How To Dance Your Creativity Into Your Arms (And Your Heart)

image: sherlock77

Lessons From The Dancefloor

Teaching salsa dancing I’m in the privileged position to be able to learn a lot about how people approach learning something they’re unfamiliar with and how they develop new skills.

There are common patterns I’d like to share from these lessons from the dancefloor, to help you be more creative, and to dance your creativity into your arms.

Lesson One: Master the basics first.

Maybe it’s our Western way of being trained to be competitive, ambitious and to always strive for more, but you find in teaching salsa that most people are always desperate to know what the next new move will be. They want to be salsa experts within a couple of weeks and performing the kind of steps their teachers took months, even years to become good at.

The key is to master the basics first. Any female dancer will tell you that they’d rather dance with a guy who has a strong command of the basics and is in rhythm and a good, clear lead, than someone who tries to throw in every move they’ve ever learned in the space of a three minute track. Ladies want to have a fun, relaxing dance where they feel confident and looked after. They don’t want to feel like they’ve just been chucked in a tumble drier and put on the fast spin cycle.

It’s the same with creating. It’s good to be ambitious and to experiment, but do it gently. Learn the alphabet before you write the Great American Novel. Be realistic in your expectation, especially when trying new creative media. Practice the basics until they become as natural as breathing, then build and experiment from there. Most of all, enjoy your evolution and learning.

Lesson Two: Finish one move before you start the next.

When people are learning a new dance move, all their concentration is focused on the new bit, and they more often than not rush into it too fast and finish far too quickly. They’re timing goes to pieces, and every move after becomes a mess too, because the rhythm’s completely lost.

Whatever sequence of moves you choose to dance, it’s vital to finish one move before you begin the next. Each move is over an eight beat bar, or a number of these bars, and you can’t be squeezing some moves into five or six beats. Even if you then dance the next few moves correctly over eight beats, it’s too late, the timing has already gone.

With creating, finish one project, or part of one project, before you go on to the next. Many types of creating builds up layers, and it’s important to finish each layer before you begin the next. If you slapped down a load of white paint, then tried to paint red on top before it’s dried, you just get a pink mess. Enjoy each project, and each part of a project, take your time and do it as best you can. It will be far more rewarding overall than rushing through and never feeling close so satisfied.

Lesson Three: Have a variety of partners.

Most people come to salsa on their own, we don’t actually have many couples come together. The interesting thing is, those who do come as a couple are often quite different in their style of dancing and speed of learning so pretty soon one or other of them will be frustrated with the other and not enjoy dancing together so much.

Even if you have an amazing chemistry with your partner, by only ever dancing with them you don’t develop your own skills as much, and there’s a danger you both get bored and in a rut with your dancing. It’s by dancing with a variety of partners that you learn to adapt to different styles and body shapes and become a far more accomplished and confident dancer yourself.

In creating, if you only ever write short poems, or paint watercolour landscapes, you’ll likely to get stuck in a rut too. By experimenting in new ways in your favoured medium, and in other media altogether, you widen your experience and abilities, and can also take what you learned back to your original art forms and add a new twist and freshness to those too.

Take on board these lessons from the dancefloor, and dance your own creativity into your arms AND into your heart. Let’s dance!

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4 thoughts on “How To Dance Your Creativity Into Your Arms (And Your Heart)”

  1. “With creating, finish one project, or part of one project, before you go on to the next. Many types of creating builds up layers, and it’s important to finish each layer before you begin the next.”

    This is so true with me, Dan! I read about something and sometimes immediately go give it a try…sliding my current project aside, often to get covered up by the new project and sometimes just plain forgotten.

    A brilliant article, and one I hope many people read. Now I’m going to look up “Salsa Instruction” in the local phone book…maybe!


    1. Ah yes the shiny new project syndrome. This is interlinked with the idea we have that we should be instantly expert at anything new we try. We artists aren’t we? It’s very illogical!

      Whatever the art form, to find your own style and voice and becoming comfortable takes time. It’s not going to take two poems, it’s going to take two hundred, two thousand, twenty thousand… It’s an ongoing evolution. To get the most from our art, and from ourselves, we need to commit time and effort to each venture, to go deep rather than scatter ourselves widely across only the surface.


  2. Found your post on twitter. I’ve also learned from dance to take chances and try something (in front of the entire class) before you feel completely ready. If you are creating something new, you may never feel completely ready to share it with the world, there is always something you could improve, but at some point comes a time when you have to say, ‘It’s good enough’.


    1. Thanks for your comment Tat.

      Yes, plus sometimes it’s only by getting feedback from others that you then realise what the next progression is with what you’re working on, especially if it’s a physical performance art like dance. You can’t just hold it all in your head, you need to dance it out!


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