The Secret behind an Elite Dancer
The classroom is a place to learn and get even more comfortable with your own movement, but progressing beyond your expectations takes working on the details away from the classroom. Details that will help you progress with articulation, conviction, and personalizing your movement as you share your story.
This blog is about your feet and how they shape your movement from the ground up. I once used the phrase, ‘you should know the bottom of your feet like you know the back of your hand.’ It’s sort of a head scratcher if you are not familiar with how involved your feet are in dance especially in Hip Hop and street generated dance styles. Though this is true, it didn’t give our students anything but a weird association of body parts if I wasn’t providing context. Well here is the context that should clear up that vague phrase.
When we are in a classroom learning dance, we focus on movement above the waste, because frankly that’s the first thing we see as upright walking beings. Also that’s where we experience expression or the completion of a visual. However, we often forget that it is our feet that generate/create a better quality of movement. Our feet is the source of power, rhythm, and balance depending on how you direct energy with them while they are in contact with the floor under you.
We have heard the phrase ‘I don’t have rhythm’ too many times, but if you have two feet, you can create and learn rhythm. Your feet are the source of timing. The way you walk has rhythm and dancing is no different. If you can count to 2 rhythmically, you can dance. More specifically, a side step where we step one foot away from the other in an open position then stepping back to a closed position with the heels together is a 2 count of rhythm. It is the same with walking with one step in front of the other. During this motion, we step through our natural body line to progress forward or backwards. If you can rhythmically do that you are dancer… period. After that, it’s applying that concept to your favorite songs. It is often glossed over in the classroom which throws off a dancers timing. Therefore, if you lose focus on the opening and closing of you feet in motion, it determines whether you get there too fast too slow. However, when you intentionally get your feet where they should be, it actually gives you so much time and range to execute your next move.
With better timing established, the game changer of understanding how to achieve more powerful movement is the next step. We talk about being grounded in every single class that we teach. You achieve groundedness by bracing your core, but not without enforcing the connection or strong relationship you have with the floor first.
Your feet are like anchors that ensure the engagement of more muscles which means more control. So when you dance, there is more control and your movement does not look disconnected or detached. Additionally, when you start dancing from the energy/momentum created by your connection to the floor, you don’t have to compensate with your shoulders or arms. Your shoulders/arms react to the natural flow your body rather than the other way around which creates spazzy or unintentional movement.
Last and most important, we want to talk about balance. How we move in space is extremely important whether we are in a classroom or not. Balance starts with our feet, and if you are not aware of your feet when you dance, you will stumble more often than you should.
In dance, your feet keep you balanced through faster movement when you dance through the balls of your feet while engaging your core or staying grounded. When you are preparing to make stronger statements or sit in the pocket of a groove, you direct energy(weight) through the middle of your feet(instep) to your heel. Then you can create a controlled flow of movement from the heel to the ball of the foot or vice versa.
When you take a class next time, fight that urge to start above the waist. You will find that if you change your focus, you will naturally get what the upper body is supposed to do once your feet are set. Now an extremely important side note; we don’t want you to look directly at the instructor’s feet right in front of you, because then you’ll be missing the entire visual that you need to emulate. However, if you use the mirror to start positioning your body with your feet then everything else will fall into place.
We are extremely honored to be in this position of instructors to bring you these tips to help you become better dancers. Why? Because when we were learning or in the position where you are at, we had nothing to help us progress in what we loved so much. So as you read this and take classes with us or with other instructors, you will get more and more familiar with your feet as the foundation to becoming an elite dancer.