QuickSilver Dance Center

Welcome, dancers!

HOW to practice: most people assume that you must get your partner and go to a club or dance hall in order to practice what you have been learning in dance class. Not true! There are 5 levels of practice, all of which can be helpful, and only 1 of which involves going out.

  1. Listen to music with a "dancer's ear": turn on the radio and start counting your dance rhythm. You will quickly learn that not every song is a danceable two-step (or swing, or waltz), and you will find that some songs are not danceable at all! This is due to the fact that most singers and songwriters don't dance and therefore they don't sing or write their songs for our benefit. Their work may be a virtuoso of melody and lyric, it may be extremely popular, club and party DJ's may play it all the time – that doesn't mean you can dance to it (think of "We are the Champions" or "Unchained Melody"). Some songs will be too fast, others too slow; or the beat is too soft and hard to hear; or there are rhythm changes or pauses. Listening to music and counting rhythm will train your ear to find and recognize those songs which are danceable.
  2. Visualize the steps you have been learning in class. A syllabus helps by listing the material. Take it further by "seeing" yourself walking through those patterns. This is more valuable for men than for women, as the women don't have control over which patterns will be lead. It definitely helps the men with their field position!
  3. Shadow dance at home by walking through the patterns without a partner – first at your own pace, without music, then with music. I wore a path in the carpet around my coffee table when I first learned to lead!
  4. Practice at home with a partner and some slow music. Refer back to the short videos we make at the end of each class if you get stuck.
  5. Go out to a club. Realize that here there will be some factors beyond your control: crowd behavior and floor courtesy, song selection and music speed. Still, this is ultimately where we want to be!

WHEN to practice: try to practice at least twice between each lesson. If you think you don't have the time for practice, look at stages 1-3 above. Surely you can set aside 15 minutes to listen to some music, look at your syllabus or the video, walk through the steps in your head, and then shadow-dance them in your garage or hallway. At least keep your car radio tuned so that you can listen to music and count rhythm on your way to work. It all helps!

WHERE to dance: there are many opportunities in the Texas Hill Country for C&W dancing. Some are DJ clubs open 6-7 nights a week; others are traditional Dance Halls open only on certain days. Always check schedules before you go!

  • New Braunfels: Watering Hole, behind Eberhardt's Lumber on IH-35 at McQueeney street
  • New Braunfels: the Grand Ballroom in Old Milltown (occasional Swing nights)
  • San Marcos: Cheatham Street, on LBJ
  • San Antonio: Cowboy Dance Hall, Loop 410 at IH35
  • San Antonio: Midnight Rodeo, Nacogdoches at 1000 Oaks
  • San Antonio: Thirsty Horse Saloon,
  • San Antonio: Wild West, Hwy 281 at Evans
  • San Antonio: Sam's Burger Joint – Monday Swing Night
  • San Antonio: Arjon's (salsa) off Broadway at BeeCee
  • Schertz: Bluebonnet Palace, Schertz Parkway at Lookout Rd
  • Dripping Springs: Mercer Street

Open only on certain days (check each one's website for specifics):

  • Twin Sisters
  • Sisterdale
  • Kendalia
  • Anhalt
  • Quihi
  • Floores Country Store
  • Martinez (San Antonio)
  • Geronimo
  • McQueeney
  • Gruene Hall
  • Riley's Tavern (FM 1102, San Marcos)
  • Silver Center in Seguin

And every so often, come to Valerie's Open Dances for students, at UMC Wesley Chapel in San Marcos! All dances are 7-10pm Saturday, $5 cover, BYOB and snacks. See "schedule" for upcoming party dates.

DANCE SHOES: unlike most ballroom dance instructors who insist that you spend $90 for proper dancing shoes, I say go with what works. If you have shoes that (1) are comfortable, (2) will slide on the dance floor, and (3) will stay on your feet when you move backwards – you are good to go! For years, I danced in old worn out tennis shoes, or loafers, or moccasins, with no problems. Nowadays I tend to wear Dance Sneakers or professional Dance Boots (or loafers, moccasins, or old tennis shoes!). I also recommend Bowling Shoes, especially for people with foot problems or surgeries.

Bowling Shoes can be purchased inexpensively at any local bowling alley, or online.

Dance Sneakers can be obtained from Dorothy's Dancewear in San Antonio; Movin'Easy in Austin, or Posh Plum in New Braunfels. They cost $60-90.

Evenin' Star Professional Dance Boots can be bought from Steve Clarkson in Rockport (361-790-5959). If you call ahead to schedule a visit, you can try them on right there and get the size, style and color you want without delay. Or you can order by mail, with the usual risk about sizes and styles. These cost just under $250 per pair; sometimes he has on-site specials. The one thing to watch for is that Steve recommends going down a ½ size from your street shoe. I recommend going up a ½ size. If the boot's too loose, wear a thicker sock; but if it's too tight, what can you do except endure pain while the boot gets "broken in"? Not me! The boot should feel right the moment you put it on, no need to break it in.

DANCE STYLES: if you have taken only 1 or 2 classes, you probably have questions about other dances. Here is a general picture of the 5 broad categories of Social Dance:

  1. Square Dance, Round Dance, Contra Dance, Specialty Dances (such as Irish Country Dancing, Scottish Country Dance etc.): these are traditional dance styles with specific music and specific figures, requiring special instruction and a private venue where the proper music will be played and "called" as needed. You can't simply go out to a club to dance these; you must find and join an established group. (I do not teach any of these.)
  2. Line Dance: generally found as exercise classes in various locations (YMCA, Senior Centers), you don't need any special instruction to join. Occasionally the C&W dance halls will play a few line dances. I teach a free line dance class in New Braunfels every Thursday morning, and occasionally offer it as an evening group class.
  3. Ballroom Dancing: while the ballroom competition dance circuit includes about 25 different dance types, you can attend ballroom functions knowing only a handful. The "smooth" dances include Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz; the most common "rhythm" dances are Polka, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Mambo (Salsa), and Merengue. You may also encounter Jitterbug, East Coast Swing and Jive, and possibly West Coast Swing and Bachata. Of these 14, the most important ones are Waltz, Foxtrot, Cha-Cha and Jitterbug, all of which I teach.
  4. Swing Dancing: includes 13 different dances from Lindy Hop and Balboa to Shag, Hustle and West Coast Swing. The most important are Jitterbug and East Coast Swing, which I teach, as well as West Coast Swing and Hustle.
  5. C&W Dancing: start with Two Step but continue with Triple Two Step, Polka, Western Waltz, Western Cha-Cha and Night Club Slow Dancing (Night Club Two Step). It doesn't hurt to know Jitterbug, East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing as well, because you will encounter music for all these dances when you are at a C&W venue. I teach all the C&W dances.

Before you panic, remember that you don't have to learn all the dances! Find the music you like best, and focus first on the dance that fits that type of music. Then you can decide if you want to broaden your horizon, or not.

There are many different dances, because music tempo and rhythms differ, even within a genre or type. For example, C&W music includes songs like "Chattahoochie" by Alan Jackson, which is a great Two Step; but his song "She Got The Rhythm, I Got The Blues" is a West Coast Swing; "Who Says You Can't Have it All" is a Waltz; "I Don't Need the Booze to Get a Buzz On" is East Coast Swing; "Gone Country" is a Triple Two Step; and "Tonight I Climbed the Wall" is a Night Club Slow Dance. For Western Cha-Cha, "Neon Moon" is a good example. All 7 songs are considered C&W, but we find 7 different dance types!

"Dance" has so many positive attributes! What other activity encourages you to combine gentle physical exercise with social interaction, while appealing to our artistic sensibilities of rhythm and style, and simultaneously challenging our memory and enhancing our mind/body coordination as we respond to the different songs, different dance steps, and different partners?

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