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Developing Your Own Style

One of the hardest things about maturing as a dancer is that at some point, no one else can tell you what you shold do next. This is a weird and wonderful moment. As long as you haven't ascended to International Instructor, there's probably someone out there who has some technical corrections for you (and even some of those folks consult each other in their growth missions). Suddenly you realize that you have the power to evaluate your own dancing. Not only that, but that you must evaluate your own dancing in order to choose a direction for growth.

This is an exhilarating time! But it can also be really, really scary, especially if previously, you've relied on others to tell you what is good and bad about your dancing. Building your critical and honest eye is the first step to developing your own style. Luckily, this involves doing something really fun: watching others dance.

I recommend choosing a wide range of dancers to watch: especially those that have bodies that are similar to yours, AND those that have bodies that are incredibly dissimilar to yours. For instance, for leading, I've looked to both Mike Grosser and Tim O'Neill for inspiration. If those names don't automatically conjure images, Mike has about a foot on me and is far wider at the shoulders than hips. Tim isn't quite as short as me, but he's definitively more compact. Both do cool dancing that I admire, and the fact that moves on Mike's body will look completely different when I do them is a benefit, not a drawback.

Now here's the thing: don't just watch the dancers that you've chosen. Critique them (privately, kindly). Watch their videos for both the things they do well, and the things you're not as fond of. Think about what motivated their movement in this particular clip, and see if you can hear what they're hearing in the music. Are they driven by the rhythm section or maybe just the clarinet? Really dissect what they're doing, and think about what you do or don't like about it.

What you're doing while doing this activity, is developing both your personal aesthetic and your ability to craft critiques. You probably have a pretty good idea of what dancers you like to watch; thinking about why will help you evaluate your own dancing. If you like it when they do it, and you never do it, think about if adding it to your repetoire will feel authentic. If you don't like it when they do it, and you do it frequently, consider why you're doing the thing, and consider alternatives.

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