Each week, Hugo Miguez and Stacy Kay post Tuesday Tips, advice from the pros to the larger Westie community about everything from dance etiquette to great ways to learn in workshops. We at Wandering Westie are looking to expand upon these with stories from our own Westies each week – proof of these tips in action!
“What do you want to focus on?”
My first workshop with Benji Schwimmer blew my freakin’ mind.
I come from a very pattern-driven environment of dance learning. Workshops have always been an extension of that – they’re probably going to teach some kind of pattern through technique, and I’ll come away with one, maybe both of those things. Chances are I’ll probably come away with a pattern. And for a while, this style of thinking led my mind to wander significantly during workshops to what else I can work on, letting my muscle memory do the work. Everyone’s experienced Workshop Mode at some point, when their body is going through the motions but their mind is elsewhere. It’s that.
That kinda sucks for everyone.
“Think of this as a private lesson – but with…like, 100 people.”
Benji’s workshop offered a completely different style of approaching workshops for the student. He asked us to workshop ourselves, and asked what was important to our own dance growth. I said “Leading different bodies and different connections; adaptability.” Seven other people said seven different things, and he blended them into a compelling workshop, where everyone was engaged because they were working on themselves and issues important to them.
It made me start analyzing the workshops I was taking and the workshops I was offering beginners back home. It asks a simple question: “How are we allowing the students to work on themselves?” I have since found that most workshops tend to push for this kind of learning. They provide the fundamentals of the technique they’re drilling, and sometimes give you a practice pattern with which to work. But the patterns are largely interchangeable. This is a workshop for you, to help accentuate your strengths and develop your weaknesses into more strengths.
What does this have to do with being attentive?
Because if you’re taking a private lesson, you want to ask questions. You want to break down everything you’re doing and you want to pay attention. Consider the underlying technique of what you’re learning, and think about how it applies to your dancing. My suggestion: ask questions in workshops as well,because chances are someone else is wondering the same thing. Most of all, remember that workshops are not lectures or seminars. They are active, engaged guided exercises that hope to strengthen a point of importance within the dance – and for that hour, your instructor’s attention is on helping you improve your dancing. They want you to ask, engage, and interpret.
And it’s not just Benji – his was just the first to ask us the question outright. All the pros do this to some degree. Whether subtle or overt, workshops offer techniques fundamental and advanced that can be interpreted, analyzed, and performed thousands of times over through myriad patterns and musical phrases. Run through your list of questions. Think about your dancing and ways to implement these underlying ideas. There are a million ways to remain engaged with a workshop, and everyone has their own. The best one I’ve found is to imagine that it’s a massive private lesson – it keeps me focused on the instruction and attentive within my own body, my own connection, and my own dancing — and that’s what we’re all there to work on, after all.
Hugo Miguez and Stacy Kay are renowned for their precision, variety, and teaching methods within West Coast Swing. Since 2011, they have taken the circuit by storm with their Classic routines and are re-defining the learning process of the dance world. They will lead you through energetic dances while sharing their advice on all things dance. Hugo and Stacy reside in sunny Clearwater, Florida and travel as competitors, judges, and choreographers for numerous events in different dance styles. Both continue to share their passion for dance and enjoy working with all levels of experiences. They work with top professionals in many different dance styles distinctly furthering their education and experience. Their philosophy is to introduce and foster fresh, comprehensive dance knowledge for their students by giving more of themselves within every experience. They can be reached at www.hugoandstacy.dance.