Dancing On Your Own
If you’re anything like me, you love partner dancing with an unquenchable passion. The biggest appeal of partner dancing is the beautiful picture that you create together, not to mention the physical and emotional connection between partners.
Quite a few times, I’ve been stuck in situations that restricted me from ballroom and social dancing — when I found myself without a ballroom partner twice, after I graduated college when I was stuck at my parents’ for four months as I job searched, and even now when I just simply cannot financially afford to go out dancing as much as I would like.
In those moments, I dance by myself.
It helps to fill the void, and it makes my partner dances better and more meaningful when they happen.
As with any relationship, space is important, and dancing on your own can help you to discover some things that you would not explore when dancing with a partner.
Technique and Styling
There is so much to focus on when you’re dancing with a partner, you rarely have time to consciously think about how you look when you’re dancing. When you dance on your own, you have the time to break down every little movement and then practice them so that they become muscle memory for the next time you are dancing with a partner.
When I dance by myself, I like to experiment with the music far more than I would dancing with a partner. I can play with expressing different elements in the music, without fear of throwing off my partner if I lose the beat. This is something you can practice anywhere with a good pair of headphones…grocery shopping, standing in line, driving, etc.
Especially if you’re new to a certain style of dance, listening to the music and finding the beat on your own will make you much more comfortable the next time you go out social dancing. (Just be forewarned, dancing while waiting for the crosswalk light gets you some strange looks.)
Visualization can actually help improve leading and following. This is a concept that has certainly worked for me, and I would absolutely recommend trying. I learned this technique when I was a gymnast. You close your eyes, envision yourself doing a skill, and then when you next attempt it, you do it better. A lot of pro athletes do this, and I found an article explaining some of the psychology here.
I’ve used this to great effect, especially when I was first learning zouk. I had scarce opportunities to practice zouk — I lived in Santa Barbara and had to drive two hours down to LA on off weekends to get any kind of practice — so in the meantime, I would watch videos of myself, see where I messed up a move, and then watch videos of professionals to find the same move. Once I saw how it was done, I would go through it in my mind and follow up with “marking” it , or going through the motions. After a few months, I went back to LA for a zouk social and had improved vastly, following moves that I had struggled with before.
Finding Your Voice as a Dancer
This is perhaps one of the best and most important aspects that you experience when dancing alone. We can often become overwhelmed and oversaturated with different ideas of how we think we should look when we dance, from instructors to professionals that we see on YouTube. This applies to both technique and styling.
A lot of technique is universal, but we are not clones and we all have different bodies. I experienced a lot of frustration over being told how to do something repeatedly by an instructor but still struggling to understand it — and it took dancing on my own to figure out how to put technique that I received from instructors into my own terms and make it work for me.
Dancing on your own, you can experiment freely with the motions that feel most natural to you. The more you do this, the easier it becomes to translate input from instructors and to adopt different moves or technique that you want to add to your own style.
NOTE: With all of these areas, repetition and reinforcement is KEY. You want to try to fit in a short session every day to maintain the muscle memory — doing it for an hour and once per week won’t do you any good.
I would love to see or hear about your experience with solo practice/dancing. Post a video and link it in the comments, or type out your story and share it!
See you on the dance floor! ❤
— Elena “The Rhinestone” Rovito