Knowing dance moves is great. Knowing how to lead or follow is great, too.
But, can you do BOTH and take it to the next level? When it comes to executing dance moves and being a fluid dancer at the same time, well, that is a whole different story altogether.
Today I have something that will help you develop the elusive skill of fluidity. This is the most complete guide to developing fluidity when dancing.
So, keep reading if you want to know:
– What is fluidity?
– How to find your natural flow in dancing
– Understand that dance moves ARE NOT ALL about patterns
– Love your transitional motion in your dance steps
– How music determines your motion
During all my time dancing in the club or at social events, there is a curiosity that has been circulating among my intermediate and advanced dancers. They’ve observed awesome dance moves and, of course, great dancers on the floor, and have asked themselves, “What do they have that I don’t?”
The answer is fluidity. Having a great repertoire of dance moves is not everything, but rest assured that this mysterious skill can be mastered.
This has resonated with me because simplicity is a key element of fluidity.
Both the traditional dancer and the modern dancer know a bundle of sequences or dance steps with pre-fixed rules, and they share some in common. Understating whether you follow a traditional or modern style creates a false idea of yourself as a dancer.
But, once you have mastered your dance moves you can gain the freedom to be a fluid dancer.
Let’s dive right in.
Fluidity, What is fluidity?
So, what is it? Fluidity is having the capability of flowing freely like water, to change easily from one state to another effortlessly.
And, what is fluidity in dancing?
Fluidity in dancing is having the ability to show a smooth transition between dance moves, no matter the style of dancing.
Now that you got a quick peek under the hood of fluidity, it is time to take the steps needed to become a fluid dancer
How to find your natural flow in dancing
Let me ask you a simple question: Do you ever listen to your favorite Salsa song and feel like you could plan out an entire choreography, imagining what step you would use to match the rhythm of the song?
Well, I have, and I am pretty sure you have done it, too. I would like to believe it’s human nature to create new things and experiences.
As someone who is just starting to dive into this crazy world of fluidity, transitions, and routines, flow can be a nerve-wracking word.
• What is flow in dancing?
Flow (aka fluidity) in dance is how smoothly you transition from one movement to another throughout your dance moves. Are you starting to see the theme here?
Becoming a better dancer doesn’t start or end with dance moves. Dance moves are simply an extension of your body and how it moves.
This is the part that makes us feel free when we start dancing together and working between steps.
In order for you to get the best chance of success at flow (aka fluidity), you need to do the following:
1. Know your dance steps, routines, patterns.
2. Repeat your routine, or any of the above, at least 6-8 times
3. After practicing 6 or 8 times, pay attention to the transition. Your transitions will start looking cleaner.
4. Start building muscle memory for your dance moves. Practicing will give you an opportunity to create momentum, and you will begin to smooth out parts of the step. Soon you’ll be able to do it without thinking about the routine…
Practice cannot be replaced, but that alone doesn’t solve the underlying problem of flow (aka fluidity).
Even a well-practiced routine can look crappy, and if you miss a trick or skip a part, it can throw your entire performance off. As soon as you venture outside of a well-practiced choreography, flow becomes even more critical.
Dance Moves it not all about patterns
Becoming a better dancer can be an easy process for some people. This also means that, if you are not, you can work on your fluidity and become a better dancer, too.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to just about anything, but especially when dancing. While you can learn all the necessary skills in the studio, practicing outside of the classroom is what will really help your dancing excel. Don’t you agree?
Scheduling practice time, doing lots of repetition, and making goals are really important to be a great dancer, but that doesn’t mean you are a fluid dancer by default.
Allow me to help you understand what it needs to be.
• Dance is not all routines, patterns, dance steps, and dance moves.
Simply put, the ability to be fluid with your dance steps or dance moves is a matter of mindset. You read it right…Mindset!
It is about setting your mind to focus on the right part of your dancing, which is your body. By that, I mean your body motion and movements, not the steps themselves.
Learn the ability to adapt, or change, but don’t fight against what is happening in the moment.
Use body motion to enhance the momentum given by the step. Use your body position to give presence and attitude to any dance step, at any moment. This approach comes from understanding the mechanics of the step, practicing, AND being aware of what your body is doing in relation to the non-mechanical part of any dance steps.
For example, how to stand when you lead a right turn, or how you frame a booty roll on the second half of the basic as a follower are non-mechanical areas of the dance.
• Relax. Get into your zone.
Then, when you are dancing to that routine and you want it to flow better, think about what is the next move or part of the routine, then rely on your body’s natural flow to get you there.
The routines, or dance moves, don’t have personality. Your persona as a dancer, and the flow and energy you create in the moment, will give the right personality to the steps once you start feeling more comfortable with your body’s movements.
Try this example:
Close your eyes. Put on some music that makes you feel badass or inspired and, when it feels right, start moving and don’t stop moving. You don’t have to do any impressive dance moves here. Your goal is to learn how you like to move.
If you are serious enough, or brave enough, record yourself and do it all with your eyes closed.
This is an exercise, a chance to challenge yourself, and a way to get more familiar with how your body moves.
It will take you some time to get used to this idea, but I guarantee you will start to see progress once you are comfortable with your body movements.
Dance Steps... Love your transitional motion
The heart of fluidity is to LOVE your transitional motion.
When I’m teaching, I encourage my students to think about dancing more playfully. Once you know the dance steps and are comfortable doing them, I introduce the concept of transitional motion.
The space between two dance steps is where transitional motion takes place. This can change each time you do two or more dance moves.
First, by being playful, you allow yourself to move with the timing, momentum, and energy of the music, giving you freedom of fluid creativity. This can be expressed as simply shifting your weight a little more in one direction than is needed, or by not shifting at all.
You need to be able to sense where you are with any two dance steps and when to get yourself back to where you want to be.
• So, what is transitional motion?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the definition as follows:
“Motion in which all points of a moving body move uniformly in the same line or direction.”
For me, the transitional motion concept is exploring how to transition from one step to the next, always working out what the transition should be for yourself.
Transitional motion is subtle and can be one of the most difficult things to master in your dance training. As long as you keep your mind set in a playful mode, you will be able to overcome this challenge between dance moves.
Dancing requires you to develop the ability to think on your feet (your mental agility) and, especially for the lead, to think about how to put dance steps together way before you are planning to execute them on the dance floor.
Leads, remember the simple concept: you lead and she follows.
The momentum you are creating and the transition you are putting out there are in direct connection to how fluid she’s going to be.
• Master your balance.
I define balance as the state of the body to maintain equilibrium or complete stillness, avoiding the need to fall over. Ok, I am not a human dictionary, but I believe you get the gest.
Now, when I am referring to balance in dancing, staying balanced isn’t a matter of staying rigidly in one spot. Balance is found by continually shifting the body by making subtle adjustments as you dance in general or when executing dance moves.
Dancing requires these quick changes by means of positioning of the body (feet, knees, hips or arms).
This may sound surprising to you, but your balance affects your flow. By improving your balance, your body will get more familiar with moving in new ways ALL THE TIME.
Here are the 3 main components to be aware of:
1. Body awareness
To be a fluid dancer, you need to develop a good sense of awareness. Having that, you will be able to repeat any two dance moves easily at any given time. This will help you identify the right transition between the steps.
Example: Did I bend my knee when I led the turn? Did I keep my fingers together or spread apart as I moved to the check?
2. Know your path of movement.
To be a cleaner dancer, it’s critical that you think about what you want to do next.
Can you picture or visualize the following sequence without moving a muscle?
Left turn + Cross Body Lead + Touch N Go + Back Pass
To my students I refer to this as ‘seeing the future before it happens’..
Or another way to illustrate this is by going to Google Maps. It’ll show you different ways of getting from point A to point B. If you select one of the suggestions, it will spell out turn by turn where you are going and allow you to see the path to follow without getting in the car. Yes?
3. Control your speed.
Mastering timing will help you master fluidity like crazy. Being able to dance slowly when the music is fast or to dance fast when it is slow is a powerful quality to have.
Exercise: Pick a nice song and dance through it a couple of times slowly but giving greater emphasis on your 1-5 or 2-6 counts, so you can get an idea and understand how it feels in your body, your motion, and your transitions.
Now, it is up to you to exchange normal dancing with slow but with a strong accent on your leading counts.
How music determine your motion
When you hear your favorite music, how does it make you feel? Does it bring back fond memories and take you — even momentarily — to another time and place? Or maybe it gets your blood pumping and makes you want to get up and start dancing.
Few other experiences in life have the wide array of effects on us that music has. Whether you want to de-stress, get motivated, forget your troubles, or focus on a project, the right music can help you get there. Don’t you think so?
• Let the music move your body.
Another thing to consider in developing fluidity, is understanding the music. Listening to the music will give hints of upcoming changes of rhythm. This change of rhythm, once you understand it, will help you enhance your body motion in relation to the dance steps you’re executing.
Depending on how the music makes you feel in that particular moment, you may feel empowered as the song becomes full of sound. As Cheyenne said, in the movie Dance With Me with Vanessa Williams, “The music tells you what to do.”
There are three important qualities about letting the music move your body.
Response (Rhythm Response)
Music and tempo are pretty easy to understand, but what is rhythm response?
Well, rhythm response is, more or less, how much a song makes you want to dance or express your physical self with body motion.
Most people have an instinct or natural way to express body motion with music. Have you ever nodded your head, tapped your toes, or broke out in dance? If yes, that is what I call rhythm response. Welcome to the club!
What I am suggesting to you here is that you need to let go of set rules and venture into yourself in order to become a fluid dancer.
• Dancing motion IN music
So, what is dancing motion in music? Well, motion in music is the study of movement and time through musical interpretation. Simple, right?
It looks at the ways in which motion and dancing are featured in the musical performance and it is, therefore, written with the performance of music in mind.
The act of dancing-motion with music can be seen in 3 parts:
- The preparation – knowing what you are about to do.
- Moment of contact – the action you take when you are listening to the instruments play
- The passage – doing one step after the next.
Having an idea of these three parts, we can conclude that: the mechanisms of the instrument + the mechanics of the body = body reaction (aka fluidity).
It is safe to say that dancing motion in music shows you how the body, once set in motion, undergoes changes to its speed, shape and direction. Some people might refer to it as ‘speed of music’ or ‘fast dancer’… I would call it a fluid dancer.
As you practice your dance moves, explore the transitional parts of the dance. Fluid motion will begin to come to you naturally. As you add knowledge and experience, open your mind to let it work for you and let your movement flow.
Remember, to become a fluid dancer do the following:
1. Enhance the dance moves without compromising their core mechanical structure.
2. Have a playful mind for freedom of mental creation.
3. Make use of transitional motion by shifting your weight to emphasize the body posture to your liking.
These are just the start of a solid foundation, but practice and determination will be your best friend as well…