Last night, our studio hosted a guest instructor in our Contemporary class. This morning on the way to school, I asked my daughter, who happens to take the class, how it went. She said it was a lot of fun, but that she wasn’t very good at it because “it’s just not my style.” I cringed a little and then tried to explain to her why a dancer should never say anything is not their style.
First of all, you are a kid; you don’t have a style yet. You should be a sponge, soaking up anything and everything around you. The moment you decide what “your style” is, you put yourself in a box and close off a whole lot of opportunities. I have seen this with dancers time and time again. Girls decide that they are only good at contemporary and drop out of hip hop class. Or girls think they don’t have great lines, so they drop ballet class. These decisions are limiting who you are as a dancer and each style can support and improve the others. Your hip hop class can help you understand musicality, rhythm, and isolations in a way that will inform your contemporary dancing. Developing core strength and flexibility in ballet class will serve you in every dance style. That musical theatre class may allow you to experience performance in a way that will change your presence on stage. Take it all!
The concept of something not being your style is really an internal dialogue that you allow to control your movements. What is truly happening is that your body feels uncomfortable in the movement it is being given. My response to that is, “great! Then you are actually learning.” In order to develop as a dancer, you must be pushed out of your comfort zone. Every dance step you have ever learned was foreign to your body at some time. It is only through repetition, focus, and hard work that it now seems like second nature. When dancers are little, everything is brand new and they attack every movement fearlessly. As dancers become teens, they are often less comfortable exploring movement that they might not be good at. I want to encourage you to dance in ways that feel uncomfortable to your body because that is where real growth takes place.
My entire studio is built on the premise that all dance should be embraced, studied, and explored. The title of my company “all that” dance is a reflection of my dream of cross-disciplinary training and offering all dance styles under one roof. I still see studios who are known for one dance style. In any given town there may be a really great ballet academy, or a really strong hip hop company, or a fabulous musical theatre program, but it is only when we integrate these styles and give them equal importance that we are truly developing a complete dancer.
So for my two cents, I don’t want dancers who have just one style, I want dancers who understand their bodies well enough to embrace any style. You are not a hip hop dancer, you are not a ballet dancer – you are a dancer, period. And dancers dance – any style, any movement, any music. You are more than just one style; you are a dancer.