As a professional dancer and teacher, I often get caught up in technical skills, complicated amalgamations, and concepts I work on with my students. In preparation for writing this article about returning to basics, I thought about how much I love reading articles where authors truly delve into the topic that they are writing.
In an attempt to articulate my honest thoughts on why it is important to go back to the basics every once in a while (or, all the time, honestly), I decided to practice what I was preaching. I spent five days dancing alongside basic technical videos on Dance Vision. Here's what I learned.
Basics are Plenty “Difficult”
As a young dancer, I remember feeling bored when a teacher would ask me to dance Rumba walks across the floor, or practice closed changes in Waltz. Today, basics are pretty integrated into my practice routine, and I tend to work on high-level concepts with those basic actions in mind. However, after taking Sveta Daly’s class on American Rhythm Swing Technique, I was reminded of just how challenging, adaptive, and comprehensive basics can be. I worked on a swing basic alone for 15 minutes, and by the end, my core was on fire. I felt inspired to return to my basics and find new ways to understand the most simple principles.
Opportunities for New Perspectives
At Dance Vision, we are very fortunate to learn from a variety of world-renowned instructors. When taking classes this week from instructors who I have worked with both in-person and online, I was reminded that there are many ways to describe a single concept that is universally taught and understood. As I listened to Olga Forapanova discuss hip action in American Smooth, I began to interpret a basic concept in a way that I was not used to before. I felt as though I was more thorough in my movement as I integrated new perspectives into actions that I was already familiar with.
Getting out of a Rut
You might have returned from a lesson with a coach to share what you thought was a life-altering, lightbulb moment, only to find out your teacher had been telling you the same thing for months. Sometimes, in order to understand a concept that we have struggled with, we need to learn from a variety of instructors and learning styles. This helps to integrate both new and previous knowledge into our dancing. If you feel like you’re in a rut with a certain concept or dance, returning to basic classes is a great way to gain a fresh perspective and explanation of a topic.
Practice What You’re Good At
I think many of us dancers could say, with confidence, that we are “good” at our basics. In order to progress to higher levels, we must be! Personally though, I often forget to practice the things I am already good at. It is so tempting to work on what we are struggling with, or to work on what our teacher tells us we need to improve. If we only ever practiced what we were bad at, our struggles would improve, but the things we were already good at won't continue to be great. Returning to basics is a unique opportunity to excel at existing strengths. I really enjoyed a class from Yegor Novikov about balance and posturing, something I feel is already a personal strength of mine. After class, I felt even more confident in an element of my dancing that I felt was already well executed.
Muscle Memory Needs to Be Broken
On the other hand, it can be easy to slip back into "bad habits" within our dancing. When we teach our bodies something for years at a time, it can be hard to revert to the initial framework of a dance that we are performing incorrectly. Returning to basic movements offers an opportunity to break movements down to the most simplified format, ensuring that we are creating a powerful foundation and stacking quality dance movement, as we add incremental skill and difficulty.
It was a joy to spend a week taking basic classes with Dance Vision, and I feel renewed and inspired in my own personal practice.
I hope that this article has inspired you, as well, to return to basics and discover how your dancing can skyrocket by coming back to the most simplified elements of dance.