Learning to dance BIGGER
What do I mean by dance "bigger"? You know those larger than life people who just seem to have energy that takes up the whole room? Just like that, except apply it to dance. Dancing bigger is about being more powerful and bold and confident in yourself and your dance. It’s about making every move you are doing say “YES! I was totally intending on doing just that (even if you weren't). So pay attention!” It's about really finishing every move before you move on to the next one.
People (both teachers and students alike) often think dancing bigger means “attacking,” and that’s not what I mean at all. It’s not about looking like you’re a dance bully pummelling a choreography into submission. You're aren't a pro weight-lifter, you're a dancer. Instead, you want to dance big like the movement is coming out of you to its fullest expression. It’s about commanding attention. It’s about moving without looking frantic. It's about being in total control of the power of your movements, whether they are big or small, obvious or subtle.
Dancing bigger is what takes your skill to the next level. You can master any move you want, but if you don't own it, that will only take you so far. I'm writing about this for a number of reasons; one of them being that we often think we are dancing big, but we might not be. I’ve experienced this time and time again when I thought I was dancing as big as I possibly could. I would then watch a video I took of my practice and realize I could have given a hundred times more. I can guarantee that checking on how "big" you are dancing whether through video or in a mirror will always improve your work. There'a also always something we can find to improve on, whether it's reaching out a little bit further, bringing your chest up a little higher, making that undulation a little smoother, or making that step a little bit more certain. (As a caution: do not use the mirror as your only way of checking in on yourself. Obviously, when you perform, you won't have that luxury, so practice as much without them as with them.)
It sounds cheesy but dancing bigger is about shining your light as bright as possible. It’s about showing everyone else how dedicated you are to your craft. Especially as my class is moving on to choreographies that are going to require more attitude, more facial expression, and similar types of elements, I can just start telling all of you reading this now that this is the point where you just have to OWN IT. You might feel a little silly at times, but that’s part of the process! Whether you’re in class or at home, feel free to make everything bigger, a bit more exaggerated, test things out, test out those big movements and dramatic faces, and get ready to laugh at yourself too. It’s good for you!
Bigger is about making a move precise yet stretched out to its limit, allowing it to reach its full potential. Also, you never know where your audience will be sitting or how big it will be, so dancing bigger allows everyone in the room to see and feel what you are doing. If you have a cool combo you’ve been working on for months, of course you want to make it shine so that everyone can see it. The other rule tends to be that when it comes to performance time, you will almost always make your dance “smaller” than you’ve been practicing because of adrenaline, nerves, or what not. If you have made it a habit of practicing HUGE you can more easily guarantee that you will at least still dance BIG on the night of your show. Of course, everyone will also be able to sense your commitment to your moves, which helps (like this wicked picture of Jacqui)!
One of my favourite dancers who never drops the "dance big" ball is Deb Rubin. She's not only an amazing tribal fusion dancer, but her background in contemporary dance always seeps into her performance and I LOVE it. I have never seen anyone own the space more than she does. Even when she starts out her dances really simply, she commands SUCH attention. Everything she does has such precision and intention. This link is one of her more recent and lovely contemporary practices she posted on facebook.Or just Youtube her. You'll see what I mean.
Mostly, I tell you all to dance big because this is something I’ve struggled and still struggle with as a dancer sometimes. Not all of us have big personalities that make it easy to dance big. Some people just ooze confidence, but some of us are attempting to build it little by little over the years. I say this because I have noticed that a lot of Tribal styles seem to attract people who might be a little more introverted or feel a little bit more "at the margins” than others. This is the PERFECT space for you to explore your self-confidence, and just be an emotionally bigger you.
Dancing bigger is something the other ladies of Mascarie and my teachers have helped show me over the years. Their capacity to radiate confidence is inspiring and something I wish to take on more with each dance. Dancing big is not about narcissism or ego, it’s about knowing that when you are performing, it’s actually okay to think that it’s all about YOU for the next 3-10 minutes of your life… because actually, it is!
Dance big and dance on,
(Photo1 credit: Joel Walsham)
(Photo 2 credit: Peter Stockdale )