Our Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Dallas and Plano management team has years of experience teaching couples to dance together. We asked them what their top tips would be for couples who are learning or want to learn to dance! Here is what they recommended: Justin: Couples experience both unique challenges and rewards during their dance journey. It is important to
keep in mind some of those ideas to avoid unnecessary stress in the process. For instance, we view couples as "3" separate students. The needs and learning styles of the man, the woman, and the couple may all be different. So it's valuable to address those needs in different ways. Also, the learning curves are often not parallel. Aside from the general rate that the man or woman may absorb and apply the material, they usually feel success at opposite points in the learning process. A woman is usually engaged and enjoying the challenging part of learning, and is bored at the plateau. On the other hand, men are often frustrated while they are learning the new material, but feel success when they reach the point that they can repeat the movement or concept consistently.
Another important consideration is that in a couple, both are learning- when an individual student dances with a teacher, the teacher can compensate for the student's shortcomings along the way, allowing for success more quickly/often. When an amateur couple dances with each other, they aren't usually able to compensate for each other, so that feeling of success may be much more elusive. It is so important for couples to remember that it may take 3-6 months or more to feel like they can dance with each other without a teacher calling things out along the way. Be patient and give yourselves a chance before deciding you can't learn this dancing thing.
The last thing to share is an anecdote ("The Tango Story") that I hope will allow some of you to avoid running into the same tree I did. To make a long story short, I was in a situation where I did the typical guy thing of puffing up in front of another guy/dancer that I thought was "trying to show me up." As a result... let's just say my partner did not appreciate being pushed around by my overzealous efforts. What Nikki had to explain to me is that women don't usually care how us guys dance, only that we are dancing with them. What I learned about myself (and have learned is an extremely common guy thing) is that guys tend to try harder with those who are most important to us- i.e. spouse, girlfriend, etc. The problem is that the harder we try, the more we get in our own way, and it usually is counterproductive. On the flip side, what can be even more frustrating is that it will seem like we dance better with everyone else but her. It is because we "don't care" about their opinion that we don't try too hard, and often have better success. The best solution to all of this is to remember your priorities. Most likely, you are both here to enjoy dancing with each other. Don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself to be perfect. Lady's, be as encouraging and positive as possible, and guys, just remember she's happy you're holding her in your arms.
P.S.- The best advice I ever received was to not fix each other. Either get a third party, objective perspective involved, or at least use this formula to bring up a point of feedback. "It feels like this (figure, technique, etc.) isn't working. What can I do to help/fix it?" It can keep your partner from becoming instantly defensive from finger pointing ;-)
Sarah:Tip # 1: Be THANKFUL your other half is learning something with you - News Flash! We all are frustrating at times and none of us are perfect, especially when we are learning something new.
Tip # 2: Be PATIENT because everyone learns at different speeds and in different ways. Refer to Tip # 1.
Tip # 3: Be TRUSTING to your other half! ESPECIALLY WOMEN! Stop trying to control and "help" him...Give him the chance to do it, he WILL mess up but that is the only way to learn. He's got this! You'll enjoy dancing with him much more in the long run if you do this.
Tip # 4: Look for COMIC RELIEF during the frustrating lessons! Dancing is not Brain surgery, no one is going to die if you mess up. So remember why you wanted to spend more time with your other half and find it in you to laugh a lot. (Yes at each other but also at yourself!)
Tip # 5: Get INVOLVED in all the studio functions you possibly can TOGETHER. Group Classes will only make you better for each other. Parties will give you a chance to practice and have a fun date night. And all of our Events are a great way to have a dance-vacation without having to leave your home town. And what couple wouldn't benefit from a romantic weekend in Hawaii, Argentina or some place exotic and romantic!?
Tip # 6: Always COMMUNICATE the positive things to your other half when they do something well and ASK FOR HELP from your teacher if you are struggling with something. NEVER EVER CORRECT EACH OTHER! You came to learn form a professional for a reason... Best to keep it that way. :-)
Ian:Learning to dance as a couple definitely presents it's own set of challenges and rewards. First of all, the couple has to openly communicate both with each other and with their teachers. They're going to have different priorities and different views on things. So, to make sure that dancing stays fun and exciting, they need to make sure they can honestly say what they think as an individual to help the overall couples experience be as positive as possible. Also, patience is paramount. As they progress at different paces, they need to make sure that they're not holding the other person responsible for being where they are as an individual. Lastly, they need to make sure it's all about fun. It's not about being the best, the flashiest, or the most advanced. They came to Arthur Murray looking for something fun to do to help them grow and progress as a couple, and ballroom dancing is fun! So, they need to let us worry about the teaching, and they can just relax and enjoy spending time together that they more than likely wouldn't get outside of the studio. Nikki:Couples learning together are really special students to teach... But they can also be the most challenging for a teacher. The reason being is because so much more is at stake. What I mean by that is, when a single person comes in for lessons, they expect to be uncomfortable, to make mistakes, and to maybe not look so cool while learning. And all that is ok for them because nobody that they really care about is there with them to point out those things. For a couple, however, there is someone right there to potentially show you all your shortcomings... As a teacher, I believe my job is to not only teach dance, but to act as a translator while the couple is learning, so that everyone has a great experience.
One of the first things I teach my couples is that they are only allowed to speak positively to each other. That does not mean saying, "I'm positive you messed that up!" People learning to dance together do have to learn to communicate what is working and what isn't working, BUT in the beginning, those things are often miscommunicated. For example, the follower may say, "You are pushing on me!" The truth about this statement is, the leader's hands are behind the follower in dance frame, so how can the leader really be pushing? They aren't. What the teacher has to translate from that statement,and help the couple understand is, that when the leader's center of gravity is too far forward, over the follower, it FEELS like there is pushing. But without that understanding, the leader will probably just over compensate and turn into a light lead... That in turn would then elicit a new response of, "I can't feel you!" Now we have a frustrated couple. SO... When there IS something that we need to correct with one person or the other, ONLY tell the teacher. That way the correct translation can be made, and we can continue to have a couple that WANTS to dance together.
The next thing I want all couples to understand is that, they will always dance better with someone else, than with each other, and it is unfair (and unwise) to say, "It works when I dance with..." The reason for this is, when in a relationship, we care about what the other person thinks about us, and what we are doing. The LAST thing we want is for our partner to think we aren't good enough for them, or to let them down in anyway. Because of that, we often put SO much pressure on ourselves to be perfect for our partner, and we forget to just ENJOY the dancing. To give an example of this, I only have to look at my husband and myself... We are both professionals, both hold several advanced degrees in dancing and teaching, were competitive partners for YEARS before we were dating, etc. You would THINK that if ever there was a couple that could learn together, it would be us. However... As soon as we did start dating, it was like we had never danced together before. All of the sudden nothing worked. We fought, we pushed and shoved, we stepped on each other, we looked at each other like the other one was TRYING to make our lives difficult... Too make it worse, when I had to step out of the competitive ring, and he took on a new partner, everything worked perfectly for them! We can laugh about it now, but we had to figure out WHY things worked when he danced with his new partner, and why things suddenly didn't work with us. Here's what we realized: because he now cared about his image (though subconsciously) with me, but not with her, he felt freer to make mistakes with her. So... What can you learn from our story? Things will always work better, when learning, with someone that you aren't romantically involved with. Give each other a break. And don't think that your partner is the problem when things work with someone else.
We all look at the little old couple that moves together on the floor and think to ourselves, "I want to be like that when we get older!" You can, I promise! If, when you are learning with your other half, you can keep those two things in mind, you will find learning to dance together incredibly rewarding!
Charlie has been with us in the Plano studio since 2011, but his experience with dance goes way back! He has taught for everything from cotillion to beauty pageants in his years of dancing. Charlie's laugh and warm smile make him fun to learn from! He relocated from sunny Florida to work at our studios and has quickly made Texas his new home!
Favorite Color: Blue Favorite Food: Italian Favorite Movie(s): Avengers, The Color Purple, Titanic Favorite Dance: Swing
Charlie started dancing when he was just 7 years old. But he wasn't a dance teacher right from the start! His first job was as a stock boy at his father's auto parts store in New York. He also put in time as a server before finding his calling as a dance teacher. He says that what he loves most about teaching people is making people smile and showing them they can have fun while learning. He says if he were to do any other job he would be a Life Coach or a Counselor.
He enjoys traveling, gardening, and visiting the park. Spring is his favorite season because of all the beautiful colors and the weather. He enjoys being around people with a good sense of humor. He says that he is inspired by music, his family, friends, and church. He is scared of Gina yelling in his ear! :) And he gets teary eyed when he feels homesick or when he sees someone get an award for a good deed.
If he could go anywhere in the world he would visit Africa. The funniest thing that has ever happened to him was that he used to fall down a lot in front of people. (Random Gravity Checks) The bravest thing he ever did was save a lady and her purse from a purse-snatcher! Way to go, Charlie!
The Arthur Murray Dance Studios of Dallas and Plano, Texas frequently attend dance events throughout the
United States and the World with their students. These events are called Dance-O-Ramas. Dance-O-Ramas are competitive events that bring students together from many different Arthur Murray studios. These special weekends include all three types of competitive entries (open, closed, and solo routine) as well as themed evening banquets, cocktail parties, and professional shows. You can choose to dance in the Ballroom category, Latin or Rhythm category, Country Western and Specialty category or just do a little bit of everything. Some Dance-O-Ramas even include outings for sightseeing, making the whole event like a vacation! Miami, Las Vegas, Italy, Hawaii...where do you want your dancing to take you? Here are just a few of the fabulous photos from this most recent event that was held at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui!
Justin has been a part of the Arthur Murray Dallas and Plano staff for the past 9 years! His reassuring demeanor and patient manner make him a favorite among the students! Sure, he is quiet and reserved most of the time, but did you know...
Justin and Nikki on the competitive floor.
Favorite Color: Green Favorite Movie: The Rock Favorite Dance(s): Argentine Tango and Salsa Favorite Animal: Dolphin
Justin started dancing when he was only 16 years old! His favorite thing about being a dance teacher is coming up with new ways to teach and explain something. His dance idol is Bobby Gonzalez!
His first job was as a caddy, and Justin says that if he were to do something other than teaching dance, he would be a chef or maybe a photographer. He enjoys cooking, music, and photography and is inspired by the beauty of nature. If he could visit anywhere in the world it would be Ireland!
You might be interested to know that Justin is semi-ambidexterous, afraid of the dark, and a coffee lover. Sappy Love Stories make him cry. His favorite season is fall: weather, leaves and football!
He says the funniest thing that ever happened to him was when he split his pants cliff diving and had to walk all the way back on the beach that way. His bravest moment was when he moved half way across the country without knowing anyone.
Justin's quote to live by is: "Esto Quod Aparis" which means Be in Appearance who you are in Truth.
The Arthur Murray System of Teaching Dance makes learning to dance fast, fun and easy! What makes it so special? We asked the studio managers at the Dallas and Plano studios. Here is what they said:
Sarah:The Arthur Murray System (or 4 basic movements) are the building blocks of any dance and/or pattern you will ever want to learn. What the Arthur Murray system has done is broken down "dancing" into 4 of the most BASIC movements that most people probably normally do day to day and created a map to turn those "normal" movements into dancing! How cool is that!?! Without these basic movements it would be like someone telling you to go build a sand castle without giving you the pail, shovel or any other tools to complete the task. Once you have taken your very first lesson at Arthur Murray, you have been given ALL the tools (movements) you need to know to be able to learn ANY dance or pattern you desire! It's like Arthur Murray made a system called "Ballroom for Dummies" :-) So, enjoy how easy it is to learn where to put your feet and how quickly you can learn by using the Arthur Murray System! (**Attention Dance Nerds** - It is also very fun to break down patterns and dances you already know into the 4 basic movements! Try it!) Justin:Everyone knows the acronym KISS: keep it simple silly. The four basic movements allow us to digest even the most complicated or elaborate figure with a 4 letter "alphabet." It doesn't get much simpler than that, and it lets all of us feel success more quickly. Once you have the basic structure of the figure down, we can go back and add layers of technique, but even that is easier once you have the foundation laid.
Nikki:My favorite people to teach are the people who tell me that they have 3 left feet and 4 right ones, and that we won't be able to help them at all... The reason they are my favorite is because they are the most surprised when we DO help them! You have to remember that no one just KNOWS how to do a physical activity. Everyone has to be taught. However, HOW someone is taught makes a HUGE difference in how easy someone believes an activity is.
Think WAAAYYY back... Back to when you learned to read, or when you helped a young child to read. How did that process start? For many of us, it started with learning the ABC's, then it moved into simple words, then more complex words, next was simple sentences, complex sentences were next, paragraphs followed, and on to books. We, as adults, see that as a natural progression, and don't even question that idea of learning. The truth is, when learning anything, breaking it down to the ABC's is always the best, fastest, and easiest way to go. Some teacher's however, try to start with teaching someone words, or even sentences, before the student even understands what is making up those words or sentences. That's why the Arthur Murray systems have been around for over 100 years, and why they have worked for those 100 years! Each part of the systems have been purposefully implemented and particular times so that anyone can learn to dance!
The beginning system, the 4 basic elements, is the ABC's of dancing. Without them, how do you know what makes up a box step? And maybe you think, "well, I get a box step, that's not so hard!" Ok, maybe it isn't. But when you start trying to put it into more complex figures, or you need to abandon it mid-stride to avoid a dance floor accident, without a true understanding of which direction each foot can go, and how to move in and out of a box successfully, you will probably find yourself just stopping what you are doing, standing there for a bit, then trying to restart all over again. That would be like trying to read a book, not knowing what a word is, stopping for a moment, then going all the back to the beginning of the book, and starting it over again. How would you ever find success in reading that way? And all too often, that is why people don't feel success in dancing.
Trust me... You want those 4 basic elements, and you want to know them well. You will always go back to them, and they will always help make sense of even the toughest figures.
Ian: The four basic movements are in place to make it easy for EVERYONE to be able to learn to dance easily despite your experience or skill level. By being able to reduce every step you could ever need (all the way from Bronze to Gold), it's always easy to go back to your basics and learn without feeling overwhelmed or "not good enough". Plus, it makes everything easier to remember (I don't know about y'all, but I couldn't definitely use help remembering things now and then!). Lindsey: The Arthur Murray system is completely foolproof, which is what makes my job so easy and fun. Reason being, it makes it learning for my students easy and fun. The system is based off of the 4 basic elements which are (in case you're new to this whole dancing thing) : walking forward and backwards, side steps or chasses, rock steps, and triple steps. Through different combinations of these elements, dictated by the music, a teacher can simply AND efficiently teach any student, at any level, any dance. For me, this system was an enlightenment for my teaching ability and understanding as a fellow dancer because in the dance world that I came from, no such thing exists. So dancing was a time consuming and arduous task. However, now I have the tools to teach any pattern or technique, from newcomers to gold, and have maximum effectiveness for each of my students, including myself. Adriann: The 4 basic movements (walking steps, rock steps, triple steps, side steps) make it simple for anyone, with any background, at any dance or ability level to understand any dance. It's like being given a puzzle with 4 pieces that can be rearranged in any number, in any order to make thousands of different pictures.
As we begin a New Year, we are faced with the challenge of making the changes we promise ourselves. How many of the Top 10 Resolutions in this picture are on your list? How many have you tried to achieve for years and years, yet they always end up falling by the wayside? Here's some great news...there is ONE ACTIVITY that can help you achieve most of these goals! What is it? Why, it's DANCING, of course!
1) Exercise: We all vow to hit the gym more often, or run, or walk, or work out. But, then we get bored. Our motivation lags. We just can't face the thought of doing one more sit up or chest press. Dancing, on the other hand, is FUN! It's exercise without really feeling like exercise. It can be done at the studio, the night club, on the cruise ship, in your living room, really anywhere you like. It doesn't matter the time of day, the weather, or even if you don't have a partner. Dance is exercise made easy!!!
2) Quit Smoking: Ok, you might think it would be a stretch to equate learning to dance with helping you to quit smoking, but it really is a pretty easy relation. When is the last time you saw someone on the dance floor holding a cigarette in their hand? Smoking and dancing don't go together very well. There's the issue of stamina and needing healthy lungs, the fact that you can't even smoke in most places you would need to frequent to dance, it's not appealing to most partners to be up close and personal with an ashtray, not to mention you need both hands to dance! It's also a great way to keep busy and keep your mind off your cravings! See, that was easy!
3) Lose Weight: Even easier...not only does learning to dance give you a fun way to get exercise, but all the great group classes, parties, and events on the Arthur Murray calendar give you a great excuse to get up off the couch, put the remote down, and come out and do something physically active! Plus, you've got friends (and teachers) at the studio who will help keep you accountable and motivated!
4) Quit Drinking: Similar to smoking...when is the last time you saw someone dancing with a drink in their hand? If you want to dance, you have to have both hands free, which means less time standing around chatting and sipping, and more time on the dance floor! Dancers are in high demand and you will probably find that you don't even have time to stand in line at the bar and order a drink before the next guy or gal asks you for a dance! Plus, most dancers prefer to drink water while they are dancing! Why? It's better for you, gives you energy, and saves you money so you can take more lessons and learn more dances and go out more places! :)
5) Enjoy life more: Another easy one! Who wouldn't love to have a skill that would allow you to really get out there and enjoy every party, reunion, wedding, work event, cruise, social event that you attend? We all love music, and being able to dance to that music makes life so much more enjoyable. Plus, there's the great people you meet, giving you a fun social circle with lots of invites and activities, chances to dress up and go to the studio events, chances to travel, and so much more! I could go on and on for this one!
6) More Family Time: I'm going to edit this one slightly to say "More QUALITY Family Time". When you are stresses out as a parent or spouse, all too often we bring home that stress to our family. Stopping by the studio after work a few days a week can help release your stress from work and allow you to go home refreshed and happy to your family. That way, the time you are spending with them is better! The whole family can dance, too. If you don't have kids (well, even if you do), dancing is a great way to reconnect as husband and wife and steal a few moments of real together time a few times a week. This helps renew your relationship and keeps things exciting and fresh!
7) Get Out of Debt: Although there is an initial cost to learn to dance, think of it as an investment in yourself. Once you have mastered the skills you want, you have something that you can do anytime you want! Going out dancing can save you the astronomical costs of movies, shopping as retail therapy, spending money on more expensive hobbies that maybe don't fulfill you. And, as several of our students have said, dancing is cheaper than counseling...or divorce...
8) Learn Something New: well, not much for me to say here...self explanatory!
9) Help Others: Our organization is filled with dancers of all levels who started right where you are today. You will find that as you grow in your dancing, you will become one of those dancers and will help the new people feel included! Also, when you have the confidence to dance, you will be more likely to ask others to dance with you. Who knows, that wallflower you ask to dance next Friday night might be the next life you change!
10) Get Organized: You won't have a choice with all the activities that will start to show up on your social calendar once you learn to dance!!!
So, there you have it! Dancing is a great way to keep ALL of your Resolutions!
Call today, Dance tonight!
Why don't the teachers teach technique in Group Class? Have you ever wondered? This is the day to find out!
Sarah:Have you ever heard of the phrase "Paralysis by over-analysis" ? Or have you ever experienced trying to accomplish too many things all at the same time that you ended up not being able to do/complete anything? Well, one of the best things about the 3-part system that Arthur Murray uses is that it saves you from doing too much all at once which, in the end, saves you time and makes learning to dance easier. Using the 3 parts is a sure-fire way to become a successful dancer at any level. While private lessons are designed to teach you necessary techniques and the finer points of dancing, Group Classes teach you the pattern and give you the absolutely NECESSARY time to practice those patterns on your own balance. Most people didn't grow up dancing, so learning to control your momentum from one foot to another is paramount! Don't mix trying to LEARN techniques and finer points with balance and patterns! Once your teacher has told you you are safe to practice certain techniques in a group class GO FOR IT! It's never ending... the amount you can learn and progress with the 3 part system!
Ian:The group classes are designed to help students primarily with balance, and to expose them to new dances or to new steps within the dances. It's very difficult to teach technique in a group setting as not everyone is in the same place. As students progress through their individual programs, they become better dancers and their needs change. It's very difficult to assess where everyone is in a class of up to 30 students and apply technique (and it saves anyone from feeling like they're holding the class back or doubting their ability). So, we aim to work on individual balance by teaching the steps without a partner first. That way, students can think about the steps without worrying about leading or following. Justin:When a student takes advantage of each of the three part Arthur Murray system, they truly maximize their experience and return. The main purpose of group class is to develop balance, which is why we spend time dancing the figures on our own without a partner. Repetition creates familiarity of movements we use in the figures, which gives smoother movement and more control. When we take time to develop that independent of our partner, we become a better leader/follower when we do dance with someone. Because each person has a different goal for their dance proficiency, it is challenging to cover the appropriate technique that any one student would need- the individual lesson provides a much more effective arena for that. That's also why we cover minimal leading and following concepts in class. The more time you spend on balance in group class, the less time you need to cover that on a lesson or at the party! Nikki:Have you ever been to a Zumba Class, or a Martial Arts class, watched the instructor do something, tried your hardest to replicate it, and then wonder if you were actually doing it the way they were?? Here's the thing, unless someone can take the time to help make sure that you are using the right muscles and the right power, you are basically just making up how to do something, and hoping for the best. Unfortunately, in ANY kind of group class, the instructor doesn't have the time or ability to go to each student individually and make sure they are using the right form every time... That's what makes private lessons so valuable.
If the teachers spent time going from student to student, trying to teach the techniques that came with each particular step within a figure, you MIGHT get 1-2 figures learned within the time allotted... And then, when would you learn all the figures that you need to have a working knowledge of before you see you teacher next? So... in order for the teachers to be effective in their teaching, we have to use each part of our 3 part system for it's intended purpose. Privates for technique, groups for a working knowledge of figures, and parties for practical application of figures AND techniques. Adriann: The 3 part system (i.e. private lessons, group classes, parties) works best when each piece is allowed to do its job. Did you every notice how hard it is to dance with proper technique when you're trying to remember where to go? It's not easy. That's why teachers don't teach technique in group classes. So that all students in the appropriate level can learn the steps without the added pressure of trying to learn the technique simultaneously. It gives our brains the break they need to focus on, and get comfortable with, one piece of the puzzle at a time. Like making sure the foundation of a house is solid before you try putting up walls. Lindsey: This is a GREAT question because throughout the years, I have had this one many times. First let's discuss the function of the group class. Group class is designed to teach balance through figures. The "how?" question is answered by the fact that dancers gain repetition of movement over and over and over again, thus producing muscle memory. The "why" follows by the fact that muscle memory develops confidence within ones own body to do the task at hand. Much like handwriting, when you first learn how to write each letter, it's awkward, misshapen, and takes a while to get into the groove of it. Then next thing you know, someone asks you to write your name and you don't even think twice about it because it's second nature to you. Dancing is no different. You practice the pattern of a box step or a cross body lead, for example, and it seems so bizarre. Then after a few weeks, you think to yourself "oh yeah... That thing that goes like this? Got it!" Now onto the real question. We don't teach technique in class for 2 main reasons. For one, each person learns differently, at a different pace, and at a different skill level. Arthur Murray is famous for customizing programs based on each students specific needs at their specific pace. So how could we possibly go against what we are so good at doing and generalize technique in class? The second reason goes back to the handwriting analogy. If you never took the time to practice and learn how to print correctly, then how could your school teacher ever be able to help understand or even write in cursive? This is like adding Cuban Motion to your box step or cross body lead. Because you understood the original material so well, you're able to add flare and style to make it more.
This is why as teachers we never want to rob our students of the opportunity to get that muscle memory or confidence by making you focus on technique simultaneously. To be honest, that would be kind of mean.