We are thrilled to have Louis van Amstel from Dancing with the Stars with us to talk dance philosophy and give us some tips on how to be sexy.
Gabrielle Reilly: What’s your fundamental belief about people who are physically able, do you think everyone can dance? Or do you think that some people just can’t learn to dance no matter how many times they try?
Louis van Amstel: I have always, even before Dancing with the Stars, always been a believer that anyone can dance. And we have seen even here tonight that people in a wheelchair can dance without legs. We have a blind person that can’t see, but can still hear, can still feel and can move her body. So maybe you have to modify or modulate, so maybe someone can’t spin as fast or maybe the BPM is a little too fast, but anyone can dance.
And with my dance fitness program, LaBlast, I actually made it my experiment, but that experiment became a worldwide phenomenon. People who say that they are clumsy, clumsy, uncoordinated, these are self-proclaimed titles, people who are uncoordinated, it just doesn’t exist. People by nature have coordination, it’s just when the brain comes in and wants to control the whole situation, including the body, that’s when the problems arise, not because people can’t do it, they think they can’t do it.
If 10 people tell you, “You can’t”, you start believing it. And then you start believing it for so many years. And then oftentimes from a teaching point of view, I think it’s the lack of knowledge or the lack of patience from a teacher’s point of view that gives up on the students. And I won’t give up. If one way doesn’t work then I’ll go the other way. If that doesn’t work I’ll go another, because for me, if I can’t find a way that means that it’s my profession and my professional mentality is now in jeopardy.
And I’ve tested it out on Dance with the Stars, with multiple celebrities that could not dance, including Kelly Osborne. And the whole country could see her blossom from a clumsy, clumsy person into a beautiful young lady that believed in herself in the end, and now five years later still can deal with adversity without having to go to rehab, without having to go back to an addiction. And so it really is for anyone, anyone can dance. And it’s my mission to teach.
Gabrielle Reilly: In fact, from when I was as young as I remember my parents used to say that I was “hopeless” at dancing. And I heard that my whole life. Well, I never went to a single dance lesson, of course I don’t know what to do. I’ve only just started to dance in the last year or two, but most of the time while I’m dancing I’m thinking “God, I look so bad dancing, am I actually on the beat?” So I have such negative self-talk while I’m dancing which is why I’m so thrilled to hear your philosophies. So I can believe that I can dance ok one day. I think Kim Kardashian does the same thing that I do, where she’s just so in her head and says that she can’t dance. She is so into keeping fit. I think she should get your LaBlast DVD’s to do at home by herself so she can keep fit and perfect her dancing. What would you recommend for somebody like Kim? Is it just basically repetition to improve?
Louis van Amstel: It’s repetition but it starts with mentally changing your mind. And so change it from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’, where you can tell yourself I can. But if you don’t do something physically about that mental behavior then it won’t happen. So I always say, “Get out of your head, give up control.” But that’s not enough, you have to make people watch, watch me, listen. So oftentimes I say, “Triple step.” And I see people do two steps. And I say, “Stop, okay, triple is three, double is two, single is one.” Yeah. Well, if it’s that easy then keep it that easy, or left foot forward. And I see people going right foot forward. I said, “Guys, this is left, this is right.” And then you remind people a few times, just simple facts like that… left foot forward, right foot forward. Do what you hear. Do what you see. If you see me go forward with the left, do it. And then when they do, wow, I’m dancing now. It’s that simple. It really is not that hard. And I as a teacher tell people constantly the same thing. So that’s repetition, repetition of the same information, watch, listen. If you don’t look at me you can’t see what’s coming next. So keep watching, keep listening, follow the flow, move that body, because nobody’s going to learn it, just move your body, move that body. So those are little one liners that I keep repeating, because people hear, it blocks in the brain.
Gabrielle Reilly: How do you look sexy instead of trashy when you dance? Do more voluptuous women have to dance differently with that in mind?
Louis van Amstel: Well, I don’t think it has anything to do with size, shape or age. I think it has to do with the personality of the person itself, they do what they want. If you from the bottom of your soul say, “I don’t want to be sexy.” Well, I think there’s not one person on the planet that doesn’t want that. But if they truly don’t want that … everybody wants to, but then they try from the outside in. So they’re being told, “Go here”, or inner thigh and they will tell people what to do with their arms and then they’ll look like crap because you have to do it from within. You have to give people information that people can do it from within. And over time, certain people will start that process sooner than others, because they’re afraid, they’re embarrassed to feel stupid or to be judged. But we have erogenous zones in our bodies, the back of the neck is one, the cleavage is one, the armpit is one, inner thigh, outer thigh, and the base of my wrist, those are all erogenous zones on a person. If you’re aware of those areas, that’s when you go into the world of femininity, sensuality, sexuality.
So the deeper you get involved in those kind of body parts the more sexual you can make it. You can make the cleavage very sensual and to a point where it is really satisfying. And it’s kind of burlesque, a good burlesque or pole dancing, good pole dancing is very sensual. I wouldn’t even say it’s sexual. The raunchy people that, you know, they get the pole and grab it and they’re just, they’re writhing. But it’s the same with dance. If it’s done with integrity then anyone can. But I would say a woman that is more voluptuous versus a skinny bitch will do less arms, less of everything, they get more about the internal experience. You will feel the same, the outside world might see less visually but you feel it inside. The moment you start adding so much and you feel big personally then, well that can actually … I don’t know … not make you feel sexy, but the opposite.
Gabrielle Reilly: So maybe not extend out as far?
Louis van Amstel: No, you keep it to yourself. I always use the example, I’d rather have a big momma that is being sensual internally than someone just trying to do this or that to be sexy. I’d rather see that because I know where she is. She’s in a good place. She’s in her own place. She’s not in the outside world, she’s in the inside world. And I start wondering when I see those kinds of people of any shape or size or ethnicity, I’m like, I want to be where they are. And that’s what I want with my program, go inside, don’t go outside, go inside.
Gabrielle Reilly: So tell us about your LaBlast program.
Louis van Amstel: So, LaBlast is based on all the dancers you see on Dancing with the Stars. So it’s kind of based on ballroom dancing. But we have so much more than just ballroom dancing, it’s completely partner free. And we use all music under the rainbow, from any artist, any genre, because again we have so many kind of people, different countries, different states, even like different music. I won’t have to play country in New York City, but to the Midwest, I mean great, I love country. But some people love it, some people hate it, some people love musicals, some people don’t. So we play everything.
Then I wanted to create a journey like we do with the celebrities on the show. So there’s multiple levels, we start at level one, we start at the beginning and then some people say, “I like it where I am.” Other people, they learn a little quicker or they say, “I want more.” So they go to the next level and that is so much fun to see, that people are becoming dancers that never would have said, “I’m going to dance class or dance fitness but I’m actually becoming a dancer.” And that is the big success of LaBlast. And that’s why it it can actually live next to Zumba which is a billion dollar company. But LaBlast is finding its way because people learn how to dance.
Gabrielle Reilly: I’m really excited. I tried your five LaBlast DVDs and really love them. I really like the idea of the weights in it as well. I’ve been looking for a fun, safe way to do weights so it’s good that it’s put safely in a dance sequence with the music.
Louis van Amstel: It’s very logical. We do rumba, merengue and Viennese waltz with weights. Yes, it’s all very coordinated, every move is accounted for. Whatever we do, whatever body part, because again it has to be a full workout otherwise I can’t sell it as such, everyone will just say, “You’ve got to burn calories.” Great, but what about muscle endurance, what about muscle strength, what about really being able to target certain body parts to really improve the condition of that area?
So we have 750 instructors around the world. And what I’m very excited about too is that the retention rate of the trainings are now going to 50/60% which apparently there’s about 10/15% retention rate of people that do the training, but they’re not actually going to start teaching. And we’re now at 50/60% which I’m very excited about.
Gabrielle Reilly: Yes, I hope they start to do it here at Amore Dance. I just love the Zumba classes they do here, but adding a LaBlast option for variety would be great too.
Louis van Amstel: So it’s exciting because it’s completely different, even the mentality of choreography is different and the music is different… I mean I use Latin music, but when we use Latin music it’s authentic Latin music, not just that pop Latin music. And it’s really … it’s the real music, the original artists. So it’s under the umbrella of the studio.
Gabrielle Reilly: Well thanks very much Louis, I learnt a great deal dancing with you tonight… not only about dance but also about empowering myself.
For all you Kansas City dance fans, Amore Dance is located at 11800 Quivira Rd, Overland Park.