Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Divisions of Ballroom Dancing

Hello all,

Below is a little chart I made.  I hope this clears up some confusion as to how Ballroom is divided into styles and dances.

Notice how American and International both have the same names for certain dances.  For example, Foxtrot is a dance in Standard and Smooth.

While this happens in several places, this by no means indicates that they are the same dance, although they are quite similar in most cases.  The problem is, some genius American decided to name half their American Style dances after their International counterparts, and this proves to be quite confusing for some students, and understandably so!

Enjoy, and I hope you learn something!

Aaron Mullen




Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Step" is not equal to "Figure"

Hello all,

I want to make an important distinction between the terms "Step" and "Figure."

Step:  A single weight change, or  a single foot movement.

Figure:  A series of weight changes/movements, or "Steps" as we call them.

Far too often I will hear the word "step" used to define what is actually a series of steps, or a "figure."  I myself am guilty of this at times, so to make everyone's lives easier while teaching, I have been training myself to say "Figure" when it is proper.  Using these words interchangeably can cause confusion, so I am hoping to eliminate some of that confusion myself!

-Aaron Mullen

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guest Writer Kelsey Molton

Hello all,

I decided that it would be a good idea to hear about other people's dance experiences on this blog, so today we have an article from our very first guest, Kelsey Molton!  I hope you enjoy her touching story as much as I did!  Its nice to know that other people have been touched as deeply by dance as I have.

Also, visit her Custom Design website here!

-Aaron Mullen
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Dancing, it will change your life forever

Written by Kelsey Molton

 First of all, I would like to thank Aaron Mullen for letting me guest write.  Now, onto my story.
Kelsey aged 4 (middle)

    When I was a little girl, 4 years old to be exact, I got to join my sister in ballet and tap dancing.  I was quite happy about this, because this meant I got to get new clothes, a duffel bag, and new shoes.  I enjoyed my first lesson quite a bit, my only problem was my asthma.  Of course this made me have to stop several times, and I was stuck without my nebulizer. (an old machine that us asthmatics used to use in the 90's and 00's before inhalers. Unfortunately some people still use these old fashioned things that don't work. That's another story however.)

    Even though my asthma always got in the way, I loved dancing to music, doing what my sister was doing, and making friends.  The only person who found this to be a problem was our teacher, Miss Connie.  One day when we came a little early, we were the only ones there at the time.  My mom, sister, and myself, other than our teacher.  Miss Connie found this to be a perfect opportunity to "have a talk with us."  My sister Brittany ran out onto the dance floor to play, and I stayed next to my mom, to play with the crayons and coloring book that was always there.  That's what I always did because I didn't want to cause an asthma attack (what my family calls them instead of flare ups). Miss Connie looked to my mom and I and said, "If you start feeling like you have an Asthma attack, pretend like you're blowing up a big balloon instead of taking breaks." "But I can't!" I cried.  I could never even catch my breath when I had an asthma attack.  I ran off to play with my sister, because I didn't like what she was saying.  Apparently she had said other things to my mom while I was away, because my mom was quite mad when we left that day.  To see my mom upset, upset me.


     I decided to quit dance class after we had our recital.  Miss Connie always seemed to have a problem with me having asthma attacks anyway.  I didn't mind doing the recital because of the pretty outfits we got to wear, and the makeup. 
Outfit from Kelsey's first recital
After that though, I was gone.  My sister left with me.  I missed dance class so much that I went back about 6 months later.  Although Miss Connie still had a problem with me, I tried to enjoy myself anyway.  Eventually, I left again, but after the recital once again.  I didn't like the second recital as much as I did before, because we had to wear ugly outfits that I thought looked like the should be for a clown rather than a ballet and tap dancer.

Outfit from Kelsey's second recital

    Years later, when I was 11, I started Tae Kwon Do.  I liked it a lot, until I got to my yellow belt (but that yet another story).  It took until I was 12 for my instructor, Mr. Rodgers (yes, Mr. Rodgers), asked me, "Kelsey, were you a ballet dancer?" When I told him yes, he explained that I did everything so gracefully instead of tough, he figured.  I did do everything gracefully actually, more like a dance than a fighting stance. Yea, that would really scare people.


     To this day, I still do things with grace, and I don't even try.  Dance is just a part if me now, even though I only went for two years all together.  Dance taught me something...  No matter how long (or short in my case) you dance for, dance will never leave you, even if you try to be tough.

Thank you Kelsey for writing this heartfelt article!

Visit Kelsey's website here!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Counting Beats per Step

Hello all!

I am going to summarize three ways of counting musical beats per step.

Note:  For each example below, we will be using the standard Foxtrot count, which has a single two- beated step, followed by two single-beated steps, for three steps in total.
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Method #1:  This method is probably the most widely used out of all three.  We say one word for every step.  We use either "Slow" meaning the step is two beats or "Quick" meaning the step is one beat.

Example:  "Slow, Quick, Quick"

Method #2:  In this method, we are still using one word for every step, but we are using numbers instead of "Slow" and "Quick."  So the first step would correspond with "One" the second with "Two" the third with "Three" and so on.  The quicker the step, the faster we say the number to emphasize how many beats the step has.

Example:  "One(Prolonged), Two, Three"

Method #3:  This method is efficient, but I would consider it the hardest to follow for a beginning student.  In this method, we just count beats, and then we simply dance to the timing we have formed.  So for a slow we would count "One, two" and then the next quick would be "Three" and the next quick would be "Four."

Example:  "(One, Two), Three, Four"

Method #4:  A method I actually formed myself.  I find it to be the best way for conveying beats per step to a student.  It is similar to method #3 above, but instead of continuing with rising numbers, we reset our count at the beginning of every step.  So every two-beated step gets a count of "One, two" and every one-beated step gets a count of "One"

Example:  "(One, Two), One, One"

I am certain there are other methods which I have not stumbled upon yet.  If I missed any, please bring them to my attention!
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Thanks for reading!  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!

-Aaron Mullen

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sway Revisited

Sway is an important part of any Standard Ballroom dance.  It gives a certain musicality to the dance that couldn't be possible without it.  It allows us to continue moving and lets our energy flow even if our feet come to a close.

Like I mentioned in a (much) earlier post, sway is often meant to counterbalance sideways movement.  Because of this counterbalancing, sway allows us to make an even LARGER sideways step than we could initially, because it prevents us from moving our weight past the catching foot and losing our balance.  This larger step in turn helps our motions become more defined and flow better into the next motion, instead of stopping and killing our momentum.  Sway essentially allows us to store energy and lets us release it when we need it.

Hopefully I will be making a few posts on how to best achieve sway in your own dancing!  But this gives you a good idea of why it is important.

-Aaron Mullen

Friday, October 18, 2013

Teaching at Parks & Recs

Just a little update about myself.

I've just recently started teaching a few group classes at parks and recreation departments in my area.  So far its going well.  The people are all enjoying themselves.  One thing I have realized is how difficult it is to manage time during class.  The problem is the large difference in skill levels of the students.  Some require a lot of time and attention, while others require less.  As a teacher, I would like to give everyone equal time, but that isn't always possible like I said, everyone has different needs.

I found a good way to make time for everyone.  You have what I would like to call 'practice time' during class, and during this time, you make everyone practice a specific figure individually, and then you walk around fixing issues and giving out encouragement.

It's been interesting, and I hope I can continue teaching far into the future!

-Aaron Mullen

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Promenade Vs. Promenade

What is this?  How can a thing be different from itself?

Let me clear up this confusion.

Despite what one may think, Promenade and Promenade are not the same thing.

Still confused?  If you are, then this is rightly so.  If you already know what I am talking about, then good for you!  You're a step ahead of me!

Now, on to the actual difference.

There are two kinds of Promenade.  The first kind of Promenade is a dance position.  Essentially it is when the man "opens" the lady.  The man turns about 1/8 of a turn to his left, and the lady turns about 1/8 of a turn to her right.  This means there is a 1/4 angle between them, or 90 degrees.  Less turn would be ideal, but for the purposes of this blog, 1/4 is a good amount.

Then there is Promenade in American Foxtrot.  Promenade in American Foxtrot is simply a dance step in which we use the Promenade POSITION as I outlined above.

Confusing huh?  Don't ask me why someone thought it would be a good idea to name a step after the position, as it can cause some confusion.

This confusion could be overcome by calling Promenade Position another name, which is Open Position.

In the end, it is simple just to remember one refers to a step, and the other to a position.

Hopefully I helped clear up some confusion!

-Aaron Mullen