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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.