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Learning to dance is like learning to drive a car. At first you proceed slowly and after a time you feel comfortable, and it begins to feel natural. At PJs Dancetique our expert staff teach simple, basic elements, from which the dance steps are derived. For over thirty years our Internationally Certified Dance Instructor, Mr. Benjamin DeLa Vega, has taught many hundreds of people – literally from 18-80 yrs old – to dance.
In the beginning, it is probably preferable to take classes rather than private lessons. For a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of each, see Private vs. Group Lessons.
For the various dance classes offered at PJ’s Dancetique and their costs, go to Classes.
Our classes are limited to seven couples per class. Contact us to see if spaces are still available in class that you desire to take.
All classes are taught by Ben De La Vega. See Mr. De La Vega’s Biography.
Each dance has a set of recognized steps which differentiate that dance from another. A strong knowledge of steps is a must. It is important that the dance instructor take as much time as necessary to explain each step and then, through repetition, to make the various steps of the dance become easier and easier to perform. Learning a step involves both learning the movement and the timing for the movement. Learning a pattern or a step is just the beginning. To be a good dancer you must also learn sound basic technique. Mr. De La Vega will teach you the proper footwork, dance positions, connections between partners, body shaping, hip actions, arm styling and many other elements that make you feel and look better when dancing the steps. In doing this, he will be teaching you technique.
Syllabus figures, or “school figures” as they are sometimes called, are often likened to ice skating’s compulsory figures. They are small patterns of steps that embody the primary elements of the dance. These figures, or patterns, are generally split into three escalating levels of difficulty, often designated as “bronze”, “silver”, or “gold” levels. This enables the student to master each level before moving up to the challenge of the next, more difficult level. Diligent study and practice of these elements at each level will produce a capable and well-rounded dancer.
Essentially these terms refer to the difficulty of the figures in each level. Bronze level figures are generally the simplest ones that help you learn the basics of the dance and ballroom dancing in general. Silver level figures are a bit harder and may include more difficult techniques. Gold level figures area bit harder than silver figures and often include "picture lines". Bronze, silver and gold also roughly correspond to the various examinations a teacher may pass through although the teacher levels are known by other names. The following comparisons may also help: Beginning and Intermediate are similar to the Bronze Level, Advanced I is similar to the Silver Level & Advanced II is similar to Gold Levels. The bronze, silver, and gold figures taken together make up the syllabus for a dance -- allof the sort of standard figures. Above Gold level, you can dance in the "open" category, which means you are not restricted to the figures on the syllabus. Instead, you can develop your own figures and routine. For a list of all the syllabus figures taught by Ben De La Vega, refer to our Syllabi.
There may be some variations in our schedule from session to session so you'll have to check the calendar for exact details. However, we can tell you generally what we offer. We have classes in American style only. We also usually offer slow dancing and other nightclub style classes, including swing, due to popular demand. Each style has its own set of dances. The American style smooth classes will cover Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz. The American style rhythm dances include Rumba, Cha Cha, Samba, Merengue, Mambo, Salsa, Cumbia, and Bachata. We do not teach the International style classes at PJ’s Dancetique. The International Syle is only taught by Mr. De La Vega in private lessons. The nightclub classes cover East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, hustle, nightclub two step, and hustle. See Classes offered, Dance Styles taught and Syllabi for the syllabus for each dance taught.
American Style is most popular in the United States, whereas the International Syle, which is also known as the English Style, is danced throughout the rest of the world. The American Style Smooth dances, Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz, experience more freedom and expression. They may be danced in closed or open position, allowing for additional innovative tricks and creative arm and hand styling. The International Style Standard Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep, and Viennese Waltz are danced only in closed position. The technique for both styles is similar. The American Style Rhythm dances, which are Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing, Samba, Mambo, Bolero, and Merengue, have a greater variety of patterns, and are more suited for social dancing. The International Style Latin Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble and Jive are more disciplined and technical. The technique is different between the styles and changes throughout the years. American Style dancing has always been more popular for social dancing in the United States. People tend to view American style as more of a social dance style and International style as more of a competitive style, but you can compete in American style and there are plenty of people who dance International style socially, so it's nice to know both.
Can you give more specific examples of the differences between the American and International Styles?
Yes. In the International Style Waltz, the biggest difference is we bring our feet together on the count of three in basic turns and maintain a closed hold throughout the dance. In American Style, the feet pass in turns and for a large part of the dance, the couples dance in open position. International Style requires the couple to maintain contact at the mid-section of the body, "gapping" being considered one of the cardinal sins of International competitive dancing. The same or similar differences occur in Foxtrot and Tango, although at a high level, these two dances are taking on quite an International look. Then there is the Quickstep, which has no counterpart in American Style. The dance consists of chasses, skips, locks, runs and hops performed to a fast 4/4 rhythm. The couple endeavoring at the same time to maintain contact and appear to be relaxed. In the Viennese Waltz, there is the greatest difference. American Style is danced in a large part in open position, with numerous variants, whereas in International Style, we are limited to seven figures. These are the Natural and Reverse turns, Forward and Backward changes, Natural and Reverse Fleckerels (a fast turning figure danced on the spot) and the Contra check.
As a general rule, we don't recommend it, but it's kind of up to the instructor of the particular class. If you have some dance experience already, you may be able to skip a lower level class if the teacher says it's OK. But the classes are intended to build on each other and higher level classes assume that you've already learned material from the lower level classes. It's usually better not to skip levels, but if you have a reason for wanting to do so talk with the teacher and see what he/she says.
No, you are never required to have a partner to take our dance classes. Everyone is welcome to take any class he/she desires, with or without a partner. If you already have a partner, feel free to invite him/her to take the class with you. If you don't have a partner, don't worry about it. Lots of people come by themselves and they still get to dance in class because there are other people without partners and the teachers ask the students to change partners regularly.
Changing partners is actually a good way to learn ballroom dancing.By changing partners you get a chance to dance with different people, and each partnerwill give you a slightly different feeling. This gives you a better understandingof leading and following --- the key of ballroom dancing. Every person is a littlebit different, some people lead more strongly than others and some people requirelighter leads than others and/or react more quickly to the same leads. The onlyway to really learn good leading and following skills is to dance with a lot ofdifferent people so you can actually feel the difference. If you only dance withyour partner all the time, you'll start compensating for his/her little mistakesand he/she will do the same for you. This means that the two of you could be doingthings wrong and you'd never know it because you've gotten so used to compensatingfor each other that it feels fine. Bad habits like that are much harder to breakthan to avoid and changing partners in class helps you avoid overcompensating for your partner's weaknesses. However, if you think you have a good reason for staying with your partner all the time, talk things over with the teacher. The final decisionis really up to the instructor, but as a general rule you'll help yourself as well as others if you do change partners during class.
Dance skills are like any other. They need to be used to keep what you have learned. We have many open nights, parties, Balls and social events for you to hone those skills. Many students have so much fun that they wish to take more advanced courses. Let’s talk about it. Check out our Practice Parties and Practice Sessions.
Private lessons are more advantageous than group class in that you will receive more individualized instruction on all aspects of dancing, such as technique, presentation, pace, posture etc. It is a great way to work on your weaknesses, improve your dancing overall, and get prepared for upcoming competitions. It is helpful and highly recommended if you are serious about Dancesport. Rates of private instructions range from 50 to 100+ dollars per hour. Please consult the team coach and senior members for advice and information about private lessons.
This depends on you. What dances do you wish to learn? For what reason, to attain basic social skills or even to compete as an amateur? To look good at your wedding? You will be surprised how good you look after just a handful of lessons.
Mr. De La Vega charges $65.00 for each hour of private lesson. However, he has packages available which reduces this cost. Mr. De La Vega will sit down with you after the first private lesson and recommended a specific plan for you. For details on the costs of private lessons: See Private Lessons.
We accept Cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, personal checks, money orders and cashier’s checks from the USA. All checks should be made payable to PJ’s Dancetique.
We are very flexible and can normally accommodate most requests, whether they be in the afternoon, evening or weekends. Contact us and let us know your schedule. Contact Us.
Our senior Dance Expert is Mr. Benjamin DeLa Vega who has over thirty years teaching experience. (See Mr. De La Vega's Biography.) He is "Internationally Certified" asa dance instructor, a member in good standing as a "Dancesport Coach" with the United States Amateur Ballroom Association (USABDA) and registered as a "Pro-Am Teacher/Competing Professional" with the National Dance Council Of America (NDCA.) You are in the best of hands!
Many students who learn to dance tell us that the freedom, joy and social skills they have learned are useful forever more. It’s also a great way to keep fit – AND meet lots of new friends at our parties and Galas. Good dancers are always in demand!
There is no dress code. Just wear clothes that are comfortable and allow you the best range of motion. As for shoes, try to avoid those that stick to the floor, such as rubber-soled ones. For ladies, you might want to start with closed-toe shoes at first to protect your toes from being stepped on (accidents do happen). Shoes with heels up to 2.5 inches are recommended. However, if you continue with dancing for any length of time, you will soon realize that you really need dance shoes for dancing, i.e. shoes with suede soles and heels. For men, you will eed a pair of Latin shoes (a higher heel) for Rhythm/Latin dances and Standard shoes for Standard dances. But again, these are not required for taking the courses.
Contact Us for a list of vendors that sell quality dance shoesat affordable prices.
Latin dances refer to the International Style. Rhythm dances refer to the American Style. The American Style “Rhythm” dances include the Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing, Samba, Mambo, Bolero, and Merengue. At PJ’s Dancetique, we have added the Salsa, Bolero, and Cumbia to the Rhythm Styles. The American Style Rhythm dances have a greater variety of patterns and are more suited for social dancing than Latin dances. The International Style “Latin” dances include the Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble and Jive. These “Latin” dances are more disciplined and technical.
Cuban motion is characterized by a rhythmic swaying of the hips caused by the bending and straightening of the knees (though the knees remain "soft"-- slightly bent -- at all times). It is a style of movement which should be present in Latin American dances, including Bachata, Mambo, Salsa, Rumba, Merengue, Samba and Cha Cha. It tends to be easier to dance & more noticeable when the music is slow.
American Style Tango is a dramatic, progressive dance using body movements. Argentine Tango uses slower music, is more of a spot dance, is easier to dance on a smaller floor, and uses a lot of leg and foot action.
There are really more similarities than differences. Mambo has been around for a long time and is more structured, such as breaking on the 2 beat, whereas the Salsa is not as structured and will break on the 1 or the 2 beat or any beat you wish.
Nightclub Two-Step, not to be confused with country western two-step, is one of the most practical and versatile social dances ever conceived. It is designed to be used with contemporary soft rock (“Love Song”) music. This type of music is common just about everywhere, nightclubs, radio, etc. The rhythm of the dance isvery simple and rarely changes from the 1 & 2 count. This simple, romantic dance fills a gap where no other ballroom dance fits. It gives the dancer, either beginning or advanced, the opportunity to express and create without a rigid technique being required. It’s attractive, romantic, and a real asset to learn, as it will be used often.
Slow dancing is based on Foxtrot/Tango style figures, the tempo is all slow and even, and is based on music that does not allow you to dance a rhythm of quick and slow. An example is the song “In the Still of the Night” where neither foxtrot nor Rumba can be applied for the tempo is an even slow beat. This is a spotdance for lovers and makes a very nice wedding dance. It even shows you how to dip in a very sexy way. This is in no way like the Nightclub Two-Step which is a rhythmdance similar to Salsa/Rumba.
similarities. It is best to focus on the differences. East Coast Swing is danced with no particular alignment, it turns right and left,and is mostly a rotational dance on the spot, not progressive. Once you master the basic triple rhythm a great emphasis is placed on pattern knowledge and variety. West Coast Swing, however, is danced with a flexible alignment structure. The lady travels back and forth along a slot or line while the man remains more centered in the middle. The man’s major function in this dance is to lead but move little. In this dance, the lady is the one “to shine”. In the beginning, West Coast Swing is more difficult to learn, but later on it allows for much more growth, creativity and individual expression. First, the basic 6 and 8 beat patterns must be mastered. To a great extent, most patterns branch off the basic patterns. East Coast is fun and quite easy. West Coast is a dance that will be stimulating at all levels and has the capacity for infinite expression.
It involves (a) sensitivity of one partner to the other; (b) ability of the lady to respond correctly to the gentleman’s lead and body flight, as well as his style; and (c) the ability of the gentleman to transmit his leads, rhythmic expression and style correctly.
Leading in dancing is left to the gentleman. Ladies do not lead in dancing. There are three (3) types of lead utilized by the gentleman in ballroom dancing: (a) body lead; (b) hand and arm lead and (c) sight (visual) lead. Many times the gentleman will utilize more than one lead in the execution of a figure or dance. Therefore, it is important that you fully understand the technique and application of each type of lead.
The moving foot must first come close to (brush) or towards (brushing action) the supporting foot, but without a change of weight.
A step forward initiated by contact with the heel, then continuing onto the toe of the foot, usually. Usually with a rise in the body. Actions are actually: heel, whole foot, then ball and finally toe. Heel toe is generally used in the American Style Smooth and International Style Standard dances.
Continuity means to continue your movement; therefore, you donot close your feet. This usually applies when you are at the Silver (Advanced I) Level or above, whereas you close your feet at the Beginning or Bronze (Intermediate) level. A slower tempo allows the working foot enough time to brush completely tothe supporting foot, while a faster tempo does not. The dancer would then gauge his “brushing action” accordingly.
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