Dance Tips – What you see is Not what you (Repli) Get

In a Dance class, ‘What you see is ‘Not’ always what you (Repli)-get.’

As a kid I remember playing the copy game with my sister Sherice. This is the game where one person does a series of movements and the other person naturally tries to replicate exactly what that person did. The majority of the time my little sister Sherice would get it right and other times she would get really close to it with a few minor variations. 

Well, learning dance is about 75% of that exact game and 25 % Training. So you have some experience to reference that you can bank on that will steer you in the right direction but you have to trust the instructor infront of you to guide you through the other 25%.  

This 25% is not easy to recognize or replicate without knowing some key fundamental techniques of the dance style you are learning. This is where a dance teacher shares the secrets to a whole new game. 

In any dance class, depending on the style, there are a few things happening that the brain and the body cannot clearly recognize in order to recreate or replicate the movement in its entirety. That is due to how we see or learn movement given our ability to copy what we see.

I am going to share 4 major building blocks of movement that will upgrade the copy game to dance class speed.  

  1. First and foremost, in a dance class the most important part of movement is your feet. We learn by paying attention to the upper body but a fundamentally sound dancer has amazing footwork. If you are walking, your feet are planted and then quickly off the floor without a thought due to years of practice. However, when you dance you are aware of how your feet hits the floor from heel to toe and everything in between. Feet awareness yields controlled movement that is created by depressing the heels or toes into floor. The untrained eyes are not able to recognize this form of grounded movement without clear instruction from a trained dance instructor. 
  2. Secondly, creating different textures when you dance creates more dynamic movement. The resistance in your forearms are almost impossible to recognize when learning movement, especially if it’s your first time taking a dance class. When I speak about resistance I mean how much you flex or relax your muscles throughout the beginning and end of a specific sequence of movement that involves your arms or torso. Being able to recognize this allows you to create smooth continuous movement, or rigid ones when necessary. It shows the ability to shape different experiences that reflect the vibe of the music that you are dancing to, artist’s choice in executing the lyrics, or how you feel in a particular moment.  
  3. Thirdly, there is always an element of weight transfer happening within a series of movement that is not normal to everyday walking. Where you are transferring your weight from left to right or right to left. The fundamentals of weight transfer in walking have are some similarities to dancing but when the intentional activity switches to dancing the same fundamentals are utilized in many different ways. In dance you have to think of your body as a balance scale ⚖ that is always connected to the floor under you. For example when you walk your legs immediately leave the floor as your body transfers weight from side to side without thinking about it. When you dance weight transfer telegraphs where the movement is going next. You have be conscious about your contact with the floor like a magnet and how it creates leverage for more powerful movement.
  4. The fourth and final thing you may not recognize while learning movement without training is the all important core involvement. Though not visible to the eyes, the engagement of the core determines how grounded your movement is or how much control you have over your movement. If your feet are the magnet to the floor then your core is the metal that allows you to move with precision across the floor. It is also an important factor in how to successfully isolate your body parts to articulate clearly what you want to say at any point.

Most of us have played the copy game with our sibling growing up but like you learned from this blog there are a few things from this game that does not transfer well when you step into dance class. The fundamentals of groundedness as it refers to your feet, texture manipulation, weight transfer, and core engagement brings a few added elements to a playful childhood game that immediately increases your ability to learn dance more efficiently and accurate. We continuously employ sharing these fundamentals in every single class because we know it takes multiple times hearing and executing them before they become trained movement you don’t have to actively thing about.

So the next time you enter a class room, remember that you have 75% of what you need to learn movement but the 25% that you don’t know determines how polished and controlled your execution will be. Now you can be a master of the copy game as an adult when you dance. 

How to step up your performance and pick up choreography faster, even as a beginner

Do you ever catch yourself scrolling in an endless loop of watching incredible dance videos on Instagram? It’s like you’re sucked in and you can’t seem to put the phone down. We guarantee you that EVERY SINGLE VIDEO that has you so captivated has this one thing in common.

Do you know what it is?

THE DANCERS ARE CONNECTED TO THE MUSIC AND THE STORY. There’s feeling behind every step, every arm movement, even every look of the eye. In short, they are performing with intention the entire time.

You can have the most incredible dancers, technically speaking, doing everything right, but if there’s no feeling behind their movement, the performance is lifeless and the viewers quickly lose interest.

But dance is art! It’s a beautiful form of expression, and it’s waiting for you to step in to its world and tell your story.

Something we always like to highlight in class is the song that we’re dancing to that week. What’s the overall vibe of the song? What is the artist singing about? Is there a story to it? How can you physically connect yourself to the song and make a statement with your movement?

This is something that we’ve pretty much always done in our classes, however, we’ve noticed in our level 1 choreography class that the sooner the dancers become connected to the song and the story they are trying to convey with their movement, the better the learning process is for them.

So whether you are taking class with us or any other choreographers (and in any other style of dance for that matter), here are three major tips to help you learn faster and completely own your performance of the choreography:

1. Dive deep into the song

As soon as your instructor plays the music, start listening to it intently. What do you hear? What stands out to you? How does the song make you feel? Even if you’ve never heard the song before or if you don’t even like the song, find something that you like about it. Otherwise you’ll be fighting with the song the entire class. The sooner you can become attached to what you’re dancing to, the sooner your body will come into alignment with the song.

2. Create a story

Dance is all about speaking with your body, and we want what you have to say to be intentional and actually make sense as you move. So in order to do that, we encourage you to create a story of what you are dancing about.

Whether the song has a very clear story that you can dance to or not, figure out what you want to communicate with the choreography. The instructor is just giving you the framework with movement, it’s your job as the dancer to make it your own, and you can do that with your own story.

For example – You could have two dancers, dancing the same choreography to the same song about love. One dancer is dancing a story about the honeymoon, puppy love phase of love. The other dancer is dancing about a story of love that has been through all of the ups and downs and has stood the test of time. When you think about it, those two stories are very different, and the movement of that same choreography would also look very different between those two dancers. So have fun with your story and get creative. And know, you can always change things as you go.

3. Focus on why you came to the class in the first place

Chances are if you are going to a dance class as an adult, an overarching goal would be to have fun. Even though that’s the goal for most people, we often see dancers get distracted by their own frustration of not picking up every single detail, or they are simply focused on getting everything “exactly right.” We have good news for you. You don’t have to be perfect. And you shouldn’t be! Dance is a reflection of real life, which is messy and raw.  And like we mentioned before, you can have the most incredibly talented technical dancers, but if they are only focused on fitting into the cookie cutter movement and not putting their own splash of color into it, all it is is pretty movement.

When you do these 3 things when learning choreography, the connection to the song, creating a story, and letting go of trying to be perfect allows you to remove some of those distractions that come into the learning process and simply focus on you becoming one with the song and telling your story with your movement. It also makes class so much more fun!

So next time you take class, try these tips out, and let us know how your experience was! 

3 Tips to become a better Hip Hop Dancer

Building your dance confidence, one move at at time.

We’ve all been there – walking into a dance class for the first time with those uneasy feelings. You’re not sure what to expect. “Is it going to be hard? Am I going to be able to keep up? I’ve never danced before and everyone else is going to be better than me….” You may be having this conversation with yourself. 
Well, we are going to help you redirect those thoughts into the right mindset! Those thoughts are all components of fears and doubt, and it’s all a lie you tell yourself to back out of what you really want to accomplish. Of course, we’re going to be real with you. Class will definitely be a challenge, especially if it’s your first time dancing (hip hop). But isn’t that why we are here? To learn something NEW? Learning anything new will come with it’s struggles, but WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU! 
We have been teaching hip hop dance for over 15 combined years now, and we’ve definitely seen a pattern in some of the key things that students are missing in their approach to executing hip hop movement. We are excited to share our 3 biggest technique tips to have you feeling more confident as you enter your first class!

1. Stay grounded!

You may be thinking, what the heck does that mean? It’s quite simple actually when you recognize these things while the instructor becomes to demonstrate movement. To be grounded in your movement, you must be able to FEEL your feet press into the floor. So if someone were to try to move your foot out from under you, it wouldn’t budge. 
So how do you stay grounded? Bend those knees!! You’d be shocked at how much more control you have over your movement when you make sure you are bending your knees. Also, dance in the balls of your feet, not flat footed, unless instructed to! Again, you will have so much more control as you are going from one move to the next. 

2. Hinge at the waist!

So you know when you’re stretching and you bend over to reach for your toes? That is a hinge. Basically you are hinging to bring your shoulders forward and down. Or maybe you are reaching either right or left to whisper a secret in your friend’s ear. 
Insert swag here! This is where you can start to add personality in your movement with some dimension. Imagine if you were to do a whole dance standing completely straight up? That may work for other dance styles, but for hip hop? Naaaaah son!!!! When you combine hinging at the waist with being grounded, that’s when magic starts to happen. 

3. Understand where your weight is!

No, we are not referring to where your beautiful curves on your body are. We’re talking about, where is your weight in a series of movements? Right, left, front, back, center? Having your weight in your right foot when it’s supposed to be in your left will be an issue as you transition to the next move. So when taking class and something isn’t feeling right, ask your instructor where your weight is supposed to be. That should correlate with where you are hinging 98% of the time. You’d be shocked at what a difference a subtle weight shift can do for your movement transitions. 
There you have it! Our 3 biggest tips for beginners. These are techniques that all experienced and  professional hip hop dancers are aware of and are using in their movement. 
Hip Hop 4 Starters

So now, what about YOU?

 Do you feel a little more prepared to take your first class? As we mentioned earlier, we are not going to lie to you. Just because you have these technique tips in your toolbox doesn’t mean that class will be a breeze. Your first several classes are going to come with different speed bumps. The only true way to navigate those bumps and become better is to DANCE. Yes, dance as often as you can keeping these tips in mind as you get better. That entails taking classes, and working through those kinks as you progress as a dancer. 
If you’re ready to start your hip hop dance journey, we invite you to join us on a Tuesday evening for Hip Hop 4 Starters!