How to be a better contemporary dancer
Contemporary Dance for Beginners: Dance Tips & Tricks
You’ve got a playlist packed with songs that fill you with feeling...
You’ve watched a million Contemporary dance performances on YouTube...
You’ve dreamed about expressing yourself to music and telling stories through movement...
But, you don’t know how to start learning Contemporary dance as a total beginner.
Don’t worry – we’re here to help!
Follow this guide to kickstart your Contemporary dance journey with all the right knowledge.What is Contemporary Dance?
Contemporary dance is all about self-expression, storytelling, and freedom.
It pulls from traditional dance styles like Ballet & Jazz, but breaks away from the strict techniques and movements that make those styles so recognizable.
When watching a Contemporary routine (or phrase), you’ll catch many of the moves executed in more traditional styles, in addition to acrobatics, martial arts, movements pulled from yoga, and plenty of experimental movements that reflect the feelings of the dancer.
Wondering if Contemporary dance is for you?
If you’re looking for a style that allows you to connect with yourself physically and artistically, you’ve come to the right place!
As you adopt the mindset of a Contemporary dancer, you’ll learn how to communicate your emotions by moving every inch of your body with nuance and intention.
You’ll also improve your ability to create clean lines and aesthetically pleasing shapes as you dance.
And if you’re more familiar with other styles like Hip Hop, Popping, or House, adding Contemporary to your repertoire will strengthen your musicality skills.
You’ll learn how to think outside of the box, create pictures you’ve never tried before, and engage muscles you never knew you had.
All that sound good to you?
Start learning Contemporary dance at home with STEEZY’s “Intro to Contemporary” program for beginners!
1.What to wear
Since Contemporary dance requires a wide range of motion, wear clothes that won’t restrict your movement.
Loose tops, pants, or shorts that are breezy enough to sweat in will work best.
You can dance in bare feet to feel fully connected to the floor, but wear socks if you intend to dance on rougher carpeted surfaces or do a lot of gliding around on the floor.
2. How to prep your dance space
If you’re taking a Contemporary dance class at home, clear 6ft by 6ft of space to dance in and get rid of any sharp edges nearby.
This will allow you to jump, turn, and move without bumping a shin on that pesky coffee table or tripping over an awkward rug.
3. How to prep your body
In order to move with both fluidity and power, Contemporary dancers need to develop a strong core and stable lower body.
In addition to taking your regular dance classes, find 10-15 minutes each day to strengthen your back, abs, and legs.
Holding planks, doing crunches, and balancing on one foot for as long as you can (bonus if you stand on the balls of your feet), will help you get stronger!
You can also spend 10-15 minutes doing gentle yoga routines and stretching exercises to increase your flexibility and range of motion.
Lastly, on class days, don’t forget to warm your body up before dancing!
If your instructor does not include a warmup in their class, take 5-10 minutes to do light cardio and stretching beforehand.
Your first Contemporary classes should thoroughly cover basic techniques, encourage exploration, and help you start building your artistic foundation.
Look for classes that not only teach common moves like Chassés and Ball Changes, but also explain different ways to execute those moves to create different visual effects.
The same move can evoke a totally different emotion when it’s executed crazy quickly versus painfullyyyy sloowwwwlyyyy. (More on that later!)
If possible, chat with your potential instructors before signing up for their class, and ask about how they teach.
Skilled Contemporary instructors will help you explore how your body moves specifically, and push you to move in unexpected ways.
Expect the class to feel more interactive than a typical dance class where you’re quietly copying the instructor.
You might be asked a lot of questions to help you think through your intentions, and spend some time freestyling or improvising.
This is why we included an open-ended exercise on each day of STEEZY’s “Intro to Contemporary” program – the class experience should be immersive and personal, just like your actual dancing.
1. Build body awareness
Before you can start learning to dance with emotional intensity and grace, you have to understand how your body moves and build up the connection between your brain and muscles.
In addition to improving your flexibility, you can use stretch exercises to get in tune with your body.
For example, try slowly lowering your chest down to the floor and back up, moving one vertebrae at a time, to explore what it feels like to activate each back muscle.
For a more creative exercise, follow along with this body awareness video, where you’ll explore moving points on your body along an imaginary grid.
As you do these exercises, focus on only moving one body part at a time, while keeping the rest of your body completely still –– this will make it easier to build muscle memory!
2. Understand eye contact & chin lines
Contemporary dancers don’t just tell stories with their bodies –– they make full use of their faces too!
The direction in which you focus your eyes and chin as you dance will add emotional context to each move.
Look at the images below, and ask yourself, “what does this expression tell me?”
Notice how her expression goes from arrogant to flirtatious, with just subtle changes in her chin angle and eyes?
Practice different angles in the mirror yourself, and make use of those expressions when you dance.
3. Explore different movement qualities
There are several different schools of thought when it comes to defining how Contemporary dancers can move.
In STEEZY Studio’s “Intro to Contemporary” program, we use Laban effort qualities, because they’re straightforward and easy for beginners to understand.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Laban effort qualities:
Flow: Whether you move with a sense of freedom or resistance.
Time: Whether you move suddenly or slowly.
Weight: Whether your movements look heavy or light.
Space: Whether you move directly or indirectly from one place to another.
Mastering each quality of movement will expand your toolbelt as a Contemporary dancer.
4. Practice safe movements
You know how certain movements look/feel super complicated at first? (Lookin’ at you fancy floorwork)
You can avoid injuries and discomfort by carefully watching the pathways your instructor takes to get from one position to the next.
When moving to the floor, use your hands to help the rest of your body arrive.
When rolling on the ground, use the softest (🍑) parts of your body as your main point of contact, rather than your joints.
When jumping, land on the balls of your feet rather than flat-footed, so your body can absorb the shock of hitting the ground.
At any time, if something feels painful to execute, ask your instructor for safety tips or find an alternative move altogether.
5. Familiarize yourself with Ballet, Jazz, and other foundations
Since Contemporary draws from other styles, it won’t hurt to check out beginner Ballet classes or beginner Jazz dance classes as a supplement to your Contemporary training.
By learning basic moves from other styles, you’ll also understand more about how the Contemporary versions of those moves can differ.
A few essential moves that carry from style to style?Ball ChangesPivot TurnsChassésPas de Bourrées
3. Journal & improvise to hone your craft
When you perform a dance, it helps to recall a powerful memory that fits the choreography.
So, take the time to journal regularly, and put your own powerful experiences to paper, making them easier to recall.
If you’ve never journaled before, try looking at an emotions wheel, selecting a feeling, and writing about a time you experienced it yourself.
As you write, don’t spare any details. Think of what you wore, how the room/space smelled, how your body felt… everything.
All of that color and context will help you later!
You can also try putting on a song that gets you in your feels, and imagining a fantasy situation that fits the music.
Then, improvise a dance where you’re the main character in that fantasy.
“Improv is a great way to explore how your body moves outside of structure, break habits, and discover new things.” – Karen Chuang, STEEZY Contemporary Instructor
We hope this article helped you feel comfortable and confident as you start your Contemporary dance journey!
Remember, your body already has an existing vocabulary of movements whether you’re trained in dance or not.
You know what it feels like to hug, punch, curl into a ball, reach for the top cabinet, collapse on the floor…
And Contemporary dance is just an exaggeration of those familiar movements set to music!
Everything you need already exists within you. Now, all you have to do is start.
Ready to get moving?
Sign up for a free trial of STEEZY Studio and begin our “Intro to Contemporary” program for FREE.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
Improving your contemporary technique - Dance Australia
Nina Levy talks to the WA Academy of Performing Arts’s Molly Tipping to find out how you can develop your core stability and mobility.This is the first in a series of articles providing tips and advice for improving your contemporary dance technique. The second part is in the February/March '18 issue of Dance Australia.Part 1: A supple torso
LAST year I had the pleasure of seeing Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Sadler’s Wells in London. The dancers were simply gorgeous to watch; their luscious, rippling torsos apparently boneless. My favourite contemporary dancers all have those gloriously articulate spines. But while they may appear to be all about looseness and flexibility, that ability to bend, roll and ripple one’s torso requires strength as much as flexibility.
Like so many skills in dance, the best contemporary dancers make it look easy, but actually achieving that fluidity through the spine can be challenging for young dancers, especially those who have come from a predominantly classical training background.
So how can a dancer improve his or her ability to move through the spine? I spoke to Molly Tipping, a Feldenkrais practitioner and Pilates instructor who teaches dance students at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), to find out.
It’s about being stable… but also mobile
While all dance styles require core stability, contemporary dance requires more than just stability of the trunk, says Tipping. “Core stability requirements for contemporary dance are much more complex than other styles. In ballet you can brace the core. You can create an almost immoveable trunk, to a certain extent, or a slightly moveable trunk, but that doesn’t work in contemporary dance.”
What is core stability used for in contemporary dance?
“Contemporary dance uses core stability in the same ways as every dance style: for alignment, balance, co-ordination, precision and centring,” explains Tipping. “But in contemporary dance we also use core stability for things like spirals, suspensions, falling, off-balance turns and partnering work (both men and women). Floor work also requires really good core strength, as does moving from the floor through the mid-level, through the upper level… and some contemporary dance styles are really athletic. They have huge power output in terms of direction in space, speed, and you need a really strong, agile core to deal with the choreography.”
“In contemporary dance we also use core stability for things like spirals, suspensions, falling, off-balance turns and partnering.”
I have a strong core from ballet – will this transfer to contemporary technique?
“Core stability in contemporary dance is much more nuanced and complex than ballet,” replies Tipping. “While ballet certainly has high demands for core stability, contemporary dance is more specialised and style-specific. Certain styles are really athletic and you’re going to need an athletic use of the core. Some styles are very lyrical and they’re going to require this soft, fluid use of the core. ‘Core dexterity’, ‘core control’ and ‘core mobility’ are better terms to think about in relation to contemporary dance, because ‘core stability’ implies lack of movement and in contemporary dance you have to have movement.
“In ballet you can brace the core like a cylinder. In contemporary dance that doesn’t work for many exercises. For contemporary, a more effective way of thinking about the core is that it’s like an anchor from which the limbs initiate and to which they return. That is a more potent and specific image for contemporary dance – a radiating core connection, rather than a cylindrical core connection. “Because classically-trained dancers use their core like a cylinder, when they transfer into contemporary dance they can struggle to get in and out of floor, struggle with flow, sequencing. Or when they give up the idea of bracing they suddenly have way too much mobility and no control. So they need to have two ideas about the core – one that works in ballet, and one that works in contemporary.In ballet you can brace the core like a cylinder. In contemporary dance that doesn’t work for many exercises. Pictured is Caitlin Gilchrist of Link Dance Company (2017).
What do you recommend to build core stability in contemporary dancers?
“In a younger dancer, or in a dancer who has lots of mobility, I would recommend Pilates, yoga, Bartenieff fundamentals and floor barre, because these are a little simpler, they have patterns and shapes that are easy to grasp,” says Tipping. “In someone who has a lot of mobility, they need to get more strength and minimise excessive movement through their middle. A dancer like that could stick with Pilates for many years.
“A lovely middle ground, that is an excellent step up or shift from Pilates, would be something like Gyrokinesis, Gyrotonics or the Garuda Method. These have more spiralling patterns and rotational movements that demand good control of the core but they’re not as simple as Pilates. These systems work really well for someone who needs a little more co-ordination or strength of the core or, if they come from ballet and they’re used to doing bracing techniques, to move away from the simple control of Pilates.
“If you’ve been dancing for quite a while and have good understanding of the basics, things like aerial yoga, or Ido Portal (which is an Israeli functional movement system) are great. Calisthenics or gymnastics systems have become more and more popular lately and you have all these functional gyms, which do quite a lot of these kinds of challenging work. Aerial yoga’s great. There are lots of different aerial yoga and partner based yoga studios around. As long as you are good with your basics, that’s going to take you to next level.”
Bear in mind
When it comes to spinal mobility in contemporary dance, says Tipping, it’s important to know that your strength, rather than flexibility, that will unlock your spine’s full potential for movement. Too often, she notes, she sees dancers trying to stretch their spines in ways that work against the spine’s natural curves. “Trying to stretch your spine in opposition to its curves will weaken those joint structures,” she warns. “Dancers need to understand which parts of the spine are designed for flexion (contraction or bending forwards) and which are made for extension (arching backwards).
“Mobility without strength is fertile ground for injury.”
Glossary of terms
Bartenieff Fundamentals: A set of movement principals and corrective exercises developed by Irmgard Bartenieff that apply the movement theory of Rudolf Laban to the human body.
Body Mind Centering (BMC): Developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, BMC is an approach to movement that is based on the embodiment and application of anatomical, physiological, psychophysical and developmental principles, utilising body, touch, voice and mind.
The Feldenkrais Method: A somatic and movement education system that develops self awareness and awakens the nervous system’s innate capacity to learn; improving quality of life through better movement, posture, breathing and emotional regulation.
Garuda Method: Combines elements of yoga, Pilates and ballet to develop poise, control and a leaner, more resilient body.
Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonics: Movement methods that open energy pathways, stimulate the nervous system, increase range of motion and create functional strength through rhythmic, flowing movement sequences. They coordinate movement, breath and mental focus.
Ido Portal: A movement-based practice that integrates developmental movement patterns, functional movement, capoeira
Top: Core stability requirements for contemporary dance are much more nuanced and complex than other styles. Pictured are students from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2015’s Pulse. Photo: Jon Green.
This article was first published in the December '17/January '18 issue of Dance Australia. It is the first instalment of a five-part series on improving contemporary technique. Keep your eye out for part two in the February/March issue of Dance Australia, OUT SOON! Available at your favourite magazine retailer, subscribe here, or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia website.
How to become a dancer who does not interfere with anything?
Who is a dancer? A person who moves his arms and legs to the beat of music or his own internal rhythm is the simplest definition. From the point of view of art, the body is the same instrument as the cello or violin. This instrument expresses emotions, feelings and moods. Dancing is no less an art than wielding a brush. The harmonious unity of the mind, soul and body is important here.
Someone thinks that the ability to dance is an innate talent sent from above. This is not always the case, everyone can become a dancer. Anyone who loves music, who enjoys moving to it, is in fact already a dancer, in the broadest sense of the word. However, to become a truly professional dancer, you need aspiration, desire and perseverance.
As a rule, the title of a professional is given to someone who has studied several years in a dance class. Behind him are more than a dozen performances on stage, knowledge of the names of all dance movements and a pack of costumes on hangers.
When it comes to street dancing style, the academic school will not help here. A professional on the street is the one who dances the best in the area. Many people ask: how to become a street dancer? Only one way: watch and repeat. Watch how they do, what they do, what kind of music. Repeat at home in front of the mirror, over and over, until the result is satisfactory. The style of street dancing has long been on the stage, and you can learn it in studios with teachers. Of course, even when working in the studio, you cannot do without repetitions at home. You need to constantly hone your movements.
Success in the art of dancing directly depends on the goals set. Some want to dance professionally in the styles of Hip-Hop or Go-Go, others strive for a professional career in ballroom dancing, and others have long dreamed of participating in dance theater productions. People who from the very beginning wonder how to become a professional dancer often become the leading choreographers and art directors of their own dance studios.
Where to get knowledge to achieve your goals? We have already talked about the method of observation and self-study, as well as classes in dance circles. Another way to learn is to participate in master classes by visiting specialists and dance competitions. Any professional activity, including dancing, requires the intervention of experienced teachers. Dance competitions will help you get the necessary criticisms and tips to improve your technique. Naturally, one must be prepared for disappointments. But not a single remark should stop a true dancer on the way to his goal.
When a person thinks about how to become a good dancer, he thinks about how to acquire technique and finesse of movement, while forgetting about personal qualities. But they are no less important than the baggage of knowledge and experience gained. A lot is decided by the energy and charisma of the author of the issue. Does he have a talent, or does he mechanically repeat the learned movements? Is he lethargic or does his temperament make him get up from his chair and give a standing ovation? It is personal qualities that sound the very final chord that affects success.
Along the way, in the world of dance, physical abilities are improved, as well as spiritual traits of a person's character. Success in this field can boost self-confidence.
When deciding what events to go to and how to become a dancer, the main thing to remember is that you should like the dance style. The body should literally "tear to dance" with the sounds of salsa or flamenco. Dance revives energy and mood. After all, it is not without reason that there is an opinion that dance is life.
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12 life hacks to quickly learn how to dance from Mamita Dance
Author: Pavel Sobiray
psychologist, teacher of salsa and tango
Author: Pavel Sobiray
psychologist, teacher of salsa and tango
This is the most common story of those who believe that the mere act of attending a pair dance class is enough to learn how to dance.
Absolutely not. If you want to really dance well, you have to make an effort outside of the dance class. A good teacher will definitely be needed, but the initiative should be on your side.
1. Listen to music
The most common and accessible advice that is given already in the first lessons. And it definitely works. Music creates a certain atmosphere of the dance and intuitively you want to move to it. It doesn't matter where you listen to music - in the car, on headphones while walking or doing household chores.
An addition that will help you dance better is your active participation in the music. Sing along, dance or simply beat musical accents with any free parts of the body. In the subway, for example, it is enough to tap out bright moments with your fingers, in the car to sing along with sounds, and at home you can jump for pleasure.
2. Watch videos of good dancers
It's complicated, but also obvious. It’s more difficult, because without recommendations from more experienced dancers, unfortunately, it’s not so easy to find a good quality video on the net (I mean not the resolution quality, but the content itself).
Meaningful video viewing is about building an understanding of HOW dancers make a particular impression on a partner or viewer. Technology is at the heart of everything. Understanding how the pros do it is a big step forward.
It is important to distinguish a show from a disco dance, a staged performance from an improvisation, a stylized dance from an authentic one, etc. Ask for recommendations and dance teachers will always throw off a couple of videos of worthy landmarks.
Tango Z. Showreel.
Online modern tango courses
Tango nuevo is the most advanced version of tango. We can quickly learn to dance from zero to a steep level.
3. Dance in salsatecas/milongas/discotheques
A very delicate moment when it is worth coming to the first party. From a technical point of view, most students in 1-3 months have a sufficient set of figures and techniques to come and dance calmly. Psychologically, the same moment can be stretched out for an indefinite time. After all, it is imperative to “not lose face”, “learn more figures” and be sure what to do in case “there is an unfamiliar movement”.
In fact, the partygoers don't really care (except for a small layer of non-professional teachers who want to help inexperienced dancers by treating them as customers in the future). It is important to come and try dancing after a month of classes. You can only with friends or guys from your group. This will be enough to feel the adrenaline and inspiration from the dance.
4. Dance with partners or partners not of your level
The conventional wisdom that you need to practice in groups of your level does not stand up to the test of experience. Perhaps now your eyes widened in surprise, and you want to meaningfully read the phrase again. Yes, you saw everything correctly: when you dance with a partner of your level, you don’t grow anywhere.
It's important to understand that not only does it work one way and you have to dance with cooler dancers, but it works even more effectively the other way. It is no coincidence that teaching pair dances dramatically raises the level of the teacher himself. You have an endless stream of very beginner dancers.
How it works. A more experienced partner needs to be "stretched". It's easy and obvious. With beginners, you need to take more initiative on yourself, see the general pattern of the dance more widely, turn on and insure more, try to be an example and be more careful. The quality of interaction begins to grow significantly. And wonderful partners too.
Dancing with partners of your level doesn't make you grow. Dance with both beginners and more advanced dancers
Dominican Bachata Women's Style Online Course
Want to learn how to hypnotize those around you with the most appetizing part of your body? On the course we will tell you all the secrets.
5. Learn to dance for a partner and for a partner
Turks and Argentines are one of the best partners in the world. In Russia, partners are highly valued. Why? The answer is simple. In Argentina and Turkey, it is not questionable for men to ask another man to lead in one piece or another and give feedback on the quality of the lead. For them, it will be a great shame to hear moralizing from a partner, or even more so to be known in the community as an insecure partner.
In Russia, due to the constant, often far-fetched, opinion that there are more women in pair dances, partners calmly get up and study their partner's part. Such partners then grow into very cool dancers and teachers. In no case do this at parties, only in class. Here we are talking only about the learning strategy. At parties, be yourself.
6. Do not memorize the links
Always try to look deeper and understand the through principle and idea of movement. Understanding what and how is done will make it possible to independently generate any sequences and chips.
Human memory is limited and there will always be a moment when something will escape and your repertoire will be limited by the size of RAM.
In Argentine tango, for example, there are seven levels of movement construction that, when mastered, will allow you to make millions of combinations. And how many dance sequences can you really remember? In rueda, more than 150 figures dance in a rare circle. It's hard to keep more in mind.
7. Develop your body
Many years of experience in teaching pair dances shows that as soon as everyone pairs up in a class, any progress in individual style ends. But it is the individual style that distinguishes everyone at the disco: partners change, and style is always with you.
The body as the main instrument of dance must be very plastic, responsive and emotional. Surprisingly, not all pair dance schools have a general physical warm-up. It is vital to tune the body and understand how it works.
You can always train extra and concentrate more on the basic steps, as their true value is as body work. The sequence of steps is, in fact, the simplest thing that can be in pair dancing. The quality of individual performance determines the craftsmanship.
8. Try on the images of inspiring dancers
A psychological life hack for those who have already mastered the steps, but still feel that there is not enough brightness and drive. Most are terribly afraid of being someone else's "clone". Here the action is the same as under the influence of hypnosis - the more you resist, the more you plunge into an altered state of consciousness.
With a high degree of probability, you are already dancing like someone else's "clone". A meaningful fitting of someone else's image is that you mentally take the image of the one who inspires you (inspiration is critical in this case) and "put on" yourself. Then you start dancing and trying to feel in general how it is to be able, for example, to be the best partner or the sexiest partner in a disco. This is much more difficult than it seems. But it works extremely efficiently.
9. Dance to offbeat music
Habitual rhythms keep you tight. Tango salon or speedy timba leave little room for experimentation and fantasy. Pattern dancing is always noticeable and is reserved for beginners.
The truly new is born outside of the usual. Look for places to experiment. If there is no place, organize self-training. The main thing is not to get carried away, because music determines the style. We bring something new to pair dances, rather than trying to change them.
Search, improvise, don’t be afraid to go beyond, develop in different directions, be inspired by music atypical for style
10. Try your hand at basic dance directions
dances exist according to their own non-choreographic laws.
This is the deepest delusion, which has turned into a ceiling for the qualitative development of partner dances. After all, all professional dancers, for example, in salsa or bachata, build their ideas on the basic choreographic principles.
Do not think that choreography is only applicable on stage. Any meaningful movement of the body can be choreographic. In general, try classical or modern choreography. Basically, hip-hop can work too.
11. Look for battle sensations
Pair dances return us to an active position of manifestation of our body. As in the days of our ancient ancestors, we impress the members of the opposite sex by how dexterous, hardy, sexy, etc. we are. Modern laws of the jungle in the entourage of big cities.
If you look around the dance floor, it becomes clear that the majority are clearly herbivores (not in the sense of vegetarians, but in relation to those around them). I am sure that predators are always more interesting in terms of the attractiveness of the image - try to find a counterbalance among herbivores, for example, a cat woman or a lion man.
The conversation is about an internal position, not about aggressiveness. Lability and lack of control are inherent in adolescents, and not in adult self-sufficient people.
Accordingly, even a training or friendly battle gives, on the one hand, practical skills - to make a bright sequence of movements, bring an idea to a climax, show a spectacular feature, on the other hand, develops the psychological basis of the dance - self-confidence, resistance to extraneous attention, self-control and self-control in complex elements.
12. Communicate with professionals
The environment shapes the internal position. Basically, real passionaries of the dance community are ready to openly talk, discuss and support the development of dance in every possible way. Universal principles and the ideas they articulate have a much longer and more practical perspective than meets the eye.
Accept that, for example, behind the words "listen to your partner" is not only a beautiful metaphor, but also a practical skill to literally listen to your partner. At the same time, always treat every thought, even the most respected teacher, as a private opinion.
Your skill will lie in finding the scope of the idea even in conflicting opinions. Most often, the contradiction is speculative and the truth lies in the angle of perception or situationality.
Your dancing growth will stop sooner or later. This can happen at the level of three basic steps or years of experience in teaching and show performances.