to be the new popular hang-out spot for those who want to start their work week off on the right foot!

Check out this video of Salsa dancing at PJ’s:

Visit me at http://www.jacksonvilleballroomandlatin.com for more videos, pictures, and more on Ballroom and Latin dancing!

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