In my own dancing and when I teach dance, I like to focus on shapes. I encourage students to think about the shapes they are creating with their bodies and to be intentional in the shapes they create. Dancers don’t just create movement, they create sketches with their bodies – a dance is like a flip-book, where a series of changing shape “moments” create the whole.
When I watch West Coast Swing dancing – the good dancing, like this clip with Michael Kielbassa & Stephanie Batista – I spend as much time looking at the space between the dancers as I do at the dancers themselves. It’s yet another reason I love this dance so much – when you see two fantastic practitioners dance it together, the shapes they create between their bodies is as enjoyable to watch as the dancers’ own movements.
Likewise, one of the things I love about great choreography is the silences between movements – the moments where space or quiet or “nothingness” is choreographed. Sonja Tayeh (So You Think You Can dance) is one of my favorite choreographers of the quiet moments. Here is a clip of one of her pieces. In West Coast Swing, Jordan and Tatiana do this extremely well – it’s a hallmark of their choreography that makes them very distinct, even when other dancers are performing the work. Check out their new choreography, and also this piece that they choreographed for another couple – watch for the still moments and the shapes they create between them.
In summary, I’m encouraging myself – and you! – to think more about the shapes and the silences you create when you dance … including the shapes of empty spaces between and around your bodies, and suspended moments in time.