You feel like doing the same move over and over. What is missing?
Imitation is an important part of human education. Babies spend their entire baby life imitating parents from their language to facial expression.
As we grow up, however we forget how to do this, under the false claim of authenticity.
It is a powerful technique nonetheless. When you start out dancing, you generally follow the tutorials of basic steps. But you can hardly call yourself a dancer just with that. It is true even if you repeat them a million times. You have to combine them. No instructor gives you the specific instruction. To step up from the beginner to intermediate level, an imitation will give you a great advantage in overcoming the learning plateau. This is where you build your originality and style.
Today, I will cover the benefits of imitation for dancers, and later talk about the tips and methods to boost your dance skill.
What It Means to Imitate in Dancing
Imitation follows 3 steps: observe, analyze, and experiment.
- Observe: Look at the move of other dancers either in reality or through videos.
- Analyze: Pick a specific set of movement and memorize.
- Experiment: Do the move yourself, first slowly and later with music.
The 2 and 3 go back and forth. The steps you have analyzed may not go as smoothly as expected in the experiment. No need to panic. Simply go back and rewatch the move. Trial and error. For this perspective, modeling after videos will be easier since the playback feature will let you watch it 100 times without feeling guilty.
Benefit of Imitation
Increase Move Repertoires
Throughout your dance lifecycle, there are times you feel you are doing the same steps over and over. There is no creativity, and boredom come to your mind. You need to absorb new moves or generate new ones by combining the existing. That is when imitation helps.
By following experienced dancers, you will gain the years of accumulated knowledge at an instance. As long as your physical can keep up, the variety of moves you can do will increase dramatically.
Memorize Choreography Faster
Have you watched So You Think You Can Dance? The performance happens every week, and the participants must pick a different genre in that period. You only get 7 days to memorize and refine the choreography. It is insane.
Aside from the dance foundation, The dancers are asked for the ability to digest the routine as quickly as possible. It is another word for imitation skill. Only once they have learned the movement, they can work on other elements such as mood, sharpness, facial, etc.
With this skill, you will be also able to take on the performance request quickly and with confidence. The showcase notice of 7 days will be a piece of cake.
Relation with Body Awareness
In normal life, we only walk, sit, and stand. People rarely pay attention to how far up your elbow goes. And without targeted training, it is difficult to know how the specific parts of your body move. By mirroring another dancer's move from the face down to the toes, you will gain a detailed understanding of how each part of your body functions and can be used to express the music.
Remember by 8 Counts
Most modern songs happen in a multiplication of 8 counts. When you browse through the video or someone's move, it is easy to get swamped by emotion. The entire video is often too long to absorb without getting you overwhelmed. No matter how impressive the dancer is, it is important to keep your analytical brain awake to digest the choreography.
By counting 8 beats, you can keep your attention on the task. It also helps in breaking down complex move in smaller and more digestible pieces. The whole continuation becomes more manageable. Depending on how dense the performance is, you might need to count it by 4.
Divide and Conquer
Magicians play the trick by directing your attention away from the spoiler point. The dance performance is similar. Performers control your eye flow to the place the move looks the most impressive. If you are watching dancing, your focus is constantly moving up and down.
When learning to imitate, you need to observe every part of the body. Focus your attention on the lower body first. Then do the upper.
The lower body is just legs. It is more physically challenging rather than detail oriented because you have to keep up with the speed and the position. Start with counts only, and get comfortable with the beats. Then move onto the song, which can be original or the slower.
The upper body has more areas to look out for. There are faces, shoulders, chest, hips, hands, and fingers. An extra point goes if you can see their facial expression as well (Yes, mood is a part of dancing). Carefully analyze the move.
Use your Time Efficiently
If you are like most dancers, you are consuming hours of dance videos either at home or on commute. Instead of passively enjoying the performance passage, make a simple note on the seconds of the videos when you encounter something impressive. It makes it easier to come back in the experiment stage.
Pick the Right Model
If you are learning from YouTube dancers, try to pick dancers who are slightly better than you. Famous dancers are amazing to gaze at. As long as they are the types who execute basic moves well, that would be okay. Problems come when you go after the super unique type dancers.
Although all moves can be traced back to basic moves of that genre, the degree of originality implemented by that dancer varies.
If he mixes the move with his strong taste and style, it will be difficult. You might find it discouraging from the impossible task.
In contrast, intermediate dancers are just moving out of the basics (assuming they have good foundations). You will be able to digest it better especially if you are starting out.
Remember Dance Is Art
The difference between sports and dancing is the presence of an artistic expression. You have to infuse taste into your move. While imitation is a good way to expand your vocabulary and learn the move beyond your current level, it can put negative impact on your artistic expression in the beginning.
That is why it is important to repeat the imitating move until it gets stored in your muscle memory. It can take 3-7 days of drilling depending on a person. After that, you can add your own originality however much you desire. At that point, the move has truly become yours.
Sometimes you have imitated the move, but it still looks nothing like of his. There is no need to be disappointed. That dancer has been refining that move for years and has it sugar coated with groove and nuances. You will get there someday.
It is important to understand the purpose of this exercise. You are focusing on the movement. It is okay to move on to the next move and come back to this later on. You will feel the improvement as long as you do other dance foundation: isolation and musicality.
Imitation Steps Up Your Game of Dancing
We have covered various merits of imitation for dancers.
Imitation sounds like a copycat, but it is an important learning method. As long as you remember to put your own style on top of the learned move, you will never lose your originality. The best of all, anyone can start this exercise even on a bus. Let's pick your favorite dancers and start incorporating their steps into yours!