Whoda thunk that doing hip hop would help my blues/fusion dancing so much?
In one week, I have been able to “get” blues concepts I could never fully understand by having them broken down for me from a hip hop perspective. Through hip hop, I have discovered strategies to keep my body grounded and attuned to the music, and I finally realize how musicality and solo dancing fit in to partner dancing.
Here’s how hip hop helped my partner dancing (and can hopefully help yours as well!):
Getting grounded with grooving
Hip hop is all about the groove. Fancy moves are cool, but when you take them all away, the body still needs to be grooving for you to rightfully claim to be doing “hip hop.” Some styles work with an “up” groove (which keeps your body pulsing upward toward a happy, upbeat “up” beat), and some follow a “down” groove (which keeps your body thinking “down” and “heavy”).
I have mostly been drilling the up groove for funk, locking, waacking, and top rock, but this Monday was the first time I started taking the down groove seriously in a hip hop class. The hip hop groove is “heavy” in the same way that blues dancing is heavy and grounded.
On Tuesday, I drilled the hip hop down groove for an hour to make it feel more natural to my body. Because the hour of drilling made me conscious of the differences between the “up” and “down” (“heavy” and “light”) feelings, I was a lot more conscious of keeping my steps down and “heavy” when blues dancing, and started being able to catch myself whenever I’d start veering toward lighter steps.
Making magic with musicality
A popping session on Wednesday reinforced and let me practice concepts introduced in a series of blues workshops I attended last Saturday and Sunday. I learned to listen to different elements in the music and pick out individual ones and dance to them specifically — and then put everything together by dancing to all of the elements. By training my ear to become aware of the many intricacies in the music, I learned how to better anticipate when a lead was working up to something big, when he might pause for effect, repeat a move, and more.
It was kind of like gaining the power to tell predict the future – not enough to cause me to back lead, but enough to better prepare me for what a lead might be planning. When you know which dance elements your lead is listening and dancing to, it takes some of the guesswork out of what he might possibly do, thereby making you appear to be a follow who can magically follow and mirror complex movements. Really neat, actually.
Sensing spots for styling
The musicality and practice with solo dancing I gained through hip hop freestyling taught me how to insert grooving and styling naturally into my dancing. Because I was no longer fixated on following my lead’s every move, I learned to move my body whenever there were moments when something was not being led. Because hip hop taught me to constantly keep my body grooving, applying this to blues ensured I always felt the music in my body and danced it, even without a lead to tell me how to feel and interpret it. I was able to insert more of myself and my own style to the dance, rather than remain confined to the view of styling as a series of moves you have to learn and throw in during specific moments. Now, I can essentially turn every moment into an opportunity for styling.
So you don’t need to devote all your time to one dance to see big improvements in it. Sometimes, making connections between different dances is just what you need to make things start to make sense!