How to practice west coast swing alone at home?
It used to be so clear just a few months ago: you had the dance school, in which you used to dance and practice west coast swing, and you had your home, in which you used to sleep, eat, and (hopefully ;)) take a shower.
But now it’s not that clear anymore: dance schools are closed and events get canceled every week (even the Open!), and you’re left with the “dance at home” option.
So how can you practice west coast swing purposefully and efficiently at home, and have fun while you’re doing it?
Why not ask some of the best teachers and dancers in Europe how they do it?
Karin Kakun – dance west coast swing 30 minutes a day
Karin is a professional dancer and dance teacher who has vast experience in Salsa, Bachata, Hip Hop, and of course, West Coast Swing.
She is an instructor, choreographer, performer, and director of the Israeli WCS event “TLV Swingfest”.
It’s impossible not to notice Karin on and off the dance floor with her unique style and her turquoise hair. She has become a popular WCS teacher in Europe in the last couple of years and her classes are known for the high energy and positive atmosphere she creates.
Karin’s tips for westies who want to dance west coast swing during shutdown:
- Find 30 minutes a day to practice and/or learn. It’s only a short period of time, but it can have a very positive impact on your dancing. During this time, I recommend watching videos, self practicing, taking online classes, or asking your favorite teacher for feedback.
- Use this period and this forced pause to improve what you struggle with or lack in your dancing. Focus on things that can improve you as dancers in the long run. Some good ideas are footwork, Hip Hop, flexibility, physical training, or ballet. You can even learn a new dance style.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- One tip for teachers: Help your community and your students by providing them with practice materials. They need you! Not everyone can pay for intensives and private lessons during these troubled times!
What I’m doing right now:
If you’re wondering what I do with all the free time I suddenly got, I can tell you that I still teach (online of course ;)), dance at home, improve my English, miss Rolf, recite all the series on Netflix, and fight against the existence of chocolate.
I’m available for private and group lessons online. Just hit me up on Facebook!
And you’re welcome to try my footwork challenge.
Rolf Eirik Hegrand – set goals and achieve them
Hey guys, what’s up. I’m Rolf and I’ve been working with people in the Army for the past 8 years. I dance west coast swing since 2016 and have been teaching since 2017.
Tip #1 – Practice = some > none
I think a lot of people find it hard to practice WCS nowadays. Only a few people have their dance partners available and it’s new for them to do everything in the very same room: work, cook, relax, work out, practice dancing, you name it. On top of that, I think the majority of people haven’t practiced that much by themselves before.
The first thing you should realize is that doing just a little will get you a long way. Set a goal to practice a few min/day. Build some good habits. Maybe you will even gain some momentum. Focus on the process and putting the work in, instead of achieving the goal. If competition drives you, realize that a lot of dancers don’t practice right now, so it’s easy to outwork them. Practicing some is greater than none.
Tip #2 – Work smarter- Focus on what really matters for YOU
Great! You’ve decided you’re really gonna practice. So let’s make sure you get the most value out of your time spent.
My army service has taught me many things. One of them being mission essentials, i.e., what are the key things I need to achieve in order to carry out my mission? Translated into dancing: what are the most important dance qualities I need to have in order for me to become the dancer I want to be?
So step 1: Identify who you want to be as a dancer: What are you working towards, what is your goal, and what do you want your dance to be characterized by?
Got it? Have a vague idea? Good!
Now that you have an idea where you want to bring your dance to, how do you get there?
Identify your own strengths and weaknesses. From there, map out a plan so you know what to focus on. Prioritize and break down the different qualities in your dancing into exercises. Structure it in a plan. Execute the plan. Practice. Evaluate. Repeat.
This can be hard to do alone. Therefore, I suggest getting a coach/mentor to help you with the process. Invest in your dancing. Invest in yourself. Stop wasting your time. Have fun while learning. Work smarter by focusing on what matters for you.
What I’m doing right now:
I do hope we all can dance and travel again very soon and that I get to see Karin again Maher (“quickly” in Hebrew ;)) 🙏
I’m still working during this time so I don’t have as much free time as others. I am, however, available for some online lessons. Just shoot me a message on Facebook.
I hope this gave you some value. Take care,
If you want to learn more about Rolf & Karin, check out the article I wrote about them a few months ago.
Chris & Stella – dance west coast swing consistently
Hey guys, we are Chris & Stella from Vienna. We have been teaching WCS for 4 years and have around 120 students right now.
Our main tips for practicing at home are:
“Consistency is key”:
Our body learns best with repetitions. We all know the following situation: While we study a certain text everything is clear and we think we know it by heart, but a week later we can’t remember anything anymore.
With movement, it works the same way. While we are in a workshop we understand what the teachers are asking for and it works out, but if we need to reproduce it a week later, we notice that we are not able to.
So instead of going for long practice sessions once a week, it’s a lot more efficient to go for shorter sessions more times a week. For example, instead of an afternoon practice session with 4 hours once a week, try to train 1 hour every second day. It’s much more efficient, we promise 😉
Instead of comparing yourself to where you want to be and see all the things that are not yet working, find one thing every practice session that you focus on and appreciate your improvement, even if it’s just a little bit better than last time you were practicing. E.g., “I landed 2 out of 10 spins instead of 1”, or “I managed to hit the phrasing 3 times compared to 2 times in the last session”.
If it helps, write down your goals AND improvements in a training plan so that you can see what you already achieved until now.
It’s important to keep your motivation up in the long term. By verbalizing one thing that worked better than before you push your motivation to keep going.
The goal is not to be the best in a few days, because let’s be real, that won’t happen 😉 Instead, your main goal should be to become better than you were in the week before. As long as you have steady progress, it’s just a matter of time until you exceed all the expectations you had in the beginning.
What we are doing right now:
We use the time at home for working out, doing some yoga, renovating our flat, and working on concepts on how to be able to teach again as soon as possible.
Want to get to know Chris & Stella a bit better? Watch the interview I did with them here.
Also, check out their website to get information about their future courses, book group classes, or private lessons with them, and buy their videos!
László Tárkányi – dance west coast swing step-by-step
László is an international West Coast Swing social dancer, instructor, coach, competition judge, event director, and most of all, an enthusiast of the dance. He is super fun to be around!
His classes are known for a fun and welcoming atmosphere, detailed technical tuition, and his radiating enthusiasm to transfer his knowledge and experience to his students.
Laszlo’s tips on “How to dance west coast swing at home?”
This is indeed a tough cookie! Practicing under quarantine at home (or not under quarantine only) can sound to be a totally viable option, right? No one can see you, no shame, you choose your favorite music… Sounds quite alright, but it is so often not the case. It is indeed sometimes hard to get started, however getting started is usually the only thing you need.
When (if? hm… 😉 ) we practice, usually, we do it in an environment where the only thing that can happen is dancing. You are used to “do dancing” when you’re in a studio, in a class, at a party, or at an event. When you’re at home, this space is habitually used for other things: You cook and eat in the kitchen, you watch Netflix and play board games in the living room, etc. Every space cues you to a certain activity, that’s why it can be tough to get started in a space that has a different general purpose, and more importantly, you connect that space to a different activity in your head.
Based on my experience with my own practice, the key is to form a habit.
DO bits. But do it REGULARLY. Make it obvious that you will now “do dancing”. Start with putting on your dance shoes and shift the carpet/table/etc. around. Just a bit, so now you feel that you are ready for dancing. You created a space (however small change there is), and you put on your shoes.
Go step by step. First, put on your shoes and prime your environment for a bit of dancing practice. Maybe on day 1 you only do this, and you pack back, and that’s okay. On day 2, put on your shoes, and dance one song. If it is West Coast Swing, good, if not, equally good! If you already feel that you put in some effort, you may as well put in a bit of practice on day 3 – because you know that when you put on your dance shoes, it is “dance practice” time. You put effort into it (similarly to going to the studio), so why not do some dancing while you’re at it? Maybe you’ll do 5 minutes in one session and 15 minutes on another day. JUST DO IT. REGULARLY.
Don’t have stuff to practice? That’s alright, prime your space, put on your shoes, and watch a youtube video/a workshop recap on your phone/check notes you made previously. Researching what to do is also practice time! The next day you can practice, or even the same day. JUST DO IT. REGULARLY.
Once you get started and do something regularly – even doing only bits on “days like that” – nothing can stop you. I promise.
More about Laszlo
Watch my interview with Laszlo and find out more interesting details about him and how he became the #Laslothing.
Laszlo is available for online private lessons and he also has weekly online classes, in addition to the courses he currently teaches in Cologne.
Attila Kobori – make west coast swing part of your daily life
Attila is a dance teacher, coach, and competitive dancer with 12 years of experience in Latin and over 3 years in west coast swing.
Besides dancing, when pandemics don’t force the whole world into social distancing, he dedicates much of his time to wildlife photography, including month-long journeys to exotic destinations and participating in the most luxurious international photography competitions.
He’s also a biologist who gets to teach at the university and take part in international research expeditions.
So…How to during corona times? Well…here’s how I do.
First of all, in my opinion, having a short break from dancing is not bad at all. It enables a fresh start afterward and often new things come to my mind, which improve my dancing. However, this is a lot of break…waaay too much. Doing nothing makes you lazy and the body becomes rigid. It feels heavy when you start dancing again.
In my case, I don’t have a west coast swing dance partner at home. So, of course, I started doing some solo stuff but actually it was not more or less than before COVID. My weak points have to do with partnering and that is what I was working on before the lockdown. This is what I need to work on now. After having done all sorts of solo practice sessions, I lost motivation for practicing WCS alone. So I started doing more Latin.
Since the technique there is very precise I could practice certain things and work on movements and mechanics. There is always a lot to work on and it is good for the whole body and your overall dancing. The thing is, I didn’t really hit a ceiling with my WCS solo exercises, but I just kept coming up with new little details and new movements and ways of musical interpretation up to a point where I thought I really need a partner now because it simply isn’t really a challenge alone at the moment.
Make it part of your everyday life
I got better at my spins, my balance, and coordination. However, this isn’t due to actual practice sessions. Rather, I just “do” these things all the time when I go from A to B in the apartment. And while brushing teeth. Just moving, doing turns, standing on the ball of the foot on one leg, all sorts of things. And this is probably the best advice I can give to everyone: Make those things that are important to you in your dancing, or what you want to work on, part of your everyday life. This helps your muscle memory A LOT!
I listen to songs as much as I can, just to know every little detail in there and try to hit as many things as possible in different situations. In the kitchen, on the couch, whatever. Do glides from the sink to the cupboard, practice your turns in narrow corridors (caution, might involve injury), etc.
So if you know exactly what to work on as I do in Latin, do that. But don’t forget to really dance through your day if you want to improve. Also, do what really challenges you and not what feels comfy and easy to do. Ask yourself “is that footwork drill really going to improve the way I dance or is it just fun and easy?” If it is fun and easy, sure do it, dancing should be fun. But that’s not what I call practicing.
Now this being said, of course, I didn’t lose my motivation for WCS. I want to dance it more than ever. I still dance a lot in my mind and alone, create routines in my head, and all that. I’ve had some time to think about new concepts and things that might be possible as well as methods for myself to improve my dancing. I hope that proper dancing will be possible soon!!
More about Attila
You wouldn’t want to miss my interview with Attila! Crazy stories about snakes and shooting in Costa Rica are just part of the reason 😉
Attila is available for private lessons online and even offline (within the social distancing limitations). Just shoot him a message on Facebook.
Go Dance West Coast Swing at Home!
You definitely have a lot of food for thought now.
I’d like to thank these fantastic teachers who took the time to provide our community with such helpful tips.
I hope we’ll be able to dance with each other at the dance schools soon!