What’s more important Technique or Choreography?
This is a great question and one that will have many experts, teachers, coaches and students with their own opinion on. But it will help to realize that when dancing you can learn an average choreographic step within 15 minutes. As I heard in a Blackpool Congress lecture from Peter Eggleton “I can teach you a Feather step (in Foxtrot) in about 15 minutes, but it will take you a lifetime to dance it.” When I heard that I was overwhelmed with how powerful dancing really is…Really, a whole lifetime?!
You see, what he was saying was you can learn Choreography but it takes time and years of practice to develop it. It’s a pursuit of perfection you can never fully attain. This is why world champions keep flogging themselves in the studio day in and day out for years. I mean the average champion has been at a high dance level for 20 years. So when you marvel at a professional making dance look effortless – remember that.
If you’ve been dancing for any amount of time you will quickly realize that you can keep getting better and better at just 1 dance step or 1 dance figure! My natural turn in Waltz just keeps getting better and better, same with my Cha Cha basic. It is almost like there is no end to the progression in dancing. I am sure we can relate this to the 100m sprint or 1 mile run – people just keep getting faster and better.
10 years ago I started dancing and have seen a remarkable changes in the development in Ballroom and Latin dancing – some welcomed and some just pure over-dancing. But what spurred this was it advances in Technique or Choreography or both?
Well, as I have learned from my own study the technique fundamentals have remained fairly unchanged. Choreographic fads have some in and out, with each dancer feeling more able to express themselves more now, than in the past. There is definitely more progression being seen on the dance floor. The artsport is changing and constantly developing.
There is actually more understanding these days of body principles, anatomy and physics of the body. At the highest level of dancing this is what we learn. It’s the relationship of your muscles, joints, posture principles, musicality, mindset and very little if anything to do with the choreography you are dancing. This brings me back to my first lessons with my coach, Penny de Kauwe; she is a phenomenal technical coach. She often pointed out I could give you the same routine as a world champion and have you dance side by side and the difference would be astounding. In fact the same routine would never make you a champion.
It’s HOW you dance it, the technique execution COMBINED with principles of dance. That’s how a cha cha lock can leave you clapping loudly or watch a waltz basic take an entire one side of a basketball court – it’s nothing to do with big steps, forced dancing or worse over dancing… its correct understanding of technique, choreography that suits your body type and principles in dance.
If we were to put it into a percentage out of 100, technique when you compete is only about 10% (it should be automatically good) 20% is choreography, 70% is how you dance it – your personality, interpretation and the positiveness.
But to get to that level, when you train you must be focusing on developing your fundamental skills as a dancer. Not changing choreography thinking it will make you better that is the common flaw…”I need to chance my choreography because I get bad results…” It is the dancing, which is the technical aspect and the principle aspect, also a smile or two wouldn’t hurt!
Of course Choreography needs to be changed, altered, adapted as you get better at dancing – but it’s RARELY that cause of your bad results. If you are a smaller person you should have quick, fast moving, tricky choreography…if you are taller you should have bigger, fuller movements. This is necessary to accentuate your body type and because your centre of gravity is also low of high thus causing movements to be harder if your tall.
In Ballroom If you took William Pino for example when he dances his Tango it is very, very fast. Warren Boyce however he much longer, fuller movements and both cover the floor, but they almost dance the opposite type of choreography. In Latin American you can notice this in Riccardo and Yulia or Slavik as well. All produce results.
Exciting Choreography is absolutely needed, BUT it is not the reason you are not getting the results you want. Your ability to dance the choreography to the best level is what is required. And that is only achieved through technical understanding and application along with the principles of dancing over time.
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