When you want to learn a new skill it is pretty obvious that you will need to repeat and therefore practise a lot to help your brain as well as your body to do what you ask it to. It’s the same whether you’re learning a new language, computer programme or dance step. However, repetition is needed way beyond the point when you think you have already master your new skills, as that is normally when people realise either a better or different way of doing things, which really consolidates the learning, and pushes you to see the bigger picture. Because one thing is recreating a move, and another thing is to understand both how it’s created and executed. Once you’ve found the right muscles to do what you want to do, you will also discover that there are different ways of carrying out the move, not least depending on how you want to express and interpret it in your dancing.
You can read a great scientific resource paper on Motor Learning and Teaching Dance which goes into much more detail here.
As a dance teacher we often forget about the joys of repetition, because we are keen on keeping our classes fresh and exciting. But even though it is important to challenge your students and keep developing them, it’s also essential to take time out and go over some of those moves that you’ve already covered or think that your students know. There are many ways of doing this whilst still keeping it fresh, from changing dance theme, style, choreography, introducing improvisation techniques etc.
There is truth in the fact that it always pays off to go over the basics, and it doesn’t matter what dance style you are practising; from ballet to ballroom, revisiting your basic moves regularly will ensure that your technique stays clean and strong, but it also enables you to reinterpret these moves and perhaps find some new ways of performing them and using them in combinations. Just don’t get too carried away with developing them until you’ve actually drilled the basic move first!
I see a lot of higher level dancers who seem to have forgotten how to do the basic technique because they’re constantly adding a shimmy, level change or several moves on top. Going back to basics doesn’t mean you drop your dance level, on the contrary, it helps you become an even better dancer, because you’re tapping back into the essence of your technique, which will give you more range and control.
On a practical level there is nothing like improvising to a new (relatively slow paced) piece of music to do this. so find a nice track, it really doesn’t matter what style, as long as it makes you want to move. Then ignore the mirror (and your neighbours) and have a go at drilling a couple of basic moves (2-3 max). Then play the music again and dance the moves in a more advanced style. Maybe how you’d normally do it if you were just to follow the music without thinking about it. Afterwards, play the same song again and see how you can develop your moves even further. Stick to the same 2-3 moves throughout and see what combinations and layering you can come up with, you might just surprise yourself. Finally, on the 4th or 5th dance through, check out how it looks by using a mirror or even better, filming it.
If you need some inspiration for basic technique, you can check out these videos on my YouTube channel.
If you found this article useful please leave me a comment below and let me know how you got on. You are also very welcome to use the comments to share any tips and ideas you have when it comes to dance repetition with your fellow dancers and teachers.
Happy – and always getting better – dancing 😉
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: The secret to beautiful hands