When I tell people that I am a dance instructor, the most common response (by far) is “I want to learn how to freestyle dance!”
I believe that anyone can learn how to dance! No amount of sprinklers, dabs, or robots will destroy my faith in humanity. You might be someone who feels unbearably awkward when you go out dancing with friends, or maybe you want to learn how to dance to meet someone new. No matter the reason, most people want to become better freestyle dancers. There are many ways to achieve club stardom but it is best to start with the basics. Learning fancy moves will get you moving but will not give you confidence when you are put to the test.
A surprising, yet very effective way to freestyle is to learn how to ballroom dance first. There is something about learning the box step and dancing simple rhythms (slow, quick, quick anyone?) that awakens your body to movement. When you are given a specific set of easy steps it allows you to build confidence and start to express yourself more through body movement. I like to compare dancing to cooking. When you first start cooking you need a recipe. When you start to feel comfortable with the flavors and process you can go off-script and make the dish your own.
An understanding of music structure is key to freestyling, something that people often miss. Learning to count the beat of a song is crucial and yes it can be taught! Whenever people start trying to freestyle dance, most of the time they dance to the normal strong beat (this is the numbered beat: 1, 2, 3, 4). However, when freestyling you really want to switch up which beat you are dancing to. You can accent the “&” of the counts, focus on upbeat or downbeats, and my favorite: dancing to the lyrics.
When people start trying to dance on their own, they overdo their feet and motions to the point of insanity! You do want to move your feet, however use moderation. In the movie Hitch, Will Smith’s character tries to teach Kevin James’ character how to dance and not make a fool of himself in front of his crush. It’s a classic scene and in actuality the moves that Kevin James does are recreated at most club and wedding reception to be funny. In the end, Will Smith tries to take away Kevin James’ personality in his dancing and realizes that wasn’t the best choice. I like to think they were both right. You have to start with some step touches and keep those arms still, find the beat, and then add your extras. Please enjoy this hilarious scene:
Learning how to freestyle is not impossible, even if you do have two left feet. It requires practice, focus, and open-mindedness. You have to be willing to let go of your preconceived notions of how you look when you dance. If you don’t then you will not progress. So either start some ballroom lessons, try to find different beats in music, or be on the lookout for my next freestyle class and we will “Q-Tip” it up! (watch the clip to get that joke ?)