One of the most common questions that we are often asked is "How can I dance better?" or "How come I don't look like that dancer?" To give an answer to that needs a bit more time to explain properly which we hope this article will address. To get into the correct frame of mind, we need to use some examples and stories. Let us start with an example of kids learning how to write. The kids are first taught how to write the alphabet, and then learn simple words, and then learn sentences, and then learn paragraphs. Eventually they can write short compositions. They could have spent decades writing, but most never get to be excellent writers.
In the movie, The Karate Kid, the hero Daniel LaRusso was bullied by students of a karate school. One day he met a Mr Miyagi who agreed to teach him karate. During training, Daniel was just asked to paint fences with an up down action and polish floors in a circular motion. After a month, he felt frustrated and wanted to leave. Miyagi then asked Daniel to show him the actions he had been doing for the past month. To Daniel's surprise, these were actually the fundamental steps of karate and he had developed a very good base. Miyagi then taught him about "good balance" by standing for hours on one leg. At his first karate competition, Daniel won, despite knowing only a few basic movements compared to his opponents who knew lots of fancy steps.
One very clear memory I had was when my wife, Pele and I were in London taking dance lessons. During our class with Martin Lamb (former World Ten Dance Professional Champion), a couple who were World Professional Standard Finalists were taking lessons with Sir Bill Irvine at the same time as us. For the whole lesson they were doing nothing but practising the first 3 steps of the Waltz Natural Turn. The couple were shouting at each other during the the whole lesson. We were indeed surprised that top couples like them were still learning how to do the Waltz Natural Turn better and how important they considered the fundamentals.
When Pele and I were taking part in competitions, we hit a plateau and progress was slow or sometimes non-existent. Only when we started training under a very wise coach, did things begin to change. During that initial few months under his tutelage, we were made to do walks, walks and more walks with only very simple variations. Once we mastered the techniques, our progress really started to accelerate. It was very tedious work but it was well worth it. Our coach told us that many dancers did not survive under him and many gave up after a few lessons. He was proud that we stuck to his training and showed great improvement.
This condensed version of the original article has been re-published with the kind permission of Robin Chee, pictured above with his wife Pele Lim. Robin and Pele were very much into competitive dancing and are the co-principals of RpMerleon Studios in Singapore. To know more about them and their dance school, check out their website at www.rpmerleon.com. For movie buffs, there is talk that there may be a remake of The Karate Kid, with Jackie Chan playing the part of Miyagi. Hai sensei!