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If you’ve ever felt too intimidated to give dancing a serious chance, try out some of these techniques.

 

Image via the Chicago Community Trust

Have you ever seen a dance performance and wondered how the dancers moved in such a graceful manner that it made your heart melt? Or maybe the sharpness of their moves shocked you in their portrayal of the villain in “Beauty and the Beast”? It is amazing how a dancer expresses an idea or emotion through moving in ways the average person cannot, while also making the effort seem effortless. Dancers take the audience to another world, telling entire stories with their bodies, and when they’re really good, it makes you want to dance too.

Although achievable, such dancing takes practice. If you take an open class, you may not remember all the choreography or you may find that you have trouble with musicality, but both of these challenges can be overcome, as can virtually any other impediments that you can run into when learning to dance. So, if you want to take that next step and learn how to move like the performers who have moved you, get ahead of the game with these tips.

Remember the body is moving as a whole. This may seem obvious, especially to well-established dancers, but for those who don’t know much about dance, it may be useful to be remember that one part of the body doesn’t move independently of the other parts. Be aware of how the dance instructor moves his or her body altogether, and then try it yourself. Avoid focusing on the movement of one body part, imitating it, and then the next time the instructor dances, imitating another movement, and so on. The body is moving as a whole. Do, with the body, what the teacher does, altogether.

Don’t think, just do. Thinking about how to complete the movements makes completing the movements more complicated than it is. Even the phrase “completing the movements” sounds like a drag. People who enjoy dance enjoy being with their bodies. They know they’re in a class to move, not think. Avoid thinking of how you’re going to do the moves, and just do them. You may find that you don’t know how you’re doing the moves, but you’re doing them. That’s how you get out of your head. Leave all your worries at the door and be present and in the moment. Nothing is more important than how you’re moving.

Move with energy or pretend the class is taking place at the Metropolitan Opera House, and the last row in the audience needs to be able to feel every move—make the movements bigger. This helps avoid thinking about the movement, and encourages bravery and commitment to the motion. Furthermore, remembering what step comes next will be slightly easier. That’s because you’re not focusing on it. Worrying about getting the choreography is pointless. Dance isn’t only about the steps, and it may take a few classes before you can do everything in a technically correct fashion. Putting emphasis in each step, or exaggerating the movements will make dance more enjoyable, and help you appear confident.

Misty Copeland performing in Swan Lake (Image via the Washington Post)

Move to the music. This is not all dance requires, but it may be a helpful technique for those struggling with musicality. Moving to the music may sound easier said than done, and I’ve luckily never had this issue, but simply thinking of moving in accordance with the music may help. If not, some dance schools utilize substitute teachers who better provide guidance and advice.

Use images to remember choreography. Another way to remember what move comes next is to associate them with images. For example, if there’s a turn, try thinking of yourself as a spinning top. If the following move is to stop and slowly kick your leg behind you, you may think this top has stopped spinning and has tilted over to its side. Remembering choreography can be especially challenging for some. Try this technique until you’re more comfortable.

Consider the texture of movement. This is a useful way to think of dance, because not all routines are the same. It is probably also one of the ways dancers entrance their audiences on stage. It may feel like a bit much to think about during the first few classes, but as soon as you’re ready, give it some thought. Are the moves soft as though you’re in a body of water? Sharp like a knife cutting through a branch? What image best suits how to move to the music? Experiment with what works and see what doesn’t.

Finally, let go of the choreography. Even if you don’t think you’ve got it all down yet, just let it all go. You might surprise yourself. Dance is about freedom of expression. Try not to think of doing all the moves correctly, or maybe even thinking of them at all. Simply find joy in doing the moves. In other words, live the choreography. Let it be part of you. This part takes patience and practice as well, depending on where you are in dance, but once you master it, you’ll soon feel like an accomplished dancer.

The best dance teachers are patient and informative, making sure everyone has all the steps before moving on. Find a class that you think will be most enjoyable for you, whether that’s West African, salsa or ballet. Many dance schools, such as Alvin Ailey or Broadway Dance Center in New York, offer open classes, requiring little-to-no experience, and you can sign up according to your own schedule.

At the gym, the same exercise equipment is available each time, and in a yoga class, calming music can eventually become tiring. So change things up a bit. Dance routines and songs are hardly ever the same, so you’ll never get bored, and moving to the music always has the ability to unite the mind, body and soul. More importantly, it’s fun. So, find the right class and just move!

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