Commandment #2: Dance Beyond Thy Self
Dancers use the term “plateau” to describe a point of stagnation. If you want out of this rut, you’ll need to push your limits, and here’s how:
1. Dance with better dancers
For women, an advanced lead will push you beyond your comfort zone; hopefully enough to challenge you and hone your skills. They’ll also show you what a correct lead feels like. If you only dance with beginners or your partner, how would you know? Don’t be shy to ask advanced leads to dance; it’s considered a compliment. However, limit your requests to two per night per dancer; otherwise, you may come across as selfish and sadistic. If they want to dance more, they’ll ask.
For guys, a good follow will show you when you’re leading well. If you turn a beginner and she slips, it may be her fault. If an experienced dancer is flailing around, it’s probably your fault. Tweak your lead until she looks and feels relaxed and happy. Don’t stop dancing with beginners. They’ll show you where your lead is failing; any hesitation or lack of direction will throw a beginner off more so than an advanced follower. But don’t push beginners too far beyond their comfort zone, too far being a fall to the ground or shreaks of terror.
This brings me to my second point:
2. Don’t think about yourself, Selfish.
Too many guys are oblivious to their partners’ needs because they’re too busy planning their next move or making themselves look cool. Guys, don’t let this be you. Be aware of your follower by tuning into cues from her body, face and gestures. Look for visual cues such as surprise, pain or relaxation. When you’re in open position, look at her face every so often (less than 3 seconds or she’ll find you creepy.) In closed position, you’ll be able to feel cues, such as tension or relaxation. If she’s tense, go back to the basics. If she’s still tense, or worse yet, applying pressure away from you, dance in open position. She either finds you creepy or you have bad breath.
For the ladies, being Selfish is getting absorbed into your styling and expression without any regard or consideration to your partner. It’s fine to throw in a style or shine when the opportunity arises; however, your top priority should be your ability to follow, so be prepared to abandon a style or shine when the lead reaches for your hand.
My final suggestion is,
3. Be Creative
Dancing shouldn’t be a set of memorized moves; rather, great dancing is a combination of spontaneous responses to both your partner and the music. I can achieve this zone of creativity at most twenty percent of the time during a given dance. During the rest of the dance, I use familiar moves and movements (being creative is exhausting.) If you are having difficulty getting into a state of spontaneity, I recommend doing your most familiar moves in slightly unique ways. You’d be surprised at how many ways a simple cross body lead can be executed, and it will get your creative juices flowing.
Creativity also comes from being aware of your partner. Often, they will do something you were not expecting. If you are tuned in and act on it, the results can appear organic, beautiful, and unique.
If you follow these instructions, you’ll be one commandment closer to becoming a better dancer. Until my next post, keep dancing!