Tagged: improve your dance

All content related to improving your dance.

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

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

The Matrix Metaphor

Matrix code with the text "what has been seen, can not be unseen"

The movie “Matrix” from 1999 is referenced daily to describe moments where people are aware of or unaware of different situations. We use the Matrix Metaphor to state that some newly gained knowledge changes the way we think or radically perceive our surroundings.

Typical moments of insights in a dance career are:

  1. The connection to the music is more profound than the regular drumbeat.
  2. There is something like the quality of movement.
  3. It’s seriously interesting if people come up with their own creative moves.
  4. That music is telling a story.
  5. Some dancers tell stories with their dance.
  6. You can dance to multiple instruments at the same time.
  7. I must learn and master everything.
  8. (years later) I don’t.

Of course, everyone has his personal insights that transform his way of thinking.

In the dance field (and I guess in all arts), I feel the tendency that we want to consume the work of people that explore the same topics as we do. Another side of the matrix is that things, once understood, can’t be unseen.

You know… I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know when I put it in my mouth; the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy, and delicious. After nine years… you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.

―Cypher justifying his decision to betray his friends and re-enter the Matrix.

This means that we might perceive the dance of others who did not experience the same insights as we did as immature and unformed. And the more we learn about dancing, the more we take for granted and postulate it has to be a certain way. We neglect that others are on a different point in their development or maybe even on a different path.

This is one of the reasons why a lot of experienced dancers state that they are bored with events. The longer you are in the scene, the more you have seen and the further you move away from the average level of knowledge.

What we sometimes don’t think about is that the dancer we see might explore an aspect of the dance that is beyond our comprehension. So, let’s not be too quick to judge.

This article is a translation (and slight rework) of an old text that was originally in German. Comments might reflect that.

Of Freestyle and Choreography

Foto von Expanding Energy
Expanding Energy / Davis Freeman - Random Scream / Sommerszene 2011

Sometimes people argue about stupid shit. A prime example for this is the discussion of freestyle vs choreography in hip hop dance. What this discussion misses is that freestyle and choreography are the same things but under different conditions. Both are about the creation of our dance, one of them is spontaneous and the other in a slow and very reflected process.

Before we jump into the topic itself: for the sake of this article I refer to freestyle as “improvisation within the boundaries of a dance-style” and not “do whatever you want”.

Here are my two cents why this discussion does not go anywhere and why you should be able to freestyle and create choreography. To make my point more clear, I will use my favourite metaphor where I compare dance to a language.

The moves we have in any given style are comparable to words in a language and therefore form our vocabulary. Our grammar is the flow of the style and how we connect our moves to form our dance being the text that has a meaning that is created by the combination of words. And finally in hip hop and it’s related styles, music is the topic we talk about.

The difference between dancing freestyle or a set choreography is like the difference of talking free versus reciting a poem. Both are fine at the correct time. You can make a serious impact by having the right poem at hand for the right occasion, but bringing a poem about the beauty of x-mas in a discussion about the ecologic crisis is just stupid.

At the same time, you miss out on a big part of the beauty of choreography if you don’t understand how the moves connect. This is the same as learning a poem in a foreign language when you can tell it to people but don’t know what it means.

And you can’t say you are a master of a language/dance if you can’t create a speech/choreography to a given topic.

This means: there is no “which is better/superior/whatever”. You need to understand both to master your craft. There is nothing wrong in specialising in one or the other if you want. But if you choose to do so, don’t divide what’s one in an artificial discussion and openly admit that you don’t care enough to put in the work to learn both.

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.

Why we must be able to count our music

How to Count Image by FraGue
How to Count

One question that comes up frequently in beginner classes or even some intermediate classes is: “why do we have to count the music?”.

The answer is very simple. Counting is THE way to navigate inside music. All western music that is based on notes (and this is at least 99% of the music that we use to dance) is created on a numeric system. Musicians give numbers to bars and notes. These act like a gps or a map. So everybody can play the music together.

For us dancers, it is the easiest way to communicate the relation between our moves and the music. And while you can learn a part of a city or a piece of music by heart, as soon as you move to new territory counting will come in handy.

If you only dance solo for yourself, then you can skip counting because you can work with your intuition, but as soon as you want to dance together with others you need to count. When you want to learn or teach choreography you must be able to count. When you want to talk to musicians, you must be able to count to get somewhere fast. If you want to make dance your job, you must be able to count.

It’s not hard. We will cover the basics soon. Don’t wing it.

Fill in the Blanks

Fill in the Blanks is a simple concept to create variation within your vocabulary of movement. It works with every movement that has multiple parts. In between two parts of the same move there is some free “space” where we can insert something new.

Let’s take any regular two step movement as an example. It consists of two steps. By filling in the blank we would add an additional movement between step 1 and step 2 and therefore create a more advanced version of the original movement.

If you apply this idea to some of your moves, you will see it opens up a lot of possibilities for advancing your stuff.

conquer the space – an introduction

Using the space that is available for your dance is one of the most widespread concepts out there. What it means is that you consciously work with the space that surrounds you.

This can be as easy as trying to remain stationary or being everywhere in the space at some time during your dance or as difficult as following a predefined path with a set speed or chasing an opposing dancer in a battle.

Using a lot of space in your rounds results in a more dynamic look compared to being stationary. In a performance setting you can guide the audience towards important things in your performance by strategically changing place to let them know about a change in your story.

To get started with conquering the space around you pay attention if you favor stationary movement or moving through the space. Try to find a balance with those two and try to move in directions that you don’t use normally.

A simple exercise to improve your movement is to mark a path or form on the floor and try what you can do with your dance by following it. I will give you more complex instruction on this concept in the future and some additional exercises in the newsletter. For now, try the “follow the path” exercise to get used to using the space for a specific task.

The basic questions to ask every Move

This post is a follow up to last weeks introduction article about dance concepts. I introduced the following key-principle.

You should understand every move as an abstract set of instructions that can be applied in different ways.

Yo, right. But what do I do with that information?

When you see every movement you learn in this way, there are certain basic things that you can alter. This gives you a lot of possibilities how to apply this move in different ways.

I’d like to call this basic things that we can alter “the basic questions that we ask every move”. Of course this is only a metaphor as we do not really ask, but I love the dance = language metaphor and will entertain it a lot in the following posts. So it is better to get used to it.

Let’s get to the questions:

The question of direction. How does it look when presented from different angles. This includes choosing different orientation in the space as well as rotating during the move.

The question of speed. What happens when you execute it faster or slower. Every move has a certain speed imprinted to it, that is set by it’s traditional connection to the music. But often a change to this brings really interesting results.

The question of energy. How does a move change when I reduce or increase the amount of energy used. Energy is not always directly related to speed. You can do every movement with a different intention and amount of force. This changes the movement itself.

The question of size. Size does matter in dance. There is a big difference if you reach out in the space as big as possible or try to keep the movement small.

The question of rhythm. How does a change in rhythm change the movement? Like with speed, most moves come with a basic rhythm attached to it. This is usually the rhythm the moves are taught with. But this does not mean that it is the only way to do it. Change the rhythmic phrasing of the move and get some interesting variations for free.

By exploring all the possibilities above you create a whole world of moves from within one movement.