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5 Tips to Become the Ultimate All-Round Dancer

by | Nov 20, 2018 | Dance

“Steffie, we will teach you a choreography in 30 minutes. After that, you will be called to perform for a judge. If we choose you, you will be part of our project”. If I wasn’t already, the guy made sure I got nervous. He told me the choreography is going to be a hip-hop style. I freaked out! I didn’t have any experience in hip-hop, for I’m a latin dancer. It was that moment I knew I need to start improving my dance skills to become an all-round dancer.

Why I didn’t get in…

If you are a dancer, you might have heard this quite some time: I’m sorry, you are just not versatile enough” or “we look for someone that has a little bit more of her/his own style.” During the audition for this company, I almost immediately knew, I’m not what they are looking for at all. I was struggling with the Hip Hop; I looked like a lost puppy that wanted to be a big bulldog. Faking it until you make it only goes so far. I tried hard, but it was just not my time. I didn’t make the next round, which was improvisation, which might have been even worse, so I was happy to go home.

Even though it made me feel (softly put) ‘not great’ for a few days, I knew what I had to do: don’t quit. Get out there and see if you can master more styles.

Chopsticks are also difficult

See learning all dance styles like eating with chopsticks for the first time. You know it’s possible, you just need some practice. Okay, not some practice, a lot of practice. I said to myself; you are going to find ways to improve your dancing skills so you can dance on every song, on every rhythm and every location.

And guess what: I’ve figured out a way, and after a while, I was no longer only a dancer but became a choreographer of that same company. It was just a short period because I moved to Amsterdam, but hey, I did it! Now I want you to know how to get out there and chase your dreams!

So come out of your cave walking on your hands and see the world hanging upside down.

Photograph from Unsplash edited by GDT

The 5 steps to a bigger dance ‘vocabulary’.

While dancing all around the world, I found out that dancing is all about to inspire and get inspired. I didn’t have a lot of money, so I couldn’t always take classes. Here are 5 tips to get all-round with or without money. Let’s get you prepped up and motivated to start becoming an all-round dancer so you will no longer be able to be pigeonholed!

“You’re always surrounded by a dance floor, all you have to do is dance!”

Step 1 – Try some silly walks and feel like a mountain

We all do it, sit on a terrace and look at people passing by, it’s like watching animals in a zoo. It’s just entertainment. I do it differently nowadays. I look at how people move, how they look at their watch, how they talk to each other and how they carry their bags. It might be boring for others, but for me, it’s just a matter of perspective.

Imagine someone talking to his phone and looking all serious, he looks at his watch and starts speeding up a bit until his bag falls on the ground and all his essential stuff falls out of the bag. Let’s look at these three movements:

– Looking at watch
– Rushing
– Falling bag

If you are a contemporary dancer, what can you make out of these three movements? When you dance hip-hop, how would you translate this into a choreography? If you look at the world as one big improvisation show, you will find things that inspire you; it will make you move differently. If a company asks you to do improvisation, you now have some tools to make it work.

Not only people can inspire you, but also nature is a powerful source. Look at this video. The choreographer was inspired by mountains.

Step 2 – Who said actual music is necessary to dance, never heard a fridge before

After you have read this step, please close your eyes.

So, Imagine you don’t own an MP3 player, your phone does not have capabilities to play music, radio stations don’t exist. So basically, there is nothing that moment that can entertain you in any way. When you close your eyes in a few minutes, try to find a rhythm in sounds around you; a bird, a fridge that’s continuously zooming, something that you haven’t noticed before.

Now go stand up, and move every body part separately. So start with your hand and see what movements it can make, how far can you go, how many fingers can move without moving the other one. Discover the capabilities of your body.

Why would you do this?
Well, because a dancer who knows his abilities knows his limits. He will also know that when a choreographer wants him/her to do something new, that his body can do it if you lose the fear and start training to do what the choreographer wants!

Okay go, close your eyes.
Please let me know how you experienced this.

Step 3 – Act like an actor

Storytelling is part of a dance. If your face is not part of the dance, it’s not a dance, it’s a move. Your message will not be understood by an audience or a viewer. Dance with your heart and dance with your face, those are the two main ingredients to make your audience relate to the story you are trying to tell. So take acting classes, pretend to be someone else for a day, do acting exercises in front of the bathroom mirror.

There are so many acting clubs out there, just google the nearest to you and see if you feel comfortable in the club. It will definitely make it easier for you to understand and really feel certain emotions.

Step 4 – The obvious one

This one is easy to guess; take dance classes for dance styles that feel like the complete opposite of what you are doing right now.

I, for example, did street dance, zouk, bachata, kizomba, contemporary, salsa and ballet (much more to come) and why? To improve the style that I want to master: Flamenco. Flamenco is all about power and storytelling.

So if you are a breakdancer, go and do some contemporary classes or even ballet. If you are a ballerina, go for a partner dance such as tango to improve your partnering skills.

Ready to learn from the best dance teachers? Check our teachers to see who can help you become an all-round dancer.

Step 5 – Look at yourself, again and again, and again

Last but not least!

Even though it might feel silly the first time, it’s so good to film yourself while you are dancing. Make a little planning. For example: Choose a song and try to dance on it every month, dance freely and let all the things you learn in classes (improvisation and in acting) help to make a choreography. Look at all the footage after six months and see if your style changed.

These five steps are just the beginning. It definitely improved my dancing, I am no professional, but I do feel that all the different classes made my dancing more all-round.

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