20 Tools to Recover From Dance Mistakes
Just keep swimming, driving, pedaling, paddling, chewing, churning, pushing, pulling, or anything else that may stop your momentum completely. Yeah right.
While you're busy executing any of the progressive verbs above (we'll choose dancing), no matter how well you are doing, all it takes is one little BUMP.
Your fight or flight reflexes kick in, your rationale mind goes into temporary hibernation, and you make the regrettable decision to make an unceremonious exit from the dance floor.
Here's how you can recover.
The 4 Primary Causes of an Early Dance Exit
Whether it is a Dance Routine, or just the next dance pattern while social dancing, lapses in memory are bound to happen for a variety of reasons. Note - this isn't just restricted to students either. Even the very best dancers will blank out at times. The difference is all in the recovery.
Remember the BUMP? Whether it is Social Dancing or Competitive, it would be rare to see an entire dance go by without some type of small dance floor fender bender. These are common, but can lead to bigger problems if not addressed.
Similar to a driver's reservations about driving on the freeway, sometimes dance anxiety can build based more on the number of people, rather than actual impact.
4. Mixed Signals
Leading and Following is how dancers communicate non-verbally. This is an art form in and of itself, and everyone can struggle with a lack of clarity or reception of the desired signal.
The Natural Thing To Do
When any of the 4 Early Exit causes listed above occur, your physiology can change dramatically. That's because your built in safety protocol is Fight, stick around and face the challenge, or Flight, duck out as quickly as possible.
Note: Either option typically leads to an earlier exit than otherwise planned.
Natural Option 1: Fight
There have been actual fights on the dance floor, but the more common problem with this option is bickering between leader and follower, or sometimes another couple. This is mainly due to the Collision or Mixed Signal problems, but can be triggered by the other two as well.
Natural Option 2: Flight
This can happen to even the best dance couples, and it can lead to the early demise of a very promising dance hobby. When problems occur, Flight is a natural, but ineffective, option. Although it is not nearly as confrontational as Fight, the silent damage of Flight is just as dangerous.
These Skills Are the Best Solutions
Let's get to some skillful, and artistic, solutions to Dance Recovery. When done well, it can give you a more productive result than Fight or Flight, or even cover the mistake entirely.
Memory Solutions 1-5
1. Keep it Simple
The pattern that you have a tough time remembering is probably locked in the Awkward or Conscious Use Stage. So if you can't get to it after one song, don't sweat it. Stick to the patterns in the Natural Use stage and attempt the newer material with your teacher.
2. Location Specific
There are certain patterns that work best in certain parts of the dance floor. On your next private lesson, ask your teacher to reacquaint you with patterns for the corners of the dance floor. This way you have a target and reference point by the next practice party.
3. The Rule of Three
You don't need to put any pressure on yourself, or your dance partner, if you are repeating your basics. Stick to the Rule of Three. By trying every basic three times, you won't rush your transitions, and it is a repeatable strategy across all the dances.
4. Stick with One Diamond
Let's say your favorite move is the Promenade Swivels in the Rumba, then that's your diamond. Meaning, as a leader, you may want to limit that to once per dance. As a follower, it's critical that you don't hint, suggest, or commandeer the lead into your favorite move at any point. It's a diamond, and it should be special.
5. Back Up Plan
There should be a back up plan installed in ever social dance, or dance routine. This is a fail safe that allows you to game plan for human error, or unexpected events.
Collision Solutions 6-10
No matter what happened, or whose fault it was, it is always great Ballroom Dance Etiquette to apologize for any Collision. This is a great way to alleviate your Natural Fight or Flight Response, and that of the other couple as well.
7. Take a Deep Breath
This may seem trivial, but let's be honest - how often are you forgetting to breath while dancing? How about after a collision? So take a beat, inhale some physiological state balancing oxygen, and get back into dance frame.
8. Smile... Even if you Don't Feel Like It
There are people, sick, deranged, and perfectly normal people, who look, very carefully, for signs of a mistake. Swearing at the top of your lungs is one giveaway, or looking around at your accusers with crazy eyes is another. Instead, we suggest you paint on a smile that would convince your Mother In Law that you love her cooking and the socks she knits for you.
9. Take Your Time
While the deep breathing, apology, and smiling may have helped you to elude the negative byproducts of the Fight Instinct, you aren't out of the woods yet. As soon as your collision takes place, you may want to resume dancing as quickly as possible which could just run you into another problem. Instead, wait for a clear path, repeat that breathing thing a few times, and merge back into traffic like you've been there before.
10. Start Neutral
This could fit any of the problems listed, but beginning with a pattern that travels east to west will be far more successful than resuming with a movement that attacks straight forward or back. Use a Hesitation in the Waltz, a Swing Step in the Foxtrot, or a Side Cambio in the Tango for starters.
Congestion Solutions 11-15
11. Expand the Frame
Some animals can make themselves look bigger to ward off potential attackers, and dancers can do the same thing with their frame and posture. Other drivers on the dance floor will give you more space if you occupy more space. That may take a while to sink in, but when it does... try it.
12. Avoid Steering
As Leader or Follower, it's important to avoid steering with the dance frame. Moving quickly in any direction is part of a Leader's ability to navigate the dance floor, but that has more to do with the feet than anything else.
13. Be Aware of High Traffic Areas
The best shoppers know to avoid malls on Christmas Eve, and the best dancers know that there is more space in the center, and deep in the corner of most dance floors. So while most people are traveling around the edge of the dance floor, start with movements toward the center for less traffic and a better field of view.
14. Adjust the Frame
There may be times when one part of your dance frame may collide with another couple. This is a perfectly acceptable time to make a quick dance frame adjustment.
15. Keep it Simple When Traffic is High
Similar to driving on a narrow road, or a crowded freeway, try keeping it simple when social dancing through high traffic areas. For competitive dancers, refer to #11.
Mixed Signals Solutions 16-20
16. Pre-Arranged Landmarks
Your routine, or competitive dance program, needs programming. Nothing will showcase Mixed Signals more than a couple trying to find an open spot on a busy competitive dance floor. Stress goes up, as well as the chance for collision. Instead, establish your landmarks in advance, and don't forget #11.
17. Stay Connected
Even if it means dancing some basics (#5, #10), try your best to stay in frame and continue dancing through any mistakes. Stopping, breaking contact, stretching out, and resuming may look a little obvious to the mistake police.
It would be difficult to drive your car with your foot nailed down on the brakes. Tension, in dancing, is like an emergency brake. Part of the reason you may have some signaling issues could be that you need to relax your hands, knees, or brain. (Breathing #7, will help)
19. It's Normal
Sometimes the mixed signals are in our heads, and we need to remind ourselves that it is perfectly normal to feel a little frantic when mistakes happen. But guess what? They happen. They happen to the best dancers, and the newest dancers, and you'll care 1000 times more about it than anyone watching. So cut yourself some slack why don't ya?
20. Thank Your Partner
No matter how things went, how many times you bumped into someone, were collided into, or zigged when you should have zagged, thank your partner. For all you know, you may have felt fantastic on the other end of the dance frame.
Think of the last time you got a ticket for speeding, or got in a minor traffic accident. Did you unbuckle your seat belt, toss your keys into a field, and quit driving?
You used it as feedback. "I need to drive slower on my way home from work" or "that's what Stop signs are there for".
Dance mistakes are the same way. They are feedback, not judgments. Just like you kept driving after your ticket, or kept walking after you first gave it a try, you've got to approach dance mistakes as feedback for a larger process.
And an opportunity to showcase your new recovery skills.