How to add style to your dancing

Hello true believers!

I was looking online and according to the Google, adjectives are defined as:

“words that describe or modify another person or thing in the sentence.”

Why do I mention adjectives? Several reasons actually. There have been a lot of competitions for newer dancers lately which I think is awesome. While I have deep respect for anyone that has the courage to put themselves out there and dance, the teacher in me can’t help but see some things that could improve. Before I say anything else, please know that anytime I see myself, I see 1,232 things I can improve on, so the observations are constructive and with good intentions. Many times, as I watch these competitors get their groove on, I reflect on the things that I have learned on my dance journey. It doesn’t seem too long ago that I was slipping and sliding all over the social dance floor and performance stage. My inability to do much more than mark my routines in public made the ‘shows’ I was a part of look more like practices that people happened to be watching.

Thankfully, with time and effort I’ve improved and can now dance when I perform and compete, well I’m still working on the competing part.


So what changed? How did I get from where I was to where I currently am? Many people are technically excellent, but there is also that added ‘je ne sais pas quoi’ (I don’t know what). People have complimented me more in the past couple of years than in the previous years combined. Something changed in my dancing.
Let’s go back to adjectives. When I write, I use words like ‘remarkable,’ ‘fantastic’ or even ‘spectacular.’ A sentence with me describing something I liked very much will lack the punch and passion that I am trying to convey if I don’t use these descriptive words. Think of how ordinary and academic words would feel if they were written without flair or pizzazz. As a writer of this blog, I try my best to be informative and fun, and I can also say the same about my social and stage dancing.

This old clip of me social dancing, you can see that I’m still developing my technique and the expression isn’t really present.

Using more adjectives when dancing

So, how in the hell do we use adjectives when we dance? Indeed, I’m trying to illustrate a point and not give a literal directive here. The point is to personalize your movements so that they become unique and individual. If we think about it, the only thing keeping cross body leads from all being the same is the execution and the presentation.

By execution, I mean the technique in which we perform a given movement. I am a huge proponent of technical excellence and still work on refining my dancing with coachings and lessons in other styles. So, while I encourage the drilling and repetition of the basics, I also love to see people be creative. Take something they have taken the time to learn and drill into their bodies and then find a particular way to execute the movement.

How to be creative when dancing?

The implementation of creativity in dance, is the big challenge isn’t it? I’m in the final stages of my new book on my adventures in Salsa dancing, and I was very challenged by this exact subject matter. As a matter of fact, creativity is a result of developing a style that you can add to your dancing that is even harder to translate through words. Regarding the development of style, I’d like to share a small snippet that I wrote in my forthcoming book that sums up my feeling on the matter:

“My process for learning dance has been no different. I used to have a lot of dancers that would influence me and that I admired. In my head, I would imagine my movements would look like theirs, and it helped me have more confidence in my actions. The interesting thing is that if two people are influenced by the same three people, for example, they might move similarly, but still look very different. Like I stated before, the difference is obviously their interpretation and to what degree they borrowed certain movements from their inspirations. I hope this doesn’t come off crazy or complicated but if one person in this example took 33% from every individual they admired, it would be a very even distribution of the styles. Conversely, if another person were influenced by the same three people but had a heavier influence from one of his inspirations, the result would automatically cause a different look. You could see how we can go on with this, but my point is you are influenced by others to a degree in the way that ultimately only makes sense to you. Somewhere in your subconscious mind, you receive and digest the information in a way that is inherently personal…”

Observer, digest, spit out

Once we’ve established our goal of developing a personality in dance, we have to find inspiration. I often point to Sekou McMiller as my original style guide as he helped my open up my body and explore movement I didn’t even realize I could do. Once I became more comfortable and aware of my body movement, I began to try to implement these motions into my partner dancing. In the old Descarga Caribe (group I was a part of many years ago) days, Sekou had three main guys, myself, Adrian Tenorio, and Jesus Aguilera. The thing I love is that even to this day, we all have our influence from Sekou in regards to body action, but yet we all look remarkably different. This is an excellent representation of the result of outside influence, cross training and personal interpretation.

Once I/we took these styles and digested them, we were then able to spit out new movements and ideas within our dance that helped us become unique from one another. I love the fact I don’t look anything like those guys. I have admiration for both Jesus and Adrian, but I’m happy to know we each have found our own voices with dance.

The following clip is of Laura and me social dancing this year, I think I’ve made some good changes even though I can still do more:

Wrap up

For my new competitors, I’d like you to pat yourself on the back for having the guts to compete as it’s not an easy. I’d recommend watching videos of yourself in action and work with a coach/teacher to identify areas where you could improve. Use this feedback to work on your technique, the nouns, and then style, presentation, and interpretation. In other words, do the nouns, and then jazz up the nouns with adjectives to spice up your dancing.

If you’ve ever done a dance contest, how did you do? What things could you have done better?

I’d love to hear your stories! Remember to share and comment and have an awesome day!

Until next time, to your dancing…..