We’ve all been there. Just thinking of having to bust out something inspiring to a song can be enough to make me not enter the dance studio. The topic of improvisation can feel incredibly overwhelming and getting better at it is one of the most common topics I see with dancers.
So what if I told you there are some simple ideas that, when applied, can unleash your creativity? And what if I told you it didn’t matter your level as a dancer or how much vocabulary you DON’T have. I’m going to walk you through a three-step process that will help you see dancing to music less about the “move to move to move” mentality we sometimes fall into and help you feel empowered in your creative process
Start by picking a basic move you like to do. I like using a basic Charleston to demo this exercise. Picking an 8 count move is best.
Identify every part that can be repeatable. Dax and I call this idea Repeating Rudiments. This is often every 2 beats of the move. So with this Charleston, I can repeat the rock step (let’s say count’s 1, 2), the kick step (counts 3,4), the kick step on the other side (counts 5,6), and the kickback or walk back (counts 7,8).
So try hanging out in each of those sections by repeating the rudiment until you are ready to finish the charleston. As you get comfortable with this you can create whatever sort of combination you want. If done well enough, you should be able to explore a whole song just using a charleston.
This concept alone gets us out of the move to move thinking but let’s take it one step further….
Apply different variables. Variables could be different body movements, rhythm changes, stylization of the arms, level changes, rotation, etc. This is a pretty robust topic so if you want to see more on a specific topic, comment below so we know! In the video above I apply a lower body twist to my Charleston while repeating its rudiments to create something basic yet exciting.
For our premium members, you can see how Dax applies this concept to our Shim Sham in our Deconstruction of the Shim Sham Lesson.
Now keep in mind, when dancing, you want to include the complete jazz steps you know often. We don’t want to have our dancing be only broken up pieces of jazz steps. This method is meant to not only simplify some of the mystery of improvisation but to help you hit the music with ease by getting opportunities for change every, say, two beats instead of every 8.
And there is so much more to the world of improvisation! In our Intro to Swing Program on our FREE membership plan, you can see us apply our incredibly powerful concept of balancing FREESTYLE and STRUCTURE. And if you really want to rock your Solo Jazz, Dax drills the essential skill of TRANSITIONS in his Solo Jazz Program for our premium members.
I would love for you to try this exercise out and let me know how it goes below! 👇👇👇