Happy May dancers! I am feeling mentally rejuvenated after a full day of American Smooth workshops at Emerald Ball. Physically…that’s another story, but first I wanted to share my insights and takeaways from the day.
Welcome back, dancers!
Last time, I told you about a podcast I had listened to that really got the gears turning in the brain. I pondered the question, “why isn’t dance as relatable as other performance art forms like acting or singing?” I concluded that connection and shared experience were key. It’s easier for an audience to connect with actors and singers through a shared experience. Dance has a dualistic experience that happens externally and internally at the same time, and dancers don’t need an audience in order to feel fulfilled in their dancing. If a dancer isn’t able to bring the internal part of the experience out so the audience can connect to it, the audience won’t be able to connect and relate to the dance performance. As the panelists in the podcast episode discussed, this lack of relatability could be a major factor in how publicly successful dancers can be, compared to actors or singers.
So how can we make dance more relatable?
I was listening to the podcast DanceSpeak earlier this week, specifically episode 97 (also available on iTunes, Google Play, etc.). Normally, the episodes consist of interviews between the host, Galit Friedlander, and someone who’s found success in the dance industry. Episode 97 was different in that it was a recording of a live panel that happened at an event called Im-Power-Meant. Toward the end of the episode, someone asked the panel why they thought dancers haven’t reached the same level of public success as other performance artists like actors or singers. As I listened to the panel’s thoughts, my brain started to explode with ideas. I actually spoke the first draft of this blog post into the voice recorder on my phone while I was running errands after work on the day I listened to the podcast. There was too much I wanted to share and I didn’t want to lose any of it by the time I was ready to sit down and write.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day dancers!
Anyone have any special St. Patty’s Day traditions (aside from drinking too much)? Traditional meals? Good old fashioned folk dancing? Please share in the comments!
My day was busy, which is why this blog post is coming a little late. It started with solo practice, of course.
I was at a dance lesson a little over a week ago, and Teacher was talking about some of the more intricate details of our open Waltz routine. These were the details that add another layer of quality and performance to the dance.
It had nothing to do with making steps fancier or more complicated. It was about activating the body in the right way at the right time to demonstrate control and awareness. Adding an extra little tick here or extending a stretch a second longer there would also demonstrate musicality and my ability to “play” within the confines of the choreography.
As he talked about one section, I thought of other sections where I knew I could go further, push deeper, or do more to create something that would make the audience go “wow.” This kind of talk excites me. It’s a deep dive into the art of the dance and gives me more opportunity to work my creative muscles.
At the same time though, as I pictured myself adding those intricate layers to my dancing, I felt a twang, like anxiety plucked one of my heartstrings.
On January 22, 2018, I emailed the 108 people on the Solo Practice Guide mailing list about a special offer. I was ready to complete the Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing, but before I released it to the world, I wanted to test it. So I created a beta group and opened it to 10 people to help me review the Guide chapter by chapter. The result was awesomeness, and I’m so grateful to those 10 people for helping me make this dream a reality. Now that we’re reaching the one-year anniversary of that fateful day, I want to celebrate!
Another year coming to a close. It’s cliche to say, but each one really seems to fly by quicker than the one before. Maybe I’m just getting old.
2018 was witness to some incredible accomplishments in my life:
Dancing is literally defined as moving rhythmically to music. Many of our lessons and practice time in ballroom, however, happen without music. Even when we do get to dance to music in our training, it’s not going to be the same music that we’ll dance to at competition. It seems to be a challenge unique to ballroom. I remember explaining this to people who had experience with the more mainstream dance competitions, where dancers compete with routines choreographed to specific songs, and being looked at like I was crazy.
You don’t know what music you’ll be dancing to??
Nope. And if you enter a Jack and Jill event, you won’t even know who your partner is going to be!
How do you prepare for that??
Do you ever feel like you’re going nowhere fast? Like you’re stuck in a hamster wheel or walking the wrong way on one of those moving walkways in the airport?
That’s how I feel on the tougher days. Those days when I feel like it doesn’t matter how hard I work, I just can’t seem to make any progress. My to-do pile at the day job is growing faster than my done pile. I practiced over and over, but I still can’t seem to get that move right in my dance lesson. I’m doing “all the things” to grow my business, but the return still feels small.
Erin Drake is a professional ballroom dancer and teacher in Orange County, California. When I heard about her new nonprofit, Rx Ballroom Dance, I knew it would be something you guys would love to learn about and support. Please read on to hear about the amazing progress her first participant has already made.
NOW THROUGH DECEMBER 25: When you buy the Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing, I will donate 25% of the sale to Rx Ballroom Dance.