Apr 28, 2019
The what, why and which of learning multiple styles
People end up in dance classes for various reasons. It can be an interest in learning something new, a wish to develop one’s body (coordination, balance, etc.), moral support for a friend, sometimes just a pure coincidence or a trend. Nonetheless, it is very common in the dancing world to learn more than one style.
Why learn multiple styles?
The most straightforward answer would be a question – why not? Once you have learned one dance style and you know how much it has taught and developed you, it seems like the next best thing to do. Knowing one style gives you a good base for learning the next one.
From each style you learn how to become a better leader or follower, how to improve your balance and gain confidence. All styles improve your movement further on the dancefloor and contribute to your skills. More about the advantages below.
What are the benefits of learning more than one style?
At the social dance parties you want to be able to dance as much as possible. Though the music changes and not knowing how to dance to the new song will force you to sit down and wait until the music changes again. Knowing more than one style gives you more time on the dancefloor.
Being able to dance several styles offers variety and improves your ability to read and to listen to the different music genres. The rhythm and flow are important in dancing and sensing it helps you to move in sync with the music and be in a better connection with your dance partner.
Dancing multiple styles improves the ability to remember longer combinations of moves
Joining new dance classes, workshops and parties helps to expand your social circle. Recent studies show rising rates of loneliness which have doubled in the past 50 years. So the best way to tackle that state of mind is to go out, dance and socialise.
Each new style improves your physical health, gives positive emotions and develops your flexibility.
Learning different styles improves leading or following techniques but also helps to better understand and read your dance partner.
New style broadens your knowledge of different dance scenes and diverse cultures (associated with the style). Additionally, it introduces you to a whole new world of music, artists and songs.
The more advanced you become in any style, the faster you get and the easier dancing becomes. Complicated turns and spins slow you down if you are not confident, learning additional styles improves your skills and you learn to increase your pace. Eventually, you will be able to dance quickly and in time with the music.
First months of learning second style can be incredibly difficult. You mix the steps and the rhythm is not quite the same as in the first dance style you learned. It is important to be patient and give yourself time.
Several students agree that 2-3 lessons per week are a must. As you need time to readjust from your daily activities when coming to the class and as the lessons are often not long enough to practice, it is advised to have more classes per week if possible. This way you increase your overall ability to learn moves and memorising combinations becomes easier. In turn, faster progress of learning will help your motivation to continue.
Obviously, not everyone can join regular classes so this is where workshops come in handy. You spend a couple of hours either learning a totally new style, its concept or a segment (hand styling, footwork, etc.). It can be intense but very effectual and fun. So if you see one happening in a studio near you, make sure to participate. Workshops can be a great introduction to a new style.
Multi-dance enthusiasts also confirm that knowing two or more social dances gives you the advantage when learning the next style. You have the flexibility, feeling of rhythm, mobility and sense of music for it.
Furthermore, with learning multiple styles you build confidence and develop a better control over your body. When you feel comfortable with the previously learned dances, you can improvise and even mix styles. And why not to create your own style?
Each dance style compliments the other irrelevant which you learn first and second. Additionally, with every following style you meet a new teacher who, like the dance, constantly teaches you something new.
Did I mention it helps to make friends? Just making sure we beat the loneliness issue.
Last but not least, practising different styles is highly rewarding, it gives new energy and inspiration to carry on.
Are there any cons in learning more dance styles?
As with any other subject, learning multiple styles has its pros and cons.
*One disadvantage is the fact that new techniques confuse your long-term muscle memory as it is used to perform different repetitive moves. Hence, your first style will suffer to some extent though this will improve in time.
*Dedicating yourself to two or more styles might keep you away from achieving mastery in those styles. It is similar to multitasking, which doesn’t really make us more efficient (scientifically proven) but we like to think we can juggle several things at a time.
*Some might say that popular dance styles which have a large community take down the quality of the performance. Currently, in Estonia salsa and bachata classes are full thus teachers are not able to give as much attention to each student as they would like to. Hence the styles are not performed on a higher level.
Which style is best to start with or which one should be next?
As many social dances are danced in a semi-closed and closed position, it can be quite uncomfortable for some beginners, especially if you are Estonian (we are very much into our personal space). Nevertheless, there is no right or wrong style or one better than the other. Dance styles do not compete and instead, they complement each other and make you a better dancer, regardless of the order you learn them. Furthermore, it is not about the differences between the dances but the possibilities they provide to follow the music.
Choosing a style mainly depends on your expectations, music preference and goal. Many multi-dancers point out that liking the music genre the style is danced to is the most important part of the whole process.
Also, each style has its own character and mood which may or may not suit your personality. But the only way to know it is simply by trying.
Finally, the choice of a dance style often depends on what is available to you in the local studios.
Choosing and learning different styles can be overwhelming. Make sure to take time in picking and practising a style. Keep in mind your learning ability and do not forget to have patience. Dancing is all about fun and enjoying yourself.
When possible, join local social dance events in order to practice what you have learned. And remember to experiment and improvise. It will help you to grow your skills.
P.S Deep bow to all teachers and students who participated in the making of this article!