I clicked the play button on the video and was transported to that wonderful world of pleasure, excitement and amazement. It was Fred Astaire dancing in “Top Hat and Tails”, posted by Fred Astaire Wisconsin. You can see it here:
Without question, I am not the first dancer to name Fred Astaire as a model of freedom, ease and coordination. There is just something about his movement that evokes a pleasure derived from watching a fundamental lightness born of grounding, confidence and joy.
Mikhail Baryshnikov, when asked on the day of Astaire’s death what inspired him most, he answered, “the quality that I admired most from his dance was effortless, very light and crystal clear”.
George Balanchine revealed his own genius as a ballet choreographer, yet along with Rudolf Nureyev cited Astaire as, hands down, the century’s greatest dancer.
Balanchine goes on to say “He is like Bach, who in his time had a great concentration of ability, essence, knowledge, a spread of music. Astaire has that same concentration of genius; there is so much of the dance in him that it has been distilled. George Balanchine (quoted in Horizon, Jan. 1961)
I’m fascinated by Balanchine’s last description of Astaire’s dancing as distilled.
Distilled means something is removed, made more pure, or as definition.com explains, “
Distilling as a way of becoming more effortless in your dancing, still means there is much work to do.
And the work is mental. Using your brain.
Here are 3 things that can help you achieve this.
- An awareness of what you are already doing. Am I bracing, holding my breath, tightening my neck, trying to be ‘right’?
- When you know what you are doing, create a new approach through thinking of what you do want, in place of doing something that is familiar, which is driven by our habit. For example, thinking about widening your shoulders away from one another rather than physically pushing them back.
- Maintaining a synergy between the above 2 things. Only when you are aware of that pesky inefficient habit can you make a change.
In other words, the form we are adopting in our dancing is borne of an absence of stuff that gets in our way. Think prioritizing lightness and freedom instead of trying hard (again, what we already know).
If you want to know in more detail how to achieve more lightness, effortlessness in your dancing you will need to distill your movements down to what is truly needed. I work with dancers teaching them just that.
Happy Dancing! If you would like to book a lesson with me, please use my contact form, tell me about yourself and leave your availability. I will respond within 24 hours.
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