Discovering a unique, personal style is a journey that every Hip Hop dancer goes through.
And no matter who you are or how long you’ve been dancing, finding your own flavor can be one of the most difficult, yet rewarding parts of the process!
Read on for 5 tips to help you on your journey.
1. Start with foundational training
The first step toward finding your style is to master the basics in a dance style that inspires you.
There are plenty of choices, as Hip Hop dance refers to a variety of disciplines ranging from classic party dances and Breaking, to newer styles like Lite Feet. Learning other street dance and studio dance styles can also improve your overall foundation, which in turn will help you become a more unique dancer.
It’s like learning a language: you start by learning the individual words and grammar, then you piece them together to form sentences. After enough practice, you’ll be able to tell stories in your own words.
For example, let’s say you master some moves or “words” from Hip Hop social dances. If you pick up some House footwork, you can combine these phrases with what you already know to create more interesting and nuanced sentences. This is how learning the foundations of multiple styles gives you more movement vocabulary to express yourself with.
2. Study your favorite dancers
Especially when you’re starting out as a Hip Hop dancer, you can learn a lot by studying the dancers you like and why you like them.
Take their classes, watch videos of them dancing, watch interviews, or even chat with them if you can. Look for the techniques and textures that they tend to use, the energy that they exude, and how these things resonate with you. Bit by bit, you’ll learn how these smaller pieces come together to form a personal style.
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Once you know what you like about those dancers, don’t be afraid to try copying them! It’s totally fine to copy someone else’s moves and approach for the purpose of learning and becoming a better dancer yourself.
You’ll find that your favorite dancers do some things that work for you and other things that you don’t really click with. With experience, you’ll start growing into a style that’s distinct from everyone else’s.
3. Bring in influences from beyond Hip Hop culture
At some point, you might get tired of practicing the same groove for the hundredth time or run out of competition footage to watch.
It’s all too common to burn out on dance if you’re immersed in it. That’s why it’s important to incorporate other aspects of life into your self-expression.
Hip Hop dancers often draw on other physical disciplines to add to their repertoire.
For example, many dancers draw on other sports like gymnastics and tumbling for inspiration.
And martial arts has also had a huge influence on Hip Hop dance since the days of Bruce Lee and kung fu movies.
Music, film, TV, literature, and visual arts can also be valuable sources of inspiration. Listening to a particular song might prompt you to move in new ways, a scene from a movie could spark an idea, and so on.
After all, Hip Hop has always been more than just dance: MCing, DJing, graffiti, and Breaking have all mutually influenced each other as pillars of Hip Hop.
Wanna learn more about the pillars of Hip Hop? Read: What is Hip Hop?
4. Dance, dance, and dance some more
After learning the foundations, studying your favorite dancers, and connecting with your personal influences, it’s time to put it all together and just dance.
Dancing regularly is the most reliable way to find your own style, and it’s often the most important part of the process. Each time you move your body with the intent to express, you’re either exploring new techniques and feelings or becoming more familiar with what you’ve explored before.
Take it to the next level and boost your development by reviewing and evaluating yourself in between practice sessions. Think about what you want more of, what you want to keep, and what you want less of.
Recording videos of yourself is a small but effective habit that complements dance practice and self-evaluation. Video recordings are great for reviewing yourself because you might look different from how you feel in the moment. Keeping an archive allows you to look back when you forget something or need some inspiration.
Training with other people or attending freestyle cyphers can also help take your style to the next level. Dance buddies can and will let you know when you do something dope, which should point you towards what’s working or making you unique. You can also give mutual feedback, bounce ideas back and forth, and encourage each other when the going gets tough.
5. Enjoy the process
All of this might seem like a lot… and it’s true. Trying to find your own style can be overwhelming at first!
It can be frustrating when your thoughts don’t translate into your dance, but when it works, the results can be incredibly fulfilling.
If you’re feeling discouraged, try putting on one of your favorite songs and move however you want to. Don’t worry about how you look or whether your technique is correct – let it all go and just move. You can keep a playlist of songs that always get you moving for moments like these.
No matter what, enjoy the process and keep on dancing.