Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Careful: You Become What You Watch

Someone once said, “You’ll become what you think about most.” It doesn't always work. If it were totally true most guys would have been a beautiful girl by the end of high school. And a few older guys would be a hot dancer by now!

Still, you'll eventually dance like people you watch the most. View great dancers consistently, and some of their moves and styling will become yours. You should find a set of excellent videos and watch them over and over, providing your mind quality input to draw from as your dancing matures.

In other words, find ways to be around great dancers and some of their experience will rub off on you too. Sometimes that's physically close, including taking their classes and watching them perform. For a wider world, find great videos on line via YouTube and/or purchasing instructional DVDs.

Find dancers years down the road from you. Ballet, jazz, salsa, hip-hop, tango, house or virtually any other style are all showcased in amazing detail on-line these days. Build your private playlists and watch.

Think about our speaking voices. It doesn’t happen in a month, but wherever you live you’ll pick up the regional language tendencies over time. Southerners say "New Orleans" distinctly different from someone from New York, California, or London. It's all "English", and it's all good, but once you move into an area, your accent will gradually change to fit within your environment. You may never lose the accent from your childhood, but gradually you'll move toward the norm in your current area.

The same effect applies to dancing and you want to take control of those influences. Watch master dancers regularly, and especially watch those you like over and over. It's a very gradual process; some influences will show up in weeks or months, most will come out years from now. If your favorites are famous, established dancers, buy their instructional DVDs. Watch them over and over and over, 20-50 times EACH!

There is nothing like the details they tell you while breaking down the moves; it's way beyond just watching people do patterns in a club or live performance.

I have my money where my mouth is on this one... I have over 30 DVDs from world class instructors and I have folders on YouTube where I archive and watch great dancers across a range of categories.

A few years ago most of the dance videos onYouTube were weak or just plain bad examples. If you watch them repeatedly, you'll find yourself imitating those people someday. Today there is some amazing dancing on YouTube, but you still have to weed through lots of junk to find the great stuff.

I've seen lots of people pick up a pattern from someone else or a YouTube video, but the way they do it makes it obvious they don't know what they are doing. You can find good examples there, but the quality varies greatly and until you are a very seasoned dancer, some instructional videos from recognized instructors are a good idea.

Ask your favorite dancers who they like and who they recommend as influences.

As a mature drummer, I sometimes hear myself play a variation on something I heard over and over when I was a young musician. I have music that I listened to hundreds of times, and I'm amazed when 20 years later something just comes flying out without my thinking about it. I didn't plan on playing something from the past, but the moment was right, and my brain outputs something based on input from many, many years ago, without me consciously thinking about it. That works because in parallel I studied with some of the world's best studio musicians in LA, kept growing and when the time was right, I had the ideas deep in my head.

As you become a more seasoned dancer, you’ll be able to tell who influences other dancers as you watch them. For example, it’s easy for me to pick out the dancers who really like one of popular LA instructors, because they do their signature moves, patterns and styling.

You'll see Michael Jackson influences in Usher, Fred Astair influences in Michael Jackson. It's a time honored tradition to stand on the shoulders of giants before us.

If you watch a quirky style constantly, you'll pick that up too. Be sure you're watching great dancers and over time you'll find yourself dancing variations on their style, just like picking up regional accents in your speaking voice.

Let me know who you like to watch.
Who inspires you?
Have you built you DVD library from the world's best instructors?
What DVDs or YouTube videos are you watching?
At the ballet you see girls dancing on their tiptoes. Why don’t they just get taller girls?
-Greg Ray
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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero