Over the last month, I have had several requests and questions on "Styling", so I am going to share my thoughts on this matter. If you are just starting off, this topic may be a bit above your head, so come back to the post after a couple months of lessons.
"Ladies Styling" "Men's Styling" are terms used commonly in popular social dance genres such as salsa, bachata, argentine tango, lindy hop, etc, and usually refers to the embellishments of the arms, hands, head, hips, torso, and sometimes even feet, that are added in after acquiring a general technical understanding of basic figures and patterns: footwork, rhythm, weight transfer, and lead/follow. They are embellishments, so adding "styling" is a preference, though at the upper levels it is beneficial to explore.
The ultimate goal, I think for each dancer, is to find your own style and be able to continually build, expand, and explore your own style, as well as be able to have the ability to learn others' styles. I am here to get you started on your styling journey, to help you get a good understanding of your body mechanics and movement system, and to share with you the trending style of salsa today, but ultimately I want you to OWN YOUR DANCE. YOU BE YOUR OWN CREATOR as well as have the body and mind ready to pick up styling you like on others on your own. Its my basis as a teacher to develop independent dancers... Yes, I want you to come back to me for more, but my goal for each student is that they develop a good foundation and are able to explore and expand on your skills independently as well.
There is no right or wrong answer to styling, but if you are a dancer who wants to look and feel the best they can on the dance floor and have more material to express yourself and express the music, these next tips and steps may be helpful. This outline is specifically for the latin social dance student learning salsa, merengue, bachata, cha cha, etc. We'll start to cover some of this this Saturday Jan 9 in the Cuban Motion Clinic
1. Check your posture
Before we even get to styling, check your posture: Head over spine, shoulders over hips, knees soft, abs collected. What are your postural tendencies? Do you slouch? Does your butt stick out? Are you pidgen-toed? Know what your body tends to do, and if you don't know, just ask (me). Oftentimes posture can be corrected just by being aware of it, and sometimes it requires more attention to correct. Incorrect posture could put strain in certain areas, so starting with goo posture is important.
2. Be able to isolate different body parts / Open your joints
In order to be able to move and dance with different parts of your body, you must loosen them up first, whether it's freeing up the neck muscles, rolling the shoulders, or isolating the rib cage to move in all directions, loosen your wrists, body rolls, etc. I'll be extensively going through isolations this Sat. Memorize them and do them regularly, and the joints will loosen up gradually. (Maybe we should take video this Sat)
3. Learn the Cuban Motion System:
A system is defined as "a set of connected things that work together for a particular purpose". Your body is a system from an anatomic perspective, and its also a system for dance.
I was not very coordinated to start out with, or quick at learning choreography. Yet, I have become proficient in many dance genres across the board: ballet, jazz, various folk dances, contemporary dance, some hip hop, all styles of ballroom, latin social club dances, argentine tango, swing, etc.
How? I found out somewhere down the road that each dance genre (and each sub-genre and style) had its own movement system... ballet was based off of turning out and length, hip hop was based on a continuous bounce, Graham Technique was based on contraction and release etc.
The system that is congruous for latin dancing (salsa, merengue, bachata, cha cha, rumba) is Cuban Motion, or the rhythmic swaying of the hips caused by the bending and straightening of the knees... and its a system of the entire body, coordinating the lower body with the upper body, using opposition of forces and energy... Arm styling should be harmonious to cuban motion, and in fact once you figure out cuban motion, you will have a better understanding of where the arms go, and you always have the choice to break out of it, as "styling" as well. (I tried to find a good youtube video demonstrating Cuban Motion, but couldn't. I'll have to create my own)
I will be honest, Cuban motion usually takes some time, discipline, and experimentation to first figure out, but once you figure it out, you have it for life, and you can continue to refine it with drills. Cuban Motion, guy or girl will help with stability, flow, and coordination altogether in all partnerwork as well.
Come join us Sat Jan 9 & 16 for an intro on all this (Open to Salsa 2+ students):
With specifics to hands, arms, heads etc I'll have a separate course set up for Ladies Styling and if there is enough interest I'll find the right instructor to run the Men's styling course, but first learning the Cuban Motion system is key in how fast you will pick up the rest.
4. Listen to Music & Let Go
What is dance? I'm sure there are thousands of answers, but lets say for our social dancing purposes, the generic answer is dance is the expression of movement through music. When you and the music become ONE, it is an amazing feeling and from the outside, regardless of genre, it will look like dancing.
How to develop musicality for dance is not a single answer, but one thing that has helped me and I know many great dancers with superb musicality do this too, is to shut the door, turn on some of your favorite tunes, and let the music just move you. Don't worry what you look like, this is just a feeling exercise. It should feel good, and again let the music move you.
There is more that I could add to this article, but this is a good start to this Styling exploration, and it looks like I'll be setting up a 6 week styling course after this for those who want to dig further.
Come join us Sat Jan 9 & 16, 1:30-2:30pm for an intro on this (Open to Salsa 2+ students):
Disclaimer: Sexy Salsa Ballroom nor Marisa Hamamoto assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained by or through attempting to follow these steps.