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Best Gadgets for Dancers

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Are you a dance teacher who is tired of having to skip back and forth to press ‘Play’ or ‘Pause’? Or tired of fiddling about, trying to find the right bit in the music just before the chorus?

Are you a dance student who wishes their teacher could magically change tracks or replay that segment to practice that combo to with barely a pause in their patter? Who looks slick, professional and ‘en point’ with their dance music?

Look no further – this is my rundown of must-have gadgets for dance teachers and students!

Smartphone

A generic smartphone on a white background
A very clever phone

It almost goes without saying that a smartphone is a must-have piece of kit for a dancer or dance teacher – because it’s a must-have piece of kit for anyone! With access to seemingly unlimited volumes of music thanks to streaming services, you need never be without the right music again. A streaming service means you don’t buy a copy of the music. Instead, you pay a subscription that allows you to listen to the music wherever and whenever you like. Spotify and Amazon Music are examples of these service providers. With a smartphone you can:

  • Create playlists for warm up and warm downs, performance set lists and choreographies.
  • Video yourself or your students as a learning aid or save your dances for posterity/post-session brain forgetfulness.
  • Use social media you can keep in touch with your dance community, find local dance events to attend or share costuming tips.
  • Take that all-important pre-performance selfie for your fans or post-performance-elation photo with your crew/troupe/moon-sisters.

I say almost as I nearly failed to include a smartphone in this list of gadgets for dancers for the simple reason that smartphones are already such an integrated part of our lives that we take them for granted. Most of us have them, some of us even make phone calls on them.

However, if you don’t have a smartphone and are still lugging a CD player around, should you switch mobile phones and enter into a potentially lengthy and expensive contract just to gain these benefits? Or buy a smartphone handset outright for hundreds (and hundreds) of pounds and go sim-only just because you read it here? Please don’t. But next time you are due an upgrade it might be worth exploring your options.

My opinion: Whether its iPhone, Android or Windows (but why would you?) a smartphone is a dancer’s best friend and must-have dance tech.

Bluetooth Speakers

Now you have all your music a finger-tapping finger tap away on your smartphone, listening via your device’s in-built speakers is unlikely to cut the mustard or rug when it comes to enjoying those tunes. A Bluetooth speaker is a great investment.

A small speaker against a cork background
Bluetooth speakers can be small and very portable.

My speaker is like Hermia, small but fierce (though don’t let her know I said that), and very affordable too. The EasyAcc portable speaker is powerful enough for a dance class in a studio (and enough for background music for a kid’s party in a village hall) but not suitable as a substitute for a sound system at an event. These speakers will work with any Bluetooth enabled device so have many applications.

My opinion: this is a useful piece of kit for dance teachers, for kid’s parties, impromptu discos, whilst camping or at festivals or for watching movies on a tablet.

Bluetooth Headphones

White headphones lay coiled up on a surface
Earphones no longer tether us to our playback devices

If your practice sessions are in a shared space, you may need the music to be for your ears only. Good news for your sleeping kids or grumpy neighbours. Bluetooth technology means we are no longer tethered by headphone leads that would otherwise inhibit dancing.

As dancers, we benefit from the huge appetite for fitness gadgets so the choice for Bluetooth headphones is huge, even in the under £20 price range. The wireless earbud style are best for staying putting whilst dancing such as these TaoTronics Bluetooth 4.2 Headphones on Amazon. You can also buys sets that have different styles of ear hooks and ear buds to tailor the headphones to fit your ears like these SoundPEATS Q12 Running Earphones.

Other features to look for in earphones are:

  • Sweat-proof.
  • Includes a case (wireless earphones can be small and easily misplaced).
  • True-wireless which means no wire linking the left and right earbuds.
  • ‘Earhooks’ or wings which offer additional security in the ear over the standalone earbud types.

My opinion: If they’re good enough for runners, they’re good enough for us.

Apps

Apps is another reason why the smartphone is such a useful piece of kit. The wealth of  additional functionality you get by downloading a new app. You can add an app to teach you to dance Bhangra-style. Or a compendium of Fat Chance Belly Dance moves, each linking to a YouTube video demo. Here are a couple of generic apps that are really useful regardless of your dance genre:

Shazam

A very popular app among music lovers. It will identify any music playing around you and give you the artists and title. So if you hear a song in a pub or at a party that inspires you to dance you can ‘Shazam it’. Even if it’s playing on a TV advert –  the app will listen for a few seconds and then show you who you’re listening to. Shazam will also keep a record of songs you’ve requested and show you which music services they are available on.

Tempo SlowMo

Tempo SlowMo App icon
The greatest dance app ever.

This is probably the single greatest find I made on the app store when I was first learning to dance. Tempo SlowMo does two major things:

  1. You can adjust the tempo of a song;
  2. You can add markers to different points in a song.

My first belly dance solo was a drum solo to a tabla track that was just too fast for me. I imported the track from my iTunes library into the Tempo SlowMo app. Then, I reduced the speed to 85% of its original speed, making it possible for me to dance to. The app also allows you to export the track with its modified tempo. Incidentally, I revisited the same reduced-speed piece of music for a drum solo duet a few years later and found it too slow. What a nice progress marker?

Tempo SlowMo will also allow you to mark specific positions in the song. There are a couple of other apps available that do a similar thing such as SongMark. You can use these markers to shorten the track or create a loop in the music. Or, as I use for every choreography I have ever created, jump quickly and easily to different segments of the song in order to practice, practice, practice! Its great for making the choreos in the first place and practising the new dance. Also useful for focusing on that tricky bit in the middle which isn’t quiet fitting right yet.

Plus it’s also great for then teaching the dance to other people. There’s none of that rewinding, listening and trying to guess if you’ve got the right bit like you would have to on a CD – or even just playing the song direct from your music app.

And it’s free.

My opinion: if you only download one new app this year, download Tempo SlowMo.

Activity Trackers

Generic white wrist activity tracker on white background
It doesn’t work unless you’re wearing it

Activity trackers have been around a couple of years and have grown far beyond the stagnant pedometers we used to wear on our belts. Whilst they are not an aid for dancers per se they give novel information at the end of a dance class: comparing step count and calories burned with your classmate. If you’re trying improve your lifestyle or manage your weight, wearing an activity tracker can provide you with useful information about your activity levels. I belly dance and swing dance and the contrast between these two styles is significant. Swing dance always wins on step count, max heart rate and calories burned. So perhaps this tells me that belly dance alone is insufficient for my fitness (or maybe I’m just not doing it right)?

If you’re learning a new choreography or learning new moves, you might find that features like auto-recognising exercise aren’t activated. Instead you will need to tell the tracker you are starting your activity. This is usually done by depressing a button for a moment or two.

My opinion: an activity tracker will not make you fitter, healthier or a better dancer. But they can provide you with information to help make effective lifestyle changes.

So get with the technology revolution and leave behind CD players and cables. Technology makes it easier to just get up and dance!

 

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