How to Train your Dancing: Solo Edition

Introduction

Finally back to blogging after being gone for Lord knows how long. I want to give a shout out to Alexis Mosser for the blog recommendation. I’m telling y’all I mainly write if people ask about a particular subject, so as always ask questions or make a suggestion to give me something blog about. Now on with the article, Alexis asked me about how to practice after she was discussing reading through The Dance Practice Blue Print from Rebecca Brightly. I do have article on practice as a recommendation for different ways to practice for different levels in We Talkin about Practice {Revised} but I wanted to give an example of how I organize my time so I’m efficient and Alexis specifically asked me about improving solo dancing.

Organizing your Time

The number one thing you must do is be able to trace out the amount of time you can delegate throughout the week around all of your responsibilities. I have the luxury of having a job where I set my own schedule and so I have my week carved out specifically to allow up to 16 hours of practice if life allows me to, I feel the first thing would be to set aside a maximum and minimum amount of time to practice. The minimum should be a realistic number that you’d feel comfortable and accomplished with. To do this I’d write out your daily schedule and fill in the times that you could dedicate to practice. For me I work Wednesday and Friday mornings so after twelve noon I have the entire day to myself to practice. After that I tend to rest or just focus on studying classic videos on Thursdays since Wednesday nights are a major social dance night in Dallas and  I get my practice out-of-the-way before the dance. Saturdays are usually a double practice as I have no work to really worry about so one segment is early afternoon and the other is early evening once again before I head out social dancing but there are some nights I opt to stay home and practice over social dancing. Fridays is a double practice as well as I practice by myself on solo movement and sense I tend to host a practice group at my house I work with a younger dancer or 2 on aspects of partner dancing. Sundays are reserved for my dance team 35 Jive if we don’t have practice I work on our competition routine or something I neglected in my other days of practice ie. Balboa (sorry Bal Mom and Bal Dad) here’s a simplistic schedule I made in sheets. Mondays and Tuesdays I work double shifts and I tend to be busy at work so I just focus on my admin work for my fitness clients on those days.

As you can see each day has four 1 hour slots divided out that I dedicate to a particular subject. My minimum number of hours is 6 (2 hours over 3 days) while my maximum is 16 hours (4 hours spread over 4 days) I tend to average between 8-12 hours a week. The double practice days allow me to cram a lot of time into a small number of days. My example is extreme but depending on what you want to accomplish I’d keep that tid bit in mind.

Dedicating your Time

So you’ve figured out your minimum and maximum amounts of time that you want to practice.The trick now is how can we best utilize this time that we’ve carved out? What has helped me out with using my time better is dedicating days to particular things. Wednesdays are dedicated to choreography so everything I do is set to help me better my ability to perform solo jazz choreography or learn or create a mini routine with a partner or by myself. Thursdays are dedicated to rest and studying, Fridays I work on rhythm/quality of movement and then work with another partner later that evening during group practice. Saturdays my early practice is rhythm or quality of movement and later is either solo improvisation drills or I review choreography from Wednesday. Sundays like I said is dedicated to team related routines or I study videos. Having a goal in mind for your session is key and can help you narrow down what you need to figure out.

Drills that Pay the Bills

In this section I’m gonna highlight some of my favorite drills to help people figure out different ways to train their solo dancing. Next month I’ll hopefully be getting in some more partnered work with a friend and experiment with some partner dancing ideas. If not you’re gonna get workout stuff…deal with it. *insert plea for questions and suggestions*

Choreography Speed Drill

Find a routine on YouTube give yourself a 30-45 minute time limit and learn as much of the routine as you can and record yourself going through it. This drill really teaches you how to pick up on details quickly since I tend to do performances with short prep periods, I train how fast I can learn a routine and spit it back out on video and judge my cleanliness. Here I am dancing through “Slick Chick” Choreographed by Laura Glaess and Joanna Lucero the routine is pretty short so I was ambitious and gave myself a 30 minute time limit. This drill is useful as it helps teach visual learning and retention but also being intentional with your movements as you try to be as clean as possible during your run through’s. Also, if you’re someone (myself included) who hates working on routines having a set time limit keeps prevents procrastinating or stalling.

Half Time Rhythm

This drill I use with beginners to get them to emphasize even beats while solo dancing and getting use to starting things on 8 or 4 (2 or 4 if you think in bars) and teach them to really attack those beats to make a move change. We start with the dancers either lifting their feet up on the even beats or stepping on the even beats. Simple moves that easily play around with this are Shim Sham Step, Trucking, Tacky Annie, Knee slaps, Apple Jacks (starts with a jump on 8), Fall off the Log (leg comes up as you sink on 8), Boogie Forwards/Boogie walks and boogie backs. These are moves that I like to focus on with beginners because it’s easy to be on our off the beat with these moves. This gives a little direction of what to try to drill and master working on this drill.

Principle Move or card draw

This drill can be done a number of ways, you can start by picking a move using Alphabetical solo jazz video or randomly draw a shimmy town card. Whatever move you get is going to be your basic or principle move. Pretty much you just try to create a dance using that one move and finding different ways to vary it. So you’ll learn how to be very vanilla and basic but also how to vary it. Here I am mainly using Lock Turns, I enjoy this drill because you can easily practice a move and get it down well but then learn how to make your own.

Interval Training

In regards to partner dancing the drill I probably use more than anything is Interval Training. This drill I learned from Mike Roberts and Joanna Lucero thanks to The Lindy Project YouTube Channel. It’s an overall quality of movement drill that I do at various tempos. It contains a phrase of Skates, Basic Charleston and side to side 8 count rhythm after that Leaders will do a swing out with triple steps while Followers swivel. Here are the masters at work in a video recap, I’ve used this drill for years but after a bit I decided to spice it up for a challenge and to work on my transitions to make it a wee bit more challenging. The next video link I have is me doing the same drill as described but I use a different variation of the Charleston each time through. This accomplishes working on a basic jazz movement and transitioning to and from Lindy Hop Rhythms to get a higher level of body control. I’ve tried this using other solo jazz moves in different spots as well.

Conclusion

I think that’s enough information for this blog today, I hope y’all enjoy. If you’re looking for any other resources on how to improve your dancing I’d pick upPractice Swing by Robert White along with checking out his Swungover Blog. Lastly check out The Britghtside with Mikey and Rachel Podcast as Mikey Pedroza and Rachel Dahlenburg give so much first hand insight on dancing. Thanks for reading and keep an eye for more in the future 🙂

 

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