General Dance Discussion > Style versus Technique

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Black Sheep, May 29, 2003.

  1. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    All Terpsichoreans.
    If this Commentary appears to be too demanding of teachers, bear with me; there are rewards at the end of this short critique. Whether you are a Salsa Dancer, Belly Dancer or do the Fandango, 'Style & Techniques' are the secret to aesthetic dance perfection. If you spend your money learning new steps and new combinations, without time being spent on 'How best (Technique) to move or no time on 'How Well you look' (Style), you are not learning to dance, Quantity and complexity of body movements is no compensation for Quality of body movements.
    I rarely see a teacher spend any time on Style or Technique; the obvious reason is they lack this expertise of aesthetic sensitivity or they would be teaching it along with the step patterns, which teachers, I have observed in Southern California, DO NOT do. Style and Technique are of critical importance in the development of a Dancer!.
    Techniques can be taught by any qualified professional teacher. But Styling requires a large plate class mirror and a teacher with an artist's sense.
    To illustrate the importance of a mirror, there was a family a Spanish dancers who taught in Hollywood called the, 'Cansinos". Rita Heyworth was the last in the line of this famous Spanish Dance family. Incredibly, I not only knew the Granddaddy of this famous family but in the Summer of 1950, but my wife and I were the very last students he ever taught when he passed away at the age of 82, only one day after I personally gave him his last shave as he laid in his bed. Antonio Cansino came to this country when he was in his twenties, not yet married; that would put his arrival at the turn of the 19th Century, a long time ago. When Antonio decided to come to this country, he knew there was one piece of equipment a dance teacher must have. He encased his 6' X 8' plate glass mirror in a wooden frame and brought it 6,000 miles with him from Spain to California. And he used that same mirror to train his two sons and Rita Heyworth with. "Without a mirror, how could you see what you look like when you practice?" was Antonio's explanation.
    So a mirror, is critical especially if you are left to your own aesthetic sense to mold your appearance when you practice. If goes without saying that ladies have a more highly development sense of aesthetics then most men. However, if you are lucky, your teacher is an stylist with an artist's soul, he can very often be your mirror by posing for you to imitate and helping you to improve your 'Style'.
    A good Technique is the more efficient way to execute a move whether it be to control balance with foot placement or employ effective lead and following 'tricks' to keep the dance smooth and well coordinated.
    The bottom line is,'The Quantity' of steps does not compensate for The Quality of steps that Good Techniques and Good Appearance (style) produce.

    Black Sheep
    P.S. Don't forget to cast your vot for 'Simplified Swing' YES or NO!
    Just Email to
  2. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    I agree with you fully! Sometimes I wish I could teach more styling and technique to my students but by agreement I can't. Most of the time the student must "purchase" that right by the program they are enrolled in. It sucks, but that's the business. :( :( :(
  3. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I've come to appreciate the "programs" to a certain extent. There is so much involved in really mastering a dance and the basics are SOOOO important. Somewhere in the Fred Astaire teacher manual it lists common mistakes made by beginning teachers and one of them is teaching too much too fast. It took me a while to appreciate this concept. I especially appreciated it when my students started taking from more advanced instructors who went back and spent 3-4 months on the basics again. On the other hand, MissyAlyssa, there can be a certain awkwardness to saying I can't teach you that because you paid for it.
  4. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    So true! I am with Fred Astaire Studios as well and it's all about basics! There are many ways to avoid actually telling someone that you cannot teach them technique like dance them for a few minutes, twirl them around, do a cross body lead etc just so they don't get bored with rumba boxes lol. Most of my students are so busy trying to remember the basics that throwing in anything else confuses them.
  5. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Actually, I beleive it's where you are in your dancing abilities.

    I have recently moved up a level, and my Pro tells me that I have the basics, and at this level, the judges are looking "for show."

    So, she is working on making our routines somewhat more advanced (difficult), and yet, is taking the time to to show me styling tips . . . where she wants my head . . . how she wants my arms and fingers . . . etc.

    However, I've noticed that by concentrating on this "new" stuff, I'm forgetting the basics. Brand new routines (7 dances) were introduced yesterday, so learning those and the styling is a bunch to absorb.

    At one time, I went to another Pro, and asked specifically for "styling" stuff.
    That's what I got!
  6. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    I have been working on all my social patterns for the last couple weeks when my boss came and asked me to show him my basic rumba and cha cha. I showed him what I thought was a pretty good rumba and cha cha but to my surprise he told me to practice my techniques for both dances for and hour each. At first I didn't understand how you could spend an hour working on the same thing [I was thinking it was simple]. A half an hour into my rumba he came back into the jr ballroom where I was working and told me to watch him. He showed me the "correct" technique to the rumba and cha cha. I practiced from then on 2 hours a night and I'm happy to say I'm glad I learned that lesson. Basics basics basics!
  7. msc

    msc New Member

    One reason I prefer the Int'l styles is that even the most basic "pre-bronze", or student associate, patterns can be very challenging, depending on how well you do them. Now it's a piece of cake to shlep through those patterns, but to get the connections in Int'l Rumba right? to hit the true speed and power of an Int'l Cha Cha settle? to pull off a Feather/Three Step combination by appearing to effortlessly (appear, I said,) glide across the floor, almost as if you were a sailboat propelled by the wind, all the while maintaing the correct frame and poise? That ain't easy, I tell ya.
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    This is a delicate balance, though. A big part of is is the teacher's maturity and ability to discern what the student is capable of handling. But that should be separated from the issue of buying/selling programs in a studio. Students who approach learning to dance with more basic ability, better understanding, previous dance experience, and/or willingness to practice and apply more, should be allowed to take on styling and technique as their abilities allow. Not?
  9. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Unfortunately many contract studios disagree. As one instructor told me "they haven't purchased that technique yet, so why should we give it to them for free?" Personally I find this mentality most unseemly. Obviously dance teachers and studios are in business...but that business should be teaching dance, not merely "steps."
  10. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I hear you, SD.

    And isn't it ironic that many of these studios find it difficult to retain students? Hmm.

    I don't want to start another anti-studio thread. But (couldn't you see that but coming a mile away? :lol: )

    But I have to say this. The "you didn't buy that styling yet" approach, from my view, is sometimes another one of those manipulative sales techniques studios use. I actually had one teacher refuse to teach me anything in Viennese Waltz until after I had purchased silver 3 and 4 from him. This after I had bought something like 400 lessons from that studio in a year and a half, and had whizzed through beginner to silver 2. Sadly for him, the pressure backfired. The thing is, students are sometimes intelligent enough to see through those types of ploys. When I was put "on hold" until I bought more lessons, I started asking questions, and eventually ended up switching studios. I'm editing this to add that the "holding pattern" became obvious when I still had about 80 - 90 lessons paid for. It was sales promotion time; I didn't "need" to buy lessons in order to continue! :x

    In all fairness, from what I've heard about one franchise (hint: MissAlyssa works there :lol: ), a different approach is taken. Patterns, styling, technique and partnership are all included in the "package" for a given syllabus. I still don't like the package idea, but at least that makes it all a bit more palatable.
  11. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    This thread touches on a couple things. Not just the packages that studios sell, but also the idea of styling and technique, and how and when to introduce them with students.

    Take any pattern for example, it doesn't matter what. Chances are, the first time you saw it, it was in a dramatically simplified version, without care for footwork, posture, partnership, shaping, or anything else. Then gradually, as you progressed, those elements and more were added. I guess the question is, how does a teacher decide to add those things in? Is it the student's initiative? The teacher's personal standards? Whether the student is a social or competitive dancer? Something else?

    Thoughts, anyone?
  12. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I still believe that as a new competitor, you should be working on the techniques of each dance until the routine is commited to muscle memory. What styling you already have . . . you will do naturally!

    As you progress up the ladder, your routines will change and become more difficult, and your teacher should add the styling as your learning abilities (the time it takes to learn the routines become shorter and shorter) improve.

    Make sense???
  13. dancergal

    dancergal New Member

    I've found in WCS that you really need to learn your basics first before you can concentrate on styling. Our instructor's actually teaches a lot of styling along with certain patterns. You can take the styling or not. He teaches both ways since we have all levels of dancers in our classes. I've seen many people learn the stlying and their basics are terrible. They look good, but can't follow or lead very well. Like anything else, lay your foundation first, then add your embellishments.
  14. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Hi Pam,
    We have instructors that also teach styling, but if you do not know how to style, you could look worse . . . like some people that I've seen who just shoot out their arm while doing the Cha Cha - for styling - and it looks so mechanical and terrible!

    Getting back to basics is the core to all of your dancing. We can learn all the patterns and learn fancy footwork, but if you can't do the basics, you look bad.

    This is one of the reasons that I'm struggling with my 2 Step right now. I've gone beyond the basics looking for that new style of "floating or gliding" footwork in the 2 Step. Learning that has thrown off my preps, and that, throws off my dance partner. I need to go back to the basics and then try to incorporate the gliding Q-Q-S-S, or as I count it . . . Q-Q-S-I'm done, which makes me settle into that last slow before stepping out on ct 1 again! That dance will make or break me!!!
  15. tango

    tango New Member


    Being relatively new to dance I can say that styling and technique makes a huge difference in my confidence on the dance floor. Take foxtrot, without the style it's a rather basic dance and same for tango. Think back to the first time you danced the foxtrot :: slow slow quick quick :: repeat :: if you were anything like me I'm sure it was pretty ugly. But now with the style and a few basic steps I actually look like I know what I'm doing and when I screw-up I just maintain the style and let my feet sort themselves out. Nobody is the wiser, except the pro's and instructors. If you look good people will preceive you as good. Most people here will probably agree that doing two or three moves properly beats 10 horribly executed moves. And that is technique.

    I actually like the style and technique part of the package from FADS, it builds confidence. We can learn as many steps as we want from many different sources but to make them look good you need the refinement.
  16. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I completely agree with you tango. Incidentally, the studio I was hinting about above is FADS. You could have knocked me over with a feather the first time I saw their syllabus, and how it incorporates elements of styling and technique almost from the very beginning. (Albeit simplified)

    And I agree. It's much better to do the basics very well than to do many patterns badly. And as you advance through silver and gold, in a social setting, there won't be many people to dance all those complicated patterns with, anyway. Definitely, master the basics. :D
  17. dancergal

    dancergal New Member

    All I'm saying is that at some point in time, you're going to have to be the awkward teenager. You cannot learn basics and style all together and look like a pro from the beginning. I haven't seen that yet. I've heard it many times, that you start with the basics and build on them. If you have to change your dance later to learn better styling, then that's a different story. You still have your basics in tact.
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yes, I think we're agreeing here, dancergal. Can you imagine the disaster if you went to you first lesson and the teacher started telling you about hand-styling, or any kind of styling, for that matter? Disaster! Not only that, like my coach says, if you learn the basics in the early stages, and learn them well, you don't have to go back and keep learning them as you advance. Or worse yet, unlearn bad habits as you advance.

    Amen to the basics! :D
  19. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Style vs technique...
    To me technique is the correct movement of a given action. Styling is the addition of "showy" moves to your dance. That alone tells me that natural styling must be part of any technique. Otherwise, we are teaching half the technique. What good is to tell a student how the feet move, if we can't make him/her understand that feet movement is really a result of upper body directional movement?

    Where I go to school, it is only beginners, I'm the only "Advanced" student. Yet, after 1 month not only do all these beginners look advanced in technique (basic step, and other easier stuff) but their styling is naturally flowing, which I describe as excellent. Yet, none of them have taken a styling class.

    When we dance, we don't dance robotic, so if we teach a technique, it means not only foot work, but upper body position as well as hand/arm, and head placement. There is no point in moving the feet, when the body doesn't know what to do. Hence, the robotic look of many students after months of classes. Their teachers have failed (knowingly or not) to tell them, it is the upper body that counts.

    It isn't any use to say we are teaching the basic technique, when in reality all we are teaching is how to take steps. That isn't the basic technique, a basic incorporates more than the feet. When I see a teacher, talking about foot placement and falling to ever tell their students where their hands should be, their upper body and their heads, I get discouraged. For I know that to them, a technique only means how the feet should move.

    When I teach the basic, I teach. 1- How to stand, 2- where to Upper body needs to go 3- How the body naturally moves as we take a step 4- how the feet follow when the upper body moves. 5- The reaction of the legs when ever the upper body decides direction. Then I give them light into details of the technique of the basic, which fall under foot placement, weight shifting and so on. I can't tell them where the feet go, if first the don't know that a tilt of the upper body is needed before you start the basic. The only time I don't do this is when I am not present to see what they are doing, in which case I tell them to be robotic. There is no use to teach a technique if we can teach a person how to naturally move which turns into the natrual style of the given move, in this case the basic. I think of the basic, as teaching a person to walk, I can't just tell them foot here foot there, I hove to explain everything which makes up the basic. By the time students move into more complicated other techniques, they are so aware of what their entire body is doing that little need for styling is needed for it natrually flows out of them.

    It drives me nuts when I hear males tell me they want to look like me when they dance. Dude, go to someone who cares, and knows what they are doing and you'll look like yourself which in your eyes should be way better than looking like me, is usually my answer.

    If they want the showy sfuff, then that is another two cents. But the natrual styling of the body when taught properly looks incredible to the point where the showy stuff starts to look, at times, out of place.

    To me technique and styling go hand in hand, unless of course we are looking for more of an accented style at given points of the dance. A happy student will not only stay but bring costumers... Even if we don't offer two classes for style and technique...
  20. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yes, yes, yes!

    What you mention here is exactly why I got frustrated with my "social" dance teachers. They were so busy teaching figures that they left out some very basic attention to technique! Ugh! For a perfectionist like me, sloppy dancing of lots of figures is not dancing at all. Without at least some technique, there is no dancing.

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