An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
Every dancer loves YouTube because you can find pretty much everything on it related to dancing. From dance music, shows, workshops to step by step tutorials. The best part is that you can just sit back, relax and binge watch. Great! However, if you want to be a successful dancer, whether professional, amateur or pro-am, you need to go deeper! Videos just scratch the surface of dance knowledge, because they must be short and catchy. That’s why I want you to invest in books about dancing.
If you’re serious about dancing, here in this post you will find out which books you must own to give you an edge over your competitors. With very few dancers reading, by finishing the books below, you will already have greater knowledge than most. But most importantly, these books will give you vocabulary that will impress every teacher you speak to as you will begin to “speak the dancer’s language”.
- The Laird Technique of Latin Dancing by Walter Laird
This is the most iconic book of them all for every Latin American dancer. It is what it says on the label. Each of the 5 Latin dances (Rumba, Cha cha cha, Samba, Paso doble and Jive) are broken down into steps and described in depth. You will learn exactly which part of foot you should be stepping with, what action you need to use in your body, what counts the step is danced on and much more. Remember, the technique is the universal language that all top dancers and judges know. SO if they see you executing the steps, just how they know it, you’re far more likely to get better marks.
- Technique of Ballroom Dancing by Guy Howard
This fantastic book is pretty much the equivalent of the Latin Technique by Walter Laird, but for Ballroom dancers. The updated version has each dance in a separate book. But to be honest, the steps are very much similar and technique has not changed drastically, so if you can get hold of the older version, that should be enough. Again, you want to use this book when you study your basic figure in each choreography (I do hope you have basic figures in your choreos!).
Action Point for the technique books: in your spare time, go through your choreo and name all the basic figures in your dance and write down the names. Then find the steps in the books, Latin or Ballroom, and check if the way you dance them, is just as it’s technically described (unless your dance teacher intentionally changed it). But to be honest, a Basic Fan in a Rumba or a Natural Spin Turn in a Waltz are so beautiful as they are, that do they really need to be danced different “technically”? Hmm that’s my opinion though.
- Thinking, Sensing and Doing in Latin American Dancing by Ruud Vermey
In this book Ruud approaches different ideas about Latin American dancing from more psychological and philosophical perspective. The book is certainly NOT for “faint-hearted” 😉 as it can be quite complicated to read. Instead the way I chose to approach it, was in small chunks, In fact, sometimes I found myself I had to read the same paragraph to really understand the message. Thinking, Sensing an Doing in Latin American Dancing is a book which you will read multiple times, keep coming back to it and find new ways to interpret the concepts. Even though it says Latin American Dancing in the title, it definitely applies to ALL styles, i.e. Ballroom, Smooth and Rhythm!
- Dancing to Your Maximum by Maimiliaan Winkelhuis
The best way to describe this book is “Dancer’s Life Planner”. It’s very practical with lots of tables, and questions you need to ask yourself and put in practice. This is the “office” style kind of book, where you pretty much sit at a desk and draft you dancing career 🙂 Max puts a tremendous amount of valuable information on how to structure your practices, dancing goals and whole career as a professional. If you love planning and taking action, like I do, this book is really great.
- Looking at Dances by Valerie Preston-Dunlop
This book is awesome and very well written. To be honest I quite like it’s rather fast to read. Valerie doesn’t waffle much and she goes straight to the point. I would say it’s a combination of psychology that Ruud offers in his book Thinking, Sensing and Doing in Latin American Dancing, with practicality that can be applied immediately, similar to Dancing to Your Maximum by Max. The book is not of a “sunbathe and relax” kind. But rather a perfect medium to open your mind when you’re alone, in a studio or living room.
Action point for the “psychology of dance” books: these may be quite tricky to dive into at first. Especially when you’re new to dancing. I would always suggest to still give them a go. But instead of trying to ready them back to back and pretty much forgetting all you’ve read, speak to your dance teacher about specific chapters. When you don’t understand something, highlight and take it to your coach and ASK! They will find lots of different ways to explain the concepts, perhaps adjust it to your dance training and where you are RIGHT NOW. Remember, your dance lessons are not only about shuffling your feet, shaking your bum and clapping your hands! And your dance teacher, should have a great depth of knowledge to understand and translate the concepts from the books I mentioned.