Tagged: dance

Dance related content. This tag is new as the homepage was dance-only before.

Digging Deep & Deep Work

Today is not about business, marketing, music, or dance alone. It is about a mindset thing that is beneficial in all of those.

We live in a world of distractions. That sounds like an exaggeration, but is a brutal truth that results in a decline of real productivity and creativity. We think we are experts in multitasking, but we are not. We are experts in being distracted, which leads to a culture of superficiality. We wear “being busy” like a badge of honor when it is only a sign of lacking priorities.

As an artist and entrepreneur that is in the game to stay (without burning out), we shall cultivate a habit to dig deep in what we do. At least for all the things that matter (the ones that align with your bigger picture).

Digging deep means:

  • to give ourselves the time that is needed to work things out
  • to look at a topic from different angles
  • to do additional research when we miss information instead of assuming things
  • to ask questions
  • to find the reasons behind symptoms
  • to take ideas far

Deep Work means:

  • to commit to a specific task
  • to immerse yourself in the work
  • to shut out distractions (flight-mode is a lifestyle)
  • to spend enough time with a topic to allow our conscious and subconscious mind to get involved

You will only do your best work when you reach depth. So avoid today’s culture of mediocrity and dig deep when you create your art and set up your business.

How to Start Your Freestyle with Micro-Structures

A sketch of a dancer with marked timings on specific body-parts

Out of the many possibilities to start a freestyle, I find “micro-structuring” to be one of the easiest and at the same time most versatile. The concept is straightforward and similar to last week’s “Structure through Timing and Topics“. Here is “how to freestyle with micro-structures”.

You take a short timeframe (I recommend anything between one and four bars) and define where you put your focus on any given time. If you are new to the idea of structuring your dance in general or have a hard time counting music, go with one bar for a start.

Now define your focus for every time within that bar. For example: on the 1 and 2 of the bar you do a step, and on 3 and 4, you work with an isolation movement. That only means you make moves that are based on steps for two counts and then isolation-based moves for another two counts. After a bar (or the duration you chose) you repeat the idea.

Your structure can be as easy the example above or more complicated: You could also choose a chest pop that starts a travelling movement on the 1. Glides with rotations that carry you through 2 and 3 and finish with a hard stop on the snare drum on 4. Now you accent only the head on the “and” before you come around to the chest-hit on 1.

Again, your structure can be as straightforward or as sophisticated as you wish. For beginners, I recommend making the differences between the elements very clear. Like, Steps on one part, hand styles on the next, then isolations and so on. If you are more advanced, you can do more stuff at the same time and shift only the emphasis from one element to the other. You could keep doing steps all the time and add isolations for the first half of the bar and switch to counter-movement in the second half.

Go crazy with your ideas but don’t fall into the trap to make your structure too specific, so that it becomes choreography.

Structure your Freestyle with timings and topics

16 bars structured in 4 x 4 bars with topics attached

Creating a structure for your freestyle before starting takes a lot of pressure away in the actual thinking process during the dance. Some people will argue that it is not freestyle anymore when you structure it beforehand. We choose to ignore these naysayers for today as we still don’t choreograph the round ahead of time.

What we do is we decide ahead of time for how long we will dance. Then we split the time into parts of the same length and give every piece a simple topic.

For example, we dance for 16 bars (meaning 8 8-counts) and keep every topic for 4 bars (2 8-counts). Now we choose the topics “work with isolations”, “travel through the whole space”, “use some floor work” and “incorporate some pops for accents”.

Choose the lengths of the whole freestyle and the time of your parts as you wish. Make the topics as easy or complex as you want. If you want to, you can only create a series of topics and change when you feel like changing. It is your dance, and the concept should help you create it.

If this comes easy for you, I recommend you choose the length of your themes considering the song structure of the music you work with. So your changes are aligned with the changes in the music.

Creation & Assessement

The two halves of the brain discuss

Why do many people get stuck when they try to create new moves or routines? The answer is simple, but its impact is often underestimated, and therefore, people tend to ignore it.

Creation and analysis/assessment are very different processes:

In creation mode, you want the ideas to flow freely.
Creativity is what you need.

In assessment mode, you need to analyse your results from creation.
Logic is taking the lead here.

A popular scientific theory says that different sides of your brain are responsible for these two different tasks. And they don’t work well together. So if you try to do both at the same time, you are doing both inefficiently.

I can not comment if this theory is right or not, because I lack the scientific understanding. But I know that I work better when I only create at one time and judge later.

When you get stuck in your creation process, try to get rid of the voice in your head that wants to judge immediately. Film yourself and do that later. You will see the differences.

The imaginary material of the floor

Another idea that helps you explore new possibilities and transform your freestyles or choreographies is to work with imaginary attributes of the floor.

What this means is you style your movement with the goal to create the illusion of dancing on a certain kind of underground. It can be defined through simple adjectives like:

  • sticky
  • slippery
  • muddy
  • hot
  • cold
  • dusty
  • unstable
  • magnetic
  • burning
  • everything you can come up with

or by a more vivid image:

  • dancing on raw eggs
  • in a swamp
  • in the desert
  • on a frozen lake
  • stepping on chewing gum
  • and whatever more you can imagine

You will execute your moves in a different way if you immerse yourself into the idea. This concept is very close to storytelling, but it gives you just one idea to work with, instead of a whole plotline.

The only tricky point in this one is that it only works if you commit and believe in the image that you want to create. That is not a thing for everyone, but I strongly recommend you give it a try, as being able to believe in your concept/story/idea will help you to improve your performance-abilities a lot.

Four Corners

A sketch of a square with the titlle "four corners"

Four Corners is a concept that helps us to break free of a static front and helps us to explore different directions and rotations within a step or a freestyle round.

Here is how it works:

  • We envision ourselves standing inside a square or rectangle.
  • When dancing, we try to hit the corners of the square with every move.
  • The order of the corners does not matter.
  • In the strict version, we need to hit every corner before we can hit a corner a second time.
  • Sometimes it’s also ok to chill and hit corners multiple times, when you are not in the mood to keep track of which ones you already touched.

When you want to drill one specific move: take only this move inside the rectangle and find all directions and rotations possible.

Or be free in the selection of your moves and use it as the design criteria for your freestyle.

The concept is very similar to the Pendulum, that I covered earlier. Both give you a guideline for your dance by defining the directions. If we look at this idea close enough we see that the geometric shape does not make a difference. You can use a triangle, a star, an octagon or whatever with the instructions above. Play with it or make it a group activity and challenge each other.

The 8-ball concept

sketch of a figure 8 pattern on the floor

The 8-ball is a concept to create new patterns of steps based on figure eight. I heard about this idea the first time from b-boy Alieness who taught an 8-ball six step at Circle Prince Croatia. I can not remember the exact year, to be honest.

While there are multiple different 8-ball steps (like the aforementioned 8-ball six step), the concept follows only one simple rule:

You take a series of steps/moves and combine them in a way that they flow in both directions without interruption.

In the original idea, the creators tried to emulate the figure eight as a path on the floor. Today most people consider a step to be an 8-ball when you follow the rule above.

And because it is easier to understand when you see it, I embed a video from Poe One, from Style Elements crew, below. He demonstrates multiple steps that were created with the 8-ball idea in mind.

Poe One teaching 8-ball footwork

This concept is a perfect match if you are looking for a way to drill your footwork both ways.

Using Constraints to spark creativity in Dance

Stop sign from a crossroad in Salzburg City
Constraints in dance help to spark creativity

When we want something but have limited resources to make it happen, we usually find creative ways to get what we want. That is the essence of creating artificial constraints for our dance practise.

Artists and creative entrepreneurs use the technique of artificial constraints to spark creativity in their work with great success. To use this method in dance we give ourselves limited options of what we can do. Depending on the purpose of our practise we can either delete some things from our repertoire or only allow very limited options..

As an example: Most of us have so-called fallback moves. There are the moves that we know in and out. The moves we can execute perfectly, no matter the circumstances. If those are too predominant in our freestyle we give ourselves the constraint of not using them at all.

There are a series of constraints that are common:

  • You might not use specific parts of your body
  • You might only use specific parts of your body
  • no/only moves while standing up
  • no/only jumping moves
  • no/only moves while crouching
  • no/only moves on the floor
  • hands might not touch the floor or must always touch it
  • same with the feet
  • hands and feet must always touch the floor
  • certain ways in the space are a must or forbidden
  • the phrase must always turn to on side or it must not
  • one part of your body is glued to the floor or another bodypart
  • every movement must be initiated with the same part of your body

This list is of course not complete and it can never be, because you can come up with your own constraints and you should. It’s your dance, not somebody elses.

Let us know your favourite practise constraints in the comments.


Dig deeper into dance concepts with the following posts:
Basic questions to ask every Move | Conquer the Space | Pendulum

This concept and 35 others can be found in my first book Dance Smart, which is now available on Amazon.

3 reasons for slowing down in your dance practise

Featured Image for the "Slow Down in Practise" post

Quality of movement is a term that comes up often when you are talking with professional dancers. Depending on who you are talking to, it might have a slightly different meaning, but in general it refers to how good a movement is executed. In my personal point of view this translates directly into how beautiful a move looks. Some people might have a different opinion on this. For the sake of this blog, we will ignore those other opinions. My blog, my rules. 🙂

B-Boy dancing with text overlay about 3 reasons to slow down in dance practise

No matter if we learn a new move or try to polish an old one, doing it slow helps us being more conscious about what we do instead of relying on the autopilot to take over. The more moves we have the higher the chances that we apply techniques of another similar move instead creating the muscle memory for the new or changed one. While the results can be quite as good, we miss the topic of creating or polishing.

An additional benefit of moving slow is that we focus more on details of the movement. Being clear about all the details of a move results in cleaner execution.

Last but not least: moving slower gives us more time to come up with new ways.

If you have different experiences with moving slow while creating or learning, feel free to let us know in the comments.

The Pendulum Concept

A pendulum over a hand
photo by sassi via pixelio.de

photo from sassi / pixelio.de

Pendulum is a pretty easy concepts that is very similar to Equilibrium. A pendulum goes from one side to the other and back again. So this is what we use as the guideline to create our dance.

I use two versions of pendulum:

Basic Pendulum: You make a move or a way to the one side, come to a stop and go to the other side. That is all you need to start creating with basic pendulum. The reach, the way to go and the speed are all yours decide. And don’t forget to dance your ways from one side to the other.

Turning Pendulum: Here are no ways or moves to the sides but we use rotation instead. You are doing a rotation to one side, stop and continue to the other side. You decide how far and how fast you turn. I tend to do most of the rotations slow to give me the time to fill it up with a lot of moves, but that is only personal preference.

This is an easy one, enjoy it and get creative without thinking to much. The concept stuff is here to set us free in the dance, not cage us.