7 Tricks to Watch Dance Videos So You Actually Get Better: Couch Potato's Guide

The other day, I was watching my new favorite dancer Koharu Sugawara. She was performing on Say My Name with astonishing 8 million views! By far, it's her most popular video. Overwhelmed by her emotional jab, I wanted to share my sensation with the fellow YouTube audience. So, I crawled down. That's when I saw this brilliant satire:

"One day I'm gonna be like her..." -me on sofa eating fries.

Tell me about it. I do it. You do it. We all have the desire to get better, but we don't practice. Humans are nothing but lazy animals.

We know. And we cant help it.

But what if I tell you a way to convert the time spent watching videos into a practice experience so that you actually get better? It's all while remaining the same couch potato in your house.

Here are the 7:

1. Repeat Repeat Repeat

Imagine you are at the movie theatre. It's your favorite spiderman movie. It's full of actions - Peter Parker flying through the New York skyscrapers, spider webs stopping the subway train, fighting against the Sandman that is 6 feet tall... What a liberating experience... You are so absorbed into the story, the whole 2 hours of sitting feels like only 5 minutes.

That's basically what's happening in your head every time you watch dance videos. Great dancing is a form of storytelling, and you are being narrated. Passive, yet immersive experience.

Now, imagine this time instead that you are an aspiring young actor. You want to study expression. Of course, you love movies. But when you want to get better at acting, what do you do? You break down the movie and watch it scene by scene, dialogue by dialogue, actor by actor.

Well, that's exactly what you should do, as an aspiring dancer. Cut short of the dance video and rewatch them. It's divide and conquer strategy.

And let me tell you; it will suck. Storytelling is a story because you watch the whole episode in one go. Once you start dividing the video, it becomes a conscious effort. And there's something cold about it. Your right side brain will tell you, don't take away the magical cool experience.

Luckily, dance videos are short. They are 2 - 5 minutes. You can run through it once, twice or maybe three times. That can take out maximum 15 minutes of your watchtime. That's nothing compared to 2-hour movie. Only then, after you've got a good amount of wow factor and be impressed enough, move on. Rewatch the same video except this time, stop the video every so often. I recommend 10 seconds. In dancing, many things can happen during that period. Put it on 10 seconds, go back, and 10 seconds again. If you are ambitious, go for 5.

Sliding back and forth will soon get tedious. You can use Listeonrepeat. It's a YouTube player where you can play a particular scene on repeat over and over without any hands on it.

If you have set up this habit, you're ready to move onto the next technique.

2. Name Calling

I am generation zero when it comes to Pokemon. My first ever Pokemon was Bulbasaur. As you know, his type was grass. When it came to fight against Misty, a water type gym, it was an easy win. Hydro Pump? No problem. Bulbasaur could handle it easily. But, when it came to Blaine, my Bulbasaur was no match. Fire beats grass. I needed to catch water type Pokemon. I needed to know all Pokemon types to win the game.

The same thing happens to dancing.

If you look closely to a great dancer, on the other hand, you will notice he is demonstrating multiple traditional moves in his choreography. He's mastered multiple dance types. To attain a master body, you will first need to be able to recognize and remember the different types.

You might counterargue in favor of originality. Amateur creative type claims you should be able to create something out of nothing. Watch those guys for 2 minutes, and you will see he is just repeating the same move over and over. You will get bored of this guy you never bother to watch him again.

Instead, originality comes from mixing in traditional moves in your taste. It's like DJ performance. DJs are left on creating his own unique mix, but he has to first know all the music samples in his head.

Try calling out all the names this particular dancer is performing.

Here's a list of techniques I found online. They mostly have videos attached so you can have them for a reference.

3. One Part at a Time

Have you seen a magic show where the magicians revealed the trick at the end? Those spoiler shows. The trick is often how the trick happens when the audience is focusing on the particular hand. You miss it because magicians are professional at directing your eyes through his words and gesture. Your vision is literally under his illusion.

The same thing happens in dance.

Dancers employ all these little trick to direct your eyes to where actions are happening. And they will give us a climax with surprise and crowd goes wow.

The entire move is so well integrated, you won't notice it easily. it might be possible to remember the little trick he's done here and there, but all other moves come out as one impressive but fuzzy flow.

This is why you need to take his body apart. Throughout the video, try to focus on one part, and one part only. Ignore everything else. Focus on eyes, face, arms, shoulders, hips, chest, legs, etc.

It's harder than it sounds. When crowds cheer, you naturally follow the trick the dancer employs. Or, it might be the same arm movement, but in a different body position. Be diligent. Once you get this fixation habit, you will be able to point out dancer's strength and weakness.

You might say,

  • "This guy is good at tutting, but his legs haven't been moving much".
  • "She is full of energy and the floor is full of positive vibe. I can learn from how she expresses that with her face".
  • "Wow. The whole crowd went mayhem. And all he did was to tilt his heck slightly".

Dancing starts to look a lot more digestible.

4. Find Your Favorite Move

Let's step back from the technicality for a second.

I want to ask you one question.

Can you tell me why you like dancing? It looks cool? Sure but... Any more than that?

Sounds philosophical, but it is an important question. But you cant master what you don't know.

Here's the gist.

The more concrete and detailed you have with your source of inspiration, the more solid you can plan out your practice. Any particular move that tickles your heart and vibrate your heart deep inside?

  • "I like a split right after a big jump".
  • "I like moving crab walks with the swagger face acting like nothing is happening"

If you like his particular move, practice that. If you like a turn, try that. And, be best at it. I mean BEST. The number one. All the world-class dancers have signature moves. They help us remember those guys. Having 2-3 moves of yours and combine them altogether? You will be unstoppable.

5. Watch with Ears

Have you been to a jazz bar? A wine glass on one hand, and you are enjoying the melancholy music that fill out our venue. Now, close your eyes. What do you hear? A vocal might come out first in your head. But once absorbed enough, you will become aware of all the pieces:  drum, bass, guitar, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, piano, and so on. All those 8 instruments make up one cohesive beauty.

Music is our king. Yet, we only know his facade.

Most of the time, dancers execute the base beats, while waiting for catchy sections to show off big moves. And we tend to like high pitches. For pop, that is often the vocals. But, the more experienced they become, they start to experiment with a deeper sound that is often hidden. It can be a subtle snare or stable guitar in the background.

Try to catch exactly which instrument he's making that move to. He might be picking up multiple instruments at the same time. Can you visualize yourself listening to that same beat?

As you get better at it, you will be able to spot bad habits of dancers. They could be following every high tone and get repetitive quickly. Or a move has kept on going even after the instrument has stopped ringing. To be fair, when dancing, it's extra hard to listen with quality. Let alone when you are under audience pressure.  You need to be forgiving. That's why you are practicing now; to get better with music on the floor.

Train your ears with all your might.

6. Look at Clothes

You've come a long way. This is a bonus point. First, take a look at the image.

Hilty & Bosch at Urban Dance Camp

It's the same stage, same genre, same performers, yet each gives out completely different vibes. It starts from classic funk gents, moves onto swag like urban street, and goes last into athletic youth casuals. They are all lock performance given to the Urban Dance Camp students. Yet, this many variations can give. Personally, I like the first classic the most. What about you? As far as the YouTube view goes, the last one's got the most (amazing 9 million!).

The same goes for any type of performance art. Performers pay a close attention to how he appears in front of the audience. The first impression goes a long way. And clothes/fashion are an important element in setting the tone and impression on the stage.

It goes without saying, I'm not about only talking about the clothes. Do you like hats?  Baseball? Gatsby? Fedora? Toque?

Learn from the master stylers, and find your best fit. Most of all, have fun!

7. Upgrade Your Mindset

What we've talked about today is active watching. The beauty of videos nowadays is you can watch them from anywhere. You don't need a space for practice. Want to lie on your couch and eat chips? Be my guest. All I am asking is to turn on your brain. Instead of passively consuming videos, you want to watch them to gain something. It's nothing technical. It's a change in your mindset. This mindset is your irresistible desire to get better.

I bet all of you readers spend a great time watching dance videos already. 2 hours a day? 5 hours a day? Since you spend the same amount of time on YouTube, we can do it much more productively just by paying a little attention. I'm not asking you to convert 100% of watch time into a conscious watching. But maybe 20%. 20% is enough to set you off to learn skills much faster.

And, when you can understand the intention of each dancer, you will start to appreciate dancing even more. It's like fisherman being able to see through tunas in the deep depth of the ocean.

Let's upgrade yourself.

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