I have learned SO many different dance styles throughout my life, both solo and partner dance, and have noticed that there are some dance technique tips that many instructors talk about. They can be called dance fundamentals and apply to both men and women, leaders and followers, regardless of what style you’re dancing.
These techniques are meant to be used all the time, consistently throughout the dance (exceptions being when you intentionally break a rule for a certain move). It’s almost like the way you need to hold your body when dancing, which for a lot of people is different from their everyday posture.
It’s not something a beginner needs to nail, however using these techniques will definitely make you level up as a dancer.
1# Engage Your Core Muscles
Some teachers might refer to it as “engaging your abs”, but it’s actually engaging the whole core. Stand tall, tuck your ribs in and make sure the lower abdominal muscles right above your hipbones are drawn in. You can get the same engagement of muscles if you breathe out while hissing. Engaging your core gives you a better posture, but also protects your lower back from getting hurt when arching back or doing hip isolations. And yes, you need to have your core engaged even when you tilt your hips back. Without engaging your core it will be very difficult to do multiple spins, also hard to lead with your hip etc.
2# Engage Your Lat Muscles
This is a part of a good posture, but also crucial to being a good leader or follower. When you’re using your lats it will feel like all your arm movements start from your back, instead of shoulder. You’ll hold your hands in a frame using your back muscles, instead of tensing your arms, which makes your hands softer. When leaders use their lats, their leading will also become softer and when followers do that, they will understand the lead more quickly. People who have a bad posture in general, will struggle with this the most. They would need to start doing strengthening exercises for lats to learn to use them.
3# Think Tall And Think Down at The Same Time
You want to imagine that from belly button up you are super tall and light, like someone is pulling you up from the back of your neck, making room for air in between each vertebra. This should happen even when your upper body is tilted – just take the highest point of your body and think tall from there.
From your belly button down, you want to think down, that your feet are planted strongly on to the floor, even go through the floor like roots of a tree. This force of opposites is going to give you a good posture and also better balance.
4# Body Weight on The Ball of The Foot
Of course there are certain moves that literally require you to go on your heels (eg in afro-fusion), but in that case it’s intentional and controlled. Most beginner dancers however unintentionally put their body weight on their heels too often. It makes you slow, you’ll feel like you can’t keep up when the song is fast, also you’ll often feel like you’re losing balance. So for dancing, have your weight a little bit forward – on the ball of the foot. This gives you agility, speed and better balance.
5# Slight Turnout to Your Feet
This technique originally comes from ballet. For other dance styles you don’t need such an extreme turnout, just small enough to give you better balance – maybe have your feet pointing at 11 and 1 o’clock. This will also avoid your feet accidentally turning inside, which looks really bad visually. Remember that the turnout already starts where your hip and leg meet – you turn out your whole leg, not just your feet.
6# Elbows Away From Your Body
If you dance with your elbows touching your sides all the time, you’ll probably look shy, instead of confident and open. Imagine you have little balloons under your armpits that keep your arms away from your body, so that whenever you don’t specifically need to do anything with the arms, they’ll still be held and look good.
7# Keep Your Shoulders Down
This is another mistake that beginners often do – when they need to raise their hands they tend to lift their shoulders as well. By default, you need to keep your shoulders down at all times, even when lifting hands, tilting the upper body, doing cambré forward etc. This is a part of a good posture, also makes sure that your neck is still free to move and you look good visually.
Although they are fundamental, they are often not easy to master and it might take a while to get some of them right, but I think it’s better to have knowledge of these things from early on. If you have never practiced these before, then it’s understandably a lot to think about, so take one technique at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed.
This list is not exhaustive by any means, but hopefully will still give you ideas on how to improve your technique, whatever style you’re dancing.