Bringing the Dance to Life

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The lessons where we focus on choreography and not technique are my favorite.  I know technique is important but, when I’m focused on a Showcase and doing a routine, then I’m really dancing more for the audience.  Sure, you don’t want to taking heel leads when you should be taking toe leads and you want to have good posture.  But I’m more concerned with getting the steps down and to timing even if my technique is less than perfect.

Choreography should stretch you but should still be attainable.  After all, who wants to go into a performance still trying to figure out certain steps.  The process is frustrating and rewarding.  Seeing a step and then trying to mimic at and failing (again and again) gets a little old.  But, when you finally figure it out, it is a great accomplishment.

One problem for me is learning style.  I can watch someone do a step but I get lost after just a few moves.  Oh, and I can usually get the footwork by watching but the arms and other things never seem to come together.  I have to just keep doing it and trying different things until I get the feedback that I’m doing it right.  Then, I try to lock it into my body.  I find for me that visualization is the best option.  I try to make notes about each routine and then I can read the steps back and play the dance in my head.  When I get really good, I can just play the dance from beginning to end without looking at my notes.

There’s something nice about the process.  You are helping to bring somebody’s vision to life.  They’ve got certain ideas for certain steps but you have to be able to execute them to keep the vision alive.  That’s why I can sometimes feel like I’m letting someone down when I struggle to get something.  There are times when changes have to be made and those can feel like little failures since I haven’t been able to bring the original vision to life.

Sometimes the changes come because the vision changes.  A certain part doesn’t fit the music the way it should or we need to find a couple of extra beats to hit the right accent in the music.  I don’t play much of a part here except for being flexible.  It can be hard to make changes because your muscle memory is telling you to do one thing and that has to be unlearned and new pathways constructed.

I may be imagining this but I think there is a movie scene where a body is cloned.  It starts with a skeleton and then they add organs and muscle and finally skin.  It might have been the Fifth Element.  Anyway, that’s kind of like learning a routine.  The basic footwork is the skeleton which you need as a solid foundation.  Then, you have to dance it to music.  Then, you can add bits of flair and maybe some entertainment value.

Oh, I just skipped over the dancing to music.  That’s a shock the first time you do it.  If you’ve done something slowly then your brain can’t work fast enough to keep up to the music.  The first time the music seems so fast and it feels like you’ll never get it.  But, do it enough times and the steps start to become more automatic and the less you have to think about what’s next, the easier it becomes to keep up with the music.

OK, this might be a pretty boring post.  Not sure why I decided to get all into the learning process of a routine.  To bring in some real world experience, we are at the point where both routines are finished and we’ve danced the majority of each one to music.  There is a little ending trick to the Salsa that I just learned last night which I haven’t quite mastered yet but I’ve been practicing a bit to make the move come more naturally.   Mindy said she thought this was the furthest we’ve been on a routine and I think she’s right.  We have the whole month of October to continue putting the finishing touches on each routine.

The other thing that is funny about these routines is how quickly time moves while you are doing them.  Each one is about a minute and a half.  Try this little experiment.  Set a timer for a minute and a half and just watch it tick by.  Seems like a long time.  Not when you are in the middle of a routine.  It always happens that I get to a certain point and I realize that the routine is near the end and it feels like we just started.  Sometimes, when I watch other routines, they always seem much longer than mine even when they are the same length.  I guess time really can fly.

Anyway, I’m really happy about where these routines are.  I like that we’ve got a month to essentially polish them up and think about other little bits of flair we can add.  And I guess what I’m also saying is that yesterday was a very good day at the dance studio.

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