Are you Working Too Hard in your Dancing? by Anna Mikhed
EFFICIENCY IS THE KEY. I heard this phrase from my teachers again and again when I was competing... I realize the importance of this statement as I am teaching my students now.. Not only in dancing but in all areas of our life we long to achieve THE BEST RESULT WITH THE LEAST EFFORT. In a way that is the moving force of any progress. Our phones are getting thinner, lighter and start talking to us so we do not even need to type in, our cars turn on just by a push of a button, we have a remote control to pretty much everything, we have drive-throughs in restaurants, pharmacies and banks so we do not have to get out of the car... And even though people often abuse these technologies too much, the fact is that things are getting done faster and with less effort.
In dancing it is never enough to be efficient. That is what we all try to achieve. Efficiency can be anywhere: techniques and mechanics, choreography, phrasing and musicality etc...
Not to go into too much detail, but just to give an overall general concept of how we can be more efficient in dancing, let’s look at those three examples one at a time.. (I will be mostly relating to Ballroom but Latin does use the same general principles..)
In the Ballroom we have 4 swing dances (Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, QuickStep)and 1 non-swing dance (Tango). To create a swing in the most efficient way we need to simply look at how we walk: We take our body in a direction where we need to go and we place our feet under the body. That is swing! Again: first - we move our body metronomically and then we move our legs in a pendulum way underneath it. Simple, isn’t it? So how come we do not do it when we dance our waltz? Why to start a Natural Turn we do 10 000 other different actions except the the main one: move the body in the direction we need to go? This action is of a primary importance and we absolutely have to do it in the beginning of every progressive step! On top of that - two more necessary actions: lowering and CBM (which is a rotary kind of swing) and - you are good to go!! Only 3 actions in total. No Sway, no pushing or pulling with the arms or hips, no saying: “Go” to your partner... :) You put less effort and save yourself a lot of energy from the very beginning.
Now, in Tango - we Do Not Swing. Everybody knows that. SO logically we have to do the Opposite to what we do in Waltz: Move our legs first and let our body follow and “ride” on top of the legs. Simple, isn’t it? But instead, we are so eager to move our body first in Tango! That creates swing! Then, when we need to stop and close our feet - we are struggling tremendously fighting that swing. We are forced to do all kinds of different actions like sway, rise, tensing up, grinding our teeth, praying etc to stay on balance.. That again takes a lot of effort and extra work.. In reality, all we need to do - is let our legs go ahead of our body. That will not allow for any momentum and prevent the body flight. Then - we can stop any time and any place we like with less effort.
As far as Choreography goes, inefficiency is quite a frequent occurrence... Not to be judgmental at all :) .. I did it myself and learned a very good lesson. One time my partner and I had put a very exciting fast turning “crazy” “wow” step into our Tango choreography.. We both loved it! But... no matter how much we practiced it - we could not get it to work as well as we wanted. And if it did work - we felt totally exhausted afterwards... So we came to one of our dear teachers in London and showed him the amalgamation to see what his thoughts on that were and if he could make us feel better when doing this step. He said: “look at your bodies - you are tall, long and willowy... Someone who is shorter and closer to the ground will do this step much faster than you and with less effort. So he will look better and will always beat you in this step. While you can do something you are good at, like big powerful movement across the floor, which is easy for your bodies to do - then you have a fighting chance against the guy”. I remembered this lesson for the rest of my life. And I started to notice how many people are waisting their energy on figures they could never be excellent in due to their body build, height relationship in a couple or any other particularities... While working on the inefficient and therefore unnecessary for them stuff they often miss the opportunity to show off their strength.. We all have our strengths. We need to know them and capitalize on them. So my advise - build your choreography based on your strong points, your body types and partnership structure. That will be much more efficient, will make you look better, feel freer, less tired and happier!! :)
Phrasing, though not the most basic element, but is very important when we try to produce the biggest effect with the least effort. A simple example: Natural Turn in Viennese Waltz has to start with a man going forward on 123 and not on 456. Musically 123 in Viennese Waltz is stronger that 456. And of course visually man going forward looks more powerful and “swingy” than lady going forward. So when you combine the visually more powerful action with the stronger beat in music - you achieve the effect of “MORE” (more power, more swing, more musicality, ease of movement and more harmony). Just by starting in the right time in music! No extra effort physically! Isn’t it a miracle?? :) Same goes for all of your choreography: listen to the music, find the beginning and the end of a phrase, accents, pick-ups, crescendos, diminuendos.. And built your choreography accordingly.. Then, as if by magic, you will look much better without applying any extra effort physically..
Those are few examples of how we can be more efficient when we dance. I tried to simplify things as much as possible. This way it wouldn’t take you a lot of effort to understand what I meant so you can use your brain more efficiently.. :)