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Welcome to TM Smooth and The American Smooth Guide. After many years of coaching and competing we have realized that not all education comes from private lessons or seminars. In fact, when working with students we have found a huge disconnect between the information they learn on lessons and their ability to compete and perform on the ballroom circuit.
In order to bridge this gap for dancers, we decided to create the American Smooth Guide and make the information and educational principles available on this site.
ABOUT OUR GUIDE
When studied progressively, the Guide will help you organize and understand skills that must be attained in a certain order and it will give you a concrete tool to measure the progress of your dance journey. Because this guide is progressive and evolving, we will continue to expand each chapter, go into further detail and add more in depth information.
So if you you are ready for education, progressive learning and organized intake of information, then you are ready to dive into the American Smooth Guide….let’s begin, let’s educate and let’s improve
What is a successful dance education
Any successful education requires a few key factors in order to be compete, leaving the pupil competent and knowledgable in their field. We feel that in the process of learning how to dance it is that same approach that promotes a successful education and ultimately helps create better dancers and teachers. Below are key factors which we found absolutely essential in making a dance education successful.
A Progressive Order: A progressive order indicates that a pupil learns from a beginner stage and while being aware of their progress, they can see where they are today, where they were before and where ultimately this process is taking them. Studying in this orderly way motivates the pupils to build on solid principles, applying them through out their process as well as understanding how more complex situations can be solved using established principles. In conclusion the information needs to be presented in such a way that a pupil knows there they are in their process.
Long-Term Learning: Learning any skill that needs to be executed with the body or body parts will typically require a long term process, educating the brain as well as the body. Every individual is different and has different capabilities, talents and learning ability not to mention factors like age, health, financial and time limitations. Aside from everyone’s process being personal and slightly different it is safe to say that learning how to dance at a very proficient level will take some significant time.
Repetition: In any form of sport or dance the human body must learn programmed patterns and develop instincts in order to react properly and on demand in performance situations. Simply showing up to practice or going through a routine is not the kind of repetition we are discussing. In fact repeating small and isolated movements over and over through exercises ultimately trains the body to respond correctly when needed. Repeating these exercises or movements correctly forms a habit and an instinct rather than musical memory. This means that a dancer is still fully responsible for producing all actions every time they dance but they will have quicker and better access to the skill or movement if the movement has been repeated many times over.
Access to Information: A pupil must have access to solid and clear information in order to improve and in dancing it must be no different. The reason private lessons are important is to give dancers access to an experienced individual who has knowledge and expertise in order to guide the dancer further. However relying solely on private lessons may also not be a successful strategy as they do not replace repetition and the individual learning process of any dancer.
The CompLete Dancer
The basis for this manual was our personal desire to organize ideas, technical aspects as well as influences from other styles in order for the American Smooth Style to have its own unique expression. The general stereotype that is floating about this style is that it is regarded as a combination of Ballroom, Latin and Jazz. Others believe that its true origins are more modern and contemporary. To say that one group of people is right and the other is wrong would be irrelevant and incorrect as each of us is entitled to our own opinion. Instead we need to look deeper into what makes the American Smooth Style unique and more importantly its own separate style, rather than simply a combination or a copy of other, already established styles. Today’s American Style dancers have to be agile, highly coordinated and have a massive range in movement capability. While maintaining a ballroom type form and elegance, the American Smooth dancer must be a compete dancer instead of a specialist in one style of ballroom or the other. Below is a pie chart that looks at what qualities we believe a great American Smooth dancer should possess.
As can be seen in the above chart , the complete dancer is someone who is balanced and well rounded in many important qualities. Unfortunately we find that many dancers only devote time on their technical skill development but as the chart shows that is roughly only 17% of the entire development process. The technical skill level of a dancer is of course highly important and relevant to their success. However, if the skills learned are not used to develop other qualities, it may become extremely difficult to be agile, effective and ultimately artistic. These other parts are just as important as good solid fundamental technique and, in fact, in our experience those parts actually elevated our technical skills in order to be able to deliver a complete product on the dance floor.
Technical Skill: This part of any complete dancer is the technical ability to execute the correct mechanical movement or series of movements. This particular aspect is gained by repetition, as well as proper training and guidance from coaches and literature. A skillful dancer is someone who can be in a bad mood or have an off day but due to their high level of technical skill that occurrence will barely be noticed by the judges or audience alike. Most lessons are detailed in order to improve this aspect and as mentioned before too much time is sometimes spent on only developing these technical skills.
Physical Ability: Physical ability refers to the natural or trained physical attributes of any dancer. These are abilities that rely solely on their bodies and the capabilities of their bodies. These abilities may be flexibility, physical endurance, muscular strength, body proportions as well as a natural sense of balance. These of course can and should be developed but often dancers need to first realize what limitations or talents their bodies have so they can improve their physical ability more precisely to the results they desire.
Mental Capacity: This is the capacity needed to perform under stress, or to take in a lot of informations on lessons or during prolonged periods such as camps, lectures or group classes. How a dancer takes in and understands the information is highly relevant to how they will continue to apply it. In moments of high stress this quality keeps the dancers focused rather than disturbed by external or internal distractions.
Knowledge: A dancer may be skilled or talented or both but retaining the information they learned recently or over the years is highly important to becoming a complete dancer. Knowledge is retained information that can be directly used to improve a dancer’s quality, whether it is technical or non technical. Also if a dancer becomes an instructor, their knowledge through experience becomes one of their main influences in their teachings.
Musicality: Awareness of music, understanding of music and the ability to express it with movement is all encompassing of musicality. Dancers who are musical but do not know why or how they are doing it is in fact a shame because they can not understand or possibly reproduce this skill on demand. Refer to Chapter on Musicality for further details as this subject is broken down into more clear sections.
Creativity: Creativity is a rare and dying aspect of many dancers because it requires originality, spontaneity and most importantly lack of fear. To be creative for anyone is to take a leap and see what happens and this can also be studied and improved as its own skill. It is not necessarily only reserved for talented or gifted individuals but rather it is a way of looking at concepts and thinking outside the norm.
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