Jeff has been a Ballroom Dance instructor, coach, professional competitor, and choreographer since 1979. He is best known in the Ballroom Dance world for the mastery of technique in his teaching and his unique choreographic style.
Jeff produces and directs the Ballroom Blitz events at the Lake Merritt Dance Center in Oakland, California.
He currently teaches private lessons and group classes at the Allegro Ballroom in Emeryville, California and is the Dance Director for the American Style program.
Ballroom Dancing . Fitness . Life
7/14/13: Warm up, relax, stretch a little, don't hurt yourself
With any physical activity you are putting stress on the body that it's not used to. Even if you dance every day there are certain steps to take to prepare your body for dancing. Here are a few steps to take when you arrive at the studio and switch both your mind and body into dance moode.
- Arrive a little early for your lesson or practice. Take a breath and forget about work, traffic and the distractions of the outside world. For the next hour or two, you're treating yourself to one of the wonders of human nature...dancing.
- Take time to warm up. If you do nothing but a Waltz box and be aware of your posture your putting your body in 'dance mode'.
- Never stretch before warming up. Muscles need to be flush with blood and oxygen in order to make them pliable.
- Reach up to the ceiling and take a deep breath. Then, keeping the knees slightly flexed, bend at the waist and fall forward keeping the back flat. Only go as far as is comfortable. Hold for a moment then let your arms and head drop and round your back while breathing out. Roll back up one vertebrae at at time while breathing in. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
- Sit down and point your toes out in front of you. Move your feet in circular motions both clockwise and counter clockwise to warm up your ankles.
- Make sure to drink plenty of water before you start dancing. Staying hydrated makes the body very happy.
- Now you're less likely to go away with sore joints, tight hamstrings, aching shoulders or any other little ouch.
- When you'e done, drink a little water, repeat a little stretching and leave with a smile on your face looking forward to the next time you get to dance!
6/24/13: Etiquette...or How to act so people want to dance with you
One of the things that makes ballroom dancing fun is the incredible social interaction with people who enjoy dancing as much as you do. Whether it's a class or a party we all want to have a good time and come away looking forward to our next dance experience. Here are some tips to make your dance experience fun and be the person that everyone wants to dance with.
1. Treat everyone with respect and empathy:
Remember the way you felt that first day you walked into a dance studio. Your next dance partner could be that person. Be nice, be welcoming, be warm.
2. "Would you care to dance madame/sir?":
This is not the 19th century and you don't have to bow from the waist or curtsey to get a dance. A simple smile, eye contact, an offering of a hand and you're good to go.
3. There are no more than two teachers in the room and one of them is not you:
A class is for learning some new patterns, working on your technique and having fun with your fellow students. Everyone is concentrating and doing the very best they can. No one cares how much you know. Work on what YOU can do better and maintain some levity. If you need help, ask the teachers.
4. Be respectful of other dancers:
Not only will your partner be impressed but the other dancers will not fear your approach. Feel out the room and use the best floor craft you can.
5. Leave the house like you're going on a first date:
Not to sound like your mom...but brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on some deodorant (but not overbearing cologne or perfume), bring an extra shirt guys if you need to, and put a pack of gum or mints in your pocket. You're in close contact all night. Leave your partner with that freshly scrubbed, squeaky clean feeling.
Have a good time! It's why you take the lessons, it's why you go out dancing, and it's why you chose dancing as your pastime.
6/10/13 Gravity & Elevation:
Mom always said "Stand up straight!". Turns out she was right. Throwing your body through space and somehow managing to maintain control and balance is no easy task. Attach another person to you and, well, some crucial technical issues need to be in order to make sure everybody is having a pleasant experience. Posture is crucial! Getting your parts aligned one on top of the other is better for your bone and muscle health and the most important factor in your dancing. Try these tips to maintain gravity and weight in the bottom half of the body and develop strength and elevation in the top half.
- Practice Walking - We do it every day and taking time to focus on how you walk will directly relate to how you dance.
- Gravity - Feel the weight of your hips and legs on the floor/ground. Notice how your weight rolls through your entire foot on every step and gives you a sense of groundedness.
- Keep the Center Toned - Get the weight of your ribcage off your hips by pulling in the belly button. A little tone in the center of your body goes a long way. Now lift your sternum and roll your shoulders back and down. Allow the shoulders to relax and feel the relaxed weight of the arms.
- Put the Cherry on Top - Now you've created a pedestal for your head. Allow your neck to relax and keep your ears over your shoulders.
- Try maintaining this alignment while walking and dancing.
There! Now you're standing up just like Mom said.
5/23/13: Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order - Samuel Beckett
Welcome to my blog about Ballroom Dancing, Fitness, and enjoying life. Drop in anytime to get tips on ballroom patterns, technique, etiquette, and having fun with your dance experience. I'll also touch on keeping your body fit to prevent injury and how to use what you learn both on and off the dance floor. My hope is to share my years of experience as a teacher, my love of the learning process and my often unfiltered opinions about everything. More to come soon!!
"Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion." - Martha Graham