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  • Writer's pictureDawn Matthews

Trying Different Dance Styles

Updated: Apr 17

Trying different dance styles - blog banner. Image shows a class of ballroom dancers

I have absolutely, totally, and utterly ADORED dancing modern jive and Ceroc for so many years – fifteen years and counting, in fact – and it is only since I have found a regular partner that I love dancing with (which has only happened over the last year) that I have considered that other styles of dancing might be for me. But that isn’t always an easy transition to make – or at least, it isn’t as easy as I thought it might be.

When I started getting to know Rob, we were both dancing at modern jive, and at Ceroc. We had both mentioned that it would be really good to get to know some different styles so we could throw in a few different moves on the modern jive/Ceroc dancefloors, and really, if I’m honest, to show off a bit. This was where my journey to learning different dance styles began.

For me, trying different dance styles has really only just begun, but I have learnt quite a bit during the time that I have been doing this – so I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learnt so far.

Trying Out Adjacent Styles

We’d seen a lot of dancers dancing the SILC style at Ceroc, which is a slotted style (partners move around each other in lines – that is, up and down the ‘slot’), danced to slower tracks, and is more expressive. I’d managed, sort of, to follow some of the leads that prefer SILC, but had never really felt as comfortable as I do with the main room, bouncier style of dancing. So, with the thought that we would be able to pick it up relatively easily – since it is a substyle of Ceroc – we decided to head to a SILC class, that was taking place once a month a little way away. Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken into account several factors, which influenced how I felt when I left the class.

Firstly, the venue wasn’t a great learning environment. It was upstairs in a trendy bar, and the dancefloor was really tiny, with a set of steps at the end, which meant every time I was up that end, I worried about accidentally falling down the stairs. Not exactly ideal for building confidence when you’re learning something new! The size of the venue, and the lack of the stage, meant it was quite difficult to see the instructor, which really, is essential for nailing the moves.

The next problem was that there were a large number of dancers there that evening, which meant the venue was pretty crowded – and meant that it was even harder to see the instructor. On top of that, a lot of the dancers in attendance seemed to already be confident with the style, and the instructor seemed to realise that, so the instructor powered on ahead, not really taking into account those that were newer to the SILC style. I really struggled to feel like I was getting anywhere, and during the freestyle section of the evening, I started to feel really downhearted. Even though many of the SILC moves are similar to Ceroc and modern jive, it just seemed really tough to get the flow of the dance, and I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult for me to adapt.

I walked away from that evening really dejected, and feeling like maybe I’d just been dancing modern jive so long that I wouldn’t be able to adapt to any other style – which of course is nonsense, especially only after one evening. If you can master one, then you can master most other types, even if you have a preference for one over another.

The next time I was to encounter SILC was at Camber, and although the class was really popular, there was much, much more space, with a proper stage, and so I was able to get a much better feel for the style. There’s also been an introduction class at my local Ceroc venue, with the same instructor as at that first SILC class I went to, but where it was much easier to see, which has helped me too. While I don’t think I’m going to be picking the SILC room over the main room any time soon, I have picked up a few tips that has allowed me to follow SILC dancers that bit better.

Trying Out a Completely Different Dance Style

Rob had taken ballroom classes a few years prior, and encouraged me to give ballroom a try. A few weeks before our first Ceroc weekend at Camber, we headed to a ballroom class for the first time.

Although there are some elements of ballroom moves that make it into modern jive and Ceroc, ballroom dancing is incredibly different in style and atmosphere, compared to modern jive and Ceroc. The footwork in ballroom dancing is so much more important, and it just doesn’t work if you don’t get it right. Luckily, because I was aware of this, it made me realise that trying different styles of dancing means that you have to be ready to be a beginner again, which changed everything for me.

Was starting ballroom dancing easy? For me, absolutely not. Even with some of the transferrable skills that come with dancing another style, and with six months of ballroom classes under my belt now, I have encountered that mental block and confidence knock that I experienced at that first SILC class again a few times. Luckily, the instructor and the coaches at the ballroom class that we’re attending are really nurturing and encouraging, and finding the right teachers has definitely made things easier in terms of building confidence.

The biggest frustration I found during a ballroom class was when trying to learn the ballroom jive. My thought process was something like this: “Ballroom jive? Well, I know modern jive, so it can’t be THAT different, can it?”. That logic seems sound, but the reality is that ballroom jive and modern jive are absolutely nothing alike to dance, with different steps, moves, and tempo. Once I got my head around the fact it is a completely different dance, and that I was a beginner again with ballroom jive – as I had been for all the other ballroom dances – then it became easier to get it at beginner level.

My favourite ballroom dance to date – in case you’re wondering – has been the cha-cha-cha. It took some learning, and some building of the stamina, to get the basic steps, but because it can be danced to tracks that are often played at modern jive dances, we have opportunities to practice. I know there are plenty of other moves we’re yet to learn (and that I’ve admired when watching other couples dancing it!) but I feel like I have a good foundation with it, and have had some praise from other dancers when Rob and I have danced it outside of the ballroom class setting. I’ve not been brave enough yet to venture to a ballroom social (I definitely feel like too much of a novice still!) and finding the confidence to do that is something I will talk about in another post. But I am certain that is in my future.

The key thing I’ve learnt from attending ballroom classes is that even when I start learning a completely new dance (we recently had a class learning some of the basic samba steps, and phew… that one was tiring!) even if I don’t feel like I have got it that particular week, when I go back the next time, I generally do better. That’s something I’ve not been able to do with SILC, as there aren’t enough opportunities locally to practice regularly. However, it has given me confidence that when there is time to practice, generally, I’ll do better than the last time I practiced. And that’s something I can take away into my everyday life too.

Accidentally Trying Something New

Learning new styles and trying out different things can come with good surprises. At Ceroc Bliss in November 2022, Rob and I accidentally ended up in the “Ready? Rock ‘n’ Roll” class (after not getting a seat for the pub quiz, and then finding the “Neat Feet” class a bit too busy). Although the rock ‘n’ roll style of jive is much, much faster, we thoroughly enjoyed the class, and with the exception of the move where partners bounce to the ground and back up, we absolutely nailed the routine that was being taught. All that muscle memory from learning modern jive moves came in really useful when the tempo was sped up!

The other class that we had a go at when we were at Camber Bliss – and we weren’t entirely convinced we nailed! – was the “Classic Line Dances” one. I’ve always felt that my coordination isn’t good enough to nail line dances, and really, it still isn’t – I definitely need some more practice! But my experience learning the steps in rows at ballroom classes came in handy, and I managed to get closer to really getting any of the line dances than I ever have, which is another example of how learning one thing can feed into another.

Learning a New Style of Dancing at Home

At Camber Storm in March 2023, we had a go at bachata, which we discovered was a slower dance to salsa. The instructor for this class was really good, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning the routine they taught. Although the footwork was different, there were parallels with Ceroc – some moves were similar – so having experience in Ceroc meant picking up the routine was easier. We didn’t completely commit the routine to memory, but resolved to practice when we got back.

Learning a new style of dancing at home can be a bit tricky, since you can’t be all that confident that you’re getting the moves perfectly. But Ceroc release videos of all their classes at weekenders on the Ceroc Hub, which means you can access those classes you loved (and those you couldn’t get into!) and practice, so you can get those routines under your belt. Those videos – and the thousands more that you can find from instructors all over the world on YouTube – can be a great asset in terms of compounding your learning, especially if you have a regular partner to practice with.

Final Thoughts: Different Dance Styles

You might have been wondering what the point of this post has been, apart from sharing my experiences for you to be able to relate to. Well, for me, in writing this post, I’ve realised that there are a couple of things to remember, if you want to level up your dancing – and that you can apply to other areas of your life too.

1. You have to be prepared to suck at something a bit while you’re a beginner – your chances of being good at something immediately are minimal.

2. Practice, practice, practice if you want to get good – there’s no other way.

3. Some skills will help you in other settings – even when you think they won’t be.

4. Be open to trying new things – especially when you aren’t sure if they are for you.

5. Make the most of the help out there – instructional videos are the way forward for almost everything in life.

Outside of these points to take away, the thing I really want to remind you, and me, is to try different things. Whether you’re a complete beginner dancer, you’ve been learning for a short while and still feel like a beginner, or you’re an experienced dancer who has been on the scene for years, trying a new style of dancing can be really rewarding!

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