Expressiveness – Part One (More in the next blog)
As I’ve mentioned before, there is a learning progression with any dance discipline. In ballroom dance, you initially learn steps, how to lead or follow (depending on gender) and then patterns of steps or figures so that you can actually dance. Depending on your personal goals, you may also discover that you are just beginning to mine the multiple variables of great dancing.
For example, my husband’s goals are to be a great social dancer who leads well. Early on, I discovered that I had additional goals for my dancing. Yes, I wanted to be a good follower and have fun. Within a year, I also wanted to delve more deeply into technique and now I am keenly aware of improving performance beyond the technique.
To achieve these goals, my first move was into studio showcases (think adult recitals), followed by some initial competitions to demonstrate a level of proficiency in a few dances, usually by some set figures/steps or occasionally a choreographed routine. After those first nerve-racking showcases and competitions, besides learning steps and improving the minutia of technique, I became aware that performance was more than just technique. I became intellectually aware of needing to inhabit the character of the dance…not that I necessarily knew how to do that physically.
As my awareness grew, my instructor’s coaching also challenged me to be more expressive. For me, that word “expressiveness” took on a whole new meaning.
In addition to my dancing life, I am in a profession that requires I step out of my comfort zone (think shy, reserved, introverted). I facilitate change management and leadership workshops for large corporations. To be successful, I obviously need to make the content interesting and, depending on the audience, entertaining. I prided myself on stretching my expressive muscles at work.
I quickly discovered that what I expressively did at work barely scratched the surface in dancing. Which shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was. Beyond the phrase “getting into the character of the dance”, I was encouraged to pay attention to “what emotions or feelings the music brings out for you”.
We all have music that resonates with us, that speaks to the heart. Obviously, I could more easily identify the “character of the dance” with music that spoke to my heart. For example, initially I was especially drawn to tango, slow waltz and paso doble music…and as my repertoire has expanded, I resonate with rumba and Viennese waltz. I can feel this music in my bones.
Recently I began to listen to music with the intent of allowing my body to find its natural movement, which for me is the first step in finding my personal dancing style.
The challenge was, and continues to be, how to express that inner feeling with my face and my body so that my audience could feel it as well. How do I use my face and body to convey what I’m feeling…and still be technically sound?
To be continued in Expressiveness Part Two