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.
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.
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