Dance Tips – ‘Start with your feet’

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. 

Story Time with Rishone – My Journey with Hip Hop

I am a Foreigner to Hip Hop

I was not born into Hip Hop Culture. My journey with music started in Jamaica. Though I was exposed to Hip Hop at about 6 or 7 years old, I was still about Reggae/Dancehall and R&B. Then as I got older I started hearing dancehall artist collaborate with rap/hip hop (like Heavy D & Super Cat ‘Dem nuh worry we’) artist and it made me curious. From a foreigner’s perspective and television I honestly thought only ‘gangsters’ rap. So I had a serious level of ignorance when it came to rap music being a foreigner.

I came to the states at 12 years old and I still didn’t like rap music. I thought it was all about violence and cussing, so I stuck to my smooth rhythm & blues and dancehall like: Buju Banton, Garnet Silk, Beenie Man, Capelton, and Bounty Killa. Then I realized Rap and Dancehall were very similar in their journey. 

However at 14 years old my cousin Vinroy had a Hip Hop CD collection that blew my mind. He had early Jay-Z, early Nas, N.O.R.E, LLcoolj, Erik B & Rakim, Big Pun, Biggie, Method Man, Redman. WUTANG, OutKast. He would open up his big ass multi CD holder with the laminate 3 cd holder pages and listen to his CDs for hours. I thought he was crazy. I would look at him like…dude what are you listening to and what are you doing to your brain?? Then he said L-boogie’s new album got leaked. I was like what? Who would name themselves Boogie, like a booger? He said “Naahhh Lauryn Hill from the Fug…” Before he could finish I said “naaaahh she is a singer and she is apart of Refugees.” He responded by saying, “Naah listen, she raps and she’s nice.” He gave me his sweaty headphones and everything changed after that moment. 

At that time the LL/Cannibus battle was in full effect so the war on words, flows, metaphors, punchlines, delivery mechanisms etc made me dive even deeper because I was a fan of poetry and wordsmitting. That’s when my love for Hip Hop began. 

My ignorance became a reason I needed to take that journey of re-education. I realized that dancehall music influenced hip hop and vice versa. I also realized that dancehall movement also influenced hip hop dance. Not sure about the other way around but they both definitely play off each other given their unique differences. 

So coming from someone who is from a completely different country who thought rap was only ‘gangsta music’ for gangstas, I am completely fell in love with the expression of self and developing a voice that endured pain, the struggle of systematic oppression, and the reduction of people of color. It is our way of pouring pride within ourselves just like dancehall music.  

Hip Hop was not my first dance language but I fell in love with it because someone close to me shared his love for Hip Hop. Now I speak the language of the music because I understand it but I haven’t forgotten my roots. It just made me appreciate them separately as well as together.  

So I would say I was lucky and then intentional about learning about the history of the music as well as the movement. I would not want it any other way. I am still a dancehall/R&B/soul guy first but Hip Hop is also strong within the musical marination of my youth. Hence, why I’m so invested now. It’s a lifestyle once you truly understand it. So I employ you to confront your journey with Hip hop dance and culture in order to pay proper respect to its pioneers. Especially if you are entertained by the music and love to move to it.