Ash

Ashleigh, Teacher

Dance was my voice when I didn't have one. Dance has always been a true expression and representation of myself.

I fell in love with it when I was young, but didn't learn until I was an adult. Despite the many obstacles I have faced, I have perservered in my dance journey. My passion for dance resonates deeper than just a pastime. Dancing allows me to be my truest self, because dance is a language.

Our teachers' stories

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Tom, Teacher

I wasn't able to look people in the eye before I found dance, let alone have a meaningful conversation. Dance was always easier than speech for me, but it helped me become aware of my communication style, my emotions, and others'. Whatever style it is, I feel the most connected when I dance - no BS, only authenticity and expression. 

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Annie, Teacher

Dance turned my love of music into a physical, emotional phenomenon! Connecting with other humans to create this thing called partner dance actually strengthened my connection to my own mind and body. I improved my fitness, balance, flexibility, and body awareness, and I discovered nuances to empathy and compassion that I had never understood before. Could dancing be the answer to happiness?

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Taylor, Teacher

At the end of the day, I think the meaning of life is to create meaningful connections… and partner dance is one of the most powerful ways I’ve found to do that.  After a long chapter in competitive ballroom dance and a lifetime of dancing in the rain for the joy of it, I realized that what I really love most about dance is the ability it gives us to connect to other humans. Through social dancing, we use body language as a common tongue to create together. That experience can teach us profound things about how to express ourselves, how to listen, how to deepen our capacity for empathy, and ultimately how to connect.

 
 
 
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How did it start?
 

Hundreds of group and private Brazilian Zouk classes, within the US, in Brazil, and in Europe, taught me (besides, of course, a lot of Brazilian Zouk) that most dance teachers across the globe were teaching in the same way.

I was seeing myself in that process, and many other students around me. This dance was (and is) beautiful and amazing, but the process of learning it was (and is) tedious, unrewarding - it was proudly referred to as such by many teachers until this very day.

Surely, any new skill takes heart. We have to be able to face mistakes and constantly prevail. We have to believe that it will get better, and we keep remembering why we do it in the first place.

It's hard...but does it have to be that hard?

Is there a way to cater to those who haven't had a background of prevailing over challenges (like sports or other competitive background)?

Questions about the way we learn (and teach) dance were forming:

Why are so many people convinced that they can't dance?

When has one of the most human activities become a "pros only"activity?

Can we make dance more accessible?

Can we teach dance successfully with fun and community as the priorities?

 

Can we make use of what we already know, and not have to get extremely technical?

It took years of experience as both a student and a teacher, Inspired inspiration from a master teacher named Shabba-Doo, and rigorous research of teaching methods, to conclude:

We can do better than that.

Existing Methods
Let's acknowledge that nowadays, with modern lifestyle, it is much harder to be casual about intense commitments.

Many of the old methods of training (in dance, but other movement practices as well) require high effort, over long periods of time, with little reward. This is an extremely effective way to become amazingly proficient - if you have lots of free time, a very strong drive, and incredible resilience.

I found that many of the most amazing dancers I know trained that way, and that they train others in the same way, passing it along as is. Heck, I trained that way as well, and at first I tried to pass it on "as-is" as well, with all the intensity.

My student and I learned that this kind of pressure is not for everyone, and we learned it the hard way.

For many people, this method doesn't work.

More specifically - it doesn't work for the average person, who's trying to just dance for fun, connect with people, and have an hour a week that is mostly moderately challenging.

I find it incredibly inefficient to train hobbyist with the same training system, and expectation, that one would have from those who try to be pros.

 
 
The Sotaki Method

The major issues with the current way of teaching dance, as I see them, are:

1. Too much emphasis on movement technique

Less emphasis on connection means we learn to execute moves, instead of dancing with humans, and we forget why we started dancing.

2. "Information dump"

Too much information and details out of the belief that information = understanding, but understanding are abstract, and you cannot simply tell someone to "engage their core", when they only heard about it 2 weeks ago, and expect them to execute it.

3. Lack of "Operational Instructions"

Everytime you hear a teacher trying to help by saying "just feel it", and you're not sure what you're supposed to feel, it's not your fault.

As long as everyone can dance together at the party, we are happy.

To solve those issues, I understood that I need to:

1. Less information in every class

2. Move more, talk less

Practice human connection, and have a light, fun atmosphere.

3. Use what we already got

Existing movement examples from everyday life to accelerate and optimize the learning process.

4. Teach using intentions, instead of complicated instructions

Work much harder on HOW to deliver the material, rather than on WHAT I teach. Teaching body mechanics and complex understandings, means I have to understand them first as a student, and then also learn them a second time as a teacher.

 

 
 
 
 
Inspirations

Classroom management, philosophy, and planning methods (like UbD and Essential Questions)

Influences from my master teachers

Alexander Technique

Topf Technique & Dynamic Anatomy

My "Dance is a language" project (empathy and emotional awareness practices and research)

Lots of experience teaching many different things (from radar systems, through DJing, and to dance) in many different settings.

 

My journey started with questions, and I continue to learn every day and evolve, but some answers are already here. The Sotaki Method works.

Conclusion

We can tell our students that it's all about having fun. We can tell them "screw the mistakes" - but with current education structures, we don't model what we expect, if most of the emphasis and attention goes to moves & other technical aspects!

We set out to change that.

If you're looking to connect with other humans, to have fun, and not take it too seriously and stress over dance - we are here for you.

It IS possible to learn better, and get all the tools you need to have a fun, safe, comfortable dance, without having to invest years until you see results. Our teachers are working with you, and for you.

We learn hard and prepare, so you can focus on the fun!

Training & Experience - Tom

Brazilian Zouk:

  • Over 400 hours of training (mostly private programs, also including teacher training and special workshops) in Zouk, mostly in Rio, with top teachers (Renata, Val & Vanessa, Kamacho, Mafie, Dadinho and more)


Street Dance:

  • Over 100 hours of training in Locking, including a teacher certification program with Shabba-Doo, of the original Lockers. This training included most of the dance theory that I teach the "Dance is a language" workshops.

  • Over 500 hours of training in Urban styles (Hip Hop, house, Dancehall, Popping etc.) in private settings and in groups.

Experience:

  • Zouko Israel (6 months), first generation of instructors.

  • SMDC in L.A (2 years), put entire education syllabus in writing and helped create a structure for the school.

  • SMDC Sacramento Co-Director (1 year), creating a scene from scratch, first step training, teacher training, performance team training and more.

  • Training instructors in Portland, and Houston

  • Over 4 years of constructing educational material, teaching methods, presentations and training soldiers and officers and civilians regularly on new software systems, procedures and more.

 
Training & Experience - Taylor

I’ve put more than 10,000 hours into dance training. 

  • 10 years of competitive ballroom dance, training under world renowned coaches Jose DeCamps & Joanna Zacharewicz, Steve Vasco, and Felipe & Carolina Telona

  • 2x US and World Cup Rhythm ballroom Champion as an amateur

  • Professional Rhythm Star Tour Finalist

  • Co-Director of the Stanford Salseros performance team

  • Co-Director of the Daniel & Desiree SF Bachata performance team (Co-directed the team through the launch and the first 2 years)

  • Director of “Moxie” ladies fusion performance team

  • Coach for Mambonova salsa performance teams in San José and dance partner of Hector Reyes

  • Dancer in Afinkao dance company based in Oakland

  • 12 years experience teaching partner dance

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Passionate for dance

Attends many classes

Feels no progress

Gets stressed

Forgets why they started dancing

Student discovers
dance

Happy Student

Sad Student

Student leaves dance/community

 
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