How to Dance: 4 Easy Steps to Mastering Your Left Feet
You do not need to be over-the-top amazing with your dancing skills to enjoy dance or to make a good impression on others.
The most important thing is to create a foundation.
In the following exercises, I will give you the knowledge you need to develop dance skills.
Knowing these elements will help you ward off your fears of having two left feet, and will allow you to feel more confident on the dance floor.
Key Elements to Understand
Any movement on the dance floor is dancing.
Let’s talk about our options by breaking down 4 key elements that make up many of the dances.
They are walking steps, side steps, rock steps and march steps.
These elements are your Lego blocks to understanding movement in dance.
They will give you a concept of what your options are when it comes to footwork.
4 Dance Exercises to Get Your Body Coordinated
Let’s take one dance element at a time and commence our dancing journey together!
Familiarizing yourself with these 4 elements will help you understand how to the body moves and what dancing is comprised of.
Aside from helping you get coordinated, these exercises will also warm up your body and release joint fluid, which is really healthy.
Some of the elements may seem obvious and easy, however, we don’t necessarily do them often in everyday life.
For this reason it is important to do the repetitions as much as possible so that they become natural.
Let’s Get Started!
Get up off your chair and stand up.
Have both feet under your body.
Whenever two feet are under your body, this particular position will be referred to as “Home”.
Dance Exercise #1 – The Walking Step
Walking Forward: Starting in the home position, make sure the left foot is ready to move, and start walking forward: Left foot, Right foot, Left foot, Right foot, etc.
This is called “Walking Forward”.
Walk forward for 8 steps.
Walking Backwards: Starting in the home position, make sure the right foot is ready to move, and start walking backwards: Right foot, Left foot, Right foot, Left foot, etc.
This is called “Walking Backwards”.
Walk backwards for 8 steps.
Dance Exercise #2 – The Side Step
Side Step to the Left: Starting in the home position, make sure the left foot is available to move, and step left to the side.
Bring your right foot together.
Do it again.
Side with the left foot, and bring your right foot together to the left foot.
This is called the “Side Step” to the left. Do it for 4 counts.
Each time you step, it is a count: 1-2-3-4 would be “Side-Together-Side-Together” or Left-Right-Left-Right.
4 weight changes.
Side Step to the Right: Starting in the home position, make sure the right foot is available to move, and step right to the side.
Bring your left foot together.
Do it Again.
Side with the right foot, and bring your left foot together to the right foot.
This is called the “Side Step” to the right.
Do it for 4 counts.
Each time you step, it is a count: 1-2-3-4 would be “Side-Together-Side-Together” or Right-Left-Right-Left. 4 weight changes.
Dance Exercise #3 – The Rock Step
Rocking Forward: Starting in the home position, make sure the left foot is available to move, and take one step forward as if you are imprinting your footprint into the ground.
Immediately return that left foot back to the right foot, ending in the home position.
This is called a “Rock Step Forward”.
The left foot always rocks forward.
Pick up your feet when doing this exercise.
Just to be clear: as the left foot goes forward, the right foot picks up.
As you replace the right foot and set it back down to the same position it started from (home), pick up the left foot and bring it back to the right foot, the initial starting position (home).
There are 3 weight changes in this move.
As left foot goes forward, that is 1. As right foot replaces back, that is 2.
As left foot comes back home to right foot, that is 3.
Each time you step, it is a count: 1-2-3 would be “Rock-Replace-Together” or “Left-Right-Left”.
Repeat 4 times.
The same is followed with the right foot.
However, the right foot rocks back instead of forward.
Rocking Back: Starting in the home position, make sure the right foot is available to move, and take one step backwards as if you are imprinting your footprint into the ground.
Immediately return that right foot forward to the left foot, ending in the home position.
This is called a “Rock Step Backwards”.
The right foot always rocks backwards.
Pick up your feet when doing this exercise.
Just to be clear: as the right foot goes back, the left foot picks up.
As you replace the left foot and set it back down (home), pick up the right foot and bring it forward, together to the left foot, the initial starting position (home).
There are 3 weight changes in this move.
As right foot goes back, that is 1.
As left foot replaces forward, that is 2.
As right foot comes back home to left foot, that is 3.
Each time you step, it is a count: 1-2-3 would be “Rock-Replace-Together” or “Right-Left-Right”. Repeat 4 times.
Dance Exercise #4 – March Step
Marching Left: Starting in the home position, make sure your left foot is available to move.
Start stomping, taking turns with each foot: pick up the left foot and stomp it.
Pick up the right foot and stomp, then pick up the left.
You will make 3 weight changes, and stomp “Left-Right-Left”. Pick up your feet after every stomp.
This is called the “March Step” starting with left foot. Repeat 4 times.
Marching Right: Starting in the home position, make sure your right foot is available to move.
Start stomping, taking turns with each foot: pick up the right foot and stomp it.
Pick up the left foot and stomp, then pick up the right.
You will make 3 weight changes, and stomp “Right-Left-Right”.
Pick up your feet after every stomp.
This is called the “March Step” starting with right foot. Repeat 4 times.
These 4 elements are your guide for learning how to dance effectively.
Improvising is one of the most fun things in dance, although without a guideline or knowing where to start, it can be daunting.
Use these 4 elements to familiarize yourself with what is available to you in terms of movement.
Get creative, cut and paste the moves and try out your own thing.
The more you try, the more dance miles you will pack on, and the more experienced you will become.
The Spectacular Go-to Move that will never let you down
Now that we have just familiarized yourselves with the 4 elements, we are ready to learn our Go-to Move!
This one step will get you ready to hit the dance floor.
This is the bare bones of what it takes.
This step works in any dance situation, fits any style of music, and will never let you down.
Your Essential Go-To Move: The Side-Tap
- Start in the home position (with two feet under your body).
- Take a side step to the left with the left foot.
- Bring the right foot to tap next to the left foot, as if it came to say “hello”
- Immediately take the same right foot back to where it came from, to the home position.
- Lastly, bring the left foot to tap next to the right foot as if it came to say “hello”
- Immediately take the same left foot back to where it came from.
This is your “Side Tap” step.
It takes 2 counts on each side, and it is the simplest move you can learn.
As you start by stepping side to the left, that is the 1st count.
The tap with the right foot closing to the left foot would be the 2nd count.
The same repeats on the other side.
You can count it as “1-2-1-2” or Side (left foot) – Tap (right foot) – Side (right foot) – Tap (left foot). That’s it. That is all it takes.
Here is a video clip of this “Side Tap” Step (Also called 2-Step):
You can also do this Basic Step with a partner. This is a video of how that would look:
Now you are familiar the foundational movements in dance.
Keep practicing these movements everyday, and eventually add on to these basic elements by learning more advanced steps.
At last, you can participate in your next event and not be overtaken by fear; you have your handy dandy “Side Tap” Step available to you!
It will give you the confidence you need, and the preliminary knowledge it takes to execute the basics.
Remember, you do not need to be fancy to be good, but you do need practice.
If you have decided that you need to learn to dance, do not procrastinate.
As soon as you hone in your dance skills, your basics will come in handy more than you expect, and you will enjoy them for the rest of your life.
The quality of your social life will quickly change as you will start partaking in group dancing and one-on-one, connecting with others on another level.
Meeting new people will become easier, and you will start feeling better about yourself in public and on the dance floor.
Do you wish you could dance, but something is stopping you?
Fears reside in all of us beginners.
Let us explain how to start the process of learning to dance, even if you have absolutely zero experience and zero faith in your dance ability.
In the beginning we always want fast results.
When the results don’t happen quick enough, it is clear we need more time, effort and much more humble sauce than we expected.
If you want to learn quality dancing, you will have to muster up some courage, and commit to practicing, taking dance classes and operating from outside your usual box of comfort.
Being vulnerable is one of the best life skills to have going into this process and journey of learning dance.
Your Belief System
A lot of it will not feel great in the beginning, and the ego will not feel great either.
However, just like rocks refined over 1000’s of years of polishing against the friction of a rambunctiously flowing river, so will you after 1000’s of repetitions, until you become as smooth as the hum of a Ferrari.
A helpful guide (professional / expert) will eventually prove to be essential for getting refined and reaching the end goal.
However, ultimately your dance journey is up to you and your initiative, and it can be commenced with the assistance of this simple article and your willingness to try.
The Mind Game of Dance
To be real with you, dancing is a lot more psychological than physical.
Exuding confidence right off the bat will make someone (even yourself) believe you are good at it.
So in the beginning, let’s not put too much focus on perfecting movement as much as perfecting the attitude.
Remember the famous quote by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or can’t– you are right”.
So answer the question for yourself – Can you or can’t you do this?
Make a decision and stick to it.
TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED
Tip #1 Forget About Your Fears
This seems simple, but this may be the hardest step.
As it happens in life, in many cases our minds are our biggest saboteurs.
The intellect often gets in the way and convinces us not to do something that may put our ego at a perceived risk.
However, try to turn your brain off! What is on the other side of fear is juicy awesome-ness!
Focus on the End Goal
What waits for you on the other side after taking on the risk of learning to dance is way more valuable than expected, and just plain amazing to behold.
The freedom of movement, the connection with yourself and someone else, the music, the relaxation and the pure natural high is therapeutic.
So keep that in mind when the going gets rough.
Stick with it.
If you feel like you don’t have rhythm, flexibility, the right height, etc., those excuses can be overcome.
All fears and excuses live inside the head. All it takes is the decision to do it.
Start slow and in the privacy of your own home.
Start moving your body in front of the mirror, as awkward as that sounds.
You are the first one who needs to get over yourself and the resistance you have towards dancing.
Tip #2 Develop Body Awareness and Coordination
There are many different kinds of dances to learn.
Salsa, swing, bachata, tango, country, waltz, just to name a few.
Which one should you personally learn?
It may seem overwhelming where to start.
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter.
The biggest thing is to get your body moving ASAP and stop over thinking it.
The more you familiarize your body to movement and the different ranges of motion, the more body awareness you will develop, and the more tools you will have in your dance toolbox.
Expose Yourself to New Movement
Exposing yourself to as many movements as possible will get you aware and competent faster.
Just like learning a foreign language; the more words you know, the more sentences you will be able to create.
The thing with dance is that you do not need a ton of moves to look great.
However, you have to get to the point of feeling good and confident about those moves, to the point where it doesn’t feel awkward anymore.
Once you reach that point in your dance journey, you will own the moves, gain control and be able to dance with yourself and anyone else.
Tip #3 Dance for Yourself
Compare yourself to your own progress.
Everyone is different with a separate time clock and ability to reach their desired goals.
Dancing for yourself is one of the biggest secrets.
It’s you against yourself; no comparing, no getting discouraged, no putting yourself down.
Learning to dance is your own journey.
The journey goes up and down.
Remember, it is about enjoying the dance, not being the best one out there.
Tip #4 Don’t Forget About Your Dream, Your Goals and Your Commitment
There is a reason why you want to learn to dance.
What is it?
Keep your mind on the goal.
There are many reasons to start dancing.
Maybe you are ready to shed the persona of the “wallflower” and want to enjoy social life at another level.
Perhaps you want to enjoy a new hobby with someone special.
Maybe you’d like to get fit and coordinated, and boost your self-confidence.
There are many different reasons that inspire us to dance.
Be clear on that and stick to it.
It is possible that if you give dance a fair shot, you will get hooked and will only regret not having started sooner.
By the way, if you’re in the Las Vegas or Bay Area, we have classes for every type of dance including wedding dance lessons.
We also have a “boot camp” for weekenders visiting Vegas who are time-constrained or just want to knock dancing off their bucket list.
Dancing is Good for Your Health
After starting to dance, you will soon start tasting the enjoyment of dance.
By developing rhythm, flexibility, better health and emotional well being, you will see that the benefits of dance are endless.
This is why dance is medicinal and therapeutic.
It is so healthy for us, creating new neural pathways in our brains, while releasing the endorphins we all love.
The body will become uplifted, and it will start moving through life differently.
You will start carrying yourself effortlessly with confidence.
It is an attractive and beautiful thing.
Start imagining how you will enjoy the benefits of dance.
Visualizing is a big part of it.
Don’t rush to give up or get frustrated.
Keep your eye on the horizon.
Tip #5 Practice Regularly
This is where the real work begins.
There is a requirement for making all of this happen: a commitment to dance.
Dancing is a life skill and inevitably takes time to develop.
Just like any hobby, fitness program, or educational course, there is a process to it.
Two or three attempts of learning to dance will not serve you.
Consistency is the most important part of the equation. It is the very thing that will allow you to see progress.
Practice is the Price of Mastery
The best regimen to follow is to take 2-3 dance classes a week for a few months.
In addition, going through the movements everyday is helpful.
Dance at home, at a studio, or on the street to solidify new movements.
Dance wherever you can at any given available moment.
Just a little practice will get you out of the funk of feeling bashful and will give you the ability to dance anywhere.
How to Practice
Enjoy the movement and don’t let your mind get in the way of what is correct and how well your execution is.
Let yourself make mistakes and allow yourself to feel movements that don’t feel quite right.
Dance in front of the mirror without judgement and get comfortable with yourself.
No one learns everything from their first time.
Set your mind on success and you will get it.
If you want to take your dancing far, it is possible, just be sure to practice and not to doubt.
You are your own worst enemy, and you must give it all you got.
Anyone who makes dance part of their lifestyle can eventually master it to some degree, at any age.
Fake it Till you Make it
The more you practice, the more you will start improving.
We are our worst critics, and if you fake it, half the time no one has a clue about how awkward you feel on the inside.
Practice a lot.
Pack on the repetitions and put on the “dance miles”.
The more you do it, the better it will get.
Try dancing in public, even if you feel uncomfortable.
Dance as if you know what you are doing.
Get Someone to Hold You Accountable
Once you set you mind on the goal to learn to dance, do not quit!
Anyone can do it.
Finding a good teacher will help you gain technique, gain confidence and hold you accountable.
Having a practice buddy is also not a bad idea.
Giving yourself a few months with a steady schedule for learning will give you results.
It will allow you to track your progress and reach your end goal.
All you need is the desire and the decision to start doing this.
Tip #6 Gain Control of Your Body
By means of walking in real life, we already understand movement to a certain degree.
Movement on the dance floor, including walking, in its rawest form could be considered dancing.
However, to prevent ourselves from walking off the floor, we may want to take fewer steps, or move backwards, or sideways, so that we take up about 1 square meter of space.
Smaller is Better
Take small steps when dancing at first.
It will make you look like you have more control, more rhythm, and more confidence.
If you flail around on the dance floor, it will draw attention to yourself, and it will make you look uncoordinated.
Also, taking large steps will make it feel as though you are chasing the music.
Keep calm and relaxed, and the dancing will start feeling more natural.
The body will start dancing without the mind.
There is no need to get fancy with dancing in the beginning.
Now I want to know what you think!
Leave a comment below and let me know if this post helped you and if you have any questions.
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