One of the most prevalent discussions in the dance world is that of comparing one dance style against another. As some debate which is better, more technical, more enjoyable, easier vs. harder to learn, and so on, there are numerous categories for which seemingly endless debates can be had. With many of these arguments boiling down to opinion, one aspect that goes beyond mere opinion is the reality of what one should expect when switching to a new dance style after already having become accustom to the nuances of one particular style. The commonly raised question is: Is it easier to learn multiple dance styles at a time, or easier to just master one and then eventually move onto the next?
The answer to this question varies depending on the progression of dances learned, and the experience level of the dancer in question. While some might argue that trying to learn and master one dance style is challenging enough, to add anymore is like adding extra ingredients to an already overflowing pot, and that it can only complicate things. Others argue that learning multiple dance styles at once is like learning several subjects in grammar or high school. While it may have its challenges, one learns how to compartmentalize all of that information and multi-task, ultimately getting used to it.
Overall, evidence shows that this is highly dependent upon what type of learner you are and your overall ability to pick up new movements. Another point of focus is the type of dance we’re talking about. The student who is transitioning from Argentine tango to learning square dance is likely to find the process to be a walk in the park. Whereas the student who has mainly danced hip-hop for some time may find it a bit more challenging to have to make the jump from doing a predominately solo dance to a rigid partner style like the waltz. All while having to adapt to a long list of rules, technical details and partnering structure that aren’t typically a part of hip hop dance for the most part.
Most would agree that one way around this is to initially start with dance styles that are closely related, or essentially in the same wheel house before tackling something that may require you to unlearn a certain style of movement, set habits or things like proper frame and so forth, that you are still working into your muscle memory. For example, starting with salsa and bachata around the same time may be an easier task than attempting quickstep and lindy hop simultaneously. This is just because although different dances with different types of movement, salsa and bachata are usually taught and danced in the same space, often back to back. So dancers get to take turns alternating between salsa and bachata dances, sometimes with an even amount of time dedicated to each. Also one style, (bachata) is largely considered much easier to learn and execute than the other, (salsa). Although more intricate twists, turns and body rolls have made their way onto the bachata scene, on dance floors across the country, many still keep it simple with a few simple, basic steps that can be picked up rather quickly by most.
By comparison, if a dancer begins with a swing dance like lindy hop, they have likely grown accustom to dancing with a relaxed, somewhat hunched over posture, while essentially bouncing and bopping to the music with bent knees. And although dancers move beyond a narrow slot, they do not travel counterclockwise around the floor like some ballroom dances. Whereas quickstep on the other hand, is built upon having a solid frame with erect posture that must be maintained throughout much of the dance. Furthermore, couples are coached to avoid breaking their hold for most of the dance, and must perform intricate foot movements as they race in circles around the dance floor at top speed – all while keeping their upper half as motionless as a mannequin in a storefront window. Like many other ballroom dances, quickstep is known for being more rigid and structured, whereas lindy hop is known for being more free-flowing and improvisational – or spontaneous than many ballroom dances. So with all of these vast differences, it is no wonder why the transition from lindy to quickstep is largely considered more difficult than more closely related dances like salsa and bachata.
Whichever dance styles you choose to start or progress with, and whether or not you’re ready to tackle another dance style, always keep in mind to enjoy the journey and the lessons learned along the way!