By Jill Diver
Well, dancing the tango, rose in my teeth, twirling around the floor, may not be in my near future, however, I am learning the basics of some pretty cool and very amazing dances –tango, foxtrot, salsa, swing, hustle and waltz, with more to come!
I have also learned:
I have more balance than I thought, though my instructor, Theo has pointed out that dancing would be much easier, if I kept my feet under me, and not to the side of me or behind me–I’m working on it.
I have rhythm! Not the kind that is going to get me a spot on “Dancing With The Stars” any time soon, but, rhythm, nonetheless.
Theo Martinez, 33, says he “fell in love with dance at an early age by watching MTV dance videos, Michael Jackson and the movie ‘Breakin.’”
He is self taught in hip-hop, but is also a ballroom dance instructor, choreographer and performer. Most recently he performed with the contemporary dance company called Urbanity Dance and was nominated for Best Choreography at the 2008 New Hampshire Theatre Awards for his work on “Smokey Joes Cafe.” Theo now teaches, private and group lessons including a hip-hop class at Studio 665 in Woburn, Mass.
And from this reporter’s point of view Theo is an energetic instructor who believes in giving his students positive encouragement (and high-fives) no matter, how many times they step on his feet!
The Unofficial Rules (according to Theo):
The first valuable lesson I learned from Theo was when he said to me “What are you looking at? There isn’t anything to see down there.”
He was, in fact, referring to my constant need to look down at our feet as we dance. As a newbie to this dancing thing I thought I would go stand behind the dance instructor and learn the steps, oh, boy was I wrong. Theo put me right into the dances, even taking the chance of losing a toe by twirling me ’round and ’round on the dance floor, but he did demonstrate a few of the necessary basics like the box step and the rock step, which are part of most any dance I will learn at the studio!
A few other basics of dancing — like at junior high school dances — leave enough room for the “holy ghost,” to helps keep your movements fluid and evenly matched with your dancing partner. Also the person who is leading keeps his or her hand on what I like to refer to as my “chicken wing” better known as the shoulder blade, so that you can be guided gracefully across the dance floor (when I accomplish this, I will be sure to let you, my dear readers, know immediately)
Studio 665 is located in Woburn, Mass on 17 Campbell St. Right off Route 95. The studio has two floors with the upstairs studio being bigger as this is where the private lessons are held. There are mirrors in all the right places to watch yourself as you learn new and intricate footwork –or in my case to watch me trip over my own feet…).Check out their schedules and classes at www.studio665.com or call 781-932-6237.
Foxtrot and Waltz: Think “Beauty and the Beast” dancing gracefully across a dance floor. No, I’m not there just yet, but I do understand the basics. These are known as smooth dances, due to the lack of hip-shaking and gyrating.
Tango and Salsa: These are the Latin dances, complete with hip-shaking. The Tango, is thus far one of my favorites. As soon as I learned the first few steps, I was in love. This is a dance that can make the clumsiest person, feel like a swan.
Swing and Hustle: My first question to Theo was, “Aren’t these the dances my grandmother would have danced?” And yes, they probably are. These two dances require more with the rock-step I mentioned earlier. I’m still not sure i love these dances, but they have been fun to learn.
The Hardest Part (according to this reporter):
Just standing vertical is a daily challenge for me, I’m not Miss Graceful, but the hardest part thus far has been keeping my feet straight. As a little girl I danced enough ballet that my feet to this day are permanently turned out in the first-position stance, (first position is when a dancers heels are together and their feet turned out in what I like to refer to as “the duck” walk) which makes it harder to keep my feet straight with all the dances I’m learning now.
There is also the need for intense body control with arms, legs, back, and it was something I didn’t realize had to happen and takes lots of work, it’s not as easy as professional dancers make it look!
Part of learning these dances is learning to be able to use the mirrors in the dance studio. If you’re not a person who likes to adore and admire yourself in the mirror (I’m not) then you may find it hard to watch yourself in the mirrors while you dance; in fact it just plain creeps me out, but since I’m not allowed to stare at my feet I have no other option.
And last, learning these dances with a partner means learning to take subtle physical cues, but also, and this is where I really struggle, is learning to wait for your dance partner to lead you. All I have to say is poor Theo, he goes left and I try and drag him right. I get into a rhythm and then I follow my own lead.
Again, I’m working on it!
Coming next week: Videos and diagrams of the basic steps.
Stay tuned every week, as Jill adds more dance steps and a little humor to her adventure. And for more information on dance classes visit www.studio665.com.
This story ran on the Eagle-Tribune, Pop! blog on March 5, 2010