I have a gem of a book written by the man, Arthur Murray himself. I am very excited to share his wise words from a book titled, “How to Become a Good Dancer.” This will be the first in a series of concepts that I believe have stood the test of time. This book is a 1947 revised edition from the Largo Public Library in Florida. The last recorded check out date was March of 1983. What I find so interesting is his interpretation of “What is Dancing.” I believe still holds true today. Read below and see if you agree.
THE ART OF DANCING
“There is one very definite thing I would like to give you. And that is, a clear answer to the question, “Just what is dancing?”
Some beginners seem to feel that Dancing is entirely a series of exercises or a footwork routine. Others at first think of Dancing as either an exhibition or a self-betrayal—that a Man and Girl step on the dance floor, and either win glory for themselves as a skilled team, or reveal themselves as a fumbling, unhappy partnership.
But neither of these conceptions gives a really true picture of Dancing. Actually (and I want you always to keep this in mind) – Dancing is “conversation” to music!
When you dance, you express yourself. You hold your partner’s interest through the correct use of musical rhythm, just as in good conversation you hold another’s interest through use of the spoken word.
As you dance, each correctly timed step is like a well-chosen remark. It shows your partner that you “know what it’s all about.” And just as a speaking knowledge of many things makes you a more interesting talker, a dancing knowledge of a variety of steps makes you a more attractive dancer.
The more skill you acquire, the more “words” you will have with which to converse.
You know that the foreigner who has not learned the English language has difficulty in making him-self understood. He is so busy trying to think of the right words that he stammers and hesitates.
And so it is with dancing. If you are too busy thinking about each step – if you are uncertain and timid – you certainly can’t express yourself freely. There will be too many things on your mind for you to be yourself. And being yourself – gracefully, rhythmically – is the whole secret of good dancing.
To be a good dancer, you must be able to dance without having to concentrate on the steps. Your feet must have learned to respond easily and smoothly to the music. You must be able to lead or follow without apparent effort. And this final stage of perfection is reached in only one way. Practice-practice – and More Practice!”
What I find so true is that when you are learning to ballroom dance we think in the beginning that the initial stage of learning the patterns is going to be the hard part but that isn’t the case. Learning the basic patterns the way Arthur Murray breaks it down will be the easy part. What takes the time, effort, and follow through is the memorization and mastery of those skills. This is true in any new skill you try to acquire. That’s probably where the phrase “beginners luck” comes from. I remember I had a new student whom I was setting up their group class appointments and she said, “I’ve been to the Rumba class once before so I’ve got that one down. I don’t need to attend that class again.” It took everything in me not to laugh, but I understand that she was just new and needed more information to comprehend the process. Unfortunately, many of us want things yesterday and we need to remember that good things come to those who are willing to stay consistent and put in the work. When you consistently practice, you will be able to dance without having to concentrate on the steps- just like when a foreigner keeps practicing the English Language as Arthur Murray stated. Isn’t it going to be great when you discover the whole secret of good dancing: “being yourself gracefully, rhythmically-“ the way Arthur Murray so eloquently stated.
Good Luck. I know you can do it 🙂
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