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Sticking Points: Improving Your Expressive Dance Skills

Often considered the pinnacle of dance skill, is that elusive ability to express what we hear with different parts of our body – I’m talking about styling. Another aspect of expressive dancing is musicality. These two sure look great combined, but how does a beginner get started improving their expressive dance skills?

Whoa, let me stop myself right there – truth is, expressive dance skills are a bit beyond the “beginner” level. Make sure you’ve at least a social-level familiarity with the “Big Three”: Footwork, timing, and connection, before getting into expressive dancing. Jumping in too early is one of the most common problems dancers face.

Now let’s look at how to get you unstuck on your expressive dance skills:

  1. Focus on one skill at a time. Trying to have great musicality and body styling all at once without prior experience will just teach you bad habits. Don’t let your impatience slow you down.
  2. Listen to music. And listen for the patterns – when do new instruments come in? When does the energy or mood of the song change? How do you feel when you listen to one piece, versus another?
  3. “Act” your dancing. How would you dance if you were tired? Excited? Happy? Depressed? Angry? Every emotion, real or fake, will give you a completely different expressive dance.
  4. Style from your centre of gravity. Hip styling shouldn’t pull your hips away from your spine. Pull up through your core instead, using your abs and lower back. Yes, your hips won’t be able to move as far. But it will look a LOT more natural, trust me.
  5. Style from your centre of elevation. Practice breathing in an instant before you send your arm out. Let the expansion of your chest flow out into your arm movements, like ripples in a pond.
  6. Film yourself. I know it’s embarrassing at first, but you DO want to know what you look like right? Be honest with how you look, and make notes of what you want to keep, and what you want to change.

Expressive dance skills can feel elusive, but that’s usually because we don’t know the right way to go about it. Let the above tips be your Google roadmap, where you can expand on each marker for more information. Good luck!

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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