Pro-am dancers, we all know that in order to improve our dancing, we need to practice. If you didn’t know, then you’ve learned something new today! It’s easy to practice during a private lesson or a group class. We have a partner to work with, be it our teacher or another student. But practicing on our own is just as important.
It may sound strange at first to think that you can improve your skills in partner dancing by practicing by yourself. I was skeptical. Besides reviewing my steps, how was I supposed to practice without my partner? What was I supposed to practice? Not knowing these, it was hard for me to see how solo practice could benefit me as much, if not more, as working with my teacher.
I don’t have much of a choice though. With only an hour and a half per week with my teacher, who is also my only dance partner, there isn’t enough time to improve my dancing with partner work alone. Slowly, with encouragement and guidance from my teacher, I’ve built up a solid solo practice routine. I started with reviewing my choreography and then added a small collection of technique drills. The more I developed my solo practice, the more I realized how many benefits there were to practicing on my own, beyond just knowing my choreography better and improving my technique.
Here are six benefits I’ve gained from practicing on my own.
1. I’m a stronger dancer, both physically and mentally.
When I practice on my own, I’m forced to figure things out on my own. I learn to maintain my balance without having someone to hold on to. I learn my steps without having someone to lead me through them. It’s like taking off the training wheels, and the effort I put in not only makes me a stronger dancer on my own; I have found that it makes me a stronger partner when I dance with my teacher.
2. I save time in my private lessons.
Who hasn’t gone to a dance lesson and forgotten what they learned by the next lesson? I know I have! I would feel so sure about what I learned during a lesson, but by the time the next lesson came a few days later, it was like someone hacked into my brain and deleted the file. Then I would feel stupid and frustrated as my teacher would have to spend time re-teaching what he taught me last time instead of adding to it. It feels like a waste of time.
Of course, it’s natural to forget some things, especially as you’re learning new ones. But when I take notes and homework assignments from my teacher at the end of a lesson, and then review them and practice on my own in between lessons, I don’t need to spend as much time during the next lesson to review the things I forgot. Instead, I can arrive at the lesson with specific follow-up questions that we can clear up quickly and then move on to newer concepts and the things that really require a partner.
3. I save money!
All the time I spend in lessons reviewing over and over again the things I keep forgetting because I’m not practicing on my own is time that I’m paying for! So when I practice on my own, I’m not only saving lesson time, I’m saving money too. For someone who budgets to the penny to afford ballroom dance, this benefit is HUGE!
I figure I’m also saving money in the long term because I’ll advance faster as a dancer with lessons and solo practice compared to just lessons. So instead of paying for two years’ worth of lessons to go from one level to the next, for example, I may only pay for one year before reaching that goal. Of course, we all know that the saved money is just going right back into dance, but now I’ll have more options to spend it on (like an additional competition or a new dress).
4. I’m more confident.
Our teachers can only do so much with the time we pay them to work with us. Outside of that time, it’s up to us. By making the decision to practice on my own and actually acting on it, I’m taking control and responsibility for my dance journey. When I take ownership, I’m showing myself (and those inner demons of fear and self-doubt) that I can succeed on my own. I can dance on my own two feet! Whether I’m conscious of it or not, that knowledge instills an inner confidence that can’t be taken away. Plus, I love it when I go to a lesson and my teacher says, “I can tell you’ve been practicing!”
5. I’m a happier dancer!
It shouldn’t be a surprise that after the hard work, saved time and money, and increased confidence and strength, I find myself feeling more positive! When I’m able to stop worrying so much about whether I’m dancing correctly (because I practiced!), I can start to relax and actually enjoy my dancing. I also feel a sense of pride and accomplishment as a result of taking ownership of my dancing, working hard and reaping the rewards of that work. When new challenges come up (and they always do), I feel more capable of handling them. I feel like a dancer!
6. My partnership is stronger.
One of the things I love about ballroom dance is the partnership. Two people connecting and moving together to music creates something greater than the sum of its parts. Due to the nature of the pro-am partnership, it is unbalanced as far as knowledge and skill go, but it doesn’t need to be unbalanced in effort and commitment. When I put in my best effort, my teacher responds with the same. Putting more work into my dancing on my own shows him that I’m committed to learning and improving. Our partnership is strengthened by the show of effort and commitment on both sides, which results in a stronger performance on the dance floor.
These benefits feed and magnify each other. When I don’t feel like I’m “wasting” time or money in my lessons reviewing things I think I should already know, I don’t get frustrated. Instead, I feel good about being able to continue moving forward. Feeling myself become stronger, such as being able to stay balanced in a move I stumbled through a week ago or being able to control my momentum when the movement gets fast, gives me confidence. That confidence loops around and motivates me to work harder and become even stronger. All of this progress makes me (and my teacher) happy!