Ana Masacote Posts

5 Steps to Developing Your Own Style

Have you ever wondered how to develop your own dance style? I get this question all the time — “I’m doing the same thing all the time, and I can see my partner getting bored. Can you teach me a new move?”
The key, however, lies not in learning new moves, but in finding variations for what you already know. This is easy to notice when watching beginner & advanced dancers moving through their basics, but it is often overlooked when we are starting out, in large part because working on what you already know is harder than working on something new. It requires more discipline, more awareness, and more patience to get past the underlying issues of what are really holding us back. So how do we accomplish this? Let’s get started with my five step process towards finding your own style..
Ana Masacote Photo courtesy of Valentin Behringer

Ana Masacote
Photo courtesy of Valentin Behringer

1) Get past your insecurities.

I was recently asked how long it took me to feel comfortable on the dance floor, and when I mentioned a month, it came as a shock to the individual. I had to explain that the question needed to be phrased differently. Feeling comfortable is different from looking “good” in the context of where I would have wanted to be.

I never had a fear of not looking “good”, and thus I was able to relax almost from the start. I just went with it. As long as I was having fun, that’s all that mattered. Now, to feel comfortable with how I looked on the dance floor was a good 3 years, but this fearlessness made a huge difference in my initial progression.

There will always be an awkward phase in learning something new, which can often be intimidating. You have to confront your insecurities head on, accept them, work through them, and let it all out on the dance floor.

2) Learn the Music

Music is the foundation to everything. If you don’t understand the music, then you are losing sight of a whole window of opportunities in your dance development. As Joel Masacote would say it, “Music and dance are one.” Learning one without the other is like learning to walk on one leg.

Comprehension of the music is a necessity for expression, and style is just the way in which you express yourself. To truly manifest what you are feeling, you must be able to understand its origins. The origins help you learn the pathways in which you can improvise while staying within the framework of connectivity.

3) Connect

Connection is both an abstract & physical concept. Physically, there is a necessity to stay connected to your partner at all times. One can always find a personal solo style, but within partner dances, that ever so elusive partner connection is a must for styling. There is a beauty in learning to adapt off your partner’s style so that you become water together.

Metaphysical connection is another story and much more difficult. This relates to the concept of “being in the pocket” of music and energy together. It is the art of reading your partner’s mind before he/she even does something. It is not backleading or preparing in advance, but staying right in tune with your partner’s lead/follow so you hit the breaks together, as one. This intuition gives you the tools for expressing through the windows to come.

4) Find the Windows

Now we’re getting to the uniqueness of expression. In dance, there are a lot of open doors for you to walk through, or moments in time where you know you can style without inhibiting your partner connection. For example, you can always add an arm extension when having a free arm or a body roll when your partner is spinning.

However, the art of finding your own voice lies in skipping the doors and finding the windows. Knowing the places you can improvise in your own way while maintaining time as well as lead/follow will keep you dancing in the pocket while dancing with your own distinctive traits.

5) Let Go

And we have come full circle. As with any good cycle of learning, it always goes back to the beginning.  It is not enough to find the windows if you are afraid to let yourself go. You must learn to internalize the concepts above so that when dancing, you can stay in the moment without necessity to think ahead. Finding your own style is a process of finding yourself out on that dance floor and not being afraid to be free. Don’t just enjoy the ride. Live it!
XOXO, Ana Masacote

9 thoughts on “5 Steps to Developing Your Own Style

  1. Pingback: 5 Steps to Developing Your Own Style | Nuevolution Dance Blog Site

  2. Nice article, Ana!! The music is so central, and having a play mentality – feeling comfortable with yourself and not being afraid of making mistakes – has been key for me as well, though I occasionally need reminders🙂. In the connection category, I find the key is watching and listening to your partner not just for leading and following but for how they are feeling within the music, so that it’s really a conversation (sometimes call-and-response, but there are so many options) instead of each person just waiting for their turn to talk. So much more comes out in my dancing when I get absorbed in my partner’s expression equally to my own experience. Which reminds me of this quote I really like from an article written by a tap dancer:

    “Like a lot of dancers, I used to spend all my energy thinking up steps that the audience might want to see and planning out musical arrangements of tunes I know so that I could dance with the melody. Some interesting phrases came from this approach, but the dances never made sense as a whole. They never said anything…
    [S]ome of our noisiness is not inevitable. Some of it is being too focused on our heads and feet and not enough on our ears. Some of it is our fear of silence and our mistaken belief that we have to keep talking even when we don’t have something to say. Some of it is our forgetfulness of the musicians on stage with us, despite our deep respect for them. All of these barriers have something in common: they keep us from having conversations with the musicians and other dancers. And missing these conversations often keeps us from finding what we truly have to say.”
    (http://www.owningpink.com/blogs/owning-pink/using-magical-ears-listening-to-find-my-voice)

    • Just seeing this response Joy. Love the quote you gave. Truly finding the connection between dancer and musician is really an extraordinary feeling. You’ve given me an idea for another topic to discuss. Thank you so much!🙂

  3. Haha I was just thinking this yesterday and found this today! Just like in dancing, timing is everything.🙂

  4. Pingback: あなた独自のスタイルを作るための5つのステップ!(女性向け) | サルサを楽しむ!♀♂ by まさき(ち)&もっち

  5. Ana, this is Del Dominguez from Chicago, loved this post and really appreciate your thoughts about styling without disrupting the common flow that you can develop with your partner. I’ve wrapped up writing a 35,000 page book about my dancing thoughts and when I got to this exact part, it was by far the most challenging. I appreciate the insight from someone who has put in even more time than I have. Thanks!

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