Dancing Tips, Teaching Tips


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This is Part 2 of a 4-part series on redeveloping techniques so they work with everyone you dance with:

So now that you see the value of having a Universal Learning Method, you are probably wondering…

How do you implement the Universal Learning Method in your dancing and learning?

I promise I will show you exactly how to do this on your own below but first let’s look at the easiest method.

The easiest method (especially if you have never done anything like this before) is to join Dance Ninjas Dance Training and start using the 100+ techniques, tips and concepts.  That way you can see and experience a bunch of techniques that have already been redeveloped from taking thousands of hours of classes (see guideline 3 below).

Our redeveloped techniques would give you a huge head start over having to create everything from scratch and it would save you many many years of constantly reworking techniques that have already been created for you.

That said, we would love for you to create your own techniques too!  Plus, if you understand the structure for creating universal techniques, you might even end up improving some of ours and bringing more awesome ideas to the world of dance!

So if you are the type that wants to create some of your own techniques, you are going to love this post!

There are 3 main guidelines that we find are key to making any technique universal:

  1. Turn judgments (and rules) into options with descriptive benefits
  2. Make it “reaction ready” instead of “statically styled”
  3. Continuously redevelop to work for all new variations


Let’s take a closer look at the first guideline.

  1. Turn judgments (or rules) into options with descriptive benefits

Anytime you hear or think something judgmental, “wrong”, “bad”, “shouldn’t”, or even “right”, “good”, or “should”, try to turn both the positive and negative aspects of that judgment into positives.

For example:

JudgmentYour Option AYour Option B
The follow “should” follow your counterbalance.If your partner is following your counterbalance, then lead the style of counterbalance you want.If your partner is not following your counterbalance, then follow their counterbalance and appreciate your badass ninja like ability to do this.

Want to know what “counterbalance” is?  Click here

This reframing is important because the above judgement might inherently suggest to you (like it did for me) that if the follows do not follow your counterbalance, they are “bad” dancers or doing something “wrong”.

The downside of this was that when I came across a follow that didn’t follow my counterbalance, I didn’t do anything about it.  I assumed the dance was doomed to be subpar because they were just doing it “wrong”.

I overcame this and now have more amazing dances with both follows who follow my counterbalance and follows who don’t, and I did this by reframing that judgement into the above 2 options (A & B) and practicing them both.

Does this make sense?  If not, ask for clarifications in the comments below.

Let’s look at an example of how follows might use this concept for the following judgment:

JudgmentYour Option A Your Option B
Arm leading is “wrong”If the lead is leading with his body, match him and follow with your body to make the dance feel great.If the lead is leading with his arms, follow with your arms to balance the dance and make it feel great.

Now sometimes you won’t always be able to describe an exact option with benefits (or you might just create a different option than the ones above).

For instance, you might not realize that along with body leading and arm leading, there is also something called body following and arm following, so you may not be able to create the exact options as shown above.

Don’t worry, you can still create an awesome reframing that will improve your dancing with everyone.

Let’s look at an example of how follows might use this concept, if they only learned how to follow someone who is body leading and didn’t know about arm following (or any other solution to arm leading) yet:

JudgmentYour Option A Your Option B (no solution yet)
Arm leading is “wrong”If the lead is leading with his body, dance the way I was taught to make the dance feel great.If the lead is leading with his arms, find a way to make it feel great.

Although this doesn’t provide the immediate solution, it at least keeps your mind open and curious about finding a way to make that option great.

Whereas, if you just think “arm leading is wrong”, you are much less likely to figure out a way to make it feel great because you are predisposing yourself to the idea that it is just “wrong” and there is nothing you can do.

Many of the concepts we develop start with the “find a way to make it great” option and then develop into some exciting new discovery (like arm following) because we are relentless in our search.

Let’s look at how this Universal Learning Method can also be applied to musicality concepts:

JudgmentYour Option AYour Option B
You “should” bounce down on every beat.Bouncing down gives the dance a heavier or earthier feel.Bouncing up gives the dance a lighter or heavenly feel.

I love seeing dancers use the music to guide their dancing.

Even if you are doing a specific traditional style of dance that usually has a specific feel to it, it is very likely that there will be all sorts of moments in traditional songs that call for moving lighter or heavier than you traditionally move.

Plus, even if there aren’t any moments that call for a different way of bouncing, I love to bounce down (or up) because I can feel it actually fits the music and I am choosing it, instead of doing it because I don’t know how to do anything else.

Experienced dancers know when to follow and when to break the rules, so go ahead and set yourself up ahead of time by understanding the benefits of both.

Note: You won’t always know the benefits for both following and breaking the rules (and some might even tell you there are no benefits to one method) but that doesn’t mean the benefits don’t exist.

Remember, this is just the first of three important guidelines to creating Universal techniques that allow you to have more amazing dances with everyone, regardless of whether or not they know the technique.

To sum up all 3 guidelines again, they are:

  1. Turn judgments (or rules) into options with descriptive benefits
  2. Make it “reaction ready” instead of “statically styled”
  3. Continuously redevelop to work for all possible variations

Want To Take The Fast Track?

If you to get a jumpstart on learning universally and experience a bunch of techniques that have already been redeveloped for you from thousands of hours of classes in over 231 cities across 34+ countries…

Join Dance Ninjas Dance Training and get over 100 more techniques, tips and concepts, which will all be taught using the above 3 guidelines for Universal Learning so you don’t have to figure it out on your own.

Before you go on to the next guideline, make sure you fully understand this one.  In the comments below, give us an example of a judgement or rule that is common in your dance form and then give us the options with descriptive benefits.  If we notice anyways to help you clarify your options, we will comment on your comment.

Alright, now it is time to move on to Part 3 – STOP Dancing On The Beat. I promise this doesn’t mean what 99% of you think it means.

  • Danielle Guidry Miller says:

    Jennifer Birou Lakamp, check this out

  • I have a strong proclivity to teach using re-framing in the positive. It’s also not how most other people teach. It’s nice to have a model to help me see how it can be done. It also helps me see what places I’m already doing this and where I can look for my own technique to share with the world.

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    About the author 

    Andrew Sutton

    Andrew Sutton is a Vice World Champion Lindy Hop Instructor, and one of the original founders of the Fusion partner dance movement. He uses his extensive research in over 254 cities across 38 countries (& 44 dance forms) to help dance instructors be more successful in their teaching & finances during their pursuit to help their students...Make Every Dance Amazing!

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