Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ten Epiphanies of Dancing

We've all had that moment: one new piece of information, or one slightly different phrasing, suddenly makes everything fall into place.  Understanding dawns and the world makes sense!

Epiphanies are awesome.

I especially love having epiphanies in dancing, because you can immediately put them into practice and feel the difference they make.  The right metaphor at the right time can open up your dancing like a cheat code in Donkey Kong.

The thing you have to remember is that as much as you feel like you suddenly understand everything, it is not the end of learning.  It is a leap of understanding, but not a conclusion.  And furthermore, while mentally "getting it" is important, the real key is putting it into practice.

Here are some of the most valuable epiphanies I've had about dancing.  This is a pretty personal post, so they might not work for everyone, and they might even be completely wrong - I'm still learning!  But maybe they'll help you too, or at least entertain you.

1. Stay Behind the Beat.

In jazz and blues music, the beat isn't a sharp, instantaneous thing - rather, it's a process, a "swoosh," like a heartbeat.  There's an early part, a middle, and a late part to each beat.  The best place to dance is slightly behind the beat, just a little bit late.  This can be challenging to put into practice, of course, since most of us have tried to be ON the beat our whole lives.

However, the minute I learned to dance behind the beat, I realized how much more relaxed and easy my dancing was.  I seemed to have so much more time to take every step, and my moves fit much more comfortably into the music.

Maybe not this relaxed, though.
2. "Don't Anticipate" Means "Stay Behind The Lead."  

Just like staying behind the beat, staying slightly behind the lead takes some practice to get the hang of, but it results immediately in clearer, easier following and a more relaxed dance.  It blew my mind how much difference this made!

3. Dance From Your Core.  

This is one of those little, valuable ideas that keeps on returning to be a new epiphany to me.  So far, I've learned to keep my abs and back muscles engaged, to think of stepping as moving my body instead of my feet, and to think of all of my movements and connections in relation to my center.  The more I learn about dancing from my core, the more control I have over my dance and the better it feels.

4. Flashy Dances Are Not Necessarily The Same As Fun Dances.

Most people start dancing because they want to learn those big flashy moves As Seen On TV.  But some of my happiest dances have been with people who barely know how to rock-step, and some of my most disappointing dances might have looked like Dancing With The Stars from the outside.  

The thing is, while big, impressive moves can be fun to accomplish, they aren't the be-all, end-all of dancing.  They don't necessarily feel as good as they look.  And a dance that consists of one person showing off flashy move after flashy move doesn't really give you much space for creativity, musicality, and back-and-forth between partners. 


Flashy dances have their place, of course… 

5. Most People Enjoy And Prefer Fun Dances, Regardless Of Skill.  

This is what I remind myself of when I'm super intimidated by the person on the other end of my arm.  They're probably not out to judge my skills - if they're anything like me, they just want to have fun and jam out to music.  Bringing an attitude and sense of humor to the dance is much more valuable than bringing really polished moves.

And thus the Fall Off The Banana Peel was invented!
6. A Mistake Played Off As A Move Is Usually An Awesome Move.  

This is true even if everyone knows it started out as a mistake!  Crazy, right?  It's one of my favorite parts of being a lindy hopper.

7. The Music Is Your Partner, Too.  

When my inspiration runs dry, it's usually because I've stopped listening to the music.  The music, after all, is where all the energy and meaning comes from.  What is it doing, and how can I respond to it?  If dancing is a conversation, what can I say about the music?

8. It's Okay To Say "No" To Any Dance (Politely).  

For the sake of my body's health and well-being, I am so glad to have realized this.  

9. A Refusal To Dance Does Not Mean "I Hate You Forever."  

It usually just means they need a drink of water and a rest.  I've found that taking it personally never really pays.

10. When You Feel Like You Suck Is When You're Learning.  

This little nugget has carried me through a great many dark times of awkwardness and frustration.  Feeling like you suck often happens when your ability to judge good dancing exceeds your ability to dance.  Basically, it's a result of seeing exactly how you could be better - and I've learned that you just have to keep on dancing toward it.

Level up!

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