How to dance well

marthagraham¬†How to dance well: this is the dilemna I get questioned¬†with most when people find out I am a dancer. And I certainly understand why. It is because nobody wants to look foolish on the dance floor and in order to avoid looking foolish they figure they better learn how to dance well. I have a few answers for these seekers. The first is suggesting they look into classes such as variations of swing dance, hip hop, break dance, contemporary, ballet, ethnic dance forms, and partner dancing. From there, what I often get back is “Well can’t you just teach me a few moves?” From there I am led to my second suggestion and it is a little risky. The answer to their question is yes and no. Yes, I can teach them a few moves. There are moves that are specific to certain forms of dance like a piroutette is to ballet or a shuffle ball change is to tap. And then there are the moves that feel good for me, the moves that I personally like to do when I am at a club, a wedding, a party where there is dancing. These are very different. While I am trained to do big jumps and rolls and lifts, I would not whip these out when I am dancing socially (under normal circumstances). Yes, I can teach people these moves as well. But they won’t feel the same as moves they come up with on their own.

Gasp.

It may sound ridiculous for a dance instructor to say that they may not be able to teach someone a few dance moves. The truth is I can teach you lots of moves in the studio, make you sweat, make you count, push your technique, get you in time with the music, focus your mind and help you feel truly free. But when you get out into the club, when the flash mob choreography is over, when the first dance has had its last move and the crowd is going wild, all you have is your body and the music. Not bad inspirations for a few moves of your own. The truth is that training of any kind is good. I have had tons of it, and most professional dancers I know have had tons of it, there is no replacement for it. In fact I continue to train in different ways to improve on my skills and be a better dancer. However, there is a point where what really matters is the passion. For all dancers, not just professionals. It sounds cheesey but it is true. All the training gets you to the point where you can be in the moment and react to it. Whatever the reaction is will be unique to you and that moment and in an instant it will be gone.

The biggest tip I can give to anyone who wants to know how to dance well is to stop thinking about how to dance well. Take a class to get the experience of following music and doing set moves and then go out and do your thing. Most of all, have fun!