Taking Notes That Make Sense

Posted On 06/08/2017 by Juan de Dios Garcia

Taking Notes That Make Sense text overlaying notebookI was the worst student.  Worst in the way that, if you were my instructor, I would be the reason you pulled your hair out at night.  I remember one time, I was finishing up my beginner group class and waited for my ride in the foyer of the studio.  It just so happened that my ride was 45 minutes late.  Approximately, the same amount of time it took for the following group class to take place.  So I sat in the foyer with my notebook open, "taking notes".  When in reality I was listening to the Bronze 2 Cha Cha class going on in the ballroom.  A few days later at my next personal lesson with my instructor, we danced cha cha.  To my instructor's surprise I danced the move I "learned" in the foyer, The Sweetheart.  "Where did you learn that?" she said.  When you were in group class I was taking notes and wrote down what you did.  "Well (at a loss for words) don't do that!"

When I look back now, I think, wow I was real pain as a student.  Poor teacher.  Sorry Julia.  But I also think about how I was able to remember so much of the pattern without ever having danced it.  I didn't even try it out until I got home.  A large part of that success was the way I took notes.  It helped me understand and remember the pattern any time I needed.  If I could give you 4 tools that could help you remember your patterns better, this just may be it.  

1. Write It in Your Language

The first rule to understanding what your supposed to do is making sure that you can understand it when you go home and try it again several hours later.  Many students leave with notes that don't make sense and as a result can't remember what they just did.  The key here is to write it in a language that makes sense to you.  After all, YOU'RE the one that has to dance this again.  Whether you're a leader or a follower, you have to know your part, so write it down.  I have a student that calls patterns This, That and The Other.  And whenever I call out the pattern, i say "Now do This."  And he does the step perfectly.  All due to the fact that he learned the pattern in his own language (shout out to Rich).  I may call something a BOX and you may call it The Square.  Doesn't matter.  Find what makes sense to you.


In the beginning, you learn patterns by foot placement.  Take your left foot forward, take right foot side, close left foot to right foot, etc.  It’s necessary because, we don’t know where to go.   Eventually, you learn that the pattern you just created was a box.  Once you learn that word and gave it a name, you now have what’s called a COMPONENT.  The more advanced you get, the more components we string together.  Like a recipe.  So if I wrote: Start with 1/2 half box, side back rock, repeat on other side, side march march end with a box.  You may just realize you danced a patter called 5th position breaks.  So now I can also write: Start with 5th position breaks, end with cuban walks, you would know what I'm talking about.  The component will resemble the word you give it.  Most important, make it make sense to you.

Can you figure this Waltz pattern out?

Can you figure out this Waltz pattern?  Post video results here.

3. Write The Timing

When you know what pattern you're doing, you need to know what the timing of the move is.  I remember learning a cool pattern from a dance camp, writing down the way the pattern went, only to realize that when I got home I couldn't figure out how the move went to music because I didn't write down the timing.  You have to know where to go and when to do it.  It's best to coordinate your language of timing with your teacher, otherwise you'll be confused.  In ballroom, we use Slows and Quicks or numbers 1-8.  Here's a quick reference guide for some popular dances your instructor may use:

  WALTZ- 1,2.3,4,5,6       RUMBA- S,Q,Q,S,Q,Q       TANGO- S,S,Q,Q,S                            CHA CHA- 1,2,3,4&,1,2,3,4&     FOX TROT- S,S,Q,Q     SWING- 1&2,3&4,5,6     SALSA- 1,2,3,5,6,7 or Q,Q,S,Q,Q,S

4. Write The Direction

The last thing you want to do, is make sure you know which direction you're traveling.  In ballroom, moving dances like Waltz and Fox Trot, travel counter clockwise around the floor.  We call that LINE OF DANCE.  Every line of dance has an outside (wall) and inside (center) of the floor.  Some moves will travel better down line of dance if you start or end a certain way.  Try dancing a Fox Trot basic facing diagonally at the wall, down your line of dance.  You'll notice that you can travel and not end up in the middle of the floor.  This is what direction helps with.

There you have it.   4 great tools that you can use to help ensure that your notes don't go to waste.  If you don't write notes, you should.  It's a great way to get the most out of your investment.  If you do, I would love to hear back from you how this helps.  If you have any tips you'd like to share, feel free to write in the comments box below and share your ideas with other fellow dancers.  I'm sure they would love to hear how to make their experience better.  Have fun and write lots of notes!



Topics Dance Tips, Dance Lessons, dance advice

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Juan de Dios Garcia

Juan de Dios is the owner of 2 Arthur Murray Dance Centers in Northern California. He spends his time training his staff and consulting for Arthur Murray Dance Centers globally. His hobbies include making gourmet ice cream and taking long walks on the beach with his wife Cari and dog Julio.