Who knew there would be so much difficulty in just being free? As dancers, we become used to (and comfortable with) certain restrictions our styles provide.
There’s a structure in place. Specific names for specific movements. We adopt a dogmatic approach to mastering whichever style we chose to follow.
Should we therefore be surprised when we feel awkward and stuck trying to freestyle? When we’re asked to throw all of that structure out of the window?
Freestyle – the clue’s in the name – asks us to let go of the unbending structures for the sake of creativity and spontaneity; to truly feel free in exploring the boundaries of that style. It’s unpredictable.
So how can you overcome that awkwardness and improve?
One of the purposes we place on our freestyle is the aesthetic. The ‘is-this-dope-enough?’ mentality; Is this sick?; Going off? etc. You get the idea.
Removing that (when and if necessary) means you can truly explore the boundaries of your movement and find out what works in your body and what doesn’t.
It’s as easy as playing some music and letting your body move however it wants and feels like, rather than it being calculated nanosecond decisions.
Feel stupid, laugh at yourself. It’s self-expression. Find comfort in not always being exceptional and work forward from there.
If you still need a certain (loose) structure to allow yourself to let go in a safe environment, try an Improvisation class – the Gaga style of improvisation embodies that holistic, natural (often uninhibited) movement our body takes when set free.
Set yourself little challenges
Your core style has techniques you’ve drilled, meaning you’ve mapped out certain brain pathways to recognise that pattern of movement.
How will that look and feel on your body when you place restrictions? Poppers, remove the use of arms and see how that affects your popping; Wavers, isolate the movement into your neck and head and see how many patterns you can create; street dancers, restrict your movement to the floor and feel the awkwardness happen.
That’s learning. That’s improving. Doing the same thing over and over again reinforces a mental pathway, which of course can be a great thing. But when you freestyle, chances are the more established pathways and patterns (the moves you do the most) will keep reappearing in loops; making you seem repetitive and not so creative. But we know that’s not the case.
Creating new patterns means there’s more choice for the subconscious to make. And the more comfortable you are with a lot of patterns, the varied your movement will become.
Practice in the dark
Your body is your tool. And that tool itself has many areas you can use. Your style will inevitably rely on a state most of the time (always standing, facing a certain direction, using more arms than legs, not working with the head and face etc.).
Moving in the dark will allow you to become more aware of each part of your body and how it feels (not just how it looks) when you do the moves you’re so used to. By taking away sight, you’re telling your body to pay fine attention to each intricate movement decision you make and don’t make.
You’ll soon gain awareness of neglected parts of your body that could bring something new to the table when involved.
This will help you own your style in your body.