The "techie" dancer

I’m not going to start this blog by discussing why anyone goes to a dance class, that would take too long and be a whole blog to itself, but I do know that people love to dance do it for a variety of different reasons.

For some people it’s all about learning new dances and mastering those dances so that they can dance them in shows or just have the enjoyment of having succeeded in learning them. If you think about it, learning an entire dance gives you a very tangible sense of achievement – your hard work has a clear beginning, middle and end in the way that so often learning new skills never seems to.

But I have a “thing” about this. I believe that if you only ever go to dance class to learn new dances you just end up being able to dance steps; then more and more different steps, but not necessarily ever improving. Without putting time and effort into your dance technique, style and skills, you’re in danger of ending up as a dancer who knows lots of dances and does them all with the same bad technique.

Now that’s harsh – and I know that is. It’s an over simplification of the facts. However, there’s a grain of truth in it for no matter how good your teacher is, in a choreography class their job is to teach the class that choreography! They’ll be points in the class where they might be talking to you about your body line and where your weight is during that step, but they won’t have time to have that conversation with every member of the class, at every point during the dance.

So if you want to do what you do better, there’s only one place for you to go and that’s to a Technique class.

When I first announced that I was going to be including dedicated Flamenco dance technique classes in our curriculum I received several emails from students asking what I meant by that and what those classes would be like. I smile about this now, but at the time I was completely amazed people didn’t know what a dance technique class was.

I think the problem is that once you get away from Spain, you really only seem to find dedicated dance technique classes in the major cities. Here in the UK I know that there are some great Flamenco dance technique classes running regularly in London, but not very many elsewhere. For so many people who go to Flamenco dance classes in smaller towns and county areas, it really is all about learning dances and although their teachers may from time to time work on their technique and think about how much they’d benefit from it, not many actual technique classes get off the ground as it takes a particular kind of dancer to want to be attending them regularly.

So who are these “techie” dancers? Why do they want to be in the tech classes and what do they get out of them?

Obviously the quick answer is that they get improved technique. They then take their improved technique into the choreography classes and then dance all the dances they already know – but they dance them better.

But attending a technique class isn’t some kind of easy fix, magic wand – you’ve got to put the work in and sometimes that begins by you and your teacher identifying in the class where you weaknesses are, so you can be specifically working on that. So you might spend the whole class with the teacher constantly reminding you to keep your core muscles engaged as you dance and to keep your body weight forward over your toes (with your pelvis tucked under of course).

For others a tech class can be like someone turning the light up, so that vague ideas of how they want to dance are suddenly illuminated and they understand clearly for the first time what they need to do and how they need to do it in order to achieve what they want.

But for most, a tech class is where you go to learn to listen and understand what your body is doing as you dance. You learn to understand the rhythms, the structure of the dance. The repeated exercises strengthen your muscles and encourage you to be bolder in your style, confident that you understand what that style should look and feel like. You don’t have to worry about remembering long passages of dance, but you do need to concentrate on making your body do what you want it to. Repeat, repeat and learn is the mantra of the technique class.

When the moment comes when you realise that you’ve got it right, that you’ve understood, that you’re waving goodbye to problems in your dancing that were weighing you down and getting in the way of your dancing, that you are starting to becom the dancer you want to be – that sense of achievement is amazing.

Feeling amazing doesn’t happen for all of us on a daily basis. We need to grab that feeling and run with it as often and as far as we can.

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