Commandment #4: Better Dancing Through Awareness
The best advice I can give to an aspiring dancer, besides taking classes and dancing, is to become mindful. I see too many “experienced” dancers leading or following poorly because they are dancing blindly, unaware of their flaws, their surrounding, their everything. They dance at the same low level for years, barely making progress. It’s a common sight, really. The remedy is to sharpen your awareness of yourself, your partner, and your environment. It’s so easy, I’m surprised more don’t do it. Here are a few tips to get you tuned in:
Consider your emotional state. Are you nervous? If so, you could be tensing your shoulder or gripping your partner too firmly. Try relaxing your breath and clearing your mind for a few seconds; you should notice a quick release of tension.
Consider your mental state. Did you have a stressful day? Is your mind all jumbled up and you can’t decide what to lead next? This will lead to frustration, which prevents creativity. Clear your mind and focus on your connection with your partner. If you keep your moves simple and let your mind relax, you should notice your creative expression flowing more naturally.
Consider your physical state. Ideally, you want a relaxed, gentle and constant connection with your partner. Are your arms tense? Are your hands gripping? Are your shoulders raised or hunched over? Physical tension is often correlated to your mental and emotional state, and vice versa. Consider what makes you tense. If you can let go of these emotional and mental build-ups, you should see what translates into a relaxed and confident body.
To strengthen body and mind awareness, I recommend taking Karate, Tai Chi, Ballet or Yoga classes. Some of the best dancers I know practice them. I prefer Yoga and Tai Chi, because emphasis is placed on the breath, which helps me focus on my mind and body. All of these classes will increase core strength and balance, which is also crucial for good dancing. You may even find yourself using some of your “non-dance moves” on the dance floor.
Meditation is another way to strengthen awareness. It requires sitting silently and passively observing the breath, physical stimulus, thoughts, feelings and emotions without becoming absorbed or invested in them. Meditating can give you a more clear picture of what’s going on around you and within you as you dance.
Once you are fully aware of your self, expand your awareness to your partners. They will give you visible cues, which I discussed in Commandment #2. Finally, be aware of your environment. Always know where your and your partners positions are with respect to others. This will minimize accidents, and your partner will feel safe dancing with you. Finally, be aware of the music. I always say that the music is “The Leader.” Your dancing should be a visual representation of what you are listening to. For example, if it’s soft, gentle and slow, dance that way.