After a really great session at Smokestack last night, I wanted to follow up with some of the material we covered. The key to improving your dancing and taking it to the next level is awareness. It's also the most difficult thing to develop.
In a relatively short space of time you'll be whizzing around the dance floor throwing out shapes left, right and centre. But to become a truly proficient dancer, there are three things you need to be aware of.
- Awareness of Yourself
- Awareness of Your Partner
- Awareness of The Space
AWARENESS OF YOURSELF
This is an awareness of what you are doing with your body, as either a lead or a follow.
As a lead it means asking questions like: What are the parts of my body doing? Arms, feet, etc. Am I dancing in time? Where am I looking? How strong is my lead?
For follows: Do I have the correct tension? Have I 'given' my arms to my lead? Am I keeping my elbows in front of my rib cage? And this is an important one - am I trying to anticipate the moves, or reacting to the lead that I feel? Try not to guess, don't finish the leads sentences for them!
The important thing about awareness, is not cracking these items overnight - but being consciously aware of these things, and making an effort to think about them. Once you are consciously aware, the rest will follow!
I’m far from happy with my own awareness, and constantly trying to improve it.
AWARENESS OF YOUR PARTNER
Awareness of your partner is even more difficult to achieve. This is about noticing the subtle differences between each partner, and adjusting to their way of dancing. Everyone should try to meet halfway with their partner, because every dancer is different.
For leads it's particularly important to work out how you partner likes to dance, how they respond to turns and moves - and refraining from leading moves that your partner is obviously not comfortable with. Some follows like musicality and body movement, not spins and crazy hand flicks. Some partners don't like to dance on their own, some absolutely love it!
Follows, you need to adjust to each person's style of leading. This is particularly important when you're dancing with someone with a different style to you, like you'll find at the upcoming Calle Ocho. Also, you need to trust your partner so they can keep you safe - if they betray that trust, politely decline from dancing with them in the future. But if you are going to dance with a person, try and let go so that he can prevent the crashes!
AWARENESS OF THE SPACE
This one Nicky covered quite nicely last week, about how to stay safe in the space. This one really comes down to the lead, as you are signalling the moves and in control to some extent.
So leads, remember to mark out your space on a busy dancefloor - or any dance floor for that matter. Don't launch into crazy moves right away. Use a mambo and a few cross bodies to assess the dance floor and choose your space. This will help your partner to understand the line you are dancing on.
Then try out fundamental moves to see how your partner responds to your lead and how they like to dance. Try a static turn, try a cross body turn and try an open break. Once you've run through these moves you'll have a much better idea of the space you and your partner require, and how other dancers are moving. This one is particularly important when you have Cuban dancers nearby, they'll be using the space in a completely different way!
The key to all this can be summarised with one word - listening. And I don't mean with just your ears! Listen to your partner, listen to your own body, and listen to what is happening on the floor. Most of all, listen in classes to your teachers - they have experience that you don't and are aware of things that you are not.
Now I mean listen in the metaphorical sense - open yourself up to what is happening around you - be aware of yourself, your partner and the space!