How to Build Your West Coast Swing Practice Habits
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
You know you need to practice (or maybe your teacher has been telling you to) even though there are no socials and in-person classes going on right now. Suddenly, there’s an overwhelming number of online videos, classes, and events out there for you to pick from. Maybe you’ve also tried to practice a few times but feel like you’re not really getting anywhere with it.
You’re wondering: How do I start? What classes do I pick? How do I feel like I’m making progress?
There’s a whole art to building habits, but we’re going to keep it simple by breaking it down into 3 “ingredients” to get you regularly practicing on your own!
Ingredient #1: Discipline
Without a regular class to get to on time every week, you might be pushing off practice. After all, your calendar’s looking a lot less busy so you can do it anytime, right?
In order to build a habit to practice regularly, it’s best to tie dance practice to another activity you already do daily—this way, you train yourself to practice right after your chosen activity.
Maybe it’s after lunch, after water the plants, or after you brush your teeth. Pick one right now, and repeat it out loud to yourself: “After I (activity), I will practice dance for 15 minutes.” By tying the two events together, after a while you will find that doing your chosen activity will trigger a normal reaction to practice afterwards.
If you’ve successfully found a way to make practice a habit already, share your method in the comments below! Maybe it’s putting a time in your calendar, setting an alarm… figure out what works for you.
Ingredient #2: Planning
To conquer the mass of online videos, here’s a few questions you can ask yourself to figure out what’s best for you:
Does my regular teacher have online content? If "yes," we recommend starting with that. You will already be used to the way they explain topics, and can likely follow along their structure more easily. If "no," take a look at this list of resources. Is there a teacher whose style you like in particular? Do your dance friends have a recommendation for you? Don’t be afraid to ask!
What is my goal in practicing? If it’s to learn something new, then have that in mind when you look at the videos online. Is there a topic that interests you? Google for that! If it’s to stay active, look for videos that have less explanation and more action. Follow-along videos are great for this, where the teacher’s doing the drill and you can just copy it at the same time. If it’s to repeat past material so that you can master it and not forget so easily, then dig up your archive of class videos—we bet you already have quite a ton! It’s time to dust them off and use them as content.
Now for the key part: planning. Doing practices and following videos at random is great if your goal is to just keep moving, but if you want to improve at something consistently, you need a plan—and to practice that same item multiple times, not just once!
We’ve created a practice planning template for you. Download the document, sit down and fill it out, and you’ll have a practice plan to keep you focused!
TIP: In order to help you to see progress, we recommend filming yourself dancing for the last couple minutes (or last song) of your practice each time. Every 5 videos, take a look at all of them and see what your progress has been like!
Ingredient #3: Commitment
It goes without saying that you won’t see progress unless you commit. What we’ve noticed that has been super effective in this quarantine period:
Finding an accountability buddy. Reach out to a friend from class, an old dance partner, or someone you’ve met in the dance community who—this part is key—also has the same goal of practicing regularly in mind. This way, you can share moments from practice (“Today’s practice was hard, I kept losing my balance”, “I finally did a 360° turn on one foot!”) and check in kindly on each other when your buddy’s gone radio silent for a while.
Posting your practices online. Let your network keep you accountable. It may be scary to post videos of yourself dancing, so we recommend platforms where posts disappear after a set time period—like Instagram Stories or Facebook Stories. You may or may not get any responses to these posts, but needing to post them can help some people feel like they need to keep it up!
Be exposed to other people dancing regularly. This one’s not so much about commitment, but motivation. Follow dancers in WCS and other dances that you admire, who also regularly post challenges, videos, workouts, and more. You don’t have to do them, but seeing them active will remind and motivate you regularly!
Bonus ingredient: Fun!
Above all, don’t forget that practice isn’t just about putting in the work—it’s also about having fun! Maybe there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn to do, but isn’t specific to West Coast Swing. Perhaps it’s finally conquering the moonwalk, or learning some hip hop movements like ripples.
No matter what, keep moving, keep dancing, and keep smiling. We’re here if you have any questions or just want to chat West Coast Swing, so shoot us a message via the contact form on our website or post a comment on this blog article.