Ask the Experts

How can dancers get some emotion in their dances?

David Hamilton, Nashville, TN

1995, 1997 - 1998 United States American Style Smooth Champion

1995, 1997 - 1998 United States American Style Smooth Champion

David Hamilton (Professional Dancer, Teacher, Coach and Adjudicator at the Emerald Ball)

"I think that the reason that we dance is because we enjoy music. Music is where it all starts. And so, when we dance, it gives us an opportunity to express ourselves emotionally as to how the music moves us and we do that in physical forms, which is sometimes a difficult thing to do. But normally, when we react off of anything emotionally, we react off of the spontaneity as to how that moment makes us feel. We emote most of the time by saying something, but if you think about it, every time you say something and you react, there's got to be some form of expression in your face. It's just a human reaction.

In the first place, for every dancer to get emotionally connected with their dancing, they must get emotionally connected with the music. We get so involved in "step here, step here, look over here, shape here, la-la-la-la-la," that for some reason our subconscious has the ability to tune out the music. I train (especially my pros) with a basic constructive count to their routine. But a count of music has a tremendous amount of longevity to it. If you were to take a beat of music and break it up into percentages, how many sections of that note are being played? A quarter note, a triple note, a sixteenth note, etc., so your body has to eventually be able to react to whichever section of that music is being played and that you're emoting to. So, you should really know the technique and your routine in your bones because a lot of your reaction emotionally comes from your confidence in your dancing.

If you're feeling good about how you're dancing, it gives you an opportunity to start expanding emotionally. Sometimes we don't experience learning the other way. Sometimes the technical aspects of your dancing become natural by your emotional reaction to the sounds of the music. So that would be my biggest pointer. Really understand why you're dancing – because you love music and you love what music does to your emotional soul. I teach group classes and I call it 'The Motion of Your Emotion.'

Another thing that I think is very challenging about what we do is that every round of dancing that you do, you get a different piece of music. So, although we have a muscle memory of what we've been doing and what we've been feeling, I think that because we change the music from round to round, it still should allow you to feel a different emotion and a different feeling because the music is different from round to round too."