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Five tips to improving an Irish dancing step

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by BRIAN PARRY, Feis America Magazine contributor

Easy ways to get those steps down…besides doing what your teacher tells you.

When I was 11, and just getting into the Novice/Prizewinner level, I was convinced I would never get the slow hornpipe down. Between the syncopated timing and the complex footwork, it seemed like nothing was going right in that step. Now, the hornpipe is both my favorite dance and the one I am strongest in. Why? Mainly because I worked hard at getting it all down. Here are some methods that might help you, too, when struggling with a step.

1) Find someone else who has the steps you are trying to acquire and copy them. While they are practicing those steps, hang back a bit and dance the steps with them, making sure that you don’t get in the way or unduly distract them. The trick with this technique is to make sure that whoever you are copying is doing the steps correctly, or run the risk of learning bad habits.

2) Be stubborn about it. And by stubborn, I mean focus on nothing but the footwork and the music. Every time you foul up, stop, go back to the beginning and do it over again correctly. Practice is only good when you do the steps right.

3) Ask another dancer for help. Remember, there are other resources out there when your TCRG is tied up. Find another dancer who has had the steps you are trying to learn and ask them to help you out. Tell them about any changes the teacher made to the choreography in your case. And just be polite. Kindness can go a long way.

4) Get your pride involved. This works best if you are dancing with a sibling who is learning the same steps. “How dare they get those steps before I do” is the sort of attitude you want. But at the same time, be careful that you keep it internalized. Prove you are just as great of a dancer as any of your siblings through your hard work, not verbal jabs.

5) Tape it. If you can get a videotape of another dancer correctly doing the steps you are trying to learn, then videotape yourself doing the same steps and try to contrast the two. Seeing it visually might help put the pieces together in your head.

What are some tricks you use to get a step down? Let us know.

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