So, it’s the new year and you want to dance better. Here are some tips you can apply straight away that will help you achieve your goal by focusing on your daily efforts.
One of the best ways to start your day, or your dance lesson, is with a stretch! Stretching is good for reducing muscle tension, making you more flexible, and increasing your range of motion. It will also reduce the risk of injuries like pulled muscles. It doesn’t need to be intense, do it around 15-30 minutes daily and your flexibility will improve over time. You’d be surprised on how it can help you master moves you didn’t realise you could before.
2. Practise Muscle Memory
‘Muscle Memory’ is a motor skill acquired by repetition. You can practise muscle memory in two ways: (1) Practise a technique or skill and (2) Practise a choreography. For example, if you want to practise body isolation, have some time during the day to do some drills. You can do this even during your lunch break or when you’re at the gym. And if you want to practise choreography, then keep drilling the routine you’re struggling with. Repetition will help your body remember the choreography, so that with enough practice, you will be able to execute it automatically.
3. Review Old Pieces
Don’t stop practising when the class ends! Review pieces you’ve learned to keep them fresh in your mind. If you feel like you are starting to forget a piece, especially the ones done in a team like for Rueda for example, then take the time to relearn it. This conditions your mind to consistently think about body placement. How about the piece you learned many moons ago? Do you ever see anyone who could recall any pattern flawlessly months or years after they first learned it? Be like them. The more you revisit the move, the more it is embedded in your mind.
4. Make Technique a Priority
Remember, it is not what you do, it is how you do it. Even basic steps can look amazing if done well. Work on your standing leg, your posture, frame and other technique elements. Ask your instructor for advice, practise on how you can execute a pattern better. For example, sometimes it comes down to subtle things like little adjustments to hand or body positioning to enable you to execute a pattern more efficiently.
5. Practise and Develop Musicality
Musicality is a dancer’s ability to interpret musical elements into a (what can be a spontaneous) choreography in a dance. This involves listening to the song intently several times, in order to understand: the different elements of the song, how each instruments sound, and how you perceive the music and can translate it into moves. Remember that different dancers can interpret the same song differently. Do this active listening exercise often and with many songs, so that next time you hear the same song on the dance floor, you’d know what to do.
6. Watch Dance Videos
Granted, watching is not the same as doing, but it can be just as valuable a practice. That is, if you watch the video with the intent to learn from it, not just be wowed by it. As you watch the piece, think about the connections between the movements, how the dancers interpreted certain sounds, the performance, the execution, etc.
7. Go Out Dancing More
You need to go out dancing on regular basis. You need REAL WORLD experience. Learning to dance isn’t much different from learning a language or learning to drive, for example. At some point, you’ll need to go out there, practise what you’ve learned in class, and actually DANCE! The more experienced you are, the better of a dancer you’ll become as you will learn all the nuances along the way and be able to respond better to different experiences.
Hope you’ll find these tips useful and happy dancing into 2019!