ADVICE IN MOTION
The mind & body of a dancer
It seems all too clear that dancers are called upon to do a lot of different styles these days. The truth of the matter, is that it has ALWAYS been like this. Of course, hip-hop and break dancing etc. weren’t really around until not that long ago but now these styles have crossed over into the genres that are used quite frequently because of dance competition programs and their popularity on mainstream television, and a lot of stage productions, where called for, will put in what they can to please the crowds, especially the more recent shows.
So how does one prepare for the onslaught of styles that you will be bombarded with once you hit the circuit of professional shows for film, TV, stage, concerts & dance companies, how will you know what to do first? Or, should you try and do them all at once? The problem with these questions is that there is no ONE answer. It will be slightly different for a lot of you.
The three mainstays of dance are of course, ballet, Jazz & contemporary. I hear a lot of you arguing with contemporary, I will tell you why I consider it important. Ballet is and has ALWAYS been a great place for any dancer to start, giving control of movement and absolute strength and the techniques to carry you in to many styles IF you know how to apply them. The one problem with ballet is that unless you are dead keen on that career and you are one of the chosen few to dance with a company, there is not a lot of call for this style elsewhere, but as I said before it is good training.
Jazz is an obvious choice because it forms most of the different styles of stage dance and is used for character dance as well, this combined with the technique and strength of ballet make a great combo and Jazz is a great way of loosening up.
The closest style of dance to ballet is contemporary, because it uses everything ballet does EXCEPT it is totally creative movement combined with forms & shapes and is incredibly controlled but with freedom of body being an essential part of this style. Being able to put your body where the choreographer wants it to be, I see it as the classical version of hip-hop. With sharp controlled movement and also flowing shapes and dance.
If you can learn these 3 classes of dance to their true form, then you are ready to take on whatever life throws at you?? To a point! Breakdance for example, is a specialist field and is only used in minimal circumstances. Fine, if you want to do some classes to learn a bit and grasp the style, but you would be better off to do hip-hop or krumping, these are far more widely used in all areas of performance.
One other specialist field is tap dance. It is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS worth learning a bit of this art-form. Learn the basics, time-steps, sequences, wings, grab-offs, pull-backs or pick-ups and learn them very well, and you will also be able to pick up most tap that is used for stage performance.
What I am trying to get through to you here, is just to condition your mind and body to accept new ideas and styles. Always be keen to learn something new and it will stand you in good stead.
The path of a dancer is not an easy one, but for most it is an exciting and enjoyable one creating constantly from job to job. The more versatile you are in your adaptability to different choreographers the more you will be used, because you can deliver the goods.
Never rest on your laurels either, that is, don’t become complacent with thinking that you have already done the hard work, now you can just do the jobs!
Remember there are more and more young dancers coming into the field and they want a piece of the action too, so to hold your place, keep up with classes where you can and learn new styles, work with as many choreographers as you can, do varied work, even if it means taking a pay cut sometimes. When you are working you will exude an air of confidence and people can’t help but notice it and want to be around you. People who are auditioning pick up on this as well and sense your ability to work.
The mind and body of a dancer need constant attention, nurturing and conditioning. If you stick by these guidelines and build on them to suit YOU, then you will always be sort after and in work, doing what you love, DANCE!