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Practice: No partner? No space? No problem!


  • Practice: No partner? No space? No problem!

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    When I was just starting to learn Latin dance I received compliments from some of my dance partners who commented, 'You must have been practicing a lot this past week!' It was a great feeling to receive that kind of positive feedback and to look over at my teacher and receive his 'You're doing well' grin.

    I'm going to let you in on a little secret of mine: I didn't do all that much practice. Well, not that much physical practice. My then girlfriend and I would typically have an impromptu five-minute practice in the kitchen most evenings but the real practice happened in bed...

    In Psycho - Cybernetics Dr Maxwell Maltz writes, 'Experimental and clinical psychologists have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the human nervous system cannot tell the difference between an "actual" experience and an experience imagined vividly and in detail.' In the same book he shares an account of an experiment on the effects of mental practice on improving basketball free throws.

    The experiment divided the subjects into three groups. Group one physically practiced free throws for twenty days. Group two did no practice at all. Group three spent twenty minutes per day visualising shooting free throws. When the subjects in the third group 'missed', they would visualise correcting their aim accordingly. The results were incredible: the first group improved their free throw score by 24%; the second group showed no improvement; and the third group improved their scores by 23%. Amazingly, mental practice yielded results almost identical to physical practice.

    What this means for us is that visualisation can be an extremely effective tool in practicing dance moves and this is fantastic news for the many of us who don't have a lot of time or space or a practice partner. Here's how:

    Most nights during my beginner courses I spent time laying awake in bed imagining that I was dancing. I would visualise the steps, imagine the muscle contractions and even 'experience' the forces of motion and contra-motion. I'd even stuff up... sometimes dozens of times before getting it right. I'd lose balance or put my foot in the wrong place... or my hand (usually resulting in an imaginary slap...). This allowed me to reinforce what I'd learned the past week and to solidify the fundamentals.

    Try this: As you lay awake in bed, close your eyes and start with counting (e.g. for Salsa "1, 2, 3… 5, 6, 7…") and then imagine dancing. Start with basic stepping and then go over what you can remember learning during the past few classes. Once you've got that under control you can put on some music and start choreographing, in your mind, a dance to your favourite song. Don't worry if you can't visualise clear, vivid pictures - some people, like me, only get impressions - you'll get results either way and you'll also get better with practice.


    James “The Little Gringo” Quinn-Hawtin has been teaching and performing Rio-style Zouk-Lambada since January 2009. He is credited by his loyal students as being fun, clear, cheeky, patient, passionate and surprising, always sharing his latest learnings from his masters Aliison & Audrey (Perth), Kadu & Larissa (Brisbane), Alex de Carvalho & Daniela (Rio de Janeiro), Adilio Porto (Rio de Janeiro) and Pasty (Amsterdam).* He is currently teaching at Latin Energy in Brisbane, Australia and will be returning to Malaysia and Vietnam later this year to spread the Zouk love in South-East Asia.

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