Today, Tarcisio said to me, lets talk about style! I said, ok, your’s or mine? Haha, kidding… Let’s talk about style when it comes to a cultural dance, specifically social Latin dance.
People sometimes think that style is the way a dance style looks, Salsa looks this way, Zouk Lambada looks that way, Bachata looks like this…
It’s also common for people to teach from the way a dance style looks, “it looks like this, lets do it”…
If you come from a culture where these dance styles are from you understand that style is not only the way it looks, style comes from WHY it looks like that. Those who grew up with it feel it innately, it’s an expression of a feeling and this is what makes a dance look the way it does.
Brazilian’s did not decide to dance samba the way it is, the culture evolved and they dance it this way because of their culture, and the feelings that are evoked when they listen to Samba music. Cubans, Columbians and Puerto Ricans dance salsa differently, because in each Country Salsa evolved in a specific way, from their specific culture and it is expressed through that cultural feeling, it’s music and it’s history.
Ok, so how can we teach style and how can you learn style? Of course the way a dance looks is a great starting point, but what do we FEEL when we listen to the music, this is a cultural thing and the great news is that it’s learnable.
More than executing the steps perfectly, or being able to copy the way someone you admire dances, to really get the style, and feel it in your own body, you need to understand and feel the culture and the music that is behind the dance style. This feeling creates the style. It is not the movement reproducing the feeling.
It’s like learning a language, yes you can imitate the sounds, but without the cultural understanding you will not express the full meaning or in the full way a native speaker does because language is more than sounds it is born from, and integral to, a culture.
If we teach the way it looks, it doesn’t ‘feel’ like the style, it may be being executed well, but it is lacking the feeling and the culture, behind the movement. If you want to dance like a local it is essential to fully understand, absorb, study and feel the culture.
3 top tips to get you on your way:
1. Listen to the music! We are so lucky that these day’s we have easy access to millions of tracks – just google, or search in iTunes or Spotify your favourite style/s and away you go.
2. Come to social dance parties, here you will see and experience the feeling of dancing these styles as they are all social dances.
3. Maybe one to put on your wish list, we highly recommend it, visit the Country! We have been running a Brazil Carnaval and Cultural Tour for over 15 years and one of the biggest feedback we get from students who have travelled with us is “wow, I really feel the difference in my dance just from being immersed the culture”. Noting this is not a specific dance tour, it is the immersion in the culture, the people, the experience that changes their understanding and feelings associated with the dance styles.
As always, if you have a question or a comment please leave them below, send us an email, write a message on Facebook or chat to us at class.
See you on the dance floor soon!
Dance for life.
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