Swing Discussion Boards > I need to get out of my head . . .

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by demoiselle, Aug 6, 2014.

  1. demoiselle

    demoiselle Active Member

    I am a beginner swing dancer/follower, just moving beyond level one classes (ie, making the stumbling transition between six-count steps and eight count/swingouts). Over the last two months, I've also gotten more serious about improving and have started going regularly to practice parties.

    Although I follow what I know well and am improving a lot (especially in keeping my pulse going, which has been my personal project for the last few weeks), I can certainly tell I'm a very "heady" dancer. At the practice parties, the pros have both taken to pushing me to be more loose and playful, improvising a bit in time with the music. One, when asked, did in fact say she was messing with me to get me out of my head.

    And I think that that is necessary for me! I need to feel like there is time within the beats to play around.

    Any tips on how to improve, loosen up, get out of my head?

    (Or am I, by asking this question, over-thinking it, and this is a just skill that will come in time if I "keep moving to the music/don't stop" (what the other pro told me to do last night)?
  2. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Allow yourself to screw up and go with the flow. You're not being marked.

    I can be very technical myself, so I can empathize with your "in-the-head" frame of mind.

    (Oooh! I just amazed myself with the number of nuances in *that* statement! <howl>)
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  3. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    You're still quite a beginner, so unless your private coach tells you otherwise, I would suggest that the more work you put into knowing what you are doing, the better you will become. Someone at a practice party, even the local pro, may give you a lot of 'advice' but unless you see otherwise, then the advice you are getting for a practice party is not always very relevant to dancing...
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  4. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I think you're over thinking it. :) just keep dancing and trying to enjoy yourself. You'll eventually get out of your head, but right now you probably need a little concentration while your body learns its job.
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  5. demoiselle

    demoiselle Active Member


    One thing I know I need to work on more is smiling while dancing. I used to do it all the time, then I lived abroad for a while in a place where my smile made me stand out as foreign. I made myself stop smiling so freely, and unfortunately that stuck more than I realize. I fear that I look more serious than I intend (and more serious than I feel) while dancing, and that may contribute to teachers trying to get me out of my head. I may look like I'm not having fun (I am!).

    So, working on the smile.

    So much of this stage is muscle memory--being able to do several things at once without each component throwing the other off. It will take time. I haven't the advantage of a background in dance/movement.
  6. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    I can relate. It DOES get better, but my teacher asked me to pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time the other day just to see how I did. The first few had what I will call "circular pats" on my head; he got a good laugh. (Our basic agreement is that he puts a huge amount of effort into teaching me, but does get to laugh on occasion. Fortunately, I don't disagree with him: some of my errors are pretty amusing.)
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  7. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Ha! I use this all the time in lessons, particularly for leaders.
  8. leee

    leee Well-Known Member

    This is the key for now -- get the footwork into your muscle memory and then it'll be easier to play around more.

    As to the actual playing around, I also consider myself a head-dancer, and what sort of liberated me a little bit was some knowledge of solo jazz, which I'm finding has so many applications to playful dancing: you can do a solo jazz move on a break, or, if you're ambitious, you can use solo jazz moves to embellish or style the basic pattern.
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  9. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    Oh, something that is helping me a lot. Put yourself in a position to watch really good dancers. Your brain will start to incorporate part of what you are seeing. I used to ride horses--dressage--and I spent a lot of time watching competitions and other students' lessons and I know I got a lot from it. Once teacher commented that her students always rode better after being some place where they were watching a lot of high level horses/riders. I realized about nine months ago that that is something that had been missing from my dance education. I started going to competitions just to watch and a few other things like that. It is making a difference.
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  10. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I also used to ride dressage! I learned a lot from watching others' lessons as well as from scribing.

    I will second this--I watch a lot, and I pick up a lot. I'll often find myself doing some movement I was never taught or even tried before and realize I picked it up from watching and did it without thinking.
  11. demoiselle

    demoiselle Active Member

    Funny, I used to ride dressage too . . .
  12. Siggav

    Siggav Active Member

    I did a bit of dressage too actually, just a tiny bit for a few months. However I used to own an Icelandic horse and worked on the gaits there instead of traditional dressage type things.

    Aaaanyway, I found also that listening to a lot of swing music outside of dancing helps get you out of your head when dancing, as in the more you get into the music and into listening to it and enjoying it the more you're not overthinking it in your head.

    Ive started leading as well as following and it's even more important when leading but it is very important when following as well
  13. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Right. You get "out of your head" when things you've been practicing go deep enough INTO your head that you don't have to think about them.

    Whenever I get bored with what I do or decide to add something to my bag of tricks, I'll often just practice it over and over again so that I can either conjure it up when I'm dancing, or it just shows up somewhere unexpectedly.

    The occasional pause, especially when it's in the music (2 bar break anyone?) is certainly an option.
    Practicing to music that you will be dancing to,and trying to fit different things in different places might be helpful.

    You'll smile naturally when you start to feel cool things happening, like working a phrase in the music, etc. Meanwhile, you could explain that you still have to really concentrate to make things happen.
  14. DL

    DL Well-Known Member

    My take: The rich space of things to think about in dancing -- the intellectual appeal -- is part of what kept me interested in dancing. If that's what you feel drawn to and enjoy, don't let others tell you that "you're doing it wrong". They're doing it in a different way that is also not wrong; that's all. There are many paths to good dancing.
  15. demoiselle

    demoiselle Active Member

    I think what the teacher/I had in mind was not getting flustered and stopping from "missing a step"--stopping by design can certainly be fun! Fortunately, I rarely do get so flustered that I stop moving.

    Right now, it's getting the pulse that is my greatest challenge. Well, getting it, keeping it, and matching it with my partner. My husband is still working on other things, so he doesn't pulse very often--thus much of the time, I don't have any pulse to match!

    Good point!
  16. demoiselle

    demoiselle Active Member

    Thank you, DL. I do appreciate the intellectual challenge, which is, I suppose, a good thing, since so much of this is so challenging!
  17. leee

    leee Well-Known Member

    AKA there are no mistakes, just styling and variations.
  18. leee

    leee Well-Known Member

    FYI, pulse is One Of Those Things that you'll always be working on -- our local venue just kicked off an advanced class where we focused on maintaining pulse -- so don't feel discouraged!
  19. demoiselle

    demoiselle Active Member

    Updating a couple months later . . . after a fair amount of practice, what was hard and required a lot of thought in early August is coming more naturally, while there are a new set of things that are challenging and cause me to get caught in my head. Progress? :D
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  20. leee

    leee Well-Known Member

    Mos def.
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