Some dancers just have it – a unique style that’s all their own. For most other dancers, it takes a lot of time and hard work to get to that point, no matter how fashionable their dance apparel is. If you’re in this latter category and wondering how you can go about finding your style, here are some tips to help you.
Master the fundamentals.
You can’t develop your own style if you don’t have the fundamentals down first. That means mastering the technical skills you need for whatever genre of dance you’re pursuing. Without a solid foundation, you’re not going to be able to execute movements in a way that’s authentic and compelling – both of which are a must if you want to develop your own style.
Think about your favorite music.
Sure, you want to develop your own dance style. But you’re not going to get very far without the right music. In fact, the music that you tend to gravitate towards can serve as a source of inspiration when you’re struggling to find your style. For instance, would you rather be in a ballet costume dancing to classical music? Or in hip hop dance apparel, moving to the beat of an edgier soundtrack? There’s no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on what you like most and what resonates best with you.
Free your mind.
If there’s another dancer you really admire, it’s easy to copy or mimic them when you’re dancing. But you’re not going to develop your own style with this approach. It’s ok for beginner dancers. However, for those who want to move on and develop more, you have to forget about all the moves and routines you’ve seen in the past. Think instead just about the music and how your body responds to it. So go ahead and dance from your heart with emotion. You might be surprised at what comes out of you.
Expose yourself to many different styles.
If you’re working to develop your own style, then expose yourself to as many different dance genres and instructors as possible, including varying methods and ideas. Even if you’re focused on one particular category of dance, you never know where inspiration might come. In the end, you’ll have a much more diverse and comprehensive dance background from which to pull from when you're working on your own style.
In addition, by working with different instructors, you can gain a more realistic and accurate sense of your strengths and weaknesses, which can help you during the development process. Beyond dance class, you can also gain inspiration for your style from a variety of different sources, from books and movies to nature, fashion and art.
Practice alone…a lot.
It’s tough to work on your style when you’re in the studio with 10 other dancers. It’s distracting and hard to focus on creating something unique and all your own. That’s why you should practice by yourself as much as possible outside of dance class. Whether you’re at home, taking a walk in the park, or in the studio by yourself, put on your dance apparel and strive to get in some practice time by yourself each week. You’ll be less self-conscious and better able to concentrate more as you work.
Just be sure to take notes as you go so you don’t forget different moves or steps you come up with. You should also consider video-ing yourself dancing so you can critique yourself afterward. When you’re watching the footage, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, look for moments that look uniquely like you and steps you’d like to repeat. Also, identify what you like and don’t like, and then use that as insight for your next practice session.
You’re passionate about dance and desperately want to develop your own style. But give it time. These things don’t happen overnight, or over the course of a few weeks. A personal style is created over a lot of time, with plenty of practice and hard work. Keep in mind too that it’s also something that evolves constantly. So be open to change during the development process. You might have one idea for a direction to go in, but eventually realize that you want to take a completely different course. Change is ok; so embrace it. It’s all part of the journey.
Don’t compare yourself.
Dancers tend to be guilty of comparing themselves to others – their bodies, their steps, their progress and more. But this is a pointless exercise. It’s one thing to admire another dancer’s ability and use it as a tool for motivation. However, if you’re constantly looking at and measuring yourself against other dancers – and the unique personal styles they've developed – it’s eventually going to lead to feelings of bitterness and resentment; either toward them or yourself. So don’t go down that path at all. Just because another dancer has a personal style down pat doesn’t mean you need to do the same in a matter of weeks. Focus on yourself and doing what’s right for you.
Confidence is key.
When it comes to two dancers performing, whether in the studio or on the stage, a big differentiator that can make one stand out over another is confidence. If you believe in yourself – and feel good about the dance style you’re developing – then let it shine through. Your fellow dancers and instructors will certainly take notice.
Wear dance apparel that makes you feel good.
Once you’re ready to start putting your personal style out there and showcasing it to fellow dancers and instructors, make sure you’re in comfortable dance apparel. The last thing you want is for your leotard to be too tight or ill-fitting, or your dance shoes to be uncomfortable – impacting your overall performance. You’re going to be nervous anyway about opening yourself up to others in such a personal way; so just make sure you’re comfortable in your clothes when you do it.